Archive for June, 2012

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lists States Seen Growing, Creating Jobs

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

WASHINGTON–North Dakota, Utah and Texas will likely be leaders in the next decade when it comes to growth and job creation, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released ahead of the group’s jobs summit on Wednesday.

Rounding out the top 10 “future boom states” are Virginia, Wyoming, Washington, Maryland, Colorado, South Dakota and Massachusetts, according to the Chamber’s report on enterprising states.

“Businesses need a highly skilled workforce — including many workers with certificate or two-year degrees — that is able to perform the jobs of a 21st century economy,” according to the report. “States that are able to get students involved in…science, technology, engineering, and math – and provide the tools, support, and tax and regulatory environment for companies to continuously innovate will be the most competitive.”

For full story, visit their website.

Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce Awarded Five-Star Accreditation from U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

The United States Chamber of Commerce has awarded the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce with a five-star accreditation, its highest accreditation level, for high quality, expertise and strong leadership. Of the nearly 7,000 chambers of commerce in the United States, the Aurora Chamber is one of only 77 to be distinguished with five stars, placing it in the top one percent. Only nine chambers in Illinois are accredited; Chicagoland, Naperville, and Springfield share five-star designation with the Aurora Chamber.

In order to receive accreditation, a chamber must meet rigorous standards in their operations and programs, including areas of governance, government affairs, program development, human resources and staff development, finance, communications, facilities, and technology.

“We’re very proud of this recognition and want to thank those who worked on the application, including the Board of Directors, volunteers, and various committees,” said Joseph B. Henning, IOM, ACE, president and CEO of the Aurora Chamber. “Ultimately, this honor is another opportunity to promote our mission of providing the citizens and businesses of the Aurora and North Aurora region with professional growth, leadership, advocacy, connection-building and economic development.”

“This is the first time we have attained the top honors of a Five-Star Accreditation. We are fortunate to be an integral part of this community and are thrilled to have earned such distinction and recognition from the U.S. Chamber. We look forward to doing even more for our members in the days to come—it’s our passion,” added Henning. “Our chamber’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for business success in the communities we serve, including Aurora and North Aurora. We will continue to strive for the best through leadership, political action, and dynamic programs to promote economic vitality for our members and community.”

“Accreditation validates a chamber as having programs that benefit their local economy and for positively influencing action in their community,” said Raymond P. Towle, IOM, CAE, U.S. Chamber Executive Director of Political Affairs and Federation Relations. ”We applaud these organizations for advancing the principles of free enterprise.”

When we accredit the Aurora Regional Chamber, we’re saying this is a chamber whose governance, financing, programs, and staff are responding to the needs of today, not the needs of yesterday, he added.

The U.S. Chamber gave special recognition to the Aurora Chamber in many areas, including its financial policies, its government affairs and political action committee activities, as well at its strategic planning and annual planning documents.

In recognizing the Chamber, U.S. Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue wrote, “Accreditation is one of the highest honors bestowed on chambers that support pro-growth and economic policies at the federal, state, and local level. This distinction honors (Aurora Chamber’s) commitment to helping advance the principles of free enterprise – the bedrock of our great country.”

“This five-star accreditation demonstrates our success in community leadership and organizational strength by being among the top in the nation for financial and membership development as well as making a measurable impact on key community priorities in areas like economic development, technology, education, transportation, healthcare, and cultural vitality,” said Bill Winsininski, chair of the chamber board.

Winsininski added, “The chamber’s programs serve to improve the quality of life in the Aurora region by recruiting and retaining business and a quality workforce. When the needs of business and industry are met, the community prospers.”

The application was delivered to the U.S. Chamber in time for their March 31, 2012, deadline, and the Chamber was notified of its accreditation ranking last week. The Aurora Regional Chamber was the only chamber to receive five-star accreditation during this round of applications. The accreditation lasts for five years until 2017.

This accreditation program by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the only national program that recognizes chambers for effective organizational procedures and community involvement. The accreditation program was established in 1969.

About the Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

About Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce was established in 1906. It has been an accredited chamber since 2007, most recently with a four-star accreditation. It is the largest business association serving the communities of Aurora, North Aurora and the surrounding region.

Special Summer Session Expected

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The House and Senate adjourned last night. While a number of advances were made, one major issue was left to be finalized. As a result, legislators will return to Springfield this summer to continue their efforts to put Illinois back on a positive track for finances and economic development. Below is a highlight on much of the session’s key developments.

Pensions
You’ve seen on both traditional and new media the frustration that began blanketing Springfield this week on the topic of pension reform. The Illinois Chamber reports, “Collective sighs of disappointment were heard across the state when the House adjourned without voting on pension reform around 10:00 p.m. last night.”

After a few days of emotional rants and bickering back and forth, Republican Leader Cross stated they would not be calling pensions for a vote. As you’ll remember, Speaker Madigan turned over sponsorship of SB1673 to Cross on Wednesday. Republicans were opposed to the cost shift language Madigan included in the bill and would not be voting for the proposal. Madigan then dropped sponsorship and Cross provided a new amendment that did not include the cost shift to downstate and suburban school districts. The amendment passed committee 8-1 and many were left wondering about the roll call.

Later in the day, Speaker Madigan claimed he would not be voting for the new proposal and therefore, most of the 30 Democrat votes dropped off. Both sides of the aisle had previously agreed to put 30 votes each on the issues for a bipartisan agreement. Once it was clear there weren’t enough votes, representatives decided to adjourn without a vote.

Over in the Senate, some progress was made. The Senate approved HB1447 which includes state employees and General Assembly retirement systems. The language in this package is similar to that in SB1673 in regards to COLA and access to health care. Not included in HB1447 was the teachers’ retirement system so therefore, no cost shift language to vote or not vote on. The House has not voted on HB1447.

