ACCE Convention - Back from Raleigh
After several days of exchanging ideas, celebrating personal milestones and organizational achievements, reconnecting with friends and, yes, some partying, the 2009 ACCE Convention is over. The Greater Raleigh Chamber was a fantastic host and by all accounts it was a great convention.
While I'm still recovering from the marathon days and short nights, I've come back inspired and full of ideas. Here are a few observations I brought back from Raleigh. Call me if you'd like to talk about this year or already have ideas for Milwaukee in 2010.
Interest in public policy and economic development programming is growing. Never before have the rooms for our GR/Policy and ED tracks been so full. The first workshops in both tracks - Social Media for Advocacy featuring Sarah Hubbard and Creating Prosperity in Challenging Times featuring ACCE's newest life member Mac Holladay - were literally spilling out into the hallway. Even on Saturday morning the Chamber Evolution workshop, featuring Mike Metzler and Tara Barney, was full. Its the economy, but its also education. There are plenty of pressing national issues to occupy our thoughts and discussions - health care, energy, financial regulations - but education unexpectedly came to the forefront this year. The opening keynote session featuring Steven Covey and the students and faculty from AB Combs Elementary set the tone and presentations like the one on High School Inc by Mike Metzler from the Greater Santa Ana Business Alliance (a 2009 ARS Award Finalist) stirred discussion. Its great that even in these challenging times business leaders are still focused on cultivating a competitive workforce through quality education. Optimism is growing. People are feeling better about the economy and our prospects for future growth. Initial economic indicators that were released last week helped to underscore that optimism.
Interest in public policy and economic development programming is growing. Never before have the rooms for our GR/Policy and ED tracks been so full. The first workshops in both tracks - Social Media for Advocacy featuring Sarah Hubbard and Creating Prosperity in Challenging Times featuring ACCE's newest life member Mac Holladay - were literally spilling out into the hallway. Even on Saturday morning the Chamber Evolution workshop, featuring Mike Metzler and Tara Barney, was full.
Its the economy, but its also education. There are plenty of pressing national issues to occupy our thoughts and discussions - health care, energy, financial regulations - but education unexpectedly came to the forefront this year. The opening keynote session featuring Steven Covey and the students and faculty from AB Combs Elementary set the tone and presentations like the one on High School Inc by Mike Metzler from the Greater Santa Ana Business Alliance (a 2009 ARS Award Finalist) stirred discussion. Its great that even in these challenging times business leaders are still focused on cultivating a competitive workforce through quality education.
Optimism is growing. People are feeling better about the economy and our prospects for future growth. Initial economic indicators that were released last week helped to underscore that optimism.
KY Chamber Calls for Spending Control
At the Chamber's Economic Summit in Louisville this week, Kentucky Chamber President and ACCE Chair-elect Dave Adkisson called on state lawmakers to rein-in government spending and better manage the state's budget.
Adkisson is specifically concerned about state programs such, as Medicaid, prisons and public employee health care, for which spending has quickly grown and gobbled up a larger proportion of the overall budget. Meanwhile, spending on education has not kept up.
"We are now spending an increasing amount of money on what happens when you fall short on education attainment - more people in jails and more people on Medicaid," Adkisson said.
Kentucky balanced their state budget earlier this summer, but stimulus money was a big part of filling that short term gap. As with most states, a fundamental imbalance between revenue and expenditure exists. Adkisson and the Kentucky Chamber content that the long term solution is neither dramatic tax hikes nor drastic service cuts, but a third way - "modernizing government to rethink our spending, focus on our priorities and ensure sustainability." They will provide more details in the coming weeks.
Dave Adkisson is speaking on a panel about state budgets at the ACCE Convention in Raleigh later this month. Join us for State Budgets and their Impact on Local Communities on Friday, July 31 at 2:45 pm.
Hawaii Gov Vetos Card Check
As expected, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a Card Check provision that passed the state's legislature this spring. This is the second year in a row the Republican Governor has vetoed such a measure.
The bill would have allowed union recognition and collective bargaining based on signed cards rather than secret ballot. It would have applied to agricultural and domestic workers and independent contractors that are covered by state labor law, not the Federal Labor Relations Act.
Governor Lingle said: "Secret-ballot elections... provide employees with an opportunity to carefully consider their choice after being fully informed by both the union and the employer of the advantages and disadvantages of union representation."
It is unclear at this time whether the legislature has the 2/3 majority votes necessary to override Lingle's veto.
ARS Recognizes Citistates Group
The Alliance for Regional Stewardship (ARS) announced today that Citistates Group founders Neal Peirce, Curtis Johnson, and Farley Peters have been named co-recipients of the John Parr Award, bestowed annually by the Alliance for Regional Stewardship for outstanding personal leadership excellence in advancing regionalism and civic stewardship of metropolitan areas.
