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Showing posts tagged with: Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

Statewide Policy Tour Makes First Stop in South St. Paul to Deliver 2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials

Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul (June 2017) – As a member of the Minnesota Chamber Federation, the River Heights Chamber of Commerce was proud to have long-time member, Waterous Company, host the first stop on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Statewide Policy Tour on May 31st in South St. Paul.

A little history about our host: Waterous has been making quality, American-Made firefighting related products since 1886. Waterous made complete apparatus including horse-drawn, steam-driven hose carts until 1929 when the focus changed to manufacture fire pumps. NOW – Waterous still builds revolutionary fire suppression systems and holds true to the philosophy “Cast, Machine, Assemble and Test our pumps in America.” You can count on Waterous to provide you with the utmost in quality products and customer service.

Statewide Policy Tour: The tour included 25 business representatives from Inver Grove Heights, South St. Paul, Eagan, Bloomington, St. Paul and surrounding communities who got to hear from Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Director of Environmental Policy and Director of Education & Workforce Development from the Minnesota Chamber, first-hand (days after the special session concluded), on results of the Federation’s legislative priorities that have weighed on businesses and families in our communities over the past year and prior.

The Minnesota Chamber lobbying team noted, “The Minnesota Chamber clearly delivered on your priorities this year. All the top priorities were signed into law except for one – the Uniform State Labor Standards Act – and that passed both the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Dayton. Our legislative victories will better position your company, and all of Minnesota, to be ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.”  They added, “The Legislature went into special session to avoid a government shutdown. Governor Dayton signed all the budget bills and tax bills, but more negotiations may be coming. He line-item vetoed the House and Senate legislative budgets in an attempt to force leadership back to the table to undo provisions he already signed into law: the repeal of the automatic inflator on the statewide business property tax levy and cigarette taxes; the increase in the estate tax threshold; teacher licensing reforms; and rulemaking prohibitions on drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. His vetoes are headed for a court challenge.”

The conclusion of this legislative session highlighted significant progress on a range of business needs stated below. Our successes are at the foundation of your success.

  • BUSINESS TAX RELIEF: We delivered biggest tax relief for all Minnesotans since 2001
  • TRANSPORTATION: We delivered largest investment in roads and bridges since 2008 – without increase in taxes or fees
  • HEALTH CARE: We delivered more options for small businesses to provide employee coverage
  • LAWSUIT REFORM: We delivered protection for businesses targeted with abusive lawsuits
  • ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS: We delivered reasonable and responsible improvements to state environmental review and permitting
  • EDUCATION/WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: We delivered on workforce needs including K-12 reforms, early learning, housing and childcare funding
  • LABOR/MANAGEMENT: We preserved the effectiveness of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council process
  • ENERGY AND TELECOM: We delivered savings on energy costs and improved communications infrastructure

UNIFORM LABOR STANDARDS
Our biggest disappointment was the Governor’s veto of the Uniform State Labor Standards Act that would have explicitly prevented local governments from mandating local wage and benefit packages on private employers. We adamantly oppose government interference – at any level – in private-sector employee benefits, especially a local patchwork of mandates,” added the Minnesota Chamber.

Our lawsuit continues against the city of Minneapolis. The Minneapolis and St. Paul paid sick and safe time ordinances are scheduled to go into effect July 1. The Hennepin County District Court has ruled that Minneapolis may not enforce its ordinance against “any employer resident outside the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis” until there’s a decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals. As a result, St. Paul is imposing its ordinance only on those businesses with a physical location within its boundaries. Our lawsuit is scheduled for a July 11 hearing before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which then must issue a decision within 90 days.

Members of the business community shared the following items they would like to see the Minnesota Chamber Federation continue to work on and advocate for in the 2018 Legislative Session: create uniform labor standards, create more health care cost solutions for small businesses and individual plans, secure social security tax relief and education reform for ensuring effective teachers and funding for early childhood education.

