Tag Archives: arizona chamber of commerce

Royal Palms exterior

Royal Palms Debuts Brand New T. Cook's

On September 9th, Royal Palms Resort and Spa re-opened the highly acclaimed T. Cook’s restaurant. Highlighting Executive Chef Paul McCabe’s creative interpretation of New American cooking, the Mediterranean-inspired design and architecture; the restaurant is introducing a new culinary and overall guest experience while remaining loyal to the treasured, timeless atmosphere guests have come to know and love.

The refreshed T. Cook’s design, led by Haley Balzano, founder and architect of Phoenix-based creative design team Bar Napkin Productions, emphasizes a more vibrant color scheme, authentic design elements, an interactive kitchen, the remodeled private dining room “Delos” and a glass-enclosed wine and tequila tasting room. New boldly-colored chairs surround rustic wooden tables adding depth and diversity to the new dining room, while iron chandeliers create a sense of intimacy and stimulate an experience of romance. Al fresco dining can also be discovered at T. Cook’s with intimate patios and nooks, including a new private dining element found within the property’s historic Orange Grove.

Simple yet polished, the new dining menus, created by Executive Chef Paul McCabe, honor classical techniques while utilizing locally-grown and sustainably raised foods whenever possible. Chef McCabe has established relationships with a wide range of local purveyors, farmers and artisans, including McClendon’s Select, Singh Farms, Noble Bread and Hayden Flour Mills.

“The menu is designed to be more social and approachable, while incorporating cooking techniques that reflect the evolving culinary scene in Phoenix and beyond,” says McCabe. “Our dishes are inspired by seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, with some of the freshest growing right in our backyard. T. Cook’s new edible gardens have been an ongoing project this summer that will have come to fruition in September. We’ll be handpicking everything from vegetables and citrus, to herbs and select seasonings.

Referencing the seasonal spirit of the Mediterranean, Chef McCabe also meticulously sources the richest of ingredients for fresh fish from the bountiful Basque Coast and Spanish ports, to sardines from the heart of Sicily. T. Cook’s culinary philosophy of magnifying the purity of fresh, seasonal ingredients is a celebration of its own treasured legacy. This respected tradition lives on at T. Cook’s with Chef McCabe at the helm.

Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, T. Cook’s new menus aim to be both approachable and intriguing. Breakfast and brunch offer a range of healthful dishes to more indulgent items.

sales.tax

Arizona Business Community Supports HB2111

The undersigned organizations and businesses want to express their strong support for the passage of HB2111 with the floor amendment that will be offered by Senator Steve Yarbrough. This final amendment represents major concessions to address concerns that have been expressed by the city representatives.

This final amendment reflects the cities’ request for a separate online portal for the collection of sales taxes in the 18 non-program cities. In addition, the amendment reflects the cities’ demand to maintain the authority to audit single-location businesses in their city. Lastly, the amendment removes all of the changes to prime contracting tax except for the trade and service contractors.

While the Yarbrough amendment reflects major concessions to the cities that undermine some of the important reforms recommended by the Transaction Privilege (Sales) Tax Simplification Task Force, we believe this final proposal still reflects historic progress that deserves final passage.

The Senator Yarbrough floor amendment will provide for the following:

* Single Point of Administration – the Department of Revenue (DOR) will become the single point of administration and collection of TPT. However, at the request of the cities, there will be a separate online portal for the 18 non-program cities. Despite this concession, the cities remain opposed because they want to continue to require businesses making paper sales tax remissions to pay the state and city separately. Their proposal provides most small businesses no administrative relief from making multiple payments to multiple jurisdictions each month.

* Single and Uniform Audit – DOR will administer a standardized state audit program where all state and city auditors are trained and certified by DOR. Despite major concessions from the business community to allow cities to continue to audit local businesses, the cities continue to push for further changes that will undermine much needed reforms to standardize state and local audits.

* Trade/Service Contracting Reform – Service contractors working directly for an owner to maintain, repair, and replace existing property would pay tax on materials at retail and not be subject to the Prime Contracting Tax. During Task Force deliberations, the cities repeatedly conceded that this area of the prime contracting tax was problematic and should be changed. However, after almost a year of study and discussion, they have offered a change to the taxation of service contractors that provides no administrative relief and couples that change with a request that the state give the cities $80 million from use tax collections.

