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Maryland Unions to Collect Fees from Nonmembers

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 1:46:01 pm 

Maryland’s largest state employee union is set to begin collecting fees from nonmembers this month. Maryland joins the District of Columbia and at least 22 other states, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, in allowing state employee unions to collect such fees.

The theory behind the law is that the union furnishes services that impact all employees, such as negotiating health benefits and work conditions, or representing workers in disputes with managers, though fewer than half pay dues. Union officials say the extra money will allow them to improve services.

Beginning in July, Maryland public employees will see union service fees deducted from their biweekly paychecks.

The fees – which will also be collected by smaller unions – are allowed under The Fair Share Act, which the state legislature passed in 2009 largely on a party-line vote supported by Governor Martin O’Malley.

Hundreds of state workers have objected to the new fees. Smaller unions argue these new fees could force smaller unions out of existence.

Read more:
Baltimore Sun: Maryland unions: Thousands of state workers compelled to pay union fees
MarylandReporter.com: Non-union state workers must pay bargaining units in newly negotiated contracts

Tags: employer-employee relations

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Illinois Governor Signs Workers’ Compensation Reform

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, July 1, 2011 at 10:17:19 am 

The Chicagoland Chamber, along with other business organizations, had been working over the past several months to negotiate the workers’ compensation reform that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed on Tuesday, June 28.

Quinn signed the bill at a Navistar plant where he said that the bill will “help the employers of Illinois, the workers of Illinois, all of those who are committed to economic growth by designing a law that will help our employers of Illinois reduce their premiums for workers’ compensation insurance by a high amount.”

Gerald Roper, Chicagoland Chamber president and CEO, said “Workers’ compensation reform has been a chamber priority for some time, because it believes in policies that put people back to work now and prepare our state for future prosperity.” He added that “Meaningful reforms covered under this law provide another step toward improving business investment in Illinois and getting people back to work. We are thrilled and greatly appreciative of the support of all who saw the benefits of reforming workers’ compensation.”

Read more:
ChicagolandChamber.org: The Chamber Applauds Gov. Quinn for Signing Workers Compensation Reform
The Beacon-News: Gov. Pat Quinn signs workers’ compensation reform
Chicago Tribune: Quinn to sign workers’ compensation reform Tuesday

Tags: Employer-Employee Relations

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Proposal to Mandate Paid Sick Leave in Seattle

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 10:18:35 am 

Seattle city council members will consider legislation that would mandate paid sick leave for all employees in Seattle.

If the bill to be introduced by city council member Nick Licata passes, Seattle will join Washington, D.C. and San Francisco in requiring private employers to provide paid sick days. The legislation in San Francisco may serve as a template for the yet-to-be-introduced Seattle sick leave bill.

The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce has been closely monitoring this issue. Members of the chamber’s tax and regulation committee discussed mandated paid sick leave in a spring meeting. The chamber plans to follow the issue and continue committee discussion once draft legislation is introduced. They also hope to gather opinions from local business members to gauge the business community reaction to such legislation.

Read more:

Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce: Learn more about a proposal to mandate sick leave in Seattle
The Seattle Times: Plan would mandate paid sick leave in Seattle
PubliCola.com: Council Will Consider Citywide Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

Other mandated paid sick leave news:

Milwaukee had a similar mandate that was reversed in May when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill pre-empting local ordinances from requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.

Connecticut recently became the first state to mandate paid sick leave for service workers who receive an hourly wage and are employed at a business with over 50 employees.

Related posts:

Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Governor Walker signs bill at MMAC
Huffington Post: Paid Sick Leave: Cities, States Putting Mandates on Employers
New York Times: In Connecticut, Paid Sick Leave for Service Workers is Approved

Tags: employer-employee relations

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How States are Building the Nation’s Transportation Systems Report

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, June 6, 2011 at 1:00:30 pm 

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Center for Excellence in Project Finance at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have partnered to produce a review of transportation governance and finance for all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.  Read the full report here.

This report focuses on transportation finance and the roles and relationships among the branches of state government that are most active in transportation issues.  The report also offers a rich diversity of approaches to govern, finance and ultimate deliver America’s transportation systems. 

The report is also available on the websites of NCSL and the AASHTO Center for Excellence in Project Finance and is free for members of the media.

