Public Policy

Busy Week in Kentucky

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

The week kicked off with Dave Adkisson, President of the Kentucky Chamber appearing on PBS NewsHour to offer his reactions to President Obama’s speech to the U.S. Chamber.

To read more about Dave’s appearance on PBS NewsHour: PBS NewsHour Reaction to Obama’s Speech to US Chamber

The Kentucky capitol building was also buzzing with activity. 

Yesterday, The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Executives (KCCE) Executive Director, Ali Crain, sent out a email regarding tax reform and mandatory high school attendance age; two very important issues for the Kentucky business community.

She urged chambers to forward on the following message about Senate Bill 1 (comprehensive tax reform) and House Bill 225 (mandatory high school attendance). 

Two pieces of legislation are currently being considered in the Kentucky General Assembly with the potential to impact Kentucky’s climate for business and the competitiveness of your company – and community.

Senate Bill 1 would institute a first step toward comprehensive tax reform for Kentucky. The bill creates a non-partisan commission of business and other representatives to recommend a completely new tax code, which would be presented to the legislature for a vote. The commission would be charged with creating a tax code that makes Kentucky more competitive for business. Business groups, such as state and local chambers, would be consulted for input. SB1 has passed the Senate, and is now being considered by the House. Click here to send an email to your Representative supporting HB 1, or call (502) 564-8100 to leave a message for him or her. 

House Bill 225 would also impact the business climate by creating a more educated workforce for Kentucky businesses. The bill would raise the mandatory high school attendance age to 18. It is estimated that approximately 6,000 students drop out of school each year in Kentucky, impacting not only those individuals’ lifetime earning abilities, but the educated workforce from which businesses can hire employees. HB 225 has passed the House, and now is being considered in the Senate. Click here to send an email to your Senator supporting HB 225, or call (502) 564-8100 to leave a message for him or her. 

Building momentum in the business community – and ensuring legislators hear from their constituents on these issues – will be critical to getting both bills passed. Please contact your elected officials today, and thank you for supporting Kentucky’s climate for business.

Jody Wassmer, President of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, brought their leadership class to Frankfort on Thursday which happened to be when the house passed the mandatory high school attendance age bill, a bill that enjoys strong support from the business community., a new initiative by Crain, Wassmer and Becky Ruby from Greater Louisville Inc., is an email system being used by the Kentucky execs to get the word out about business legislation.  They are very proud of their efforts and it looks like it is off to a great start.

To see a full recap of the Kentucky Chamber’s efforts this week: click here

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More on Transportation Funding

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

To supplement yesterday’s blog entry on transportation, here are a couple of additional resources:

Fed’s transportation dollars will be tight

The President’s administration announced that they would seek another $53 billion over the next six years to build high-speed rail projects but the U.S. House isn’t sure that’s the right path to take in their efforts to trim spending.

Not only will SAFETEA-LU run out this year, but so will federal stimulus money that has helped states maintain roads during the economic downturn.

Read more:

LaHood says high-speed train plan will not be derailed

The administration is reaching out to state executives, including Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley and they are willing to work state by state if necessary.

Read more: The Baltimore Sun

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Transportation Funding Uncertain

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Transportation leaders, from both the private and public sector, are pushing Congress to enact long-term transportation funding.

The previous transportation funding law, SAFETEA-LU, has been granted short-term extensions, the latest of which expires on March 4.  The uncertainty of transportation funds is causing reluctance to plan big projects and make capital purchases.

President Obama is expected to include a six-year transportation plan in his upcoming budget proposal.  However, Congress is looking to cut the budget and there is little support for increasing the gas tax.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka are scheduled to testify at a February 16 hearing in the Senate on the need for a new transportation bill.

For more information: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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PBS NewsHour Reaction to Obama's Speech to U.S. Chamber

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

ACCE’s former chairman and President of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Dave Adkisson, and Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large for “The American Prospect” and a columnist for the Washington Post, appeared with Gwen Iffil on PBS’s NewsHour to offer reaction to President Obama’s speech to the U.S. Chamber. 

