EPA CO2 Regulation Pending
Global warming is a politically charged issue, but regardless of where you fall on the global warming spectrum from true believer to ardent skeptic, one issue that chamber leaders can agree on is the potentially serious impact of EPA greenhouse gas regulation.
Following the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts vs EPA, the EPA was instructed to institute regulations to control greenhouse gas emission. They are currently in an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) phase and collecting public feedback on proposed regulation for CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
The pending EPA regulations would subject 98% of industrial buildings and hundreds of thousands of commercial sector properties to cumbersome, costly new regulation. The U.S. Chamber opposes CO2 regulation by the EPA on the grounds that it would cause 'regulatory chaos,' and is urging Congress to pass legislation preventing EPA from regulating greenhouse gas.
An article on PolicyClearinghouse.org provides a detailed overview, links and additional information.
Member Profiles: Michelle Griffin Young
Since joining the Government Relations Division roundtable at the 2008 ACCE Convention in Pittsburgh, Michelle has become an active participant in the Government Relations Division. Last Friday afternoon she took time to answer my four questions
ACCE: How did you get started in chamber work, and what keeps you in the industry?
Michelle: I started in chamber work as a college intern with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I was a broadcast journalism and political science major. After graduation I stayed on full-time with the US Chamber, working for a separate 501c3 focused on education. In that role I traveled around the country doing video interviews with CEOs on education partnerships. Later I moved into a communications role, and under Tom Donahue, I worked on the Federation Partnership program.
After 10 years in DC, I decided it was time to move back home to Pennsylvania. I worked as a representative for the county for a couple of years, during which time I was frequently in Harrisburg. All along, I worked frequently with the Lehigh Valley Chamber, and when they wanted to expand their public policy and advocacy agenda, I was eager to take on that role.
I firmly believe that business makes the world thrive, and chamber work lets me help businesses grow. Also, I'm a people person, and I think everyone should be proactively engaged. The chamber lets me work with people, and stay active in the community.
ACCE: What policy issues are currently occupying your time?
Michelle: Healthcare, transportation and taxes are the biggest three right now. We also started an energy and environment committee five months ago, and their work is ramping up. I also produce the chamber's weekly television show, Business Matters, and leading up to the election, we've conducted interviews with candidates for state and local office.
Click HERE to see clips from Business Matters, which airs every Monday at 7:30pm on WFMZ 69 in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey.
ACCE: What are the biggest challenges your chamber/community currently face?
Michelle: I think the region's biggest challenge is revitalization of our urban cores. Our chamber foundation has set a goal of reenergizing and attracting residents to our cities' urban cores by 2015. Stronger central cities will help address problems caused by suburbanization such as traffic congestion and sewage, water and other infrastructure expansion. Vibrant urban cores will also help us attract and keep young people trained at the area's great universities
ACCE: Finish this sentence. Never again will I ...
Michelle: Never again will I not follow up on networking contacts. It was my News Year's resolution this year to keep in touch; you never know when folks you meet can be important partners in the future.
This Member Profile was also featued in the October Policy Clearinghouse/GR Division e-Newsletter.
City Council Training Question
I had this question come in from an ACCE members last week, and would appreciate any advice or feedback you could offer:
"I would like information on training/orientation classes for city council candidates. Specifically I am interested in the curriculum and structure of programs to educate people who are running (or considering running) for city council. This would include an overview of business issues, but may also address Roberts Rules of Order, ethics and other issues pertinent for elected officials."
If you have information to share could you please email or call me, Ian Scott, at email@example.com or (703) 998-3530.
Ballot Initiatives to Watch
There is a good chance that if you vote next Tuesday, you will vote not only for candidates, but also yea or nay on an initiative. Voters in thirty-six states will decide 152 ballot initiatives this year.
Ballot initiatives and referendums are a major part of American elections. The number of initiatives has steadily increased every decade since the 1960's. During the past century west coast states have led the way with Oregon, California and Colorado atop the ballot initiative count and North Dakota and Arizona rounding out the top five.
According to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC, while tax and spending issues typically dominate in ballot initiatives, social issues are at the forefront this year. Their annual Ballot Watch report identifies all the measures hitting ballots nationwide and discusses trends. Gay marriage, abortion and animal rights are getting a lot of attention this year, but there are also number of business issues on the ballot.
Colorado Amendment 47, for example, would establish a right to work and prohibit mandatory union membership or dues payment. An Oregon measure would prohibit use of union dues for political purposes. Nevada, Louisiana, Oregon and Ohio all have propositions restricting use of eminent domain. California and Missouri voters will decide on renewable energy mandates.
For a full list of ballot initatives and analysis of nationwide trends, click to download the 2008 Ballotwatch 2008 Election Preview:
Survey Says...Card Check is #1 Issue
Results from the 2008 ACCE State Chamber Policy Survey are in and Card Check is the top concern for State Chambers of Commerce. Among list of 40 policy priorities, 89% of survey respondents ranked Card Check as either a priority or active issue with over half describing Card Check as one of their top policy concerns.