Tags: Infrastructure, Transportation

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Interview with Miles Burdine, President and CEO and Nicole Austin, Director of Workforce Development and Government Relations at the Kingsport Area (TN) Chamber of Commerce

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 1:01:28 pm 

Kingsport, Tennessee just won the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award for their efforts in education.  Miles Burdine, President and CEO and Nicole Austin, Director of Workforce Development and Government Relations at the Kingsport Area (TN) Chamber of Commerce share the chamber’s workforce development and education initiatives in a virtual interview.

1. Can you give us some background on how the community began to focus on education? 

In the late 1990s, Kingsport’s strong manufacturing base was in decline.  Willamette Paper Mill (now Domtar), located in downtown, announced it would cut 150 jobs.  JPS Industries announced cuts of 100 jobs at its now defunct Borden Mill plant.  Eastman Chemical Company, then Tennessee’s largest employer, announced three possible scenarios: downsize significantly, move corporate headquarters and/or close local operations.  The decision was the first layoff (1,200) in the company’s nearly 100-year history.  With the local housing market stagnant and retail expansion non-existent, more than a few residents set their sights on other communities where opportunities seemed better. One city leader said, “The last one to leave — turn the lights out.”  A city leadership staff member explained, “It was a hard time to be optimistic about Kingsport’s future and no reason to change until significant outside threats questioned our ability to survive.”  Our City decided it was time for change.  We had to reinvent ourselves if we were going to survive.  In 1999, a city-led "Economic Summit" developed solutions through community-wide participation: training and workforce development, promotion of the entrepreneurial spirit and diversification of the economic base.  A common element realized was education.    

2. Was the chamber involved from the beginning? 

Yes, the Chamber has been involved from the very beginning!  The Mayor of Kingsport at that time brought the Chamber and business leaders in our community together for an “Economic Summit”.  Some time later, Dr. Locke who was then president of Northeast State Community College tasked the Chamber with putting together a meeting with business leaders to find out in his words “what do I need to teach that will help you hire my graduates”.  Since then the Chamber has been involved in all levels of this project.  From advocating for the Educate and Grow program to working on the Academic Village the Chamber has had an active role in making this change in our community. 

3. I’ve heard about Kingsport’s education initiatives and read your award nomination for the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award (which Kingsport won), but for those readers hearing about this for the first time, can you give an overview of Kingsport’s education and workforce development strategy?

Several strategies and plans developed out the mayors 1999 Economic Summit.  We began our work with a city-led effort called "Educate and Grow," which offered scholarships to Northeast State Technical Community College (NESTCC) for any city high school graduate meeting entrance requirements.  The Sullivan County Commission soon expanded the program county-wide.

Kingsport is a mid-sized city lacking a college campus.  We then focused on developing an academic village for convenient workforce development opportunities.  The Academic Village consists of four buildings focusing on a different area of specialty with a 5th building currently in the planning stages.  The buildings are located in the heart of our downtown adjacent to childcare and a public transit system.  The first building constructed was the Regional Center for Applied Technology (RCAT) combined under one roof in the downtown area.  The original five-year goal for students was 1,000 which was surpassed in two years.   RCAT was a $1.1 million dollar investment.

The next building constructed was the Regional Center for Health Professions (RCHP).  The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved funding a $4 M, 42,000 square-foot Regional Center for Health Professions (RCHP) adjacent to RCAT.  Wellmont Health System, a major healthcare provider (Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky), provided $1M in scholarship money.  King College (private) provides associate degrees to nearly 400 students in areas of nursing and five medical technology lines such as cardiovascular and ophthalmological technology, rivaled by only a handful of schools across the country.

 The third building in this village is the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM).   RCAM is a venture from two Kingsport-based companies, Eastman and Domtar.  A $2.7 M, 26,000 square foot - Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM) was constructed to focus on vocational based education (i.e. welding, pipe-fitting, etc.).

In fall of 2009, Kingsport opened the Kingsport Center for Higher Education (KCHE)

A fourth building in the downtown ‘village,’ a $13 M city-funded, 54,000 square foot Kingsport Higher Education Center (KHEC) open in fall of 2009.  Baccalaureate and higher degrees from at least five public and private universities, with all necessary instructional and student support services, are offered. 

