What it Means When a Municipality Files Chapter 9 Bankruptcy
In the wake of Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg, and Alabama’s largest county, Jefferson County, declaring bankruptcy, other communities may be looking to Chapter 9 bankruptcy to restructure debt.
Chapter 9 is the portion of the federal bankruptcy code that allows municipalities to seek court protection in the event of fiscal crisis. It is meant to ensure that basic government functions continue while policy makers restructure their debt. Only municipalities, not states, can file for Chapter 9. Municipal bankruptcies are very rare. Only about 620 municipalities have filed for bankruptcy since 1937 when Chapter 9 was added to the federal bankruptcy code. For more information on what happens after Chapter 9 is filed, how long Chapter 9 cases take and what changes a Chapter 9 filing brings to day-to-day life, visit Stateline.org’s article Municipal bankruptcy explained: What it means to file for Chapter 9.
Chambers Getting Involved
Eleven Pennsylvania chambers have joined together with other stakeholders to form Metro Chambers for Sustainable Cities. These chambers include Greater Reading, Harrisburg Regional, Lancaster, Greater Lehigh Valley, Greater Pittsburgh, Greater Wilkes-Barre, Monroeville Area, Williamsbport/Lycoming, York County, Allegheny Valley and Mon Valley Progress Council. The chambers are looking to make a difference in the future sustainability of their cities and to promote the success of their cities in Pennsylvania. The chambers decided to get involved because the business community regularly thinks regionally and long term, and chambers are skilled at advocacy on behalf of business. They believe: A Prosperous City = A Prosperous Economy = A Successful Business Climate
Largest municipal bankruptcy ever prompts muted reaction elsewhere
Harrisburg bankruptcy sets up fight with state
Alabama’s Jefferson County enters biggest muni bankruptcy as crisis victim
Talking Policy in Nashville
Two weeks ago, a group of 21 metro cities government relations professionals gathered in Nashville for two days of roundtable discussion. You can read the official recap here, but here are photos from our trip to Nashville.
Policy, politics and chamber specifics dominated the discussion with a strict “what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville” code for conversation confidentiality.
“The gathering had the perfect mix of peer-to-peer discussions for those of us in the trenches every day running campaigns and crafting policies that support economic vitality, said George Allen, senior V.P., Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. “ We shared backstage secrets for victories and hard-earned lessons from disasters. I left Nashville with new political tools and engagement strategies, not to mention some country music CD’s that simply blow me away. Thanks Nashville!”
“I appreciate the opportunity to meet and share ideas and insights with my Metro Chamber colleagues in a roundtable environment,” said Rob Bradham, V.P., public strategies, Chattanooga Chamber. “Our metro areas face many of the same challenges, and exchanging ideas with my counterparts allows me and my chamber to better serve our members and investors. The interaction allows each of us to sharpen our professional abilities and therefore strengthens our profession.”
“The ACCE Government Relations conference was an absolute home-run,” said Jay Barksdale, V.P., public policy, Dallas Regional Chamber. “I’ve been a public affairs professional for many years, but am relatively new to the chamber world. Spending time with colleagues from around the U.S. who face similar challenges and experience the same rewards of this job was the best professional development in which I have participated. I can’t wait to see this talented and motivated group again!”
For a detailed write up, visit the official ACCE news story.
Note from the Chair - Using Anger to Push Issues
Government Relations Division Chairwoman Mary Graham, CCE, passed along the following note and link:
Someone sent me a link to this article in Harvard Business Review on chambers of commerce using anger to push forward issues. Seemed pretty relevant to all us Government Relations types. Thought I would share.
Mary Graham, CCR, IOM, CCE
Senior Vice President
Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
Amazon Deals with California
After years of refusing to collect sales tax from online purchases, Amazon.com has struck a deal in California. Retailers and state governments elsewhere are hoping for similar treatment.
This is a departure from Amazon.com’s previous stance on online tax collection. In response to other states “Amazon laws” requiring online tax collection, Amazon.com has taken New York to court and canceled its relationships with affiliates in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
California looked to be the stage for the next Amazon show-down. Amazon organized a campaign to repeal the law at the ballot box. Wal-Mart and other big retailers lined-up in opposition of Amazon, arguing that online retailers get an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar merchants by not collecting sales tax.
