Tag Archives: arizona chamber of commerce and industry


How will overtime expansion impact Arizona business?

The Department of Labor announced plans Tuesday to expand overtime guarantees to about 5 million salaried workers who are not now covered, including an estimated 100,000 white-collar workers in Arizona.

The proposed rule would more than double the threshold at which a salaried worker has been ruled ineligible for overtime pay, from the current $23,660 a year to $50,440.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz called the plan a long-overdue update to the Fair Labor Standards Act that will improve quality of life and economic security for middle-class managers.

“Today’s system all too frequently allows employers to violate one of the basic pillars of the Fair Labor Standards Act, to reward hard work with a fair wage and to ensure that people who work extra get paid extra,” Perez said.

“This new proposal goes to the heart of what it means to be middle-class in America,” he said.

But business groups were quick to criticize the plan, which they said will be a drag on the economy and will not be the boost the administration claims.

“Just like with the big discussion about raising minimum wage to $15, there will be unintended consequences of this federal action,” said Michael Varney, president and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber.

“My fear is that hardworking people will be penalized in some way as a result of this law,” Varney said.

That was echoed by Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman Garrick Taylor, who called it “another example of an administration pursuing policies that will harm the very individuals it claims to want to help.”

But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, applauded the administration for the move, which he said supports American families who deserve fair pay for their work.

“This new overtime rule is a powerful step towards that goal, helping nearly 5 million Americans feed their families, pay their rent, or clothe their children,” Grijalva said in a statement released by his office. “We look forward to working with President Obama to continue putting more money in the pockets of America’s working families.”

Officials said the proposed rule has been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget but still must be posted in the Federal Register and undergo a 60-day comment period. The measure would take effect in 2016.

Munoz said during a conference call Tuesday to announce the plan that, except for occasional tweaks, the Fair Labor Standards Act has not been meaningfully updated for over 40 years.

“Currently, if you’re an hourly worker and you work for more than 40 hours you get overtime. That used to be true also for most salary workers but is not true anymore,” she said.

When the rules were last updated, almost two-thirds of full-time salaried workers were eligible for overtime. Now it’s just 8 percent of full-time workers, Munoz said.

Perez said the rules governing overtime were changed in 2004, but that change helped employers and hurt workers, by enabling employers to limit workers “receiving the overtime protections the law intended.”

Under current conditions, a Labor Department release said, middle-class managers “may be expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week or more” at poverty wages for a family.

But Varney said that the “heavy hand of the government” will not make the situation better.

“The free marketplace does a very good job of regulating itself … it’s a very unnecessary thing, I don’t know what problem they are trying to solve,” he said of the Labor Department plan.


Ducey becomes the governor for Millennials

Arizona is a great place for millennials. It’s the perfect example of an ideal state for our generation to live, work, and play. We are the generation of start-ups, entrepreneurs and Internet campaigns, with a burning desire to express our innovative ideas. And in November 2014, we solidified Arizona as the ideal breeding ground for these ideas when we elected a governor who has proven to us that he wants millennials to have every opportunity to succeed.

Generation Y is all about speed. We like to see change, and we like to see change happen quickly. After one of the shortest legislative sessions in Arizona’s history, our governor made it clear that he likes to see change happen quickly, too. In just 81 days, millennials saw a number of new bills pass that will keep us pursuing innovation for years to come.

Let’s begin with a topic that my generation is particularly passionate about: craft beer. Arizona is proud to call itself home to dozens of craft breweries that are equally popular among tourists and locals. With so many breweries within close proximity to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, students in the 21+ age range have become quite fond of Arizona’s homegrown beers. When many beloved breweries were threatened with having to close their restaurants due to a statewide production limit, our generation immediately took to social media to express our concern. Thanks to our well-connected and social media savvy governor, our voices were heard. This session, the governor signed Senate Bill 1030 which allows our favorite microbreweries to continue to grow and thrive. Thanks to him, we can continue to boast about our state as home to some of America’s best breweries.

We’ve already established that millennials enjoy craft beer. But another thing we care about is our ability to get to and from a brewery safely and affordably. That’s why you’ll notice almost every single Generation Y smartphone user has a Lyft or Uber application on their phone. We’re crazy about ridesharing. It’s easy, safe, and affordable. Near a college campus, it’s practically a travesty not to take advantage of ridesharing and its advantages. That’s why we thank you, Gov. Ducey, for making Arizona a place where start-ups like Uber and Lyft can be given a chance to succeed, while making sure those of us who use their services are well protected and insured. In a national debate over the regulation of ridesharing, our governor has put Arizona ahead of the curve.