KCHE is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Green Building Rating System) certified Higher Education Facility in the State of Tennessee.  Currently at Silver level.   NeSCC – 894 students

King College – 135 Students

Lincoln Memorial University – 98 Students

Carson Newman – Will begin at a later date

University of Tennessee – 50 on-line students

Plans are underway for the next building in our Academic Village which will be the Pal Barger School of Automotive Technology – AKA “R-PAL”.

Local businessman Pal Barger made a $400,000 donation for the purchase of a facility in the academic village.  This facility will house NeSCC automotive services program.  This new facility, when complete, will encompass all aspect of auto body training – estimating, building and reconstruction, repair and painting. 

Beyond the Academic Village

In October 2009, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Alderman approved to fund GED testing scholarships to cover GED examinations. 

According to the Sullivan County/ Kingsport GED program – of the 153,000 people living in Sullivan County, approximately 27,500 do not have a high school diploma (18 percent).  Just over 27 percent of these people are living at or below the national poverty level and 95 percent of them remain in Sullivan County for longer than one year.

Harvard Award

In September 2009, The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced that Kingsport, Tennessee was a 2009 Innovations in American Government Award winner. 

Over 700 nominations – Kingsport was one of three top winners. 

QUOTE FROM STEPHEN GOLDSMITH, DIRECTOR OF THE INNOVATIONS PROGRAM AT HARVARD

“Instead of traditional tax incentives, Kingsport has revitalized its economy by making its workforce more competitive,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School. “They recognized that today’s high school diploma does not adequately prepare students for the challenges of the global economy. Cities across the country can learn from Kingsport’s work in revamping curricula, building new infrastructure, and developing creative partnerships.”

4. How successful was the initiative when it first began?  Did you achieve your planned goals?

Since Kingsport first began making changes to better ourselves and increase the academic attainment level or our city, we have met our goals and made a positive change in our community.  Below are some statistics and measures on how we are measuring our success. 

Statistics indicate, since the inception of the Higher Education Initiative there has been an increase in educational attainment of the Kingsport population 25 years and over. 

These indicators include:

  • A 20.8 percent decrease in those with less than a 9th grade education
  • A 13.9 percent decrease in those 9th to 12th grade with no diploma
  • A 23.0 percent increase in the High School Graduate (includes equivalence)
  • A 27.5 percent increase in those with an Associate Degree
  • A 19.2 percent increase in those with a Bachelor’s Degree

With the community focusing on higher education as an economic development priority, Northeast State Technical Community College realized a 248 percent increase from 2000-2007, in the number of students graduating in the spring of each year from high school in Sullivan County who enrolled at NESTCC during the fall semester of the same years. 

Since the opening of the Regional Center for Applied Technology in the fall of 2002, the Higher Education enrollment in the downtown campuses has risen to 1,208 students.  This includes the Regional Center for Health Professions with the opening enrollment in the fall of 2008 at 351. 

These numbers show success in pushing the importance of educational attainment for a diversified economy.  During the higher education initiative years, NESTCC main campus has seen enrollment grow, evidencing that the numbers of students did not just migrate to the downtown area of Kingsport, but rather the numbers of those seeking higher education has risen in the region.   

Kingsport realized that having an increase in its young adult population was critical to economic development.  Over a seven year period during the initiative, the number of college age city residents (age 20-24) increased 26 percent. 

The downtown area of Kingsport, where the city invested in the higher education facilities, experienced a $20.2 M positive change in appraised property values.  This growth represents taxable property only.  Non-taxable development like the higher education facilities and major church renovations are not included. 

Since the late 1990s, Kingsport experienced a loss of 10,500 manufacturing jobs.  Leaders recognized a major key to reinventing Kingsport was having a more diversified economy.  Evidence of diversification is shown through the additions of 5,400 health care jobs, 2,800 leisure/ hospitality jobs, 1,300 natural resources/mining/construction jobs, 600 financial jobs, 500 information jobs.  In 2000, there were 17,638 city residents employed.  In 2007, 19,159 city residents were employed.  During that same period of time the median family income rose nearly 20 percent to $48,351.     

5. Where did the funding for the initiative come from? 

The funding for these buildings came from public private partnerships.  Some were City funded and others came from grants money and investments from local businesses.  That information is listed for each building in the question above. 