The John Parr Award was established in 2008 to recognize individuals who have dedicated their work and personal time, as well as social/political capital into regional stewardship. The award commemorates the legacy of the late John Parr (1948--2007) former chief executive of the National Civic League and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, and one of America’s foremost counselors in the area of collaborative government, public/private partnerships, and regional governance. The Awardnamed in his honor is the only recognition that ARS bestows upon individuals. It will be formally presented at the ARS Annual Meeting and Regional Strategies Forum on July 29th in Raleigh, North Carolina. To learn more about the Citistates Group and the John Parr Award click to Download 2009 ARS Parr Award Press Release
The John Parr Award was established in 2008 to recognize individuals who have dedicated their work and personal time, as well as social/political capital into regional stewardship. The award commemorates the legacy of the late John Parr (1948--2007) former chief executive of the National Civic League and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, and one of America’s foremost counselors in the area of collaborative government, public/private partnerships, and regional governance.
The Awardnamed in his honor is the only recognition that ARS bestows upon individuals. It will be formally presented at the ARS Annual Meeting and Regional Strategies Forum on July 29th in Raleigh, North Carolina.
To learn more about the Citistates Group and the John Parr Award click to Download 2009 ARS Parr Award Press Release
Member Profile - Brynn Allio
Manager, Government Relations
Council of Smaller Enterprise (COSE), part of the Greater Cleveland (OH) Partnership
Brynn is an active member of the Government Relations Division and regularly contributes information to the Policy Clearinghouse. As Manger of Government Relations at COSE she is responsible for overseeing issues on the state and federal levels, including workers' compensation, energy and regulatory reform. She also works with her team to manage issues such as Card Check, and Mandatory Paid Sick Leave. COSE is the Northeast Ohio region's largest small business support organization and provides cost-effective group purchasing programs, advocacy on legislative and regulatory issues, and networking and educational resources to help small businesses grow.
ACCE: How did you get started in chamber work, and what keeps you in the profession?
Brynn: I was working for a homebuilder and enjoyed the job, but every day when I drove home I couldn't help thinking, "so what." I wanted my work to make a difference in the community, so when I saw that COSE was hiring in their government relations department, I applied. I've been here for over three years now.
I have small business owners in my family, and I know that they are the lifeblood of the community. My passion for helping our amazing members run their businesses successfully keeps me excited to start work everyday.
ACCE: What policy issues are currently occupying your most of time?
Brynn: On the federal front we are maintaining our focus on Card Check. The national debate on health care is also taking center stage. At the state level we are spending a lot of time on regulatory reforms, specifically related to economic development policy. We're also working on an electricity rating statute. COSE is focused on energy efficiency; we are actually working on a project with the local utility provider to help them meet efficiency goals by educating business customers about energy saving techniques.
The state budget is also a big focus right now. Ohio is facing a $3.2 billion deficit, and we're actively monitoring budget proposals to watch for possible tax increases that will negatively impact businesses.
ACCE: What are the biggest challenges your chamber/community currently face?
Brynn: I think our biggest ongoing challenge is getting our member's attention and then converting that interest into involvement. Our small business members are always short on two things, money and time, so getting them to spend time to understand a policy issue and then take more time make calls or write letters is a challenge.
Big, galvanizing issues like Card Check, however, have helped us move members from interest to action. Early this year we set up a special website about Card Check that helped facilitate outreach to elected officials. Within 3 days small businesses in Cleveland had sent more than 1,400 letters opposing Card Check legislation. Many of those people are now more likely to get involved in other big issues.
ACCE: Finish this sentence. Never again will I ...
Brynn: Never again will I ... take for granted the value of member feedback and participation. With over 17,000 members, we have access to a diverse and passionate group of small business owners whose knowledge and experience serve as a critical resource for us as we develop and implement our policy objectives. Further, the interaction and involvement from members is invaluable as we continue work to build a large network of individuals who will work together to fight for small business interests. Bottom line â€“ I've learned the importance of utilizing members as a resource for information and support in order to strengthen our message and our impact.
Chamber Hits the Track
If you watched the NASCAR Nationwide series race on June 13 at Kentucky Speedway you may have glimpsed an interesting logo roaring around the track. Yes indeed, that is the logo for the Greater Owensboro (KY) Chamber of Commerce on the bottom quarterpanel near the rear tire on the Number 0 car.
Mark Green, the car's driver, is an Owensboro native and when car owner JD Motorsports was looking for a sponsor for the Meijer 300 in Kentucky they turned to Owensboro Chamber President Jody Wassmer for help. Jody turned to K. Wayne Foster, founder of American Patriot Getaways and 2009 Board Chair of the Owensboro Chamber.
"Wayne is very community oriented," said Wassmer. "It's not costing the chamber anything. And it's not every day a chamber of any size gets to have its name on a car."
NASCAR fans, eat your hearts out.
Card Check Lite?