Surprisingly, Amazon backed down. The company struck a deal that will require online retailers to collect sales taxes in California starting in fiscal 2013.
Brick-and-mortar retailers view this as a game-changer. If Amazon will pay sales taxes in California, why not in other states? The optimism may be premature, but states would love to see additional sales tax revenue.
It’s difficult to assess where chambers stand on this issue. There are proponents on both sides, with many chambers declining to take a stance while they closely watch events unfold.
Stateline.org: Amazon deal with California may set precedent for online tax collection
St. Petersburg Times: California to the rescue on sales taxes
The Journal Gazette: The retail Goliath retreats
Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Main Street Fairness Act
Congress Passes Transportation Bill
With authority for highway, transit and rail programs set to expire Sept. 30, Congress passed a short-term transportation funding extension. House and Senate leaders voted last week to temporarily extend funding for the FAA and federal highway and transit programs.
Prior to the vote, the White House released a state-by-state look at the number of jobs at risk if the funding was not renewed.
This bill also enjoyed the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "The six-month extension of federal highway and transit programs approved by Congress today ensures the continuation of thousands of job-creating infrastructure projects in every state," said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director.
The AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber hope that this short-term extension can give Congress enough time to pass a long-term funding reauthorization for both programs.
Stateline.org: Beating deadline, Congress approves transportation bill
Additional Transportation and Infrastructure Resources:
ACCE.org: Transportation and Infrastructure Chamberpedia
The Early Childhood Imperative
Last month I became a true believer in the importance of early childhood initiatives for America's economic future. I saw the light in Boston, sometime between dinner Thursday and lunch Friday at the National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment. This two-day meeting of more than 200 corporate, foundation and non-profit executives was organized by the Partnership for America's Economic Success - a project of the Pew Center on the States.
Maybe it happened during the opening keynote when Harvard's Jack Shonkoff illustrated the science of childhood brain development or during the lunch panel when Boeing's senior V.P. for human resources spoke candidly about America's long-term need for creative, adaptable workers. Perhaps it happened in the afternoon workshop when Tim Bartik from the Upjohn Institute highlighted the economic returns for every dollar invested in young children. Regardless, I left Boston a believer.
What struck me most was learning just how much each of us is set up for success or struggle, productivity or incarceration, by the events of our first four years of life. It made me feel quite small. On my way home Friday, I called my mother from the airport and thanked her for reading to me every day from birth until I could comprehend the words on my own.
In addition to a fresh dose of humility, I left Boston with the passion that Kim Sheeler at the Richmond Chamber and Billy Canary at the Business Council of Alabama already have for this issue. Newly minted CCE Jim Page from the Decatur-Morgan County (AL) Chamber, who was also in Boston, informed me that early childhood education is their number one issue.
Chambers of commerce have a long history working on education. The issues are always complex and often emotionally charged. Progress is slow and setbacks are many. But education continues to top chamber agendas because businesses need talent. Our economy runs on smart, adaptable, well-educated people. The innovative, talented people America needs are shaped long before they enter first grade.
Many state and local chambers are already champions for more effective policies to help children develop into successful adults. Others are poised to join. To provide chamber leaders with the best information about the economic and workforce benefits of early childhood programs, ACCE has entered into collaboration with the Partnership for America's Economic Success, a project of the Pew Center on the States.
Jobs Act: What’s in it for the States?
President Obama announced he would send his American Jobs Act to Congress later today and urged them to pass it “immediately.” In a televised address last Thursday (Sept. 8), the president introduced his job-creation plan and called on the states to partner with him to lower the national unemployment rate.
The White House blog has broken down the American Jobs Act by state, so you can see what impact it will have in your community: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/09/state-state-look-american-jobs-act?utm_source=wh.gov&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=shorturl
House Speaker John Boehner said that Congress will send the bill directly to the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and then lawmakers will begin their review.
Stateline.org – Obama pitches American Jobs Act: What’s in it for the states?
