Texas Association of Business 2011 Annual Conference Recap
Defending Free Enterprise
Dream Big Texas
I had the pleasure of leaving Virginia weather (and a snow day) behind to travel to Austin, TX for the 2011 Texas Association of Business Annual Conference last week. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Austin, I knew I was in Texas!
All of the sessions were held at the beautiful AT&T Conference Center on the edge of the University of Texas campus.
The Texas Association of Business had a packed agenda. They held panels on The Sunset Process, the budget and education. They were also able to squeeze in some fun at the Saengerrunde Hall for a Legislative and Capitol Staff Reception. Their closing luncheon featured Governor Rick Perry and they presented Texas Monthly’s “Best Companies to Work for in Texas.”
Texas State Senator Tommy Williams delivered opening remarks, standing in for Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurts. Sen. Williams said that the top three issues for the state senate this biennium are redistricting, the budget shortfall and school finance. They are also keeping a close eye on the federal government in regards to banking regulations, oil refinery flexible permits, off-shore drilling, Mexico’s government (border control, cleaning up narco-terrorism and future trading with Mexico) and transportation. He also mentioned that the senate intends to focus on homeland security as opposed to immigration this session.
The Sunset Process and its role in the upcoming Legislative Session Panel featured two members of the Sunset Advisory Commission. The Sunset Advisory Commission consists of twelve members, six from the house and six from the senate. The commission reviews the policies and programs of government agencies every 12 years to insure that they are still relevant and efficient.
The Budget Panel was comprised of the Lt. Governor’s Director of Intergovernmental Relations, the Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy, Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Each panelist had their own ideas for how to solve the budget crisis and how much of the “rainy day” fund should be spent to close the budget gap. Bill Hammond, President and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, said that TAB is hoping to save pre-K education and incentives for teachers.
The evening ended with a reception at Austin’s Saengerrunde Hall. Our group was entertained by Jesse Dayton and an evening full of two-stepping!
I wasn’t able to attend the sessions on Thursday, but Norma Ritz Johnson from Lubbock gave me a recap of the Education Panel that I was so disappointed to miss! She said that the greatest takeaway from the education discussion was how to best measure accountability and address funding versus performance versus growing population. There was a lot of discussion about best utilization of a state college grant program and how to enhance college graduation rates for those receiving the grants as well as college students in general.
Thank you for your hospitality, Austin! I can’t wait to visit again.
NY Business Council Boss To Run State’s Economic Development Agency
Last Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the nomination of Ken Adams as President and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Adams has served as president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State Inc. since 2006. “With Ken Adams as President and CEO, the Empire State Development Corporation will fuel New York-based innovation and create jobs at home while helping to transform the state into a world-class center for business and new ideas,” Governor Cuomo said. Read more here: http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2011/01/27/ken-adams-to-lead-empire-state.html
State of the Union 2011
As the U.S. Chamber predicted, the State of the Union address delivered by President Obama was very business heavy.
He mentioned 1099s, corporate income tax cuts, restructuring the tax code and restructuring the federal government among other issues. He also focused on green energy and the importance of education and the nation’s teachers.
If you missed it, here is the official transcript: President Obama – SOTU 2011.
Republican congressman, Paul Ryan, from Wisconsin was charged with delivering the Republican response. He focused heavily on reducing the federal debt and cutting spending.
Here is the transcript: Ryan – GOP Response 2011.
In an unprecedented turn, Tea Party favorite, Michelle Bachmann offered up the Tea Party’s response to the State of the Union as well. She also focused in on a reduction of federal spending and regulation.
Here is the transcript: Bachmann – Tea Party Response 2011.
Member "Get[s] Caught" During Chamber Breakfast
When a warrant officer and a police officer show up at your chamber breakfast, you know something's about to happen that's going get people talking. Luckily, the folks at the Newton Area (KS) Chamber of Commerce were all in on an arrest that was about to take place. To promote the Chamber's "Get Caught" program, part of a larger Chamber campaign that pushes excellent customer service, representatives from the organization arranged for a warrant officer from the local police department to "arrest" a member and cite him "for his superior customer service to the Newton community." Now that's a way to get some attention! Read more about this program that encourages local community members to recognize employees in the community who provide exceptional customer service here:
A different way to tackle immigration: 14th amendment challenge
Arizona kicked off a nationwide immigration debate when it signed the toughest immigration bill into law in early 2010. They look to be leading the debate in early 2011 with state President Russell Pearce’s plans to sponsor yet another controversial immigration bill this year targeting the 14th amendment.