Arizona’s chaotic and dysfunctional sales tax system has been the subject of considerable controversy at the Capitol for over 30 years. The creation of the Task Force, as well as the appearance for the first time that the cities recognized the need for reform, gave Arizona businesses great hope that this system would finally be reformed. We strongly encourage state policymakers to pass a sales tax reform bill that is grounded in sound tax policy and focuses on reducing the extraordinary compliance costs on Arizona businesses.

Kevin McCarthy, President, Arizona Tax Research Association
Michelle Lind, Chief Executive Officer, Arizona Association of REALTORS
Bas Aja, Executive Vice President, Arizona Cattlemen’s Association
Glenn Hamer, President & CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce
Steve Macias, Chairman, Arizona Manufacturer’s Council
Francis McAllister, Chairman, Arizona Mining Association
Courtney LeVinus, Arizona Multihousing Association
Michelle Allen Ahlmer, Executive Director, Arizona Retailers Association
Steve Chucri, President/CEO, Arizona Restaurant Association
Rick Murray, Chief Executive Officer, Arizona Small Business Association
Steve Zylstra, President & CEO, Arizona Technology Council
Greg Turner, Vice President, Senior Tax Council, Council On State Taxation (COST)
Lisa Rigler, President, Small Business Alliance AZ
Todd Sanders, President & CEO, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Tom Franz, President, Greater Phoenix Leadership
Connie Wilhelm, President, Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
Tim Lawless, Chapter President, NAIOP
Farrell Quinlan, Arizona State Director, NFIB
Ronald E. Shoopman, President, Southern Arizona Leadership Council
Scot Mussi, President, The Arizona Free Enterprise Club
Matt Beckler, Vice President, Treasurer & Chief Tax Officer, Apollo Group, Inc.
Steve Barela, State & Local Tax Manager, Arizona Public Service
Steve Trussell, Executive Director, Arizona Rock Products Association
Michael DiMaria, Director of Legislative Affairs, CenturyLink, Inc.
Gayle Shanks, Owner, Changing Hands Bookstore
Michelle Bolton, Director of Public Affairs, Cox Communications
Nikki Daly, Owner, Flair! Salons
David Karsten, President, Karsten’s Ace Hardware
Reuben Minkus, Minkus Advertising Specialties
PetSmart, Inc.
Tina Danloe, General Manager, Pima Ace Hardware
Molly Greene, Senior Government Relations Representative, Salt River Project
Les Orchekowsky, President & Co-Owner, Sierra Ace Hardware, Inc.
Ann Seiden, Administrator/Corporate Public Affairs, Southwest Gas Corporation
Joseph Hughes, Director of Government Affairs, U.S. Airways
Walgreens Co.

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

M

W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Wraps Up Work On Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center

 

W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has added to its healthcare and medical center expertise with the conclusion of its work on the plumbing system at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Clinic at St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling was the responsive low bidder of the plumbing system on the remodeling project, including testing and certification.

Kitchell served as the general contractor on the project.

The Barrow Neurological Institute is part of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, the largest hospital in the Dignity Health system. Barrow has been one of the preeminent centers for specialty neurological care in the United States for more than four decades.

The healthcare industry continues to be a strong construction segment for W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, as the company has recently been contracted for design/build services at the Veteran’s Administration’s Southeast Healthcare Clinic in Gilbert, St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center in Glendale and La Loma Village assisted living complex in Litchfield Park and a completed project at the Orthopedic and Spine Inpatient Surgical (OASIS) Hospital in Phoenix.

“We have been selected by a number of general contractors to work on some of the most prominent hospital and healthcare centers in Arizona,” said Kathryn “Kitty” Maloney-Langmade, president of W.J. Maloney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling.

“Our team is proud to be able to continually deliver outstanding construction services on these projects that have such a positive impact on each of their respective communities.”

 

immigration

Visa reform needed to move country forward

And so it begins. After six years since the last substantive debates over immigration reform, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week began hearings on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, the title of the legislation borne out of the months-long work of the bipartisan Gang of Eight, which includes Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.

The bill is a needed recognition that we need to boost border security in certain areas, including southeast Arizona, and find a realistic and humane way to deal with the estimated 11 million individuals who are not in the country legally.

