Georgia Infrastructure Bank
Three years after it was created, Georgia’s infrastructure bank has received just four applications for loans from local governments. It awarded only a single loan for $1 million in 2009 and has $32 million left in the bank. The formation of an infrastructure bank was a transportation initiative of former Governor Sonny Perdue in 2008.
In an effort to attract business for the bank, Governor Nathan Deal backed changes that will now let local governments use money for repair and upkeep, not just new projects. The governor believes that the money will not be unused and thinks that this is “one of the more progressive things we’ve done to assist local governments.”
Even with low interest rates, communities are still hesitant to borrow in tight times. Communities have decided against applying for loans on their infrastructure projects because they don’t want to pay even low interest fees.
The bank also has a pool of $10 million for grants available to community improvement projects. The entire pool was awarded to eight recipients last year.
Read more: Atlantic Journal - Constitution
Check-ups and Rx for Business Health in Knoxville
The Knoxville (TN) Chamber just unveilved an innovative new product that will help it work with companies to analyze and improve the health of their businesses. Known as Chamber Member MD and resembling a personal health risk assessment, the tool consists of 89 questions that examine all aspects of a company’s operations. In the Chamber-issued press release, Knoxville Chamber president and CEO Mike Edwards said, “Many businesspeople spend their days acting like firefighters, dealing with the items that require their immediate attention. The latest sales prospect, the need to return phone calls, customer concerns, and many other things keep businesspeople from focusing on long-term issues, planning, and company policies. Chamber Member MD allows people to be fire inspectors. They can take a step back, understand why things happen, make corrections, and formulate strategies to make the business stronger and more healthy.” As the only chamber of commerce in the country providing a service like Chamber Member MD, the Chamber is in the process of reregistering the program with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Learn more about the one-of-a-kind Chamber Member MD business tool by reading this news article or the press release issued by the Chamber.
Tennessee and Alabama Lawmakers Look to Expand Rights of Taxpayers
Alabama and Tennessee lawmakers have introduced legislation to enhance taxpayer rights. Tennessee Senator Randy McNally (R) and Representative Steve McDaniel (R) introduced identical pieces of legislation as SB 637/HB 462. As introduced, these bills add certain rights regarding challenges and refunds to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and revises procedures regarding disputed taxes. Both bills have been referred to committee.
Alabama Senator Ben Brooks (R) introduced SB 232 which creates the Alabama Tax Appeals Commission (ATAC) in addition to numerous changes to the state’s taxpayer bill of rights. SB is being backed by the Council on State Taxation (COST) and the Alabama Business Associations’ Tax Coalition (BATC). Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House this week. In a recent COST survey, Alabama ranked near the bottom, a D grade, for state tax administration systems.
COST is backing both the Tennessee and Alabama measures as positive measures for the business community. COST’s letter in favor of the Alabama legislation can be found here.
FDI: A Two-Way Street
You’d probably guess that the United States is the leading origin of Foreign Direct Investment in the world. You may be surprised to learn that the United States is also the top destination for Foreign Direct Investment.
An article by our friend Jay Garner, CCE, CEcD, President and Founder of Garner Economics, in the March/April issue of Expansion Solutions magazine illustrates this two way flow of investment and jobs. Garner also outlines the key reasons foreign companies decide to invest in the United States. While cost isn’t typically the driver, these factors are:
- Market Access – The US is the world’s number one market
- Intellectual Property Rights – The US values IP and enforces its laws
- Quality of Place
- Business Climate
A Campaign Pledge: Create a Chamber of Commerce
University City, Illinois, Mayor Shelley Welsch is working with residents to deliver on one of her campaign pledges: create a chamber of commerce. According to Mayor Welsch, "People have chambers around us and we need to be competitive in that way. I think we've been a little too comfortable with whomever is here or happens to be here and we haven't done as well as we should in trying to attract more businesses to University City and help convince businesses to stay in U City." The volunteer group, which includes University City's deputy director of community development, an attorney, a school board member who once worked for a chamber, a former business owner and others, is currently meeting to lay the groundwork for the chamber. Click here to learn more about how a future chamber is getting its start.
Chambers offer solutions to state budget crises
As states across the country battle to solve their budget deficits, a couple of states are receiving advice from their chambers. Kentucky and Ohio are two states where chambers have taken the lead to offer recommendations to their governors and state legislatures.
In February 2010, the Kentucky Chamber released a Leaky Bucket white paper regarding the Kentucky State budget. The Kentucky Chamber is concerned that the state’s budget is leaking tax dollars and thus taking millions away from Kentucky’s schools.
The first leak that they identify is corrections. The chamber says that skyrocketing inmate costs hurt school funding. The second leak is Medicaid. The chamber found Medicaid costs are currently growing at twice the rate of the state budget. The third leak is public employee health benefits. The chamber suggests that reasonable changes in the public employee health benefits system could save $200 million.
The Kentucky is concerned that the state is spending more money on what happens to people when they fall out of the education system, an increased chance of jail or being on Medicaid instead of working to grow the workforce and strengthen the economy by focusing tax payer dollars on the education system.