For more detailed information on each priority’s results, please visit the River Heights Chamber’s website here.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is a business organization who aggressively promotes the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit our website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

Stay Connected with the River Heights Chamber on our social media sites FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

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Fighting Workplace Mandates on Two Fronts

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials

Column By: Doug Loon, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

The Minnesota Chamber continues to challenge workplace mandates at the Legislature and in the courts. A recent court ruling underscores the importance of our parallel efforts.

A Minneapolis ordinance is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017, that requires businesses to provide paid sick time to employees. St. Paul has a similar ordinance scheduled to take effect the same date. Duluth is considering enacting its own set of workplace regulations. It’s only time before similar measures come to a city near you.

In October 2016, the Minnesota Chamber brought a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis asking the court to do two things: No. 1, issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its “paid sick and safe time” ordinance on any businesses; No. 2, permanently rule the ordinance unlawful.

The Hennepin County District Court delivered a mixed ruling on January 19. Judge Mel I. Dickstein said Minneapolis may not enforce its ordinance on employers “resident outside the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis.” He also ordered that, for now, the city could enforce the ordinance against employers within the city. We are appealing the decision.

The judge’s mixed ruling underscores the importance of our efforts at the Capitol to pass the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, which would prohibit local governments from passing their own mandates on wages, benefits and scheduling. The Act would keep Minnesota’s laws uniform, our communities open for business, and our economy thriving for all.

The legislation is being spearheaded by the United for Jobs Coalition, a broad-based coalition of local chambers of commerce and business associations led by the Minnesota Chamber.

We do not believe the state should dictate private-sector employee benefits. The only thing worse than state government dictating one-size-fits-all mandates on all employers is for local governments to do so, thus creating a patchwork of local laws for businesses to navigate across the state. Minnesota’s economic strength is due to a diverse business landscape. Distinctive operations and workplace needs require that employers have the flexibility to develop wages and salaries, benefits, policies and procedures that best serve the mutual needs of employer and employees.

Borrowing a sports phrase, the best defense is a strong offense. Minnesota employers consistently receive national recognition for providing tremendous workplace environments. We will continue to challenge workplace mandates. At the same time, legislators also need to hear about the voluntary wages and benefit plans employers use to attract and retain employees in this competitive marketplace. Minnesota businesses increasingly are offering leave plans that meet the needs of employees such as offer paid maternity and paternity leave, paid sick and safe leave, and other benefits– without state or local mandates. Please share your best practices by contacting Jennifer Byers at 651.292.4673 or jbyers@mnchamber.com.

Minnesota Legislative Priorities Update Video

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy

Check out the latest video from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce regarding the 2017 legislative priority to reform health care. Bentley Graves, director, Health & Transportation Policy, gives a progress report on our 2017 Health Care Policy.

Voters Demand Progress at Legislature

Nicole Bengtson
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Business Ideas, Editorials

Voters Demand Progress at Legislature

By: Jennifer Gale, President, River Heights Chamber & Doug Loon, President Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

Change swept the nation in this year’s elections as America woke up to a President-Elect Donald Trump in his upset victory over Hillary Clinton. Change propelled the shakeup in Minnesota’s political landscape, too, as Minnesotans affirmed their support for divided government. The Legislature is now firmly Republican. The executive branch remains Democrat under Governor Mark Dayton.

Voters were also crystal clear about their expectations that the Governor and Legislature will govern – that they will work together to develop, debate and pass solutions to our state’s most pressing problems. No stalemates. No stagnation. Our policymakers must use the experience of the last two years to build a record of progress that all Minnesotans will be proud of. The River Heights Chamber, Minnesota Chamber and our local partners are ready to do our part.

The election offers some key takeaways:

  • Personal economics were on Minnesotans minds – especially health care, but also economic growth and wage growth. Everyone wants to be part of a growing economy.
  • Good candidates and hard work produce solid results.
  • The House and Senate are mirroring each other in the state’s political landscape. Democrats are being elected primarily in the urban core and are increasingly liberal; Republicans hail in primarily the outer ring suburbs and regional centers.
  • Republicans are making substantive gains in the suburbs that we have not seen for years.

