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Got That Border Crossing Feeling?

Ian Scott on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:31:58 pm 

807486_passport_2 If you're planning a summer getaway up to Niagara Falls or down to Tijuana, you should probably get your passport in order.

Starting June 1st, new regulations will demand that every US citizen entering the country via land or sea present a passport.  Under current regulation, a government issued photo ID is acceptable at the busy border crossings into the US from Mexico or Canada.

This new regulation could have a serious economic impact on border cities like Detroit, Buffalo, El Paso and McAllen where workers and good move across the national border on a daily basis.

See what the Detroit Chamber's and ACCE's own Sarah Hubbard had to stay about the changes in a USA Today article:

The requirement could delay the hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars of goods that enter the U.S. each day by land, said Sarah Hubbard, vice president of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I don't think this change is on the radar screen of most people that will be affected," Hubbard said. About $1 billion of goods per day - largely Canadian auto parts - arrive in Detroit in trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge from Canada, she said.

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Prescription Discount Card in Rhode Island

Ian Scott on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 5:50:29 pm 

1160103_perscription_drugs_2 RIRx, a statewide discount prescription drug program, launched last week in Rhode Island.  The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce played an instrumental role in creating the program, and is leading the public awareness campaign.

The downloadable card is available for free to any state resident.  It offers an average discount of approximately 30% on name brand and generic prescription drugs.  It is not an insurance plan.

"The cost of health care is a top concern for Rhode Island's residents," said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. "With unemployment on the rise, due to the stalling economy, many individuals and families are finding themselves without health insurance. RIRx is designed give our residents access to much needed healthcare cost savings."

For more information check out: http://www.rirx.com/

For the Providence Chamber's press release check about he RIRx program, click HERE.

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Even After Specter, Card Check Still Key

Ian Scott on Monday, March 30, 2009 at 4:21:08 pm 

Business leaders and proponents of the secret ballot had reason to cheer last week when Sen. Arlen Specter announce that he would not support Card Check and would not vote for cloture on the bill.   But as the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel editorialized, "the real test ... is yet to come."

According to Strassel and many other beltway observers, Card Check is not over:

"In theory, his (Specter's) decision to join his 40 GOP colleagues in a filibuster kills the bill. In reality, the business community just moved into a far more dangerous phase. Big Labor spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats and get card check; it won't give up. And the unions know the corporate world has a history of fracturing."

So the onus is business to keep up the pressure and stay together.  Her last paragraph sums it up:

"...the lesson of card check so far is that, united, the business world still wields extraordinary clout. ... Business's continued unity, or lack of it, will decide what happens next."

Click HERE to read the full editorial.

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Guns in the Workplace in Alabama

Ian Scott on Friday, March 27, 2009 at 11:50:33 pm 

Proposed legislation in Alabama would prevent employers from establishing rules the prohibit firearms in workplace parking lots.  This highly politicized issue has both property rights and workplace safety ramifications. 

1036905_gunAs of now, at least eight states: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi and Oklahoma, have statutes that prohibit employers from banning weapons on their own property.  State legislatures in Ohio and Indiana have previously considered and rejected legislation restricting business owners from banning guns in the workplace.

Check out the Caputo Report: The Official Public Policy Blog of the Birmingham Regional Chamberfor more information on the Alabama bill, a link to the bill's text, and an online opinion poll.

Check out the Guns in the Workplace page at PolicyClearinghouse.org for more information.

Click HERE to read the NRA's position on the guns in the workplace issue.

Click HERE for an article from USA Today that provides a nationwide overview of  'guns in the workplace' laws.

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Americans Realize Importance of Infrastructure

Ian Scott on Friday, March 27, 2009 at 5:58:06 pm 

Bridge A recent survey by Kansas City headquartered architecture and engineering consulting firm HNTB found that, "Americans overwhelmingly believe the nation's infrastructure is crumbling and are willing to spend more of their tax dollars to fix it."

According to HNTB's press release about the America THINKS survey:

"...four in five (81 percent) Americans agree making sacrifices to pay for infrastructure improvements now will make the difference between a more prosperous or a more difficult future for the next generation. Almost seven in ten (68 percent) are willing to pay more taxes to support highway and bridge maintenance and new construction."

The survey also asked questions about how stimulus infrastructure funds should be spent and about preferences for how infrastructure funds should be raised.  You might be surprised at the support for congestion priced toll roads.

Click HERE for more info.

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We're On Twitter!

Ian Scott on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 7:04:43 pm 

TwitterTwitter has quickly become the choice social media platform for many elected officials and government affairs professionals.  Now the ACCE Policy Clearinghouse is Tweeting too. 

For up-to-the-minute information, links, and updates, follow the Policy Clearinghouse on Twitter.  Go to www.twitter.com/ianscottacce to follow Ian Scott, ACCE's policy and economic development guy.

