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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.

Hamer - June 2011-fornewsletter

Gap is Narrowing on Immigration Reform

Various Arizona Chamber and business leaders have made numerous visits to Washington, D.C. over the years to push for reform of our nation’s badly broken immigration system. As a border state, we understand this issue well. For years, the business community in Arizona has been pressing Congress and the Administration for a secure border, workable visa and guest worker programs, nationwide employee verification programs such as E-Verify, and a way for those who did not enter the country legally but are now contributing to our state to get right with the law, especially those brought to this country as children. The failure of the federal government to act resulted in Arizona and many other states trying to do immigration reform on their own, resulting in a patchwork of policies nationwide.

But it is obvious today that all roads to reform lead through Washington, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. U.S., which held that state attempts to regulate immigration were preempted by federal immigration law.

This past Tuesday, when a group of about 20 Arizona business, faith and law enforcement leaders visited with all nine of our U.S. House members, we were not alone. Over 600 leaders from over 40 states took to Capitol Hill to urge House Members, with a focus on the Republican majority, to support bringing legislation to the floor this year.

I had the privilege to address the gathering on Monday night at the opening reception to discuss why reform is so important and beneficial to our economy and security. Our country’s greatest comparative advantage is that the best, brightest and hardest workers from across the globe desire to work in our country.

Before we hit the Hill on Tuesday, we gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to prepare. The U.S. Chamber and their Senior Vice President Randel Johnson have been the lead business organization on this entire reform effort. At the kickoff meeting we heard from conservative icon Grover Norquist, who made the free-market case for reform.  Former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Rebecca Tallent of the Bipartisan Policy Center remarked that all credible studies of reform point to significant economic and budgetary benefits. Fresno County (Calif.) Sheriff Margaret Mims made a compelling case for the increased security reform could bring. Faith leaders offered a humanitarian case for reform, and our delegation was joined by a number of pastors working in coordination with a coalition called Bibles, Badges and Business.

While in Washington, we had the good fortune to run into ASU President Michael Crow, who is a strong supporter of reform. Our universities would benefit enormously from federal action. As Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein says, “Our ability to produce a highly-skilled workforce and thriving research enterprise that stimulate a growing, vibrant economy for Arizona will be strengthened by balanced immigration laws that promote access to education and economic opportunities.”

Our conversations with our House delegation were positive. While it is fair to say that there were differences in approach, all of our representatives agree that our nation’s immigration system is badly broken, and I believe that they all want to have a hand in getting it fixed.

While we are very proud and thankful for the hard and good work of our two U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, in crafting the Senate immigration proposal, it is clear that the House, as is its right, will draft its own plan and proceed with a series of bills as opposed to an omnibus. In fact, five different bills ranging from border security measures to efforts to fix some of our visa problems in the high-tech and agricultural sectors have passed two different House committees.

All agreed that we need to enhance our border security. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery offered some suggestions on changes that would allow for him to be more effective in assisting in border security. Nationwide use of E-Verify, a system already in wide use in Arizona due to the requirements of the Legal Arizona Workers Act, is another common area of support. And all agree on the need for visa reform, although there are some differences in scope. There may be an effort in the House to expand on the number of lower-skilled visas available as compared to the Senate bill.

The most difficult issue is how to deal with the 11 million who did not enter this country legally. There is growing support for some type of legalization, and even citizenship for the Dreamers, those individuals brought to the U.S. as children. But it is hard to imagine the citizenship language in the Senate bill passing in the House.

Although there are differences between the Senate and House, those differences are narrowing. But as one of our congressmen told our group, if the House is faced with making an all or nothing choice when considering the Senate legislation, the House will go with nothing.

Hard work will be required to get a package passed. This is not naming a post office. This could be the first significant immigration legislation to pass since 1986. This will take real leadership from Congress and the White House, where our president needs to channel his inner Bill Clinton and put on the charm on Capitol Hill.

Leadership from the business community will be required, too. If the House considers reform this year, job creators from across the country should welcome the opportunity to help broker a deal between the House, Senate and President Obama. We’re doing our part in Arizona, and we’ll keep at it until a deal gets done.

Postscript: I want to thank everyone who joined our team to urge Congress to pass an immigration reform package.

Barry Broome, President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
Lea Marquez Peterson, President and CEO, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney
Jack Harris, former police chief, City of Phoenix
Mary Ann Miller, President and CEO, Tempe Chamber of Commerce
Chad Heinrich, Vice President of Public Policy and Economic Development, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Vice Mayor Tony Rivero, City of Peoria
Steve Moore, President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pastor Gary Kinnaman
Pastor Bob Hake, Orangewood Church, Phoenix
Pastor Dan Steffen, Pure Heart Christian Fellowship, Glendale
Nan and Dick Walden, Farmers Investment Co., Sahuarita, Ariz.
Russell Johnson, President and CEO, Merchants Information Solutions, Inc.
Adam Estle, Bibles, Badges and Business
Brett Hunt, Bibles, Badges and Business

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. 