The Senate now stands at 34 Republicans and 33 Democrats, according to unofficial results. Two races are within the vote totals that trigger automatic recounts. Margins in the House are larger with 76 Republicans and 57 Democrats elected. In addition, one House seat remains unresolved; a special election is scheduled for February 14 for District 32B.

We are ready to present, discuss and help pass solutions that will accelerate the development and growth of our local and statewide economy. The MN Chamber’s annual Minnesota Business Benchmarks provides an excellent springboard for our legislative agenda. The River Heights Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors will be reviewing these priorities for 2017:

  • Reduce business taxes that undermine growth, entrepreneurship and expansion of Minnesota businesses.
  • Pass long-term, comprehensive transportation package that increases investment in the state’s multimodal infrastructure.
  • Allow flexibility in workplace regulations and oppose one-size-fits-all mandates; pass statewide pre-emption of local labor mandates.
  • Provide employers with more options and greater flexibility in providing health care coverage for employees.

The election provides the political landscape for the 2017 Legislature. The budget forecast will set the financial parameters. The 2016 Legislature adjourned with a $729 million surplus for FY 2016/17 which will likely change in the December 2nd report.  We are most effective at the Capitol when we build relationships and elect legislators who understand business issues.

The 2017 Legislature convenes January 4, and our work has already begun. The election results are shaping our 2017 proposals. Now, policymakers and business leaders must work collectively to adopt them. That way we will be ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.

Minnesota Chamber Releases Minnesota Business Benchmarks

Nicole Bengtson
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Business Ideas, Editorials

Minnesota Chamber Releases Minnesota Business Benchmarks
Annual report reaffirms innovative, skilled talent; workforce shortage a growing concern

A talented workforce remains a backbone of a growing Minnesota economy, according to the Minnesota Business Benchmarks. But the second annual report produced by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and its local Chamber Federation partners cautions that Minnesota could be losing its advantage.

“Our members regularly cite shortage of workers and high taxes as the two biggest impediments to growing and investing in Minnesota. The difficulty of finding workers at all skill levels across all industries is a huge issue for Minnesota businesses,” Chamber President Doug Loon said. “The problem already is exacerbated by a slowing growth in the working-age population coupled with the retiring baby boomers. Plus, we struggle with the persistent achievement gap among students of color.”

The report highlights an additional strain on the workforce. Minnesota is losing more people to other states than it is gaining. This trend is hindering growth opportunities for many companies, Loon said.

Business Benchmarks is a collection of key economic indicators that measure Minnesota’s competitiveness and the health of the state’s economy compared with the rest of the country. Comprehensive, objective data was compiled from sources such as state and federal agencies.

Minnesota continues to lead in many categories, the report shows. But it is slipping in key areas, too.

On the positive front, innovation remains a trademark with Minnesota ranking fourth highest among states in patents per capita. The state ranks second in the nation for residents with at least a two-year degree.  It is 10th best in concentration of STEM jobs – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The good news/bad news dynamics, however, are reflected in economic growth, Loon said. Minnesota ranked 13th among states for GDP growth in 2015, up from 27th the previous year and tied at the national average of 2.4-percent growth. That improvement, however, was largely on the strength of the first quarter. Minnesota ranked 41st when viewing GDP growth for the final three quarters of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.

Minnesota improved in job growth and personal income growth but still lags the national averages – ranking 29th and 30th, respectively, Loon noted. And its standing in key tax categories was largely unchanged from 2014. The state is still third highest in the nation for its corporate and income tax rates, and second highest for some business property taxes.

The Business Benchmarks provides an excellent springboard for priorities to focus on at the 2017 Legislature, Loon said. Policymakers and business leaders must work collectively to build on the state’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses.

“We cannot rest on our past successes. We must continue to adapt to changing competitive pressures,” Loon said. “Our work at the Minnesota Chamber is to make Minnesota ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.”

For the full report, click here.