Milwaukee Mandated Sick Leave
This month Milwaukee became only the third city in the country to require employers to provide paid sick days for workers. On Nov. 4 voters in the city passed a mandatory sick leave ballot referendum with a 68% margin.
The ordinance demands that all private employers in the city to provide paid sick days for full-time, part-time and temporary employees. A worker would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers with 10 or fewer workers have to provide five paid sick days.
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) plans to issue a legal challenge to the ordinance. Only San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have approved similar ordinances, and those laws are also being challenged.
See what MMAC president Tim Sheehy has to say about the initiative in a recent BizTimes.com article:
"I've never seen a single issue like this in the city of Milwaukee have such a chilling response on the business climate of the city," said MMAC president Tim Sheehy. Sheehy said he talked to one business owner that was considering a 40,000-square-foot expansion in the city but was "stopped cold" by the sick leave law.
"It's having a very negative impact," Sheehy said. "The biggest problem we are having is articulating the unseen impact of this, which is the potential jobs that would have come to the city."
Click HERE to read the full article.
Regular Clearinghouse Blog readers will probably remember that a similar mandatory sick leave initiative nearly made the statewide ballot in Ohio this year. This is certainly an emerging issue to watch carefully.
Workforce is a major issue for every community and chambers leaders exhaust countless time and effort addressing the need for talent. Here are some workforce related headlines that may interest you:
- Long known as one of our nation's most-skilled workforce hub, Boston is concerned about the region's workforce talent base. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce released a report last month that finds demand for skilled workers exceeds supply. The report outlines five recommendations, including internships and H1-B Visa reform, to help address the talent shortage. Click HERE for more information on their policy proposals to address workforce concerns.
- Every community wants to keep young talent, but the Mercer (NJ) Regional Chamber of Commerce is going straight to the source. They have partnered with campus groups to support the Collegiate Chamber of Commerce on campus at Rider University. Rider finance major Matt Cardia, a founding member of the Collegiate Chamber, says, "We want to build a network, like a link, between us current students and the business people in the greater community of Mercer County." Click HERE for more information.
- Communities are not alone in their talent search, the entire energy industry is building a pipeline of future talent. And they are starting early. An October Financial Times article highlights oil company efforts to bring math and science programs to children's museums and local schools across the country. Not only do they hope to groom the next generation of American engineers, they hope to sway student's opinions about pursuing a career with an energy company. Click HERE for the full story.
More State Budget Woes
State governments are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls as revenue from capital gains tax and sales tax collections has taken a major hit during the past month. Falling collections come as funding demands for unemployment insurance, Medicaid and other services are likely to increase sharply.
37 states now face a serious budget gap with California's $26 billion leading the way. Other states with budget gaps measured in the billions of dollars include Florida, Nevada, New York, Georgia and Virginia. Click HERE for an interactive state budget map from the New York Times.
For states this means serious spending cuts. The New York Times reports:
In Michigan, to reduce overtime costs, fewer streets will be salted this winter. In Ohio, where the unemployment rate is above 7 percent, the state may need a federal loan for the first time in 26 years to cover unemployment costs. In Nevada, which is almost totally dependent on sales taxes and gambling revenues, a health administrator said the state may be unable to pay claims in a few months.
In California, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and state legislators are preparing to do battle over a proposed 1.5-cent sales tax increase, while in New York, Mr. Paterson, a Democrat, has proposed $5.2 billion worth of savings, principally cuts to Medicaid and education.
K-12 education and other important workforce development programs may not be immune to serious cuts:
“Most states have tried to protect K-12 and even higher ed,” said Raymond Scheppach, the executive director of the National Governors Association, “but I think they are both going to be on the block.”
“We’ve cut universities, we’ve cut our infrastructure spending, we’ve prorated schools and asked employees for concessions twice,” said Leslee Fritz, the spokeswoman for the Michigan State Budget Office."
One bright spot for your community may be infrastructure project funding as state's look for ways to stimulate the local economy.
Ohio officials have already passed a stimulus package of $1.5 billion in bonds, to be used largely for public works, advanced and renewable energy projects, and the biomedical industry.
“States don’t have a lot of economic stimulus tools,” said Mr. Pattison of the budget officers’ association, “but they have infrastructure.”
Click HERE for the full article.
Auto Rescue Possible in Lame Duck Session, Stimulus Package Unlikely
Barack Obama will be sworn into office on Jan 20th, the 111th Congress will take their seats on Jan 6th, but that doesn't mean policymaking in Washington in on hiatus until the new year. Congress has entered a lame duck session this week and they have big issues on the agenda, two of which chambers of commerce will watch carefully: an auto industry rescue plan and an economic stimulus plan.