LATimes.com – Obama presses Congress on jobs plan
Tulsa looks to change its form of city government
On the Nov. 8 election ballot, Tulsa voters will have the opportunity to vote on four amendments to the city charter that would change Tulsa’s city government. One of the amendments is proposed by the City Council and the other three are proposed by a local nonprofit group, Save Our Tulsa.
The Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce government affairs team and its board of directors have studied these proposals since December, and the chamber, as well as the League of Women Voters, has been outspoken in its opposition to the council’s proposal to replace the government with a council-city manager structure and the Save Our Tulsa’s proposal to add at-large councilors and make the mayor chairman of the council.
The Chamber is still considering its stance on the remaining two proposals.
Tulsa Metro Chamber President Mike Neal says that “the chamber’s outspoken stance is meant to prevent the issue from becoming another reason for Tulsa to be overlooked. Government upheaval in any form staves off a city’s ability to attract business and grow jobs.”
Tulsa Chamber Board Chairman Gerry Clancy says that “the chamber supports good governance and a collaborative spirit of representation. Good governance is vital to communities’ economic prosperity, safety and quality of life.” He also said that the chamber has monitored local issues in trying to best represent the needs of business and industry.
Tulsa World: Chamber: Opposition to government change is for the best
Tulsa World: Chamber, League oppose change to Tulsa city government
Milwaukee Sick Leave Mandate Voided
At the end of July, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cooper handed the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) another victory in their fight against the Milwaukee sick leave mandate.
In May, MMAC celebrated as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill that would pre-empt local ordinances from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees for family, medical or health issues. Three weeks later, 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, asked a judge to let the law take effect for at least two years.
On July 28, attorneys from 9to5 and MMAC disputed which state law should stand—the one that Gov. Walker signed in May pre-empting local sick leave ordinances, or the one that requires laws approved through voter referendum to take effect for two years before elected officials can amend or repeal them.
The Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled that the state law that invalidated the city of Milwaukee’s mandatory paid sick leave law makes an ongoing court effort to implement the city’s law a moot point. This ruling puts an official end to the city law, and subsequent legal battle, which mandated paid sick leave for employees in Milwaukee.
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce: Judge Cooper makes it Official: Milwaukee Sick Leave Mandate Voided
Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Governor Walker signs bill at MMAC
Business Getting Involved in Education Policy Debate
Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, is pushing forward with an aggressive educational policy agenda despite that school districts are being handed cuts of $400 per student.
One reason that Governor Hickenlooper can move ahead with his aggressive education agenda is because of local business buy-in. Corporations in Colorado have been increasingly interested in education policy.
Last year, Colorado passed a statewide “teacher effectiveness” law that ties pay to performance and makes it easier to fire poorly performing teachers. The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry played a significant role in pushing it through the legislature. Loren Furman, vice president of governmental relations for the association says that business wants to help shape the structure and substance of education in ways that create a skilled workforce in the years ahead and they are content to leave education professions to negotiate proper funding levels.
The Florida Chamber has been ramping up their involvement with education policy due to response from the business community survey citing “a talented workforce” as its top policy priority ahead of taxes and regulations. This led to chamber support of bills aimed at increasing access to charter schools and online learning and also teacher pay for performance – which passed this session.
At the same time chambers and the business community have increased their education policy involvement, state chambers, such as the Florida Chamber and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, found themselves supporting a state budget with steep cuts to education.
Stateline.org: Business moves to center of school debate
Florida Chamber: Education and Talent Development
Pennsylvania Chamber: Education Policy
US Chamber: Education and Workforce Training Issues
Past PCH blogs on education:
States looking closely at for-profit colleges
State aid shrinks for community colleges as demand rises
Chamber supports Pre-K initiative
Private school vouchers making a comeback
Oklahoma Governor Opposes 744
Race to the Top and Common Curriculum
Race to the Top Winners Announced
Rhode Island School Cleans House
Oklahoma Education Funding
Kentucky Chambers Post-Secondary Education Affordability
Community Colleges See Swelling Ranks
Prepaid College in Texas
Pittsburg Tuition Tax Proposal
Texas Biz Partners to Address Dropouts