Renewable energy portfolio mandates tied Card Check with 89% listing the issue as priority or active. Roadblocks to new power plant construction and cost of health insurance were just behind, each with 84%. Rounding out the top five was state fiscal responsibility with 74%.
West Virginia Chamber Launches Health Care Agenda
Earlier this month Steve Roberts, President of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, rolled out a health care agenda with ten "pragmatic recommendations" around which the chamber believes there are "opportunities for consensus and advancement." The ten points are:
- Health Insurance - greater availability through tax incentives and small group pools.
- Electronic Medical Records
- Prevent Cost-Shift - funding of state health care programs should cover full cost, not shift partial costs onto private sector
- Personal Responsibility
- More Medical Education - more doctors and nurses for the state.
- Medical Homes - designed to promote healthy lifestyles, improve interaction between doctor and patient and use technology and care processes to coordinate health care services more timely, appropriately and cost-effectively.
- Community Care Clinics - resources to expand capability of community based and rural health clinics.
- Oral Health Initiative - preventative dental care
- Worksite Wellness - network of businesses and certified wellness centers and clinic to provide specialized intervention programs to at-risk employees.
- End-of-life Care - more planning and better understanding of options available during severe illness.
Click HERE to read more about each item in the Chamber's Health Care Agenda.
Click HERE to for an interview with Steve Roberts about the Health Care Agenda.
How To Make Your Government Affairs Committee Work
If I were ever to write a love story about the chamber of commerce industry, the protagonist would be a chamber of commerce committee. We love committees. It is the way we build consensus, get the work done, and create results. The opening paragraph of an 1884 article in the New York Times is a great example of our enduring love affair with committees:
The late inventor and General Motors Corporation's research chief Charles F. Kettering once quipped, â€œif you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.â€ť For all the disadvantages of a chamber of commerce committee, it is the process we know and use to get things done. So, the following is a check list of what you should know, at a minimum, about starting or fine-tuning your action-oriented government affairs committee (GAC).
1) Control demand by constricting supply. Your GAC should have a limited amount of participation. I recommend no less than eight voting members and no more than twenty-one. Size of the committee should only be determined based upon demand; if you can secure twenty one active voting participants no matter the size of your chamber then seat twenty one. However, if you can only get eight, then go with eight. The bottom-line: do not dilute the value of the GAC by opening it up to every person in the world. Increase the GACâ€™s perceived value by limiting the supply of voting seats in order to maintain the demand for participation.
2) GAC members should be the best in your community. When forming GACâ€™s I always start off with this question: what business person in your community would be impossible to get to serve on a committee but if they agreed to serve would be the absolute best? Use a litmus test when deciding if they are the best: can they invest money; are they politically active or are they politically connected; do they understand the issues; and are they committed to being proactive; do they understand what is important to business? The bottom-line: get the best in the room. Do whatever it takes to get them in the room. Keep antagonists out of the room and build the committee on an environment of being proactive. Attract GAC members who sign the front of paychecks and do not seat elected officials and their representatives as voting members.
3) Results keep people in the room. The single problem chamberâ€™s ask me to help solve is how do we keep volunteers engaged and active. In other words, how do we keep volunteers in the room? My answer: what advocacy issue did you accomplish recently? Nothing? Then why would anyone want to be a part of your government affairs effort! Your GAC meetings must be action orientated, not report oriented. Every agenda item must propose a taking a position on something. Simply bringing people together to hear reports from elected officials or reports on the latest and greatest is not enough. The bottom-line: you keep people engaged when you give them something to rally behind. Be action oriented so they understand that each month they are a part of making a decision on something that will impact your business community.
4) Your GAC agenda must adhere to the ethic of reciprocity. Confucius would say it another way, "Never impose a GAC agenda on others what you would not what for yourself." I recently received an emailed meeting agenda from a prominent regional government affairs organization (not a client of mine). The agenda was send the day before the meeting and included twenty-two attachments. Yes, 22 attachments. Do you have the time to read through 22 attachments of information? Who has that kind of time? I donâ€™t. So I deleted the email and never attended the meeting. The bottom-line: every advocacy decision starts with a well prepared agenda. Combine all of your information into one document and summarize as much as you can. The key here is information management, not information overload.
5) Your effectiveness is in direct proportion to your efficiency. Your GACâ€™s justification for even existing is because it is effective. To be effective, you canâ€™t bog down your process in bureaucracy on every single issue. Therefore, any decision that GAC makes must end at GAC, not your chamber board executive committee and then the full board of directors. The board must empower its GAC to take positions on issues that align with a board-approved platform of issues. If an issue does not align then the board must act. However, the platform of issues should be flexible enough to limit issues from making it to the board for consideration. The GAC should be a work horse and not a recommending body. Update the board accordingly on GAC positions but do not put the GAC in a position of being strangled from reaching the point of action because â€œthat decision needs to go to the board at its next meeting 5 weeks from now.â€ť The bottom-line: your GAC must be the final voice on the issues so you can act smart and fast.