Like ridesharing, our generation loves coming up with new solutions to old problems. We love to be our own entrepreneurs and find innovative ways to make and raise money. That’s why many millennials have embraced online money-raising platforms, like Kickstarter, to help fund our ideas. This is another example of how our governor has protected our interests by helping us cultivate our spirit of innovation. By signing House Bill 2591, he has allowed small businesses and entrepreneurs in Arizona to raise capital from investors and offer equity to them through crowdfunding, making it clear the governor wants to see entrepreneurship thrive in this state.

The governor’s belief in entrepreneurship and cutting-edge technology extends to the medical field as well. He signed into law H.B. 2645, which allows anyone to get laboratory medical testing without a physician’s orders. This means companies like Theranos, which is helmed by 31-year-old self-made billionaire Elizabeth Holmes, can thrive in Arizona. The Theranos technology allows for a battery of tests with just a tiny drop of blood,  empowering patients with knowledge and driving down health care costs. 

On a similar note, Gov. Ducey has also protected us from being pushed into higher tax brackets should we ever receive a raise. Our generation appreciates follow-through on promises, and we certainly need to thank the governor for following through on this promise made during his State of the State address. When he said he would protect taxpayers from being pushed into higher tax brackets, he meant it. By signing House Bill 2001, the governor made it clear yet again that he wants Arizona to be a place where businesses can thrive and taxpayers won’t be punished for making more money. We like the sound of that.

If you’ve ever had the fortunate opportunity to meet Gov. Ducey, you’ll instantly be reminded that his respect for young people is genuine. In the private sector as CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, his company gave many teenagers their first job, so he understands who’s entering today’s workforce. He’s also a dad. Gov. Ducey has three children, and it’s clear when talking to him that he wants to make Arizona a place where his children and all other children can thrive.

As a millennial, I want to thank Gov. Ducey on behalf of my generation for protecting our interests. I look forward to seeing our state continue to grow under the leadership of a governor who embraces our entrepreneurial spirit and does everything he can to protect it.


Melanie Lehnhardt is the assistant to the president and CEO at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She’ll be graduating from Arizona State University’s W.P Carey School of Business later this month.

Mayor Elaine Scruggs

10 ways Ducey, Legislature helped Arizona businesses

Governor Doug Ducey promised an administration that would move at the speed of business. His first legislative session proved true to his word.

The session was lightning-quick at 81 days, the fastest since 1968. Together the governor and Legislature passed into law over 300 bills, many of which will significantly enhance Arizona’s business environment, making our state’s tax, educational, regulatory and civil justice frameworks some of the best in the country.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is proud to have helped foster the pro-business policy environment and to have worked to advance a shared agenda of growth and prosperity.

Here are (just) 10 things that got done that are good for business:

1)    Tax reforms you can set your watch to. Governor Ducey and legislative leaders made clear early on in the 2015 legislative session that the tax reforms included in the 2011 and 2012 competitiveness packages would continue to be implemented without pause. That means the corporate income tax rate phase down from 6.9 percent to 4.9 percent, the business property tax relief, and the 25 percent reduction in the capital gains tax will continue to come online on schedule, giving Arizona job creators and taxpayers the certainty they need.

2)    Avoiding backdoor tax increases. The governor in his State of the State address called for Arizona’s tax brackets to be pegged to inflation and made it a priority agenda item for his first legislative session. This is tax relief for small businesses that file as individuals under the tax code and for Arizonans who have earned a raise and have been bumped into a higher tax bracket. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Justin Olson, who has made this issue a priority for several sessions, responded to the governor’s call and sent him a bill to make this commonsense reform, putting Arizona in the company of 23 other states that index their tax brackets to inflation.

3)    Putting downward pressure on insurance premiums. Speaking of dogged legislators, House Majority Whip David Livingston was successful in his push to send to the governor legislation that reduces the state’s insurance premium tax. Reducing this gross receipts tax insurers pay has been a priority for the Arizona Chamber for several years, and there was strong bipartisan support in the Legislature this year to pass this bill that phases down the tax from 2 percent to 1.7 percent over the next decade. We were thrilled that Gov. Ducey signed the bill into law, improving our insurance environment and even putting some downward pressure on premiums.

4)    A stop sign in front of new regulations. It’s important that Arizona continues to reduce the regulatory burden on job creators in order to realize Gov. Ducey’s vision of making “Arizona the pace leader in the competition for the very best state in America to do business,” as he said in his inaugural address back in January.” The governor started things off on the right foot, making his first official act a moratorium on regulatory rulemaking and calling on his agencies to review existing regulations.