But the bill also offers desperately needed visa reforms at both the high-skilled and low-skilled ends of America’s economy. The bill fills the shortage of high skilled workers by increasing the H1-B visa cap that fits our 21st century economy. As Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president for Microsoft, testified at last week’s hearing, “The current system does not meet the needs of today’s economy, and it must be reformed to enable ongoing innovation and economic growth.”

The bill:
Removes the numerical cap on green cards for researchers, scientists, PhDs and certain physicians;
Allocates 40 percent of employment-based visas to advanced degree-holders in critical areas and to individuals who have earned advanced degrees in the sciences from a U.S. university;
Increases to 40 percent the percentage of visas for skilled workers;
Creates a startup visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to emigrate to the United States to startup their own companies; and
Raises to 110,000 the cap on H-1B visas from the current 65,000, with the ability to go as high as 180,000.
Tech groups are enthused with the bill, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leading the charge for its passage with the formation of a nonprofit advocacy group called FWD.us. The group has a broad coalition of industry leaders, including the Arizona Chamber, who believe the time is now for developing an immigration system that meets both our security and economic needs.

When it comes to high-skilled workers the numbers say it all. Fifty seven percent of engineering graduate students are immigrants, and if the immigration system is left unchanged many of these students will be forced to leave the U.S., taking their knowledge and expertise with them to other countries.

In a country in need of entrepreneurial leaders, immigrants are unmatched; 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. The ethos of America has been to bring the best and brightest from around the world, and the Senate’s bill does just that.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, someone who will play a key role in advancing a reform package through the House, has wisely framed the debate in economic terms, telling The Wall Street Journal, “We believe in pro-growth economics. We believe in entrepreneurialism. Well, that’s immigration.”

If Arizona plays its cards rights and capitalizes on the knowhow of the Arizona Commerce Authority, our state can leverage a revamped high-tech visa system and our welcoming business climate to make Arizona an innovation capital rivaling anywhere on earth.

Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio has called the bill a “starting point.” Considering that the package aggressively improves the country’s high tech talent pool, I’d call it a heck of a good start.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

carey school - graduate

Creating high performance schools

A central part of this year’s state budget debate is over Governor Brewer’s Performance Funding proposal for district and charter schools. Her plan helps ensure that tax investment in our schools yields measurable results.

Employers from across the state have fought against across-the-board cuts to our K-12 system, and we’ve supported the governor’s budget request to help make new, more rigorous standards successful. But we cannot support millions of dollars in additional new funding without some exchange for true accountability. Lest we forget, the voters agreed with this premise last November when they overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have raised taxes for education, but with little oversight in how the dollars would be spent.

A modern school funding system should be based on transparency, giving parents the information they need to choose schools and to choose communities in which to live and work. And the job creators we work hard every day to keep and recruit deserve a system that makes clear that our elected leaders are serious about excellent educational outcomes that prepare today’s kids for tomorrow’s jobs.

For more than a decade we have been building and adjusting such a system. We started with school accountability that tells us how schools and districts perform. We articulate this information using the same A-F letter grades that our students receive. More recently, Arizona implemented a teacher and principal evaluation system to ensure schools intervene with struggling educators, amplify the impact of high performing teachers and engage all educators in between.

These and other mechanisms implemented thus far seem to be moving the needle in most schools and providing the kind of transparency education hawks have demanded. But some persistent challenges remain. With billions of taxpayer dollars going to fund our K-12 system, Arizonans are demanding accountability that doesn’t just advertise performance, but also predicates some amount of schools’ annual funding – particularly hard-to-get new resources – on learning outcomes.

In response, the governor is proposing a first-of-its-kind model for schools to earn more funding than they currently receive. What’s really revolutionary is that a small amount of their current funding will be on the line as well. This percentage will grow over the course of the next five years.

Under Gov. Brewer’s plan, districts and charters at all performance levels can earn new dollars for improving their outcomes. For schools that reach state performance levels, even more money can be earned. But the greatest earning potential is in doing more than before, rather than being rewarded for perpetuating the status quo, the theme of the current funding model.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for a redesign of the education funding system that provides the right incentives to focus on outcomes rather than just seat time. The governor has proposed a modest move towards such a model. For fiscal year 2014, 1 percent of total funding is set aside for this model, reaching 5 percent at the end of five years.  One third of the funding would be from existing revenue, but nearly two thirds – more than $150 million by Year Five – would be new funding that all schools and districts would have an opportunity to earn simply by showing improvement.