6. Do you have any advice or recommendations for other chambers working on education reform?

Develop a workable strategy and involve your community.  It is a necessity if you want community buy in and participation.  When we began working on the academic Village the Chamber did a survey assessment of our businesses to see how much interest and need there was for an Academic Village.  The results were clear, this is exactly what our community wanted and needed and today the evidence of that can be seen in our downtown. 

Your City leaders need to have buy in.  Remember all of this began when our City took the first step and financially supported Education and Grow to raise the academic bar.  Actually the process began even before that when our then mayor took the very first step and organized an Economic Summit at which we recognized our problems and set out to fix them. 

Go visit other communities.  We made many trips to South Carolina to call on others who had built similar facilities and had made a positive impact in their communities.  Of course our door is always open in Kingsport!   Since winning the Harvard Award for Innovations in Government we have hosted many groups in our city.  We will organize and host a one day session with the leaders who were instrumental in the process and explain how this all came to be.  To schedule a visit contact Nicole Austin at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce 423-392-8835.

 7. Anything else you’d like to share with the group?

Help yourself.  Kingsport did this on our own.  We didn’t go to the state looking for a handout or for someone to fix our problems.  We did it ourselves.  It’s your community.  If you invest in yourselves others will follow. 

 

Tags: education, Workforce Development

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E-Tax Success: Big Win for KC Business

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 1:01:46 pm 

This April, the Greater Kansas City Chamber celebrated a victory as Kansas City, Mo., voters voted overwhelmingly to keep a one percent earning tax. The final vote was 78 percent in favor of retention; 22 percent against.

The campaign to retain the tax was organized and led by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. The earnings tax represents 40 percent of Kansas City’s general revenue funding. Greater Kansas City Chamber President and CEO Jim Heeter said, “It was a campaign that truly unified the city. Our voters showed their innate good sense by approving – by a landslide – the City’s biggest source of revenue. They understood the ramifications of losing $200 million a year from the part of the city budget that pays for police and fire protection and for the basic services that our residents require.”

The vote on the city’s earnings tax was forced by a statewide initiative approved by Missouri voters last November. Following that election, the Chamber joined with the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Heavy Constructors Association, the AFL-CIO and Firefighters Local 42. The group raised more than $1 million to fund the “Keep KC Alive” campaign. Five campaign co-chairs were recruited for an aggressive grassroots campaign and more than 100 business, civic, religious and neighborhood organizations rallied to endorse the tax. The work is not done. There will be a similar vote every five years. The Chamber is now focusing its efforts on legislation in the Missouri General Assembly to extend the required vote from five to 20 years.

Read more:
Statement from James A. “Jim” Heeter, President and CEO, Greater Kansas City Chamber
BusinessWeek.com: Voters in St. Louis/KC agree to keep earnings tax
KCTV5: Kansas City Earnings Tax Passes by Large Margin

Tags: Taxes

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Earmarks are gone
but requests aren’t

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, May 27, 2011 at 1:02:30 pm 

I recently had the opportunity to network with the Des Moines Partnership delegation during their opening cocktail reception at Union Station. As you can see, they had quite the crowd!

 

And, earlier this week I received this email from GR Division Chair, Jay Byers:

"As chambers across the country are looking to reposition their DC fly-ins in the post earmark world, the editorial that the Des Moines Register ran on May 22 on the Des Moines Partnership trip does a nice job of making our case on how we modified our trip this year." Read the full article: Earmarks are gone, but requests aren’t

Columnist Rox Laird tackles a sticky point for chambers that are used to visiting Washington to lobby for earmarks. He quotes U.S. Rep Tom Latham, R-IA as saying “Washington is a different town that it was even a year ago.  The conversation today is not ‘How much will you spend?’ but ‘How much can we keep at home.’”

Laird says that with “earmark” being a dirty word, you would think the Des Moines Partnership’s trip would be pointless, but that’s not the case. The partnership had a long list of projects to pitch to lawmakers and federal agencies, and it didn’t include only spending requests. There were policy issues that affect central Iowa’s economy, security and quality of life.

Laird ends the article saying “no matter how the money is raised or how it is doled out, the federal government will always play a major role in building and maintaining the nation, whether it be highways and bridges, flood-control projects, airports or public education.” And that is exactly why a federal fly-in during "earmark unfriendly" times is far from pointless.

