Heart of the Triad Master Plan

Ian Scott on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 4:11:19 pm 

Successful regional leadership demands perseverance.

As participant in the first round of the ACCE-Ford Foundation Regional Sustainable Development Fellowship in 2006, Gayle Anderson, President and CEO of the Greater Winston-Salem (NC) Chamber, began creating a development strategy for a key area in the Triad, North Carolina region. She set out to create a combined land use and transportation master plan for a 7,500 acre area between the Triad region's three major cities - Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem. This piece of land, now know as Heart of the Triad, is home to several major employers, borders the region's airport, and is crossed by 3 primary interstate highways.  With those kind of assets, the area is poised for growth.

However, the land is divided among 2 counties and 6 cities or townships.  With 8 separate municipal governments to coordinate, it isn't easy to create a common vision for sustainable growth.  But Gayle and her counterparts in the region kept at it.  This June, after four years and a lot of perseverance, a strategic planning  committee comprised of elected officials from each district approved a comprehensive transportation and land use plan for the area called Heart of the Triad: A Collaborative Plan for Economic Vitality and Quality of Life.  Click for more info on the plan.

They are not done yet, but Heart of the Triad is another example of how chambers can maintain vision beyond the next election cycle and coordinate stakeholders to transcend borders. 

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Indiana to Review Sentencing Policy and Prison Spending

Ian Scott on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 6:15:06 pm 

In late June, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels announced that the state would conduct a comprehensive review of sentencing guidelines and the prison system.  The goal for this effort is to reduce growth in the state's prison population. The Pew Center on the States is assisting with the effort.

Indiana Chamber CEO Kevin Brinegar wrote an editorial in support of the governor's proposal saying:

"The more thoughtful we can be about housing and rehabilitating offenders, the more dollars the state will have for education, economic development and other public safety initiatives."

Read more at:  Many benefits of reducing state's prison population.

Indiana is not alone among states reevaluating sentencing guidelines and spending on incarceration.  Corrections reform is one of three key proposals by the Kentucky Chamber to repair the state's "Leaky Bucket" budget.

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AZ Immigration Laws Spreading, Rhetoric Heating Up

Ian Scott on Friday, July 9, 2010 at 11:57:14 am 

By now you probably know that the US Justice Department is suing the State of Arizona over the constitutionality of SB 1070, the controversial immigration reform measure that has received national attention since it signed in to law this April.  To read more about the federal lawsuit click here.  For a business perspective on the Arizona bill, check out my interview with Tucson Chamber CEO Jack Camper, CCE.

You may not know that, so far, this legal challenge isn't deterring other states from working on similar immigration legislation to present next year.  According to the Washington Post: "Lawmakers in 20 states have expressed an interest in adopting anti-immigration laws similar to Arizona's. Those most likely to succeed are in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah."  In Oklahoma the bill is being carried forward by State Rep. Randy Terrill, the same legislator who received national attention for his 2007 immigration bill that made transporting, employing or providing shelter to an illegal immigrant a felony offense.  That law is under injunction after being challenged by a coalition of Oklahoma's business leaders.  Click here to read more about the new wave of Arizonaesque immigration bills in the pipeline for 2011.

Meanwhile, Arizona lawmakers and candidates for office are not finished with aggressive (and often questionable) immigration proposals.  Shortly after AZ 1070 was signed into law, the Arizona Department of Education created another national stir when they announced that they would begin removing teachers with heavy accents classrooms. Then in late June Barry Wong, a candidate for the Arizona utilities commission, vowed to cut off power and gas to illegal immigrants if he's elected.  His argument is that utilities in the state could avoid expanding production capacity if they didn't have to supply power to their illegal immigrant customers, and not having to bring new production on line would save legal resident ratepayers.  Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer issued an open letter criticizing Wong in the Arizona Republic saying:

"Your cynical attempt to ratchet up the rhetoric over immigration to score cheap political points in a bid for office marks a new low in our state's immigration debate." and... "To deny someone access to electricity based on his or her immigration status is not only a wrongheaded policy proposal, it's just cruel." 

Read more at: An open letter to Barry Wong

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In Case You Missed It...

Ian Scott on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 6:12:44 pm 

Time2 Besides grilling burgers and watching fireworks, I used the long 4th of July weekend to catch up on some reading.  One article I dug into with gusto was the cover story from the June 28th issue of Time magazine - Inside the Dire Financial State of the States.

The article sheds light on overlapping policy and political challenges that comprise the financial crisis facing most state governments.  While many in the business and government communities have foreseen this crisis for some time, it has barely generated  a blip on the national radar.  Yet, as this article illustrates, Americans are already feeling the impact of state budget cuts and there are no quick or easy solutions.

This excerpt sums up the problem pretty well.

"Nearly everywhere, tax revenue plummeted as property values tanked, incomes dwindled and consumers stopped shopping. Falling prices for stocks and real estate have made mincemeat of often underfunded public pension plans. Unemployed workers have swelled the demand for welfare and Medicaid services. Governments that were frugal in the past are just squeaking by. Governments that were lavish in the good times, building their budgets on optimism and best-case scenarios, now risk being wrecked like a shantytown in an earthquake."

Read more at Inside the Dire Financial State of the States

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DISCLOSE Act Moves on to Senate

Ian Scott on Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 4:31:07 pm 

Having cleared the House by a 219-206 margin, the DISCLOSE Act will now move to the Senate where supporters expect some changes.  House sponsor Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD) is was quoted in The Hill saying:

"They (The Senate) may have to make changes without harming the core of the bill," he said Wednesday evening. "In other words, no substantial changes."