A variety of reforms have been tried over the years and more will be tried during our time and after. Not all of them will work, but not trying at all is unacceptable. Combined with new standards, Gov. Brewer’s Performance Funding plan provides the right amount of tension in the system to move Arizona schools to the next tier.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.  

Evening on the Diamond Presented by University of Phoenix

D-Backs CEO earns Goldwater award

Arizona Diamondbacks President & CEO Derrick Hall has been named the 2012 recipient of the Goldwater Community Service Award and will be honored at the 29th Noche de Gourmet Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at the Wrigley Mansion. The Goldwater Community Service Awards, presented by the Active 20-30 Club of Phoenix, honors a community leader with a strong record of philanthropic involvement, professional success in their field of work, and a desire to give back to the Phoenix area through serving on charitable and corporate boards and through public service.

“I am honored to be the first recipient of this prestigious award in a category where every nominee is truly deserving,” said Hall. “The Active 20-30 Club is a distinguished philanthropic club that works hard to improve the lives of children across the Valley, and I am proud to represent and be recognized by such an illustrious group of individuals.”

Hall was chosen among five nominees, including Arizona Treasurer and former Founder & CEO of Cold Stone Doug Ducey, Phoenix City Councilmember and Attorney for PING William Gates, Founder of Beyond the Flames Jason Schechterle and Executive Director of The First Tee of Phoenix Hugh Smith, Jr. The annual award is given to an individual who shows high moral and ethical character and will set the standard for the men of the Active 20-30 Club of Phoenix to achieve as they continue to grow and develop in their profession and in their community.

A proven leader in the Arizona community, Hall currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Valley of the Sun United Way and leads the Hunger-Free Communities Plan Steering Committee, and is an active member of the Thunderbirds and Young President’s Organization. He serves on 27 boards, including the Arizona Mexico Commission, Great Hearts Academies, Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Advisory Council for Pancreatic Cancer, US Airways Education Foundation, St. Vincent de Paul and Florence Crittendon. He has also raised money by serving as an event chairman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and the Foundation for Blind Children.

Barry Broome, GPEC president and CEO - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

GPEC’s President And CEO, Barry Broome Talks About Getting The Valley’s Economy Back On Track

Give us a look ahead at Greater Phoenix’s major industries.

The emergence of solar and renewable energy has been, and will continue to be, a big opportunity for us. We need to learn, as a market, how to be involved in new technology initiatives. There are going to be wins, losses and volatility, but the renewable space is going to continue to grow.

From January to November 2010, 1,350 jobs and $153 million in capital investment have been created. Renewable energy projects now make up about 28 percent of the companies looking at our region.

In addition to the renewable energy industry, health care, life sciences and information communication technology will expand next year. All of this is plagued by inconsistency in the capital markets. There is not enough private equity and there is no real IPO (initial public offering) market. Whenever you are building a new technology, it is really important that capital markets are responsive.

What kinds of jobs does GPEC look to attract and grow in Greater Phoenix?

We’re probably having the best year for attracting engineers and professional jobs that GPEC has ever had as an organization. These quality jobs are fueled by the fact that renewable energy is the new technology space.

GPEC is performing at a high level, even though the country is still in a recession. We have already driven 4,400 jobs to Greater Phoenix from July to October 2010. Of those jobs, 66 percent provide high wages. We want to see even more high-quality jobs this year. Hopefully, we will continue to drive regional headquarters, and professional services and technology jobs in the region.

GPEC talks a lot about competitiveness. Why is this important, and what specifically is GPEC doing to make the region more competitive?

For a long time, GPEC has focused efforts on increasing the region’s competitiveness. It’s absolutely critical because every major investment is analyzed by people with very astute backgrounds for its financial implications, talent and long-term viability. The most common differentiating point for a market is its competitive position. We look at the cost of doing business, the speed of doing business, ability to attract talent and access to capital.