Tags: Earmarks, Appropriations, DC Fly-in

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Immigration:
Tales from a Border City

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 1:03:19 pm 

El Paso has been a key to the immigration conversation. For example, Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Dayoub serves on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s Southwest Border Security Task Force. He recently wrote an article for the El Paso Times on immigration reform and its importance to our economy. His article was referenced in the White House summary report on Immigration Reform released after President Obama’s speech in El Paso on May 10 (transcript). 

Read Richard’s Op-Ed: Richard Dayoub: Fix immigration, boost our economy

The administration has reached out to Richard and other business leaders to participate on task forces or in Immigration Action Roundtables with other community leaders, including faith organizations and law enforcement. The Obama administration hopes that by conducting Immigration Action Roundtables in communities around the country (like this round table in Omaha: Entrepreneurs key to fixing our broken immigration system) that a bipartisan national conversation on immigration can help fix our broken system.

Read more:
Whitehouse.gov: Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System
Secretary Napolitano Op-Ed: It’s time for congress to act on border security

Tags: Immigration

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Brookings: Missed Opportunity Transit Report

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 1:03:57 pm 

It seemed fitting that on my way to the Brookings Institute yesterday morning for the presentation on Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America, I hit a typical DC traffic snag and crawled from Alexandria to DC for two long hours.  I fancy myself to be a runner and smiled a weak smile of satisfaction when I discovered I could have run there faster than I could drive in my car.  I then chastised myself for not taking the Metro to a Transit report unveiling.  What was I thinking? 

Brookings had a great line-up to discuss the roll out of the Missed Opportunity report.  Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow at Brookings gave an overview of the study and there was a panel discussion about the implications of the findings followed by Secretary LaHood and Secretary Donovan discussing the federal role. 

The real star of the show was the Missed Opportunity report.  Visit Brookings site to read the full report and all of the supporting content.  Be sure to check out the interactive map.     

Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metro America

Interactive Map: Transit Access to Jobs in Metropolitan America

Missed Opportunity: 100 Metropolitan Profiles

“Dr. Gridlock”, Robert Thomson, of the Washington Post moderated the panel of Keith Parker, CEO, Via Transit Systems, San Antonio, TX; Matthew Mahood, President and CEO, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce; Ponsella Hardaway, Executive Director, Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES); and Alan Berube, Senior Fellow and Research Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, from Brookings.  Here are some of the things I sent out into the twittersphere during the panel:

Following the panel discussion, Bruce Katz joined Secretary Ray LaHood (Transportation) and Secretary Shaun Donovan (HUD) to talk about what the Feds are doing about transit.  Secretary LaHood and Secretary Donovan have been working together very closely over the past two and a half years.  Again, here are some notable quotes that I tweeted:

 

Again, here is the link for the Missed Opportunity page on Brookings site: Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America.

Tags: Infrastructure, Transportation

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South Carolina fights for Boeing plant

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Boeing Co. is planning to construct a $1 billion production facility in South Carolina and has run into opposition from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The NLRB claims that Boeing selected South Carolina because they do not want to deal with a unionized aerospace workforce.  NLRB is pursuing an order to keep the production line in the Pacific Northwest which has a unionized aerospace workforce.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the state attorney general and members of the state’s congressional delegation were in Washington D.C. to ask for President Obama to respond to the NLRB’s findings.  The administration has stayed away from the dispute because NLRB is an independent agency.

Governor Haley views these findings as a serious blow to free enterprise and she “wants to make sure it never touches another state,” Haley said in an appearance at the U.S. Chamber according to CNN.

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, in a statement regarding the NLRB findings distributed to their members today, expressed their displeasure with the NLRB decision.  President and CEO, Bryan Derreberry, said “our chamber fully supports Boeing’s decision to build the Final Assembly and Delivery facility here in North Charleston.”  He also went on to say that “Boeing is committed, for the long-term, to our community and state and we are equally committed to ensuring their success.” 

Read more:
Stateline.com: South Carolina dials up pressure over Boeing plant
Wall Street Journal: Boeing is pro-growth, not anti-union
Charleston statement to members
NLRB Complaint Legal Fact Sheet
CNN.com: Top republicans demand Obama weigh in on Boeing dispute

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