Eight of the major metro chambers of commerce in Ohio (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown/Warren) joined with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to offer a series of budget recommendations, titled Redesigning Ohio, to Governor Kasich.
Redesigning Ohio is not intended to be a proposed solution to the state’s budget deficit, but 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.
Redesigning Ohio’s recommendations target specific areas of the state government that are well suited to private sector solutions. The areas selected for reform are: budgeting for outcomes, charter agencies, entrepreneurial management, government regulations, tax expenditures, civil service, pension benefits, health care, criminal justice and local governments. The Ohio chambers see the current budget crisis as an opportunity to take bold actions that will result in a more sustainable future.
Guns in the workplace 2011
Guns in the workplace law refers to an NRA supported bill that would guarantee employees the right to keep firearms in their vehicle on their employers property as long as the gun is concealed and the car is locked.
Proponents say that licensed gun owners should have access to protection on the drive to and from work. Many chambers of commerce have opposed the measure on the grounds that employer's rights as property owners should allow them to restrict anyone from carrying firearms on the premises.
Guns in the workplace laws are always a contentious issue within the business community and it seems to reappear every year. Below are four states that are currently facing new guns in the workplace legislation.
In 2010, Indiana signed a “guns at work” bill into law prohibiting employers from banning guns from their parking lots. Employees are now allowed to keep legally permitted firearms out of sight in their locked vehicles while they are working.
Gun rights advocates are pushing hard with new legislation during the 2011 session of the Indiana legislature. The latest gun-related legislation in Indiana, SB 411, dubbed the “Parking Lot 2.0 bill by the NRA, would move further, not just to allow guns concealed in locked vehicles, but to allow lawsuits if employers ask job applicants or employees about gun ownership or if they require employees to disclose that they store firearms in their car.
The Indiana Chamber and their members are fighting hard against the bill. George Raymond, vice president of human resources and labor relations at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says that “employers are struggling to abide by a vaguely written law. We’re opposed to the bill, just as we were to last year’s bill.”
Read more: Herald Bulletin – NRA wants Indiana lawmakers to ban employers from gun-related questions
A similar bill, SB 321, has passed the Texas senate and has a similar bill pending in the house will prohibit employers from disciplining or firing an employee for having a firearm locked in his or her vehicle on company property. On March 16, the bill moved to the Texas house for consideration. Business organizations, including the Texas Association of Business, have opposed this legislation warning that the bill could lead to more workplace violence.
Read more: Bloomberg Businessweek – Senate Oks letting Texans keep guns in car at work
The Tennessee Senate passed legislation that allows individuals with handgun permits to carry their weapons where they work. The measure has now moved on to the House for a final vote. This legislation will not impact places that currently ban weapons.
Read more: My Fox Memphis: Current Bans Override Guns at Work Bill
North Dakota’s House approved a bill similar to the bill being considered in Texas, allowing employees to keep guns locked in their vehicles while at work. Andy Peterson, president of the North Dakota Chamber says “this bill infringes on the rights of business owners to deny access to their property as they deem appropriate.” A Senate committee is now reviewing the legislation.
Read more: Grand Forks Herald – Proposed N.D. law allows guns in vehicles at work
Previous ACCE guns in the workplace articles:
PACs and Politics in Petaluma?
Redistricting 2011: Where to count Maryland’s prisoners
Craig Mathies Sr., the first black county commissioner of Somerset County, Maryland, knocked on only 15 doors during his campaign. He didn’t have to mount a large campaign because a many of his constituents are inmates at the Eastern Correctional Institution Complex, Maryland’s largest state prison. Those inmates can’t vote, which means Mr. Mathies’ district has only 1,400 voters while other districts have 3,000.
Mr. Mathies’ district numbers will soon change. Last year Maryland passed a law that requires that, for the purposes of redistricting, prisoners must be counted at their last permanent address – not the place where they are incarcerated. However, figuring out a permanent address for each prisoner isn’t always easy. What if the prisoner was previously homeless? What if they have no permanent address on record? Delaware and New York, who have similar redistricting laws, will also have to come up with answers to these questions.
Karl Aro, executive director of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, thinks the proposed methods of determining permanent addresses proposed by Maryland and New York are likely to be challenged constitutionally.
To read more: Stateline – Where to count prisoners poses redistricting dilemma
Chicagoland Chamber Mourns Passing of Former Chair
Jim Tyree, chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial Holdings, Inc. and chairman of Sun-Times Media Group LLC, passed away yesterday, March 16. A much-admired executive in the corporate arena, Tyree was also a highly respected business leader in Chicago, Ill. He served as chairman of the board of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce from 2007 – 2010. “Chicago has lost a great son and a great leader,” said Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber. “There’s no doubt that Jim Tyree, at his young age, was going to be one of the future leaders of this city and the region,” Roper continued. Read how Chicago's business leaders remember Tyree here. Also, be sure to check out this blog, Jim Tyree rubbed elbows with titans but didn't mind answering his own phone, which appeared on chicagobusiness.com.