Pearce is not alone in looking for revision or clarification of the 14th amendment. Lawmakers and advocates descended on Washington D.C. on January 5 to announce how they propose to stop “anchor babies” or U.S. born children of illegal immigrants from automatically becoming U.S. citizens. There is a new group of state legislators, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, which is also taking a hard at the 14th amendment within their immigration reform proposals.
The 14th amendment’s first sentence reads “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” Supporters argue that this sentence has been misinterpreted, thus granting citizenship to children born on U.S. soil, regardless of their parents’ citizenship. They hope to have the Supreme Court clarify the reading of that sentence to avoid granting citizenship to children with parents in the country illegally.
Arizona’s state legislature will be looking at this issue along with at least twelve additional states that have agreed to push similar legislation.
This issue was raised in the U.S. Senate this past August. At that time Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was considering an amendment that would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.
To read more: Lawmakers target citizenship by birthplace
Blog Series: Changing of the Guard - Ohio
The 2010 election that swept the GOP into the majority in the U.S. House also brought about big changes in governor’s mansions and state legislatures. Over the coming weeks, ACCE’s Policy Clearinghouse Blog will highlight some of the states that had significant change in political power after the 2010 elections. We’ll talk with chambers to find out what opportunities and challenges they anticipate with the new state administrations. Our second installment features Ohio.
Ohio also saw big electoral changes in 2010. Democrats lost control of the Governorship and both houses of the legislature. New governor John Kasich has ambitious plans for the Buckeye State to make it more efficient and effective. I was able to get the thoughts from our chamber friends in Dayton to see how they feel about the election results and what lies ahead for their policy agendas.
Chris Kershner, Vice President of Public Policy and Economic Development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce is optimistic about Governor Kasich. The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce has been working closely with Kasich’s office during the campaign and will continue to as work begins on addressing a project $8 billion state budget deficit. Kershner says that the Ohio Senate and Ohio House have great leadership at the helm. They are currently focusing on budget relief as well and they are working with Ohio business leaders to achieve that relief.
The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with the other 7 major metro chambers of commerce (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Youngstown/Warren) and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to offer a series of budget recommendations, titled Redesigning Ohio, to Governor Kasich. If implemented, these recommendations would save the state $1.4 billion and would help restructure Ohio’s budgeting inefficiencies so that they would not end-up in another fiscal crisis in the future. Governor Kasich and the State Legislature have been receptive to their recommendations and they look forward to working with them. Here is the link: Redesigning Ohio.
Additionally, Kershner says that the business community is pleased to see Jon Husted (former staff at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce) recently elected as Ohio Secretary of State. Secretary Husted has been a champion of economic development in Ohio and they look forward to him bringing that passion to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
Governors look to gain from Illinois tax hikes
As Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law raising personal and corporate taxes in Illinois on January 13, other governors began to salivate over the idea of poaching business from the Prairie State.
The Illinois personal income tax rate rose 67 percent to 5 percent, up from 3 percent. The corporate income tax rate rises to 7 percent, up from 4.8 percent. These increases are expected to stay at this new level for four years and then are scheduled to decline. The tax hike was pushed through at the end of the lame-duck legislative session to fill a $6 billion hole in the state budget, pay old bills and send more money to schools.
Republican governors around the country have seen this move as a sure-fire way to run business out of Illinois, and they hope to capitalize on it. New Jersey’s Governor Christie has said that he plans to visit Illinois in efforts to move those businesses to New Jersey. Indiana’s governor compared Illinois to “The Simpsons” and Wisconsin has already launched a campaign for firms to “Escape to Wisconsin.”
The Christian Science Monitor points out that Indiana and Wisconsin would have to lower their corporate income tax rates to gain an upper hand on Illinois as both states still have a higher corporate tax rate than their neighbor.