The bill is not expected to come up for discussion until after debate closes on financial reform regulation.  Any changes to the bill would force a re-vote in the House that would slow down passage.

For more on the potential ramification of this bill and late breaking updates, check out the US Chamber's Blog -

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July 1 - State Budget Day

Ian Scott on Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 3:32:12 pm 

For 46 states July 1 is budget day.  Last year, at least 6 states missed their budget deadlines and others passes temporary fixes.  Despite equally daunting revenue challenges, budget battles have been less protracted this year.  Here's how the blog described it:

"With the notable exceptions of California, which adjourned without a budget on Monday, and New York, which is already three months overdue for a budget, state lawmakers elsewhere are finding more common ground this year. That could be because it's an election year and restless voters may not be in the mood for politics as usual."
Click to read more about state budget battles from

Even Pennsylvania adopted its annual budget on time, a landmark event considering it hasn't been done since Gov. Rendell took office in 2003.  Gene Barr, VP of Government Relations at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and industry acknowledged the tough choices and ongoing challenges with the state budget:

"The Commonwealth faces some sobering fiscal challenges, many which still require attention," PA Chamber Vice President Gene Barr said. "Our members recognize the difficult decisions elected officials needed to make in crafting this budget. Facing repeated cries from some groups to spend more an raise taxes, it's reassuring that a majority of lawmakers knew that placing that burden on the backs of business at a time when economic concerns persist and job creation remain sluggish would only make things worse." 
Click to read more from

Pennsylvania is hardly alone in having to make tough budget decisions.  With economic growth sluggish at best, nearly every state has faced a drastic decline in tax revenue for the past 2 fiscal years.  The Recovery Act has helped plug some budget holes, but most of that funding will expire this year.  In their Spring 2010 Fiscal Survey of the States, the National Association of State Budget Officers predicted that "spending and revenue is unlikely to return to pre-recession levels until fiscal 2012 or later."

For now, state budget challenges remain one of the most immediately pressing issues for businesses across the country.  Many chambers, like the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, are tackling the big, structural budget challenges like pension liability, corrections spending, and medicaid.  Stay tuned to the ACCE Policy Clearinghouse Blog for more.

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Mick Fleming on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 11:16:18 am 

Happy Holiday to everyone on the Mick Met roster, as well as those tuning into my BLOG.   Short story.

Due to a weird set of circumstances, I was in Istanbul on the 4th of July in 2007.  There was a party put on by the American consulate at her offices (fortress) during which I was talking to a group of local business people.  One guy, who I was later told runs a huge international company, took the opportunity to tell me how much he loved the US, but how vehemently he hated the President.  He held forth for a while and then said he felt it was the duty of any citizen -- "and especially someone in a position of power like you (I let that go), to try to overthrow a leader causing so much pain and embarrassment in the world and his own nation. In good conscience, you can't support that government."  When he finally took a breath in his soliloquy I said: "Well, Sir, I am a patriot."  It's probably the only time I ever will get to say that phrase and I sure don't want to spend another hour at a cocktail party explaining the baffling American system of executive branch succession.  Looking back at it, it seems corny that I would say such a thing, but I meant the words on that Independence Day.  As much as I openly groan about things going on in our country, I still do.  Have a good holiday.

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DISCLOSE Act Reaches House Floor

Ian Scott on Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 2:46:26 pm 

Despite concern from some Democrats, the DISCLOSE Act passed the House Rules Committee yesterday and is currently on the House floor where it may face a vote as early as today.

I'm sure many Policy Clearinghouse Blog readers have been tracking the DISCLOSE - "Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections" - Act (also called the Schumer-Van Hollen Bill).  In case you haven't, here is a brief recap of the bill's key points:

  • CEOs of organizations sponsoring a political ad must appear on screen to “stand by their ad,” and in cases where money is funneled to an association, the top five organizations that have donated to the group would also have to be identified on screen during any ad.
  • Organizations must disclose donations for political activities that exceed $1,000.
  • Government contractors, or companies that received bailout funds from the federal government, are barred from political speech.

For more on the potential ramification of this bill and late breaking updates, check out the US Chamber's Blog -

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Federal Judge Rules Against Drilling Ban

Ian Scott on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 6:17:54 pm 

A federal judge in the US District Court in New Orleans has overturned the Obama administration's moratorium on offshore drilling.  In his ruling Judge Feldman wrote:

''What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm.''

While legal wrangling over this issue is not over (the White House has already promised an appeal), the ruling will come as welcomed news to many chambers in Louisiana.  A dozen chambers have signed on with other business and government groups in the state to form the Gulf Economic Survial Team (GEST).  The group's initial primary focus is to oppose the moratorium which, economic studies indicate, will kill thousands of well paying jobs in communities across the state.

Click here to read more about the ruling.

Click to learn more about the Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST). 

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Louisiana Chambers Oppose Drilling Moratorium

Ian Scott on Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 3:01:40 pm 

Working in coordination with Gov. Bobby Jindal and local elected leaders, dozens of chambers in Louisiana have formed the Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST).  Their primary goal is to urge the Obama Administration to rescind the six month moratorium on offshore drilling at depths greater than 500 feet.  They contend that the drilling moratorium will cost the region thousands of jobs and impact the economy for years to come.

Chambers in Louisiana, spearheaded by Drake Pothier from the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber, have joined in opposition to the drilling moratorium because they know it spells economic disaster for their region.  They request support from chamber colleagues across the country to oppose the drilling moratorium.  Find information at the links below:

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