The biggest piece of legislation on the table this week is a rescue plan for US automakers. Hit by high gas prices and tight consumer credit, US automakers have seen sales fall over 50% in October alone, and total cars sales in 2008 is projected to be the lowest in decades. American automakers warn they may be out of money within months without help. The US auto industry and its suppliers employ roughly 1 million Americans and is the nation's leading customer for steel, glass, aluminum and computer chips. A Nov 4th report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) found that a failure by the Big 3 would cost almost 3 million jobs with impact felt far beyond Detroit.
The debate over an automotive rescue plan revolves around $25 billion in federal loans that Congress appropriated in 2007 to help the Big 3 modernize production and meet new fuel economy standards. Some lawmakers are reluctant to authorize further loans to aid Detroit automakers and prefer to see the existing $25 billion allocated quickly. Other argue that those loans were focused on long term modernization, not short term rescue and call for a rescue package like the one passed to benefit the financial industry. For an interesting discussion, see this editorial published in last Thursday's USA Today Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Detroit Chamber President Dick Blouse.
Less likely to pass before 2009 is a broad economic stimulus plan. The proposal which will likely echo the House proposal from September, could include an extension of unemployment benefits, additional food stamp funding, and aid to states for Medicaid. Of particular interest to chambers, however, is the possibility of as much as $60 billion in infrastructure spending. As many as 3,000 transportation and infrastructure projects nationwide have gone through all necessary planning are are merely waiting for funding. The stimulus package could get the ball rolling on many of these projects, putting back to work millions of construction workers unemployed since the housing bust. This could be good news for the highway expansion your community has been waiting for.
The Washington Post reported this weekend that Democratic lawmakers are scaling back their stimulus proposal. Undoubtedly we will all closely watch the lame duck session.
Economic Development Agenda Wins in Local Florida Race
In this year's election it was good to be a Democrat at both the federal and state level. Besides Barack Obama's presidential victory, the Democrats expanded their majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate (though they fell short of a filibuster proof 60 seat majority). At the state level, Democrats will now control 29 governor offices (a net gain of one) and both legislative chambers in 27 states (an increase of 4 states).
At the local level, however, the story of last week's election is not so bleak for Republicans. In Martin County Florida, for example, 3 pro-business Republicans swept the county commission race with an economic development agenda. The opposition candidates adopted a slow growth platform.
Policy Clearinghouse Blog readers may remember from past posts about the failed Hometown Democracy Amendment that anti-growth sentiment was very strong in Florida. Here is what Dave Dew, the chairman of the Martin County Democratic Party, had to say:
"Two years ago, four years ago, it was growth. I think today, it was the economy," ... "If you look like a job creator, you're going to get the votes."
Words of wisdom for upcoming local elections. Click HERE to read the full article.
How strong is anit-growth sentiment in your area? Was it ever an issue, has it evaporated with the housing market and economic slump? Leave a comment and share your perspective.
More States Consider Combined Reporting
Combined reporting is
And its catching on. Since Mississippi, Maryland and Tennessee held hearing to consider instuting combined reporting earlier this year, several other states are investigating the policy. In their November 11 Legislative Alert e-newsletter, The Council on State Taxation (COST) reported that Massachusetts and North Carolina are both looking at combined reporting. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue issues
Massachusetts: Department of Revenue Issues Combined Reporting Working Draft Regulation
On Nov. 6th, the Department of Revenue (DOR) issued a working draft regulation with respect to the mandatory unitary combined reporting legislation enacted earlier this year. Comments are due to the DOR no later than Dec. 5th, 2008.
North Carolina: Revenue Laws Study Committee Hears Combined Reporting Testimony
The Revenue Laws Study Committee, a committee that meets between legislative sessions to formulate tax policy, will be hearing testimony Nov. 19th concerning mandatory unitary combined reporting. Both proponents and opponents, including COST, will testify on the issue. Further details will be reported as they emerge.
What this means...
Indianapolis Hopes to Apply Transit Lessons from Denver
A group of 60 Indianapolis business and civic leaders recently visited Denver, CO on the 2008 Leadership Exchange, a new intercity visit program launched by the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.
Mass transit and transit oriented development were two primary topics examined on the group's inaugural Leadership Exchange trip to Denver. The group was particularly interested in studying the regional approach to transit adopted to plan and finance Denver's FasTracks system. FasTracks is the Denver region's 12-year comprehensive plan to build and operate high-speed rail lines, expand bus service and build new park-n-Rides to efficiently move greater Denver's 2.5 million residents across the region.
To read more about the Indianapolis Chamber's 2008 Leadership Exchange and see what Chamber President Roland Dorson has to say about regional cooperation, click HERE.
Intercity visits are a great way to drive public debate about important issues like transit, education, workforce housing and downtown development. They bring your community leaders together to experience first hand how another city is addressing similar issues.