If you're on Twitter, let me know.  I'll follow you too.

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Specter Opposes Card Check

Ian Scott on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 10:56:33 pm 

Ending weeks of speculation, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) finally broke his silence about Card Check today and said he opposes the legislation.

Specter, who was the only Republican to support Card Check in 2007, made his announcement in a speech from the Senate floor today.  In his remarks he called the secret ballot "the cornerstone of how contests are decided in a Democratic society."

Click to see how national media outlets are covering Specter's announcement:

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Chambers Speak Out on Card Check

Ian Scott on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 8:57:07 pm 

More and more chambers are making their voices heard about the Employee Free Choice Act.  They are submitting editorials, running newsletter articles and placing calls to representatives.  They know that without direct action by concerned business leaders from across the country, it will be hard to stop this bill's momentum.

Here are a few recent examples of chambers and other business organizations speaking out about Card Check through local media:

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Mandate-Free Coverage in Oklahoma

Ian Scott on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 7:41:12 pm 

Just last week we discussed the inherent problems with additional coverage mandates for health insurance plans.  State legislatures are always proposing them, but this year, Oklahoma bucked that trend.

Last week the Oklahoma State Legislature passed a bill allowing insurers to offer mandate-free coverage to people under age 40.  The mandate-free plans will allow a more affordable insurance options to Oklahoma's uninsured.  According to KTEN News: "Oklahoma has 36 health insurance mandates for such procedures as immunizations for children, mammograms, breast reconstruction and prostate cancer screening."  

For more info, check out this article from The Oklahoman.

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Member Profile - Norma Ritz Johnson

Ian Scott on Monday, March 23, 2009 at 11:27:55 pm 

Norma-web Norma Ritz Johnson
Vice President of Legislative Affairs
Lubbock Chamber of Commerce

Norma is an active member of the ACCE Government Relations Division Advisory Board. She leads the policy and government relations program for the Lubbock (TX) Chamber, a 2008 ACCE Chamber of the Year Award Winner. She's a graduate of Texas Tech and is currently completing the US Chamber's Institute for Organizational Management program.

For this interview I caught Norma in the airport on her way the state house in Austin.

ACCE: How did you get started in chamber work, and what keeps you in the profession?

Norma: I first came in contact with the chamber while working as Communications Director at National Grain Sorghum Producers Association. My communications role sort of morphed into issues management and policy oriented work during the very demanding 2002 Farm Bill negotiations. When you have a small staff, you take on new roles, I think chamber folks can appreciate that.

While at NGSP, I was a member of the Chamber's Legislative Affairs Committee and participated in, as well as sponsored, the Chamber's D.C. Fly-In. I developed some great relationships with the people here at the Chamber, and that helped pave the way for my taking on this role here when the opportunity presented itself.

Policy and legislation affects every area of life and work, and I enjoy helping others engage in and understand the process and its significance. The opportunity to represent and make a difference for small businesses and business in general is the best part of my job, and the bonus is that I get to do that while helping Lubbock grow. I have a special affection and dedication to the Lubbock area. Though I grew up in a tiny community about 30 miles from Lubbock, I was born and married within one block of the Chamber building.

ACCE: What policy issues are currently occupying your time?

Norma: Our state legislature meets biennially, in odd-numbered years for 140 days, and we are almost at the half-way mark of the 81st Texas Legislature. There are a number of issues we're monitoring and active on, but our priorities are Tier One status for Texas Tech University, health care and health insurance related legislation, transportation, and water. I'm actually on my way to the state capitol waiting to testify on a bill related to health care purchasing cooperatives that we have been working on. It will allow even greater potential improvements to our award-winning Lubbock Chamber Employer Health Plan. Yesterday, I crafted and distributed an "Action Alert" urging state legislators not to replace the 5-member Texas Transportation Commission with a single commissioner. Since we are in a less populous area of Texas away from the metropolitan center, geographic diversity and representation is always a priority for us.

ACCE: What are the biggest challenges your chamber/community currently face?

Norma: Access to water and sufficient funding to develop this infrastructure is an important local issue. Meanwhile, an aging population and the ability to retain young people are important for the future vitality of our community and to ensure population growth. Though Lubbock's economic indicators continue to look favorable compared with much of the nation, our Chamber like so many others, is watching the situation and our own bottom line closely and strategizing to be ready to help our members through this downturn in the economy. We're also working to ensure that local consumers keep the situation in perspective.

ACCE: Finish this sentence. Never again will I...

Norma: Never again will I assume that there will be someone else or some other organization to take on initiative or issue while the Chamber merely weighs in the background. Lately we've taken a more hands-on approach with many issues. We take the initiative on projects because it's our responsibility, and with many issues, if we don't do take them on, who will?

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