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. 

immigration

I love it when a plan comes together

This is a heady time for supporters of real immigration reform. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including our own John McCain and Jeff Flake, have announced their support for a framework of sweeping changes that have long been supported by Arizona’s – and the nation’s – business community.

It is natural that Senators McCain and Flake are at the forefront of this effort. They have been consistent voices for reasonable changes to our immigration system that will secure our borders and grow our economy.

We are seeing real leadership on display. To have a New York Democrat like Chuck Schumer standing next to Florida Republican Marco Rubio, someone who could easily sit this one out in order to protect his status as the latest potential GOP presidential nominee du jour, is an example of putting policy over politics that we could use more of.

That’s not to say that there aren’t politics at play here. Just look at the walloping the Republicans took from Hispanic and Asian voters last November to get a sense of why that party would be wise to alter its posture towards this fast-growing demographic. But as someone who has done his time in the trenches of partisan politics, a bold move like this one won’t necessarily earn valentines from grassroots activists.

Here’s the framework for legislative action on immigration reform that the senators laid out:

1.  Creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here that is contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays;

2.   Improving our legal immigration system and attracting the world’s best and brightest;

3.  Strong employment verification; and

4.  Admitting new workers and protecting workers’ rights.

This emerging framework and the cast of characters involved make me truly optimistic that there is a very real opportunity to advance immigration reform in 2013.

The desire to find a way to keep and attract high tech workers is especially encouraging. Even when unemployment was coming dangerously close to double digits, time and again I heard from employers who were having trouble finding qualified workers. Yet we have a visa system that will train up potential workers in sought after fields through our universities, and then wish them well as they head back to their home countries, and it’s almost a consensus item that we have to fix our broken agriculture worker visa system.

As the president said in his speech Monday in Las Vegas, “… the time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. […] I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.”

The fact that the world’s most talented and hardest working want to come to the United States is an asset that no other country can claim. It speaks to the dynamism of our people, culture and economy. I can personally attest that it was a net win when my wife, Tali, and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Israel. Ask North Korea about how well they’re doing attracting new immigrants and you‘ll get a sense of how beneficial immigration can be to a country’s health.

We can secure our borders and secure our economy. Let’s get this done this year.

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. http://www.azchamber.com/

Arizona School Choice Trust

Arizona School Choice Trust, Tax Credit Gives Students Hope

The mission of Arizona School Choice Trust is to provide hope and opportunity to Arizona’s neediest children. We need your help to continue to provide educational options to these desperate families. Corporations can be a part of our amazing success stories by participating in Arizona’s Corporate Tax Credit Program. Corporations with an Arizona corporate income tax or insurance premium tax liability can redirect up to 100 percent of their tax liability to Arizona School Choice Trust and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contribution. The process to enroll is very simple, and it costs nothing to participate — but it makes all the difference to families across Arizona.

One grateful scholarship recipient, Jorge, recently spoke at the Arizona capitol about his experience in the program.  He called the opportunities he has received “life transforming.” His mother Lydia added, “the education provided with generous tax credit contributions has allowed Jorge to reach his true potential.”

Another story of a life touched by School Choice is told by foster parent Carol. Anthony spent the first years of his life in poverty, even experiencing homelessness. Carol says, “Thank you to the many donors who have found it in their hearts to give children like Anthony an opportunity for a better life.”

Our success stories are the reason we are so dedicated to School Choice. We believe that every child deserves the chance to reach their potential. Arizona School Choice Trust scholarships make that possible.

Arizona School Choice Trust is leading the way with new and innovative outreach to the community. In addition to working closely with school choice leaders statewide, we were proud to participate in one of the largest school choice celebrations in the nation.

One highlight of School Choice Week 2012 was a Congressional Town Hall held on January 24th. It was a great opportunity for supporters, educators and children alike to hear directly from their representatives in Washington DC. Participating in the event were Congressman Trent Franks, Congressman Ben Quayle, Congressman David Schweikert and Congressman Jeff Flake. The Congressmen answered questions posed by moderator Jonathan Butcher, Goldwater Institute’s education director, and Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. Attendees voiced strong support for expanded school choice options and encouraged their representatives to continue fighting on behalf of Arizona’s children.

To watch videos from this town hall, or to learn more about Arizona School Choice Trust, visit asct.com. Here, you can learn more here about how your corporation can participate in the growing school choice movement as well.