Also on the regulatory front, Rep. Warren Petersen worked with the business community to craft an amendment to S.B. 1241, which prevents cities from instituting bans on certain types of containers, such as plastic bags, and prevents cities from requiring building owners to make public their energy usage as part of so-called energy audits. Creating yet more regulatory burdens for business to comply with won’t grow jobs in Arizona, and we were pleased that Gov. Ducey signed the Petersen measure into law.

5)    A focus on excellence in the classroom. Gov. Ducey and the Legislature made their first order of legislative business passage of the nation’s first American Civics Act, an effort led by Rep. Steve Montenegro, which will require Arizona students to correctly answer the same questions that appear on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization civics exam before graduating from high school. Lawmakers and the governor also established the Arizona Public School Achievement District, which will be focused on expanding and replicating Arizona’s very best educational models.

6)    Tort reform that puts an end to “double dipping.” A landmark asbestos litigation transparency bill sponsored by Rep. Sonny Borrelli became law, which will help put an end to abusive “double dipping” by plaintiffs between asbestos trusts and trial courts. We’re now one of only five states with this important law on the books.

7)    Maintaining high academic standards. Our most vigorous defensive effort this session was devoted to ensuring that the state’s high academic standards were maintained. The State Board of Education has now been tasked by Gov. Ducey with reviewing our existing standards and replacing them with higher Arizona standards.

8)    Come fly with me. We averted unnecessary hassles to tourists and business travelers by seeing to passage legislation by Sen. Bob Worsley (H.B. 2609) that ensures Arizonans will be able to obtain identification that meets federal security standards to allow them to board commercial aircraft.

9)     Opening up international opportunities. The fiscal year 2016 budget wisely calls for the continued funding of Arizona’s trade office in Mexico City, the capital city of our largest trading partner. And Gov. Ducey made a great call when he named David Farca as the new president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission Board of Directors. David’s the perfect fit for this outstanding organization.  

10)   Keeping pace with technology. Gov. Ducey signed into law a bill by Rep. Jeff Weninger and Sen. David Farnsworth that opens up the growing crowdfunding space to individuals looking to purchase equity in a startup. This is an important bill that ensures our laws are properly aligned with emerging technology.

Respected national rankings continue to take notice of Arizona’s moves to improve its jobs environment. The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Rich States, Poor States report recently ranked Arizona number 5 for economic outlook. We made great progress this year, and expect to move up the charts again next year. 


Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


Experts share ‘wins and losses’ on Arizona state budget

Alberta Charney said she hasn’t heard much outrage from the business community over Arizona’s latest budget.

“Maybe we are used to it,” said the research economist at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. “We have seen so many cuts over the years.”

The fiscal 2016 budget is no different. Gov. Doug Ducey in March signed a $9.1 billion budget that adds some funding, but also trims millions from higher education and social service programs.

Business and economic experts said although they’re concerned about long-term implications on the state’s economy and job market, they also found some bright spots for the business community.

Cronkite News spoke to five experts to get their take on the highs and lows of the state budget. Here are their insights:

Win: Mexico trade office
In 2014, the Arizona State Trade and Investment Office in Mexico opened to expand the state’s business presence across the border.

State lawmakers included $300,000 to open the office in this year’s budget. And the state allocated the same amount to operate it for fiscal 2016, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority.

Mexico is a growing world market and Arizona’s most important trading partner, according to the authority. In 2013, trade generated between Arizona and Mexico exceeded $14 billion, the group said.

Allocating funds to keep this office during this budgetary time is a win, said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, Jim Rounds, a senior economist with consulting firm Elliott D. Pollack and Co., said it’s only a “win” if they’re successful in expanding business to Mexico.

Win: Tax reforms
Members of the business community said they were happy to see the tax reform competitiveness package, signed into law in 2011, remain on schedule.

This package includes phased-in reductions of the state’s corporate income tax down to 4.9 percent, among other reforms. The latest budget maintains the tax reforms the business community advocated for a few years ago, Hamer said.

“Businesses want to know with certainty that the environment will continue every year,” Hamer said, “providing the predictability in our tax environment that is necessary for economic growth.”

Rounds agreed it’s a win that lawmakers kept the tax reform. However, he said lawmakers need to “research first and put in the time to figure out where to get good return on investment.”

He said other investments may yield more than tax reform.

For business to remain competitive, the state needs to reduce the tax burden, said Dennis Hoffman, an economic expert at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Additionally, Ducey added indexing to income-tax brackets to account for inflation. Small business will benefit from millions in income that’s protected from being taxed at higher rates, Hamer said.