To read more about the Illinois tax hikes, visit:
Govs see opportunity in Illinois tax hikes – Stateline.org
Quinn signs tax hike into law – Chicago Tribune
Illinois tax hike: Will businesses flee to Wisconsin? – CSMonitor.com
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has been following the issue closely as noted in their Government Affairs Report. Visit their suggested links for more information on the tax increase:Fox News Chicago: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels: Illinois is like the Simpsons
USA Today: Illinois Enacts Tax Increases to Cut $15 Billion Deficit
San Francisco Chronicle: Illinois Governor to Seek $8.75 Billion Bond for Overdue Bills
WREX: Some Illinois Businesses Could Go North Because of Tax Hike
Chicago Sun-Times: Wisconsin Gov Likes Illinois Tax Hike
Chicago Tribune: Goodbye, Jobs
Blog Series: Changing of the Guard - Wisconsin
The 2010 election that swept the GOP into the majority in the U.S. House also brought about big changes in governor’s mansions and state legislatures. Over the coming weeks, ACCE’s Policy Clearinghouse Blog will highlight some of the states that had significant change in political power after the 2010 elections. We’ll talk with chambers to find out what opportunities and challenges they anticipate with the new state administrations. First up is Wisconsin.
Wisconsin saw big electoral changes in 2010. Democrats lost control of the Governorship and both houses of the legislature. With a solid mandate from the electorate, new governor Scott Walker has ambitious plans for the Badger State. I spoke to a few of our chamber friends in Wisconsin to see how they feel about the election results and what lies ahead for their policy agendas.
Steve Baas, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) Government Affairs Director, feels good about the new administration and the new legislative leadership. They are looking forward to a broad shift in philosophy to one focused on empowering entrepreneurs and relying on the free market to create jobs, economic development and wealth. That holds great opportunity for fundamental changes in the tax, regulatory and litigation climate in Wisconsin that MMAC has supported for years.
Kevin Little, Director of Public Policy at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, says that they are optimistic, but also anticipate some challenges ahead. They are encouraged by some of the job creation proposals being lead by incoming Governor Scott Walker and other state leaders. Some of the proposals include a change in the state’s commerce department, new and expanded tax credits for business expansion and other regulatory and legal changes to protect businesses.
Little does raise a potential challenge that his community might face with the change in power. Madison is home to the state’s flagship university, which is also one of the top research universities in the country. They have earned that reputation thanks to the medical research on campus; some of which – like embryonic stem cell research – can be controversial. They do anticipate legislative efforts to restrict this research, which the chamber will strongly oppose.
Baas sees the biggest challenge facing the new administration is finding way to balance the budget in the face of a $3 billion deficit left by their predecessors.
Like with any administration, Little says that the Madison Chamber can’t predict total agreement, but they are pleased that the first order of business is jobs and finding ways to ensure that Wisconsin is a place that grows and retains businesses.
Bass and the Milwaukee chamber are looking to play more offense and focus on moving their agenda items forward. Though their agenda remains fundamentally the same because it is driven by issues and not ideology, this political landscape could prove to be favorable.
A long time member of ACCE, Paul Jadin, President of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and former mayor of Green Bay, will be leaving his post in late January to join the new administration as Wisconsin’s newest Secretary of Commerce.
2010: Year of Membership Growth at Augusta (GA) Area Chambers
Is there something in the water in the Augusta (GA) area? A recent review of the area's chambers shows that many witnessed an increase in memberships in 2010. For instance, the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce reported nearly 15 percent more members for the year, while the Columbia County (GA) Chamber had an 8 percent increase. What's the secret to their success? Speaking for the Augusta Metro Chamber, president Sue Parr partly attributed the increase to a good membership development staff and her belief that businesses get their money's worth with networking, legislative advocacy and general information services. As for the Columbia County Chamber's success, Tammy Shepherd, president and CEO of the Chamber said, "I think it went up because we did a better job in selling ourselves. We have someone out knocking on doors and talking about what the chamber does." Read more about this membership success in the Augusta area here:
More on H.R. 2
H.R. 2 is a very short bill that is a straight-forward call for repeal of the health care reform bill. Text of Bill (2 pages)
In conjunction with H.R. 2, the house is looking at H. Res. 9 (a resolution, text here). H. Res. 9 tasks the Committee on Education and Workforce, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Ways and Means to propose changes to the existing health reform law that fall within each committee’s jurisdiction.
What to watch: Oklahoma should be filing a lawsuit within the next few weeks to challenge the healthcare reform law. They will be focusing on the individual mandate requiring citizens to have health insurance by 2014. Also watch out for Dan Lungren’s bill, H.R. 144, which would repeal the 1099 provision in the new healthcare law that requires reporting to the IRS on payments to corporations of more than $600.