If you are interested to learn how an intercity visit program similar to the Indianapolis Chamber's 2008 Leadership Exchange can become a hallmark event for your chamber, visit www.acce.org/icv. There you will find a wealth of resources about intercity visits including sample budgets, itineraries and marketing materials. If you'd like a complementary copy of ACCE's A Guide to Intercity Visits call or email Ian Scott at (703) 998-3530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chambers take a Stand on Ballot Initiatives
Voters in thirty-six states will decide 152 ballot initiatives today. There weren't any on my ballot in Fredericksburg, VA this morning, but there is a good chance you voted on at least one.
From a renewable energy mandate in California, to an income tax repeal in Massachusetts, to a proposal that would make English the official language in Missouri; there are dozens of ballot measures with serious business implications. Over the past few months, chambers of commerce have spent a lot of time, money and effort rallying support or opposition, here are some examples:
Pasadena (CA) Chamber of Commerce
The Pasadena Chamber Board of Directors unanimously opposed Propositions 7 and 10, both would institute renewable energy and alternative fuel standards. There was unanimous support for Proposition 11, a measure that would appoint a redistricting committee to redraw state senate lines. The board split on support for a $350 million school bond. 12 propositions made this year's ballot in California. Click HERE to read more about the Pasadena Chamber's positions.
North Shore (MA) Chamber of Commerce
The Board of Directors of the North Shore Chamber Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose Massachusetts Question 1, a measure that would repeal state income tax. Their position is based on the belief that removing the state income tax would result in dire consequences for businesses in already economically-trying times. Click HERE to visit the North Shore Chamber Blog to read their rationale.
Howard County (MD) Chamber of Commerce
The Howard County Chamber is but one of many in Maryland to support Question 2, a constitutional amendment that would legalize slot machines in the state and dedicate roughly 50% of gross revenue from slots to an education trust fund. The chamber joins teachers groups, unions and others from across the state who see slots as a solution to the possibility of slashing services or raising taxes. Supporters also argue that allowing slots in Maryland will keep dollars at home that currently go to neighboring West Virginia or Pennsylvania. Click HERE for the coalition website in support of Question 2.
Greater Phoenix (AZ) Chamber of Commerce
The Phoenix Chamber took positions on 7 statewide ballot initiatives. One that has drawn significant attention is Proposition 200, also know as the Payday Loan Reform Act. Proposition 200 would protect the right of payday lenders to operate, but would set guidelines on fees and lending terms. The Phoenix Chamber, along with many other chambers, non-profit groups and community leaders opposes Proposition 200. The coalition group Arizonans for Responsible Lending, issues a press release on their website (www.200isnoreform.com) that quotes Todd Sanders of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce regarding the Chamber’s opposition to Prop 200: “With this kind of solution, and in particular, one industry, you’re never going to have the option to change it, and you’re going to voter-protect one industry.”
Chicagoland Chamber opposes Daley Dumpster Plan
The Chicagoland Chamber joined the LakeView East Chamber, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and condo owners associations from across Chicago last Friday to speak out in opposition to Mayor Daley's proposed commercial dumpster fee.
The fee, which would range from $100 to $300 depending on the size of the dumpster, would apply to all dumpsters, even those on private property. Daley hopes the new fees will raise $9 million next year and perhaps $25 million in subsequent years. Business associations are worried about the impact on small businesses that are already struggling in this economy.
"Tanya Triche, staff attorney for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association said a small grocery store with multiple dumpsters could end up paying an extra $600 a year in a city that already has the nation’s highest sales tax.
“Why pay additional fees here when you can put a store in Orland Park, in Elgin, or Indiana, where the cost of doing business is significantly less,” she said."
Click HERE to read the full article from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Detroit Chamber, Michigan Governor Petition for Big 3 Help
In an open letter published in the Detroit Free Press last Friday, Dick Blouse, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber joined Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) in a letter urging quicker distribution of federal loans to assist the Big 3 automakers: Chrysler, Ford and GM.
Last year Congress authorized $25 billion in low interest loans to help American automakers retool manufacturing to meet new fuel efficiency standards and compete in a changing global marketplace. The appropriated funds will be administered by the Department of Energy which has suggested that it may take a year and a half to disburse the loans. That is too long say Blouse and Granholm.
"It is an unprecedented time considering the American autos are facing a faltering global economy, an acute credit crunch, intense worldwide competition, shifting consumer demand, and expanded government regulations – all at the same time. Waiting to get much-needed resources to an industry where all of these forces are putting considerable pressure on severely strained companies is not an option.
The automotive industry, of which the American companies comprise a significant portion of the market, is an integral part of the nation’s economy. Over 13 million auto-related jobs are found throughout the country in every state. Delaying the federal loans will jeopardize countless workers across the nation."
The Detroit Chamber and the Governor are calling for the Department of Energy to expedite loan processing and help the Big 3 now.
To read the full article, click HERE.