Win: Tourism
The state halted initial plans to cut $4.5 million from the Arizona Office of Tourism. Tourism is the state’s third-largest export industry and one of the largest state revenue generators, according to the Arizona Office Of Tourism.

“It’s a win, in this budgetary environment, to be able to preserve the budget of an agency so integral to the success of one of Arizona’s base industries is a very positive outcome,” Hamer said.

But, officials said, the budget still leaves the state short changed compared to neighboring states. Arizona has a $13.5 million tourism budget for fiscal 2016, while California’s is $100 million.

Loss: Higher education
The budget includes deep cuts for the state’s three universities: $99 million, a 13 percent cut.

“Some states are well endowed with college-educated people in the workforce and may not need to invest as much in their universities. That is not true of Arizona,” Hoffman said.

Experts agree that the larger share of college graduates in the labor force, the more prosperous the economy. As the world becomes more technologically advanced, skilled workers are imperative and it is “important to maintain a world class university system,” Hamer said.

Arizona business may have to look out of state to find skilled workers, which could increase search costs to find quality workers, said Daniel Herder, an Arizona State University student and president of the student economics association.

“It could, in fact, cause a bit of flight,” Herder said about people who must move out of state to find opportunities.

Rounds agreed that higher education funding is an important business concern. However, he said that in this current economy, lawmakers needed to make cuts.

He said he does not believe cuts to universities are permanent.

Hamer said that going forward, there is a consensus among experts that Arizona needs to put more resources into universities to keep Arizona businesses competitive.

Loss: Health care
Lawmakers voted to cut reimbursement by 5 percent to health care providers and ambulance services that serve Medicaid patients.

“We didn’t see wins in this budget at all,” said Greg Vigdor, president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Critics said the cut could cause long-term damage to the health care industry, one of the state’s more vibrant economic sectors.

The major factor for these losses is underpayment by government payers, particularly the state’s Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Containment System, according to the association.

The association predicts the repercussions in the health care industry are much larger than the savings.

“We are finally reaching the point with hospitals that it is too much of a hit,” Vigdor said.

Vigdor said cuts to the health care industry threaten hospitals’ ability to provide certain services and keep their doors open.

Since 2012, two rural hospitals in Arizona have shut down, according to the association.

Water Conservation, City of Phoenix

Proposed EPA water rule is all wet

If you need further evidence of the sometimes cartoonish level of ham-fisted management of environmental regulatory matters by the federal government, consider the proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to change the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act.

A coalition of over 30 business organizations led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently submitted comments in response to a rule proposed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers that could have a dramatic and negative effect on Arizona’s economy.

Under the EPA plan, there’s no telling what economic harm could be inflicted on the state by changing the definition of “waters of the United States,” since vast areas of Arizona would come under federal government jurisdiction for the first time. Existing federal law requires agencies to gather feedback from affected stakeholders – in this case farmers, ranchers and other businesses – in the rulemaking process to ensure potential economic impacts of a rule are fully understood. There was no such engagement process this time around. Instead the EPA simply said its proposal would “not have a significant economic impact,” cold comfort for businesses in Arizona facing a rule that would place new regulatory burdens on canals, ditches and other private property.

This is no small change that the feds are mulling. According to an analysis performed by the Central Arizona Project and the L. William Seidman Research Institute at ASU, CAP alone generated $1 trillion of Arizona gross state product from 1986-2010. That the administration did not engage in a robust consultation with affected stakeholders in an area that plays such an integral role in Arizona’s economic health would be unfathomable if it weren’t for the fact that we’ve become used to the feds’ mismanagement of federal-state environmental issues.

Arizona in just the last few years has seen its share of federal highway dollars put at risk as it battled with the EPA over the effect seasonal dust storms have on air quality readings in Maricopa County, and we’ve seen the future of the Navajo Generating Station jeopardized as part of a manufactured crisis over haze at our national parks that was really a proxy in the administration’s hardline against coal. Now we’re facing a proposed rule that would treat washes that fill with water only after big storms as navigable waterways and place them under federal regulation.

Arizona knows water management. To grow a vibrant economy in an arid desert is a remarkable feat that takes the dedication of committed professionals who understand fully the scarcity of water here.  CAP and our utilities around the state are leaders in water stewardship. But now Washington, D.C. bureaucrats are telling Arizona how to manage its water, using questionable science and far overstepping their authority under the Clean Water Act.

Arizona’s congressional delegation deserves credit for keeping a close eye on this. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake last week sent a strong letter to the EPA raising serious questions over the scientific basis for the proposed regulatory expansion, and Reps. David Schweikert, Paul Gosar, Trent Franks and Matt Salmon in June convened a hearing in Phoenix to field concerns over the rule.