GPEC has several initiatives to push Greater Phoenix into more globally competitive circles. The region — historically — has relied on retail, construction and real estate sectors to our own detriment. We have a high-quality job formula. Arizona will increase its competitive position with GPEC’s proposal to drive large company expansions, increasing our local, talented work force, and improving our tax climate. Working on job creation legislation with Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO), rural partners, the Arizona Commerce Authority and chamber partners is going to be really important this year. GPEC also works closely with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Small Business Association, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Leadership, and our communities and mayors.

It wasn’t that long ago, just four years ago, that Arizona was ranked No. 1 in the country for job growth. Now, we have fallen to almost last in the country — 48th place. We need to understand how to improve the environment for business and compete in new technologies and industries. That is going to make the difference for Greater Phoenix as it recovers from the housing slump and shifts the job base away from the real estate industry to export industries.

Arizona Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Hidden Tax Revealed Chart

Hidden Health Care Tax Hits Workers

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) and the Arizona Chamber Foundation are joining forces to stop what we call a hidden health care tax on businesses and consumers. According to a study released by the Arizona Chamber Foundation, which is associated with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arizona employers and the state’s 3.5 million privately insured consumers pay 40 percent above cost for hospital services, primarily because the state and federal governments significantly underpay hospitals for those same services.

“This study shines a light on what Arizona business and health care leaders refer to as the hidden health care tax,” says Suzanne Taylor, executive director of the Arizona Chamber Foundation. “The study demonstrates that when state or federal lawmakers reduce hospital payment levels to below their costs, Arizona businesses and consumers pick up the tab in the form of higher health insurance premiums.”

The study, An Analysis of Hospital Cost Shift in Arizona, was conducted by the nationally recognized Lewin Group. It found that in 2007, private insurance payments for Arizona hospital services exceeded costs by $1.3 billion in order to offset underpayment from:

  • State government — The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid program that paid 79 percent of hospitals’ costs for providing services, underpaid Arizona hospitals by $407 million.
  • Federal government — Medicare, which paid 89 percent of Arizona hospitals’ costs for delivering services, underpaid Arizona hospitals by $481 million.

Uncompensated care — Arizona’s hospitals absorbed $390 million in 2007 — 4.4 percent of their total costs — for services they delivered, but for which they received no compensation.

Public insurance programs such as AHCCCS and Medicare are the primary drivers behind the hidden health care tax, paying hospitals below what it costs to treat patients. To cover these costs, hospitals shift the burden to private health insurers by negotiating higher rates to provide coverage.

“In this downturn, the hidden health care tax is particularly harmful to the economic well-being of our state,” Taylor says. “Employers throughout Arizona are grappling with incredible challenges ranging from declining revenues to shrinking credit. The hidden health care tax is another weight on businesses that want to continue providing employer-based insurance to their employees.”

Arizona employers and their employees typically share the cost of health insurance coverage, with employers paying an average of 81 percent of a single policy and 75 percent of a family policy for workers enrolled in their respective health plans. According to the study, in 2007 inadequate payment by AHCCCS and Medicare, as well as uncompensated care, increased private health insurance premiums in Arizona by 8.8 percent or $361 for every privately insured person.

The study revealed that public program underpayment in 2007:

  • Added $1,017 — $324 of which is due to AHCCCS underpayment — to the annual price tag of a typical family health insurance policy, bringing the cost to $11,617.
  • Increased by $396 — $126 of which is due to AHCCCS underpayment — the annual cost of a single health insurance policy, bringing the price tag to $4,519.

Underpayment by public insurance programs for hospital services exacts a steep price on employers, their workers and private purchasers of health insurance. In 2007, the cost shift due to AHCCCS, Medicare and uncompensated care cost: employers an additional $941.7 million, $301.3 million resulting from AHCCCS underpayment; employees an additional $292.8 million, $93.7 million of it due to AHCCCS underpayment; and private purchasers of health insurance an additional $41.4 million, $13.2 million of it resulting from AHCCCS underpayment
AHCCCS payment rate freeze.

  • Five percent AHCCCS payment rate reduction.
  • Disproportionate share hospital payments.
  • Graduate medical education.
  • AHCCCS payments to rural hospitals.
  • State savings of  $95 million.
  • Lost federal funds of $250.4 million.