In the context of building your chamberâ€™s government affairs program, a government affairs committee (GAC) should be the cornerstone of your chamberâ€™s advocacy efforts. Most importantly, it is where the ideas begin and end in representing the interests of your members with government.
Shaun Lumachi is President of Chamber Advocacy, a professional consulting firm that builds and maintains results-oriented government affairs programs for chambers of commerce.
Taking Sides - Card Check
While it was never mentioned in any of the presidential debates, Card Check (aka: The Employee Free Choice Act) is a big election issue. Here is an overview of some of the major groups on both sides of the Card Check debate.
Groups Opposing Card Check
Coalition for a Democratic Workplace
According to their website, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace is a "coalition of workers, employers, associations and organizations who are fighting to protect the right to a federally supervised private ballot when workers are deciding whether or not to join a union." Literally hundreds of organizations, including many ACCE members, have signed on as supports of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. Visit their website at: http://www.myprivateballot.com/
Employee Freedom Action Committee
EmployeeFreedom.org is the website for the Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC), a non-partisan, non-profit organization fighting for fair elections in the workplace. Their interactive website includes details on labor contributions to Senate candidates, automated letter writing features, and a form to share personal accounts of union intimidation. Former Senator George McGovern is the lead spokesperson for EFAC, and has appeared national advertising spots for the organization. (Clearinghouse Blog readers will recall that Sen. McGovern came out forcefully against Card Check in a Wall Street Journal Op-ed)
The US Chamber is also a vocal opponent of Card Check stating on their website that it would, "upend decades of settled labor law in order to give organized labor an unfair advantage in union organizing, at the expense of both employees and employers." Click to link to the US Chamber's Card Check Issue Page.
Groups Supporting Card Check
Not surprisingly the AFL-CIO is a vocal supporter of Card Check. Their website includes an online petition, letter writing campaign, and numerous YouTube video clips of labor leaders, elected representatives and union workers speaking in favor of Card Check. The site also includes numerous position papers and studies, including one poll which claims that 69% of Americans favor Card Check.
American Rights at Work
American Rights at Work is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers. The organization's board includes: Sen. John Edwards, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and John J. Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO. Visit their website at: http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/. The organization has a separate website devoted to attracting signatures for a Card Check petition: http://www.freechoiceact.org/
Energy Issue Jam - Oct 21
Energy is a hot topic for both presidential candidates. Regardless of who is elected to the White House in November, energy policy will play a major role in the next administration. Get ahead of the curve, join us for the Energy Issue Jam.
Richard McMahon, Executive Director of Energy Supply for the Edison Electric Institute, will lead the Energy Issue Jam on October 21 at 1pm eastern. Topics for discussion include: infrastructure and capital expansion costs; supply, price and demand for electricity; renewable portfolio standards; climate change and CO2 reduction; and any other energy related topic you want to discuss.
Issue Jams are a forum for shared learning and open discussion about the latest policy trends. The phone lines will be open throughout the call and we anticipate a lively discussion. Don't miss this opportunity to be at the leading edge of energy policy, sign up for the Energy Issue Jam on Oct 21.
Click to register: http://www.acce.org/seminars-dialogue-display_ektid11918.aspx
Is Green the Economic Solution?
Is green growth the way out of the current economic slump? Dr. Mark Weiss, chairman of Global Urban Development and a lead figure in the Climate Prosperity Project, certainly thinks so. His article in this week's Citiwire newsletter assert:
"Climate protection and economic growth are not enemies. Core strategies to create a vibrant economy â€” innovation, efficiency, strategic investment, and finding better ways to use and reuse resources â€” are exactly the same steps we need to cope with global climate change now. These actions will increase jobs, incomes, productivity, and competitiveness, and theyâ€™re green.'
'There are commentators who advocate postponing investments in renewable energy and clean technologies, suggesting this will somehow delay economic recovery. Theyâ€™re dead wrong. In the 21st century, the only way for people and places to get richer is by thinking and acting for sustainability, specifically aiming to become 'greener.'"
I think everyone can agree that increased efficiency, technological innovation and new 'green collar' jobs would be great for the economy. (Who wouldn't love to land a new solar panel manufacturer in their community?) But the Wall Street Journal points out a potential stumbling block - cheap(er) oil. Oil prices have tumbled from $140 per barrel to approximately $70 as demand has fallen. The current economic slump may push demand and prices even lower. Yesterday's article, Going Down: What Will Falling Oil Prices Do to Clean Energy?, poses a big question:
"Cheaper oil could also affect support for renewable energy, even though wind turbines and solar panels donâ€™t compete with oil and gasoline today. Crude at $140 focused minds in Washington on the need to look for alternative energy sources.... When oil prices collapsed in the 1990s, renewable energy in the U.S. basically fell off a cliff. Nobody is predicting a return to $10 oil, but with $60 oil considered the 'new cheap,' could it happen again?"
If 'green' is your community's strategy for economic development you will have to work to maintain focus. If public interest and political will forget about green because of lower gas prices and pressing economic issues, investment will be harder to secure and entrepreneurs will have a tough time delivering all those new, high paying green jobs.