No one doubts the importance of properly managing our water supply or the necessity of revisiting the Clean Water Act from time to time to ensure its effectiveness. But the latest proposed rule by the EPA needs to go back into the shop. If the agency wants to better understand Arizona’s unique water landscape, it can start by ensuring Arizonans are at the table the next time it develops such a far-reaching proposal.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which 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.

Restaurant Industry

NLRB puts thousands of small businesses, franchises at risk

Need convincing that the National Labor Relations Board is an agency in desperate need of a management change?

The NLRB, which ostensibly is charged with protecting workers’ rights and remedying unfair labor practices, has morphed into an arm of organized labor.

Consider the board’s hit parade of the last few years: There was the case against Boeing over the company’s decision to locate a new factory in right-to-work South Carolina; the Obama administration’s abuse of recess appointments to name a union sympathizer to the agency’s general counsel post; its obsession with card check, which would end workers’ right to a secret ballot in union elections; calling on employers to post notices about employees’ rights to join a union; and the pursuit of so-called snap elections, a way of ambushing employers with union elections before they can communicate their side of the argument to employees.

But now there’s another dubious distinction to add to the list, and the NLRB’s latest adventure has the potential to completely upend decades of the franchise restaurant business model.

In a late July determination, the NLRB found that McDonald’s Corp. could be treated as a joint employer with its franchisees in labor disputes. In other words, to the labor board, there is no daylight between the corporate parent and the franchisee operating his or her own restaurant.

The finding is not only potentially devastating to the restaurant industry, but to other businesses that rely on the franchisor-franchisee relationship, which affects many small businesses. It could also affect businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies.

Organized labor, which has long sought to unionize the fast-food industry, but that has seen its influence in the private sector on the wane, hopes the NLRB decision opens the door to union organizing in these restaurants. If there’s no difference between McDonald’s corporate and the franchisee at your neighborhood outlet the thinking goes, then unions might have new leverage to negotiate over organizing and higher minimum wages because they can pressure one corporate entity rather than hundreds of small businesses.

This is bigger than a minor administrative filing by an obscure agency within the federal government. Thousands of jobs are a stake here. More regulations and mandates inflicted on small businesses make hiring more expensive and investment more elusive. Entrepreneurs who take the risk to open a new restaurant, whether an established franchised brand or an exciting new concept, face plenty of obstacles without the government throwing up new barriers to entry. If these small businesses can’t get off the ground, they can’t hire, which will only hobble the economy, not help it.

The decision will be appealed and could even end up before the Supreme Court. This is far from over.
What is unlikely to cease, unfortunately, is this administration’s seemingly endless desire to insert itself into the employer-employee relationship. In its apparent desire to help workers, the government is doing far more harm than good for the individuals it claims to protect.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Steve Chucri is the president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association and supervisor for Maricopa County District 2.

Rob Dalager - Headshot

Dalager Re-Appointed to County Commission

The law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy announced that Robert D. Dalager has been re-appointed to serve on the Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments. Dalager was first appointed to the commission in January 2010.

The Arizona judicial system operates under merit selection, in which judges are chosen through a non-partisan commission of lawyers and non-lawyers which investigates and evaluates applicants. Dalager serves on the Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments, which is one of four judicial nominating commissions in the state of Arizona. He was nominated by Governor Janice Brewer and confirmed by the Senate for re-appointment to the commission in April. His term expires in January 2018.

Dalager is a shareholder practicing in the areas of government affairs and lobbying. Prior to joining Gallagher & Kennedy, he spent 13 years working directly with and for State government, ten of which as the Chief of Staff for the Arizona State Senate. In addition to his role with the Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments, he also serves on the board of directors for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is a member of the City of Phoenix Citizen’s Transit Commission, the Encanto Village Planning Committee and the Phoenix Pedestrian and Bicycle Task Force. He earned his J.D. from Creighton University and his B.S. from Arizona State University.

Cushman & Wakefield Leasing

The 2013 Hammer Awards

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; time to hand out some virtual hardware to the winners of the 4th annual Hammer Awards, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer’s look back at the wild and the wacky of the year in politics and anything else that’s on his mind.

State Leader of the Year: Gov. Jan Brewer

This one was a runaway. Not even close. The governor at the outset of the 2013 legislative session took on a set of issues that would make most elected officials wilt: Medicaid restoration and sales tax reform. She spearheaded highly effective campaigns on both issues, stood strong against a motivated opposition, and won the day in each case. Her accomplishments as governor are too numerous to mention, but she outdid herself this year, adding to her profoundly positive record for the state’s business environment for which the state will reap rewards for years to come. She’s building a legacy that will be tough to match.