Adkisson said that President Obama’s message was good for the business community to hear.  He said that the business community and the administration share the same goal of the economic recovery becoming a jobs recovery.


Adkisson mentioned how important trade agreements are to the business community.  He said that business shares the administration’s goal of increasing exports by 50% in five years.


To watch the video clip and read the interview transcript visit: PBS NewsHour

Video of President Obama’s speech and Washington Post Recap:

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President Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, February 7, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

President Obama addressed an audience at the U.S. Chamber comprised of U.S. Chamber members; state and local chambers and businesses.

President Obama’s speech echoed a number of business issues from his State of the Union address.   He focused on what both government and the private sector can do to help America “win the future.”

He said that the government is committed to making America the best place on earth to do business.  Among the things he pledged were:

  • Tax credits for research and development and to invest in education. 
  • To cut spending and put the nation on sounder financial ground.  He said that the administration will be making tough but smart choices. 
  • The administration will be reviewing agencies and regulations to make sure that they are not standing in the way of getting business done in the U.S. 
  • He thanked the Chamber and the AFL-CIO for coming together and pushing for increase and more efficient infrastructure to take the U.S. into 21st century. 
  • He also said that he understands the concerns about the Health Care bill and is happy to look at ways to improve that legislation. 

President Obama then presented a few items that he asked of businesses.  Those include:

  • He asked businesses to recognize the perils of under regulation.
  • All American workers need to have a stake in trade, productivity and innovation.
  • He asked business to help rebuild the middle class.
  • Finally, the President challenged businesses to aggressively reinvest in America.

His largest applause line: “Now is the time to invest in America.”

Full prepared remarks are available at:

Full prepared remarks are available at: New York Times

Former ACCE Chairman Dave Adkisson will be on PBS NewsHour tonight discussing his reaction to the President’s remarks.  It will be taped live today at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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Changing of the Guard: Wisconsin – Part 2

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

The sweeping change in Wisconsin leads us to a second post regarding the opportunities and challenges that exist with a new party in power.

Overnight, Wisconsin went from Democratic Governor, Democratic Senate, Democratic Assembly to Republic Governor, Republican Senate, Republican Assembly.  Among those defeated included the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly.  As Jim Morgan, Vice President of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), said, “The whole game changed!”

Thom Ciske, VP of Government Affairs at the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry, echoed a number of his peers saying that the chamber agenda has not changed despite the favorable shift.  The chamber is still pushing for “lower taxes, less regulation, relief from unfunded mandates, changes to the Medication/Arbitration laws, and a more aggressive State Department of Economic Development.”  That being said, The Chamber understands these changes need to be made within the context of a state that is looking to balance its budget and is currently $3 billion in arrears. 

Morgan says that the WMC agenda hasn’t changed either, but the interest in their agenda has hanged.  Governor Walker has called a special session on jobs and the economy and the WMC agenda for regulatory reform, tax reform and liability reform is front and center. 

Legislation to conform Wisconsin’s tax treatment of Health Savings Accounts with federal law passed both houses of the Legislature was signed into law Monday, January 24. The bill was introduced as part of Governor Walker's Special Session on Jobs, which is intended to address business climate issues in Wisconsin. WMC has advocated for this law change for a number of years. (Pictured: Governor Scott Walker and R.J. Pirlot, WMC Director of Legislative Relations, at the HSA bill signing on January 24.)

Related Material:
WMC Hails Approval of Health Savings Account Tax Break

Below are a few examples of the bills already being passed and signed into law.  Morgan says that the real challenge is keeping everyone focused on jobs and the economy, but so far it seems as if everyone is staying on point.

Regulatory Reform Legislation Advances

WMC Backed Civil Justice Reform Passes Legislature

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Texas Association of Business 2011 Annual Conference Recap

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, January 31, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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.

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State of the Union 2011

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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.


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A different way to tackle immigration: 14th amendment challenge

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, January 24, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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

                     Arizona’s next immigration debate: babies born in U.S.

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Blog Series: Changing of the Guard - Ohio

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

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.

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