State and local chambers supported SB1673 as amended by Cross to remove the cost shift language. Governor Quinn has stated that he will be meeting with all four leaders to discuss pensions within the next week so that they can negotiate on an agreement before calling rank and file legislators to town for a vote. It does not appear that it will be a long, brutal summer full of useless summer sessions but there is still a lot to be negotiated on. Especially since another dreaded three word phrase is now needed: three-fifths majority. Legislators are ramping up their summer campaigns and will likely want to get this vote done.

We applaud our elected officials, especially Leader Cross, for their leadership in addressing these difficult issues.

Budget
The Senate voted on the House’s budget bills on the final day of adjournment and proposed a new one of their own. According to Senate Democrats, the final budget spends $671 million less than FY12. Senate Republicans claim that spending will rise to almost $400 million and $1.4 billion over the current budget once the cigarette tax is included. Some highlights in the package include:
• Spending will fall within the $33.7 billion revenue estimate
• $1.3 billion is set aside to pay off old bills
• Medicaid reductions resulting in $2.7 billion in savings

The budget bills that passed both Houses are SB2332, SB2378, SB2409, SB2443, SB2413, SB2348, SB2454 and SB2474. The Senate then proposed its own bill to supplement education in SB2365. This has not yet been voted on by the House.

Medicaid
The legislature kept their word in making cuts to a massive burden on the state’s fiscal condition: Medicaid. While it was difficult to do, legislators understood how dire the situation was. The final package ended up being three bills tied together so that if one of the bills failed, the whole package failed.

SB2840 House amendment 4 contains $1.6 billion in Medicaid reductions by way of eligibility and benefit reforms and utilization controls (the remaining $300 million comes from paying off old FY 2012 bills). Read the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ chart outlining the provisions in SB2840.

HB5007 authorizes Cook County to apply for a federal waiver to collect federal match for adults 133% of FPL in the Medicaid program. House amendment 1 to SB3397 will require the Department to pay down outstanding Medicaid liabilities by limiting the amount of unpaid Medicaid bills the state can roll over to $700 million this upcoming fiscal year (which starts July1) and $100 million for each fiscal year thereafter, starting in FY 2014.

SB 2194 contains the remaining $800 million in revenue needed to achieve the $2.7 billion in Medicaid reductions for FY 2013. The bill contained a $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax and other tax increases on tobacco products, as well as provisions enhancing the hospital assessment program and provisions defining charity care requirements for maintaining property tax exemptions for non-profit providers.

Gaming
Another year and another gaming proposal was introduced. The new proposal would allow slot machines at horse racetracks; and adds new casinos in Lake County, Chicago, the south suburbs, Rockford and Danville. Quinn has previously stated his opposition to slots at the tracks. After many months of debate, the sponsors included many of Quinn’s requests in the new proposal: no slots at the fairgrounds or airports and tightened oversight provisions. However, Quinn came out in opposition again due to the bill not including a ban on campaign contributions from gaming groups.

Proponents claim that the new casinos would generate $300 million to $1 billion in revenue each year. It will also raise a one-time $1.1 billion in license and gaming position fees as well as create more jobs and economic development. SB1849 passed the House 69-47-2 and the Senate30-26-3.

The Aurora Chamber again thanks its elected officials in Springfield for opposing this expansion: Representatives Linda Chapa LaVia, Kay Hatcher, Tim Schmitz, and Darlene Senger as well as Senators Linda Holmes, Thomas Johnson, and Chris Lauzen voted in opposition of the legislation.

Capital Plan

A new capital plan surfaced yesterday. HB4568 provides $1.6 billion in bonding to continue funding the Illinois Jobs Now capital improvement plan. The projects funded in HB4568 have already been approved through the Jobs plan and will keep the projects on schedule for updating. This legislation was approved by both chambers and moves to the Governor.

Taxes
Two new taxes were passed this week. HB5342 taxes offshore oil rigs operated by Illinois companies and was passed out of the Senate Thursday but was not voted on in the House. HB5440 puts a 5% tax on satellite television service. This was also approved by the Senate but not voted on in the House before adjournment.

Tenaska
Tenaska proponents attempted yet again to get their Taylorville facility passed by the legislature. The original legislation contained language for a new clean coal facility that would be too costly to taxpayers and force consumers to buy their product for 30 years while producing electric generation that isn’t needed. A new proposal would have dropped the clean coal aspect completely and be based around a natural gas plant. This new plan would not have made much more sense and was never heard in committee. SB678 floundered in House committees and was never passed out to the floor.

Enterprise Zones
Enterprise zones finally got taken up with House amendment 1 to SB3616 which passed both Houses. Overall the bill provides that as existing enterprise zones expire their zone designation becomes available to all local labor markets that want to apply for the enterprise zone designation. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will establish, by rule, a process for applying for open enterprise zone designations. New zones will have a possible 25 year life—with initial designation for no more than 15 years, with a possible 10 year renewal.

Minimum Wage Law

The Chamber – again in partnership with several local chambers and the Illinois Chamber – opposed SB1565 to increase the minimum wage. The proposed legislation would amend the Minimum Wage Law to include limitations on the definition of “employee.” It also provides a procedure for increasing the minimum wage annually to restore the minimum wage to its historic level and thereafter increasing the minimum wage by the increase in the cost of living during the preceding year. It further served as a disadvantage to our business members by deleting language pertaining to temporary or irregular employees and to employees under the age of 18.

The Chamber will continue to advocate for a fair and friendly business climate for our region. Our ability to create a more business-friendly environment in the State depends on the input and support of our business members as well as the coalitions and partnerships that we can maintain with other business associations and chambers of commerce. If you have any questions regarding any policy issues, please contact the Aurora Chamber at advocacy@aurorachamber.com.