National Politician of the Year: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Are you a Republican interested in running for statewide or national office? Take a lesson from two-time Hammer Award winner Gov. Chris Christie. The governor worked hard in his first term to burnish his image as pragmatic problem solver, and it paid off in 2013 when he won re-election in a route. Buoyed by a bevy of must-see YouTube videos, Gov. Christie made deep inroads into segments of the electorate that have been leaving the GOP in droves. I have no idea whether a Christie presidential campaign in 2016 will be a winning one, but his opponents underestimate him at their own peril.

Legislators of the Year: Reps. Debbie Lesko and Heather Carter

Some legislators get drafted into a fight, others volunteer. Rep. Debbie Lesko and Rep. Heather Carter volunteered to champion the year’s most contentious policy issues, and for that they each win a Hammer.

Rep. Lesko expertly navigated the thorny issues surrounding the reform of the state’s byzantine sales tax system in the face of an opposition that was perfectly willing to run out the clock on the legislative session and stick with the status quo. Rep. Lesko teamed with the governor’s tax guru, Michael Hunter, and refused to the let the session end without real reform.

Courage is an overused term in politics, but Rep. Carter has it in spades, as demonstrated by standing shoulder to shoulder with Gov. Brewer in her campaign to restore the Proposition 204 AHCCCS population. Rep. Carter didn’t waiver and remained committed in her belief that backing the governor’s plan was the right move. She was right on the policy, and I’m confident she’ll be proven right on the politics.

Rising Star of the Year: Adam Deguire

Rep. Matt Salmon’s Chief of Staff Adam Deguire has quietly become a mover and shaker in western politics. The Brophy grad has hit his stride as Rep. Salmon’s top aide after guiding Salmon’s return to Congress in the 2012 elections. Adam has done stints at the Republican National Committee as a field rep, was a senior level campaign and transition team aide to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in her 2010 run, and led the Hawaii GOP as its executive director. I always think it’s risky for a Hill office staff not to have ties back to the home state. Having Adam lead the staff and earn the frequent flyer miles between Phoenix and D.C. is a great move by Rep. Salmon, who will be well served by Adam’s commitment and loyalty.

Fighting the Good Fight: Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake

I’m in the camp that firmly believes that we’re going to see a true immigration reform package land on the president’s desk in 2014. (For those keeping score, I was also confident that we were going to get a deal in 2013, but who knew that a government shutdown and an amateur hour website were going to crowd out every other issue.) But as we sit here on the cusp of a transformative shot of adrenaline for the American economy, let’s give a Hammer where a Hammer is due. We would not have gotten this far were it not for Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake. Arizona is incredibly fortunate to have these men representing us in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

The Great Communicator: Matt Benson

Gov. Brewer has an outstanding team, including a few members who have won Hammers over the years. This year the governor’s former press secretary, Matt Benson, takes the honors for his outstanding work as the 9th Floor’s flack.

Issues like Medicaid restoration and TPT reform were incredibly complicated and they required their own public relations campaigns, but Matt communicated the governor’s positions on these and a host of other issues and acted as a liaison between the governor and her supporters, all while making it look easy. I should also note that there is no such thing as a day off for a gubernatorial press secretary, and Matt deserves a shout out for taking incoming fire from the fourth estate while he and his wife are still navigating the toddler years. Matt’s new firm, Veridus, is lucky to have this Hammer winner on board.

I Miss You, Man Award: David Cavazos

Phoenix is the best run big city in America. That’s in large part due to the dynamic Mayor Greg Stanton and a city council of professionals. But Phoenix this year bade farewell to its terrific city manager, David Cavazos. David was able to move effectively between different political factions in order to do what was right for the city. Having led efforts that ranged from attracting new investment to downtown Phoenix to spearheading trade missions to Mexico, he leaves big shoes to fill here. I don’t envy the search committee on this one.

A testament to David and Phoenix’s work is the appointment of Ed Zuercher as acting city manager. David left a great team behind as evidenced by Ed, a consummate professional, stepping into the top job.

An Apple a Day Award: Sandra Watson

I continue to be impressed by Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson’s talents. She’s taken the economic development toolbox assembled by the governor and Legislature and built something significant here. Constructing the deal that brought Apple to Mesa was a master stroke.

