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Tue, Sept. 17

Chamber of Commerce works with government on businesses' behalf

One of the sometimes overlooked benefits of membership in the Prescott Chamber of Commerce is the work that the chamber does on behalf of its members to represent the interests of business with government. For example, each year chambers around the state work together to develop a "Statewide Legislative Agenda for Arizona Business" and then follow bills as they make their way through the Legislature and on to the governor for final action. This year, 36 Arizona chambers, including the Prescott Chamber, endorsed the business agenda and copies of the complete agenda were distributed to each legislator in mid-February.

The general topics covered in the agenda included:

• Maintain a structurally balanced budget

• Create a competitive and sustainable economic development environment

• Encourage regulatory accountability

• Maintain a flexible, readily available and competitive workforce

• Ensure ample and affordable energy supplies and natural resources

• Improve access to and affordability of healthcare statewide

• Secure adequate funding for statewide transportation needs.

Bills that fit one of these general topics are tracked on a daily basis and all chambers are invited to take part in a bi-weekly conference call to discuss specific bills. Most chambers have the ability to indicate support or opposition to bills electronically as bills are heard in committees.

As an example of how the process works, here is a brief summary of a current bill making its way through the legislative process, supported by chambers of commerce around the state. House Bill 2147 seeks to help businesses with unemployment insurance claims and was first brought to the attention of chambers statewide by the East Valley chambers.

HB 2147 would require former employees that abandon their job to provide documentation to the Department of Economic Security that demonstrates their eligibility for benefits if the former employee files for unemployment insurance. Recently, there has been an increasing pattern of former employees that voluntarily quit a job, file for unemployment insurance and receive benefits unless the business challenges the department determination. HB 2147 shifts the burden of providing documentation initially to the former employee rather than the business. This shift in the burden of proof will result in a stronger unemployment insurance system for those that are deserving of benefits and less of an administrative burden on businesses.

The bill passed through the House and was heard March 6 in the Senate. I submitted our support for the bill electronically that morning, and when the bill was heard by the committee, all groups filing in support (or opposition) of the bill were read to the committee at the beginning of the hearing. Legislators pay attention to who has signed up for each bill. If any other specific action is required, we would find out about this on our bi-weekly conference call. HB 2147 still must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor to complete the process.

Solving a problem affecting your business can sometimes take time, but the business agenda of statewide chambers of commerce does work. Hopefully, the example I provided demonstrates that fact. If you've got an issue that affects your business, let me know. Chances are that other businesses have the same or similar concerns. Fortunately, we have people who understand business issues serving us on the City Council, county Board of Supervisors, Arizona Legislature and in Congress.

Welcome new members

The Prescott Chamber welcomes the following new members: Nerium International; Delta Plus Hardwood Floor Specialists; Lindy Gaskill Design; Juice Plus and Whole Food Nutrition; The Grand Highland Hotel; Call to Duty Foundation; Gary St. Amour; Barbara Anderson - Century 21; Macayo Restaurant, and vRide.

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