Total dollar increase in private insurance premiums due to the cost shift of $1.48 billion in 2009 and $1.63 billion in 2010.
Individual increase in premiums of 19 percent for privately insured Arizonans due to the cost shift.

The merger between the Arizona Chamber And The AAI Has Given Business A Stronger Voice, 2008

The merger between the Arizona Chamber And The AAI Has Given Business A Stronger Voice

United and Standing

The merger between the Arizona Chamber and the AAI has given business a stronger voice

By Janet Perez

After years of wooing, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry finally succeeded last year in merging with the Arizona Association of Industries (AAI), and the result has been to give a stronger voice to a wider swath of the state’s business community.

“I think the merger has really served to strengthen the business agenda as a whole. (Legislative) policymakers have sometimes been confused in the past about what business needs and what business wants in this state to strengthen the economy, to strengthen the marketplace. I think the merger has allowed us to speak with a more unified voice,” says Eileen Klein, vice chair of public affairs for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and vice president of government relations for UnitedHealthcare of Arizona. “It’s really allowed us to approach the Legislature with more diversity and also with the strength of more business behind our agenda.”
Overtures to merge had been made on-and-off by the chamber to the association for more than a decade, but in the spring of 2007, the talks became serious, says Mark Dobbins, former chairman of the AAI and current vice chairman of manufacturing for the chamber. AAI leaders agreed that by 2007, the chamber had changed to the point it was compatible with the association and they shared almost all of the same concerns.

“When (the AAI) board made the decision that we did not see any distinct differences in our policy positions, that was kind of the point that the wedding happened,” says Dobbins, senior vice president of human resources and general affairs at SUMCO, a manufacturer of electronic-grade silicon wafers for the semiconductor industry.

Not surprisingly, the merger led to a major restructuring of the chamber and its members’ functions. One of the first things the chamber did was restructure its board of directors and executive committee, says Ivan Johnson, chairman of the chamber and vice president of community relations and tele-video at Cox Communications. One major change was to put a board member as the chair of each chamber policy committee.

“And what that has done is that it has involved our board in developing the public policy agenda, which I think gives us a better agenda,” Johnson says.

The merger also brought the AAI’s longtime lobbyist, Jim Norton, who now uses his lobbying skills on behalf of the chamber, Johnson says. The changes have allowed the chamber to craft a more proactive public policy agenda.

“This year, for the first time, once we developed our public policy agenda, we presented that to the Legislature at our Legislative forecast luncheon. Rather than them telling us, which we always invite them to do, we said, ‘Here’s our agenda,’ ” Johnson says. “Those are things we hadn’t done historically.”

In addition, key chamber staff members now regularly attend Legislative hearings that affect the business community, as well as meeting with Legislative leadership and giving Gov. Janet Napolitano briefings every few weeks.

“We are more connected to the process at the capitol, and because of that, we have the opportunity to present the recommendations that come out of the state chamber on behalf of the business community,” Johnson says.

These changes allowed the chamber to accomplish something most said would have been impossible to do this year — make changes to the state’s controversial employer sanctions law. The law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, punishes businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants. The chamber has come out in force against the law and has even joined a lawsuit to get it overturned.

“Most betting people thought it would be impossible this year to make any significant changes to help law-abiding businesses through the Legislative process,” says Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the chamber. “Through a combined effort, and working with other business groups and chambers from across the state, we were able to make some important changes to that law.”

One of those changes was to make the law apply only to employees hired after Jan. 1, 2008, and not retroactively as it had originally stated.

Another significant change to the chamber has been to create a fiscal task force that formulates policy both on how it thinks the Legislature should spend state funds and also how to allocate those increasingly scarce resources.

“We took about a dozen people on this task force through an education process of how the budget process at the state capitol works and what are the levers the Legislature and the governor have to pull to solve these issues,” Hamer says. “And then we came up with some recommendations that we then presented to both the Legislature and to the (governor). Then we started a dialogue between all of those folks and ourselves, which I think was very productive in terms of trying to come up with solutions.”July Cover 2008

While the merger has gone relatively smoothly internally, it did initially cause some confusion within the business community, Klein says. An announcement made in January when the chamber released its Legislative business agenda “really helped to clarify that this is really going to be an entity that is going to speak out on behalf of the statewide business community,” Klein says

Another challenge is to make sure members of the defunct AAI understand they hold a prominent place within the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We wanted to integrate them into the chamber because we believe that together we are stronger. But we also wanted them to continue to maintain an identity within the chamber, which we think makes us all stronger. They are not losing their identity; we are keeping them visible and their point of view very front-and-center in our deliberations in the things that we advocate for,” Johnson says. “I think the merger has been one of the best things for both organizations.”