I can tell you from having traveled to Taiwan with the governor right after the deal was announced that bringing one of the most recognized brands to Arizona was a worldwide story. I did not expect dozens of Taiwanese reporters and businesspeople to pepper our delegation with questions about what makes Arizona so attractive to high-tech manufacturers. Sandra’s work is rippling around the glove, and for that she deserves a Hammer.

The Youngest Elder Statesman Award: Jaime Molera

The business community in 2013 rallied around Gov. Brewer’s health care restoration plan, but the campaign didn’t start to gel until Jaime Molera took on the role of a sort of campaign chairman. Jaime had the credibility and talent to bring together a host of lobbyists from across the health care and business community and assemble a dynamite team of political operatives to get the deal done. I hesitate to call a young man like Jaime an elder statesman, but the results leave little doubt that he was the right man for the job. Arizona owes a debt of gratitude to Jaime for stepping into the breach.

I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the work of Anne DeGraw, Jaime’s colleague at the firm of Molera-Alvarez, and Brittney Kauffman at the Arizona Chamber, both of whom ran the statewide campaign’s day-to-day affairs. Though he didn’t need it, they made Jaime look good.

The Mariano Rivera Best Closer Award: Jim Norton

On the last night of a legislative session, you can practically hear “Enter Sandman” echoing throughout the Capitol. This is the time that Chamber lobbyist and R&R Partners big shot Jim Norton shines.  When it comes to closing a deal, he’s the Mariano Rivera of lobbyists. He’s the best in the business, and I am incredibly fortunate not only to have him as the Chamber’s advocate at the Capitol, but to call him a friend.

He’s also a pretty good dancer. Give the man a Hammer.

The Legislative Branch Foreign Service Award: Speaker Andy Tobin and
his Mexico City trade delegation

Arizona in very recent history has had its share of missteps when it comes to our relationship with Mexico, which is why Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin and the seven legislators who traveled to Mexico City with him this year all deserve Hammers for hitting the reset button south of the border.

The speaker was joined by Rep. Tom Forese, Rep. Catherine Miranda, Rep. T.J. Shope, Rep. Karen Fann, Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla and Rep. Lydia Hernandez. The bipartisan delegation was received warmly by everyone we met from Mexico’s executive and legislative branches, with everyone appreciating the genuine effort made by the bipartisan Arizona delegation to make clear that we view the Arizona-Mexico relationship as a special one characterized by friendship and trust.

Also deserving recognition are Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who led their own delegation to Mexico City this year. Both the mayors’ and the speaker’s trips drove home the potential benefits that could be gained by putting down deeper roots and elevating our presence in Mexico’s political and financial capital.

The Next Great Buddy Cop Tandem: Luis Gonzalez and me

I had the pleasure earlier this year of traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico with a delegation led by Mayor Stanton. As a big baseball fan, I was thrilled when I found out Luis Gonzalez was joining our group as a representative of the Diamondbacks.

By the time trip was over, I had been able to give Luis my keen insights on the improper use of closers, the proper execution of a suicide squeeze play, hidden ball tricks and when to pitch out against left-handed batters. I got the feeling there was some real chemistry there, the kind that a Hollywood screenwriter might want to tap into for the next buddy cop hit. I sense box office gold.

Most Versatile Player Award: Steve Macias

One of the reasons I love my job is because I get to work with an absolutely first class board of directors. The boards of the Chamber and the Arizona Manufacturers Council are comprised of some of the most outstanding leaders in their industries across the state.

One of these leaders is Steve Macias, the chairman of the AMC. Steve is the consummate champion for manufacturing in Arizona. As the president of Pivot Manufacturing, Steve knows the shop floor firsthand, which makes him such an effective advocate for this critical sector of Arizona’s economy.

Steve does it all for the Chamber. In addition to chairing the AMC, he’s always willing to serve as a master of ceremonies or moderator, and he’s an outstanding writer, providing insight through his occasional Made in Arizona columns. And the guy’s got a biting wit. He deserves a Hammer.

The Milton Friedman Rock Star of the Year Award: Bono

U2 frontman Bono has long been a champion of foreign and charitable aid to Africa as a means to alleviate poverty across the continent.  But in a speech at Georgetown this year, he said, “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.”

Bono, your Chamber membership form and PAC solicitation are in the mail along with your Hammer.

Book of the Year: Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution
Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Goldwater Institute legal beagle Clint Bolick win the Hammer for their book Immigration Wars.

The book is an excellent piece of work, full of real, actionable solutions on the immigration front that could find themselves into the House’s immigration package.

Citizen Advocates of the Year: Linda Stanfield and Craig Barrett

One of them owns a plumbing franchise; the other is the former CEO of one of the world’s most respected tech companies. But both of them win a Hammer for stepping into the arena of public advocacy.