2009 has been a roller coaster year for Card Check. EFCA was riding high at the start of the year, but has seen support erode as businesses ramped up grassroots advocacy efforts. House Democrats would likely pass a Card Check proposal, but have deferred leadership to Senate Democrats. Even with Al Franken (who was seated yesterday as Minnesota's junior Senator) the Senate Democrats lacks a filibuster proof majority on Card Check because several Senators, including Lincoln, Feinstein, and Specter, have voiced opposition. Others such as Landrieu, Nelson and Webb have expressed concerns.
But you shouldn't count out Card Check yet. Not by a long shot. Compromise discussions are underway businesses could soon be faced with "Card Check Lite" that may contain many of the onerous provisions of the first bill including binding arbitration.
If you haven't tuned in to the Card Check discussion for a few weeks, you need to get plugged back in. This article - Stay Tuned For Card Check "Lite" by the US Chamber's Glenn Spencer - offers a good recap of where a compromise might be headed and what that means for business.
State Tax and Budget Trends and Resources
Most states started their 2010 fiscal year today, but not all have budgets in place. Late night budget deliberations yesterday in California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois broke down before any resolutions were reached, leaving those states operating without any way to pay bills or state employees. Many others scrambled to get budget finished, some still have major holes, some are only running by executive order. Click HERE to read more about the budget troubles from Connecticut to Arizona.
Merely having a budget in place does not put your state in the clear. 48 states are facing significant budget deficits, so unless you are in Montana or North Dakota, this issue is immediately pressing.
How can states bridge the gap between their projected expenses and projected revenue? In some cases federal stimulus money is helping, but that's obviously a short term fix and the feds signaled to California last week that they are not interested in stepping in to cover operating budgets. That leaves two basic options - cut costs (i.e. slash services) and/or raise revenue (i.e. hiketaxes and fees). Neither are easy and chambers of commerce must be on guard for both.
There are certainly ways to cut state government expense and waste, however, many government services from police and fire protection to education to economic development and tourism promotion are integral to the prosperity of our communities. On the revenue side, businesses are often a target for tax increases as opposed to broader taxes like income, sales or property. But chambers know that increased business taxes impact everyone by dissuading hiring and investment by business.
Some trends to watch -
- Income Tax Hike on the Wealthy - New York increased income taxes more than 2% on individuals earning more than 500K
- Sin Taxes - Florida and Rhode Island increased cigarette taxes $1 per pack, others have followed suit with tobacco and alcohol tax hikes
- Increased court fees, vehicle registration fees and other sources of non-tax revenue
Here are some website that offer helpful resources related to state tax and budgets:
Stateline.org - Legislative Year in Review - this Pew Foundation funded project offers a great collection state legislative trends. The website also has links to other articles about state issues.
National Association of State Budget Officers - their Fiscal Survey of States, conducted in conjunction with the National Governor's Association, offers analysis and raw data about how states are faring financially.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - this left leaning DC think tank has good aggregated trends data about how states are coping with budget deficits.
Tax Foundation - this DC think tank offers analysis of local, state and federal tax with an emphasis on tax policy that is simple, transparent, neutral, stable, not retroactive and broad based.
Climate Change Bill Passes House
Last Friday the American Clean Energy and Security Act (Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill) passed the House by a seven vote margin, 219-212. 44 Democrats opposed the measure, 8 Republican voted in favor. President Obama is urging the Senate to take up debate about the bill quickly. The bill would implement a cap-and-trade system to regulate CO2 emissions.
If you are getting up to speed on this important issue, here are a few articles you should read:
This Reuters piece offers an overview of the bill's basic provisions - FACTBOX: Key energy elements in U.S. climate bill
For info on tariffs and protectionism in the legislation, check out this article from the Washington Post - Obama Praises Climate Bill's Progress but Opposes Its Tariffs
For info on how CO2 credits were allocated and the impact on that would have on utility and oil companies, read this Bloomberg article - Climate Bill Helps Utilities More Than Oil Companies
For thoughts on the political ramifications of this bill, check out this Politico article: Climate change bill: Obama's must-win
NAM - The National Association of Manufactures - opposes Waxman-Markey. Click to access their Climate Change Toolkit which includes a pdf of their letter to Congress opposing the legislation.
Looming Crisis in Federal Transportation Funds
This Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Pocari sent a letter warning state transportation departments that the Federal Highway Trust Fund is short on cash. In the near term, this shortfall will impact reimbursements to states for federally funded highway projects, potentially impacting state's payments to contractors and thus threatening highway construction jobs.
Click here to read the press release from AASHTO (the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials)
In the longer term, this shortfall underscores the need for a stable, sustained source of funding for transportation in America. Changing driving habits - partially a result of the economic downturn - and increased vehicle fuel efficiency are contributing to a decrease in gas tax revenue, the traditional funding stream for transportation. The Obama administration has called for an 18 month extension of highway funding at existing levels to give Congress time to reach a longer term solution. A letter this week to Obama from 43 House Democrats from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee calls, instead, for "a six-year, $500 billion bill that would increase highway aid 40 percent and double transit funding."
Click to read more in this article from the Seattle Times.