AZ Business Magazine July 2008 |
Public Policy, AZ Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006

Greater Phoenix Chamber Of Commerce Outlines Its Most Pressing Public Policy Efforts

Public Policy in Focus

Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce outlines its most pressing public policy efforts

 

Virtually any group that has experienced the give-and-take of supporting or opposing legislation at the state Capitol is aware of the truism—half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Indeed, that’s how the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce views the 2006 regular session of the Arizona Legislature. And for those who didn’t get everything they wanted, there’s always next year.

Public Policy in FocusTodd Sanders, vice president of public affairs for the chamber, sees the organization’s public policy efforts as challenges, not necessarily hits or misses. One of the chamber’s biggest challenges, Sanders says, was and still is the issue of employer sanctions in connection with the growing problem of illegal immigration.

“We believe employer sanctions are necessary,” he says. “But in drafting legislation, it was difficult to put something together that was tough, but fair to employers, something that businesses can implement. There is a federal requirement that we check IDs, but the way the bill was conceived, even if we do that and find someone who is illegal, we could still be subject to sanctions.”

The Greater Phoenix Chamber and other stakeholders representing restaurants, homebuilders, small businesses, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other chambers of commerce worked with legislators trying to craft an acceptable bill. What was drafted was combined into an omnibus bill dealing with illegal immigration that Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed.

The chamber was silent on other parts of the bill, including border security, but Sanders says, “We were in favor of employer sanctions. It was drafted in such a way that it was tough, but our members could still implement it.”

One of the biggest obstacles is that federal law requires employers to check IDs, including Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, but those are easily forged, Sanders says. “Business owners are trying to make money,” he says. “They’re not ID experts or document experts. It’s one of the issues we’ll be looking at in the next session. There is a misperception that we were against employer sanctions, which we were not.”

Regarding border security—a hot topic in the general election—Sanders says, “We need to get this done at the federal level. Fixing it at the state level is very dicey at best.”

Another issue and a top priority for the chamber was property tax cuts. “It was quite a process, a lot of give and take,” he says. “The governor wanted a rebate and we wanted a tax cut. We got the cut. Actually, it’s a suspension for three years, so we’ll probably want to go in again for a permanent elimination of that tax. It was our biggest win, given the valuation increases, to protect taxpayers from massive tax bills in the future.”

Elimination of the property tax doesn’t affect the counties, because programs formerly financed by the tax will receive money from the state’s General Fund, Sanders says.

He recalls the big push at the Legislature for eminent domain reform, which the governor vetoed, and the possibility of such an initiative getting on the November ballot. In her veto message, Napolitano has said the bill would have ended existing slum clearance and redevelopment areas and inappropriately restricted the ability of cities to deal with slums and urban blight. “As a chamber, we favor strong private property rights protection,” Sanders says. “We want to make sure it’s balanced. Protection is very important to us.”

AZ Business Magazine October / November 2006The chamber chose not to weigh in on funding for all-day kindergarten and teachers’ raises. “We have supported all-day kindergarten, but with a full phase-in over time,” Sanders says. The chamber was active in efforts to establish and fund the 21st Century Fund. The money is to be used to build and strengthen medical, scientific and engineering research programs and infrastructure, with a non-profit corporation expected to provide matching funds. “We wanted $100 million, and they came in at $35 million,” Sanders says.

Regarding a constitutional proposal to establish a state minimum wage of $5.95 an hour effective July 1, 2007, to be raised to $6.75 an hour on July 1, 2008, and thereafter adjusted for inflation each year, Sanders says, “It’s a safe bet we will be opposed to that measure. We generally oppose those mandates, when government mandates what to pay someone. It’s got a built-in yearly inflator, and that’s where the real pushback will come. In good times, like now, it’s different and maybe business could absorb it, but in bad times it becomes problematic.”

www.phoenixchamber.com

Arizona Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006