Linda Stanfield runs Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Arizona. She was the public face for TPT reform this year, testifying in committee hearings, appearing in campaign videos and standing alongside the governor at press conferences and, deservedly, at bill signing ceremonies. We need more Linda the Plumbers shaping policy in Arizona.

Craig Barrett heads Gov. Brewer’s Arizona Ready Education Council. He’s also the former CEO of Intel. If he wanted to, he could spend his days on a beach sipping mai tais, but instead he’s devoting his energy to ensuring that Arizona has an absolutely world-class education system, with high standards and expectations, accountable principals and teachers, engaged parents and students ready to learn.

Supreme Court Decision of the Year: Campaign contribution limits (award accepted by Rep. J.D. Mesnard)

Since it might seem unseemly to bestow state Supreme Court justices with the acclaim and notoriety that comes with a highly valued Hammer award, I’ll recognize state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, the architect of legislation that ushered in the modern era of political free speech in Arizona in a law recently upheld by the state’s highest court.

Also deserving recognition are attorney Mike Liburdi, who successfully argued in favor of the new contribution limits and Andy Gordon who, on behalf of the business community, filed an amicus brief that argued for the removal of aggregate limits on a candidate’s ability to accept PAC donations. Hammers all around!

Chairman of the Board: Rep. Tom Forese

Who needs a Hammer when you’ve got a gavel? Give Rep. Tom Forese a Hammer Award for expertly using his position as state House Commerce Committee chairman to hold informational hearings on topics that matter for Arizona’s economy. I was able to participate in his hearing on the state’s aerospace industry and the mining industry this year, and both were filled with outstanding content. There are true industry leaders in Arizona, and Rep. Forese deserves kudos for urging them share their knowledge with lawmakers.

From all of us at the Arizona Chamber, we wish you all the best this holiday season and in 2014.

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.  

real estate - expanding to california

Shine coming off the Golden State

The Tax Foundation in its 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index tells us something most of already know: California has high taxes. Really high.

In its state-by-state rankings, California checks in at 48, duking it out with New Jersey and New York at the bottom of the barrel. Breaking out the ranking in its component parts, California comes in at 45 for corporate taxes and 49 for individual tax rate.

The hits keep on coming. The California Taxpayers Association reports that California has the highest statewide sales tax in the nation and the country’s second-highest gasoline tax.

So it doesn’t take an economic development wizard to figure out that California’s pain could be Arizona’s gain. After all, while our governor and Legislature have been reforming Arizona’s tax code to make it friendlier to business, California has been going in the opposite direction.

As the Arizona Commerce Authority made clear last week in a presentation by ACA CEO Sandra Watson before the House Committee on Commerce, our state’s job creation authority is well aware that our proximity to California and our fertile jobs environment can drive job growth here at home.

But as Watson said in her testimony, “the opportunity in California goes way beyond a tax discussion.” The state’s California strategy is about opening doors to the world’s ninth largest economy and taking advantage of the opportunities our nearness to that market allows.

The ACA has set up offices in Santa Clara and Santa Monica where it has two executives working full-time as market representatives, spreading the word about what Arizona has to offer for firms exploring expansion, while also helping Arizona take advantage of the benefits our proximity to California has to offer, such as improved supply chain access.

As Chamber board member Pete Bolton of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank said at the same hearing, the tremendous growth in warehousing seen in the West Valley can be attributed to logistics. The area, according to Bolton is “zoned properly and that’s where the trucks come from. You get on I-8 and mostly I-10, it is a very serious line of trucks coming from the ports. The ports in Los Angeles distribute a huge amount of the products that we all consume.”

Sharing a border with California is advantageous to our other neighbors as well.  Currently, Texas and Mexico are tied for the 14th largest economies in the world and they, too, enjoy the access to California that Arizona provides. Arizona is well positioned to easily ship goods to market, while companies looking to hire California talent can set up shop in Arizona and have easy access to that talent pool.

As Watson pointed out, “Businesses generally don’t pay attention to a state border when they’re looking at access to markets. They’re going to ship their goods in and out, [and] they’re going to access the talent in those markets.”

Arizona is making tremendous strides in emerging technology and aerospace and defense. Having a flag planted in California, home to venture capital firms looking to invest in the next big thing, means opening doors for Arizona firms looking to be that next big thing. Beyond just access to capital, locating in Arizona means Arizona companies can enjoy the benefits of California without the high cost of doing business next door.

But the ACA’s strategy in California is more than just one state versus another or one region’s