The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Washington, D.C. Executive Dialogue policy trip Oct. 5-8 was a great success as we connected our 12-member delegation with high-level officials, our Arizona congressional delegation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber Board Chairman Ken McMahon, President and CEO Todd Sanders and I led our group through three days of strategy and advocacy sessions furthering our mission of advancing the priorities of the state’s business community. We even scored a behind-the scenes tour of the U.S. Supreme Court authorized by Justice Clarence Thomas! Highlights of that exclusive extra included touring the Reading/Research Room and the justices’ conference rooms followed by an up-close look at the courtroom.
In order to get the most out of this trip, the Chamber decided to focus on four areas: education and workforce, environmental mandates, health care and sequestration.
The highlight of the trip was spending time with one of Arizona’s U.S. senators and nearly every member of the state’s U.S. House delegation. This was indeed a rare occurrence as the extremely busy members of our House delegation rarely have enough time in their schedules to visit personally with guests.
Fortunately, since we were able to bring our Chamber delegation face-to-face with our lawmakers, we were able to engage in robust and informative dialogue. The congressional delegation members provided their insights into U.S. House leadership elections and what to expect during the upcoming months.
It was also great for our Chamber delegation to be able to see how fluid situations can be in Washington. While we were there, the U.S. House speaker’s race was turned on its head when California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who serves as House majority leader, unexpectedly dropped out of the House speaker race with no clear front runner to take his place. After initially indicating that he didn’t want the job, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was ultimately elected speaker.
Members of Arizona’s congressional delegation were optimistic that several issues could be addressed by the end of this calendar year including the debt limit, enacting a budget for the entire fiscal year, transportation funding and enacting K-12 and higher education bills.
We kicked off the first day at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce discussing several issues important to Chamber members.
U.S. Chamber members representing health policy, environment, technology, regulatory affairs, education, workforce, political affairs and federal regulations help prepare us for our meetings with Arizona’s congressional delegation. They stressed the negative impact that aggressive EPA regulations are having on Arizona and on the nation as a whole. Equally concerning are the looming tax implications and rule implementations relating to the Affordable Care Act.
Kenyata Wesley, acting director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Small Business Programs, discussed the harmful effects of sequestration and impressed upon our group the need to enact a full-year budget instead of continuing resolutions.
Shortly after we returned to the Valley, our congressional delegation received word of positive news relating to some of the issues we discussed while in D.C.
First, a federal appeals court blocked the implementation of the EPA’s waters of the United States regulation while litigation proceeds through the court system. Secondly, the president signed HR 1624 allowing states to keep the definition of small group employer at 50 rather than increase to 100.
Our D.C. trip was also a great chance for me personally to spend some extra time with our Chamber Board members, who I typically only see for about an hour per month. It was nice to visit with them on a more personal basis and discuss in depth the impacts of our public policy work on them and their businesses.
Afterward, they expressed to me that the trip was worth their time and effort.
“It was interesting, informative and educational. I appreciate having had the opportunity to go on the trip,” said Phyllis Senseman, vice president, agency management & marketing, CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company
“The D.C. Executive Dialogue trip was very worthwhile. Chamber members and executive staff had the opportunity to receive a firsthand report from Arizona’s congressional delegation on issues of interest pending before Congress. It’s clear that the Chamber identified itself as a key constituent to Arizona senators and all of Arizona’s congressmen by sending a strong delegation to meet with them personally. Most importantly, the trip served as an inaugural exchange between Arizona’s congressional delegation and members. Knowing that this will be an annual event is a valuable benefit for the entire Chamber,” said Don Isaacson of Isaacson & Walsh.
“I think we all agree that taking time from our busy day jobs is always a challenge, but without a doubt I can say it was an extremely valuable use of our time for many reasons, not the least of which was getting to know each other so much better,” said Kim Shepard, senior vice president, sales and account management, Cigna.
We have received so much positive feedback on this trip that we are already planning our second D.C. Executive Dialogue trip for next year. Hope to see you there!
Vice President of Public Affairs
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
Members of our congressional delegation also specifically discussed their positions and took input from our group on our four areas of focus for the trip. Here is a quick look at their some of their goals.
- Support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
- Support the Higher Education Act (HEA).
- Continue to support high standards and aligned assessments.
- Allow for flexibility in federal school funding.
- Support efforts to delay, prohibit or create Arizona-specific exemptions for increased ozone mandates.
- HR 1327 & S 640 Ozone Regulatory Delay & Extension of Assessment Length (ORDEAL) Act
- HR 1320 & S 640 – Common sense Legislative Exceptional Events Reform (CLEER) Act
- HR 1388 & S 751 – Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act
- Continue to work with states and the EPA on the Clean Power Plan to recognize unique economies and economic cost.
- Continue to monitor and assist however possible with other EPA mandates such as Waters of the United States.
- Repeal the health care Benefits Excise Tax – HRs 2050 & 879.
- Return the employer mandate to 40 hours per week.
- Allow small businesses to utilize health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) without undue penalties.
- HR 2911 & S 1697 – Small Business Health Care Relief Act
- Encourage streamlined and uniform ACA rules by the EEOC relating to workplace wellness programs.
- Allow states to control the definition of small group employers.
- HR 1624 – Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act
Sequestration / Budgets
- Pass full-year budgets while avoiding continuing resolutions.
- Recognize the large impact military and defense contract spending cuts have on Arizona.
- Continue to recognize the contributions of Arizona’s military bases on the overall state economy.
- Provide flexibility in military contract spending whenever possible.