East Valley chambers of commerce will be watching for bills related to unemployment benefits burden of proof, initiative reform, sales tax reform, the budget, and the federal health care system during the 2013 legislative session, according to the Dorn Policy Group.
Eric Emmert, vice president of Dorn, made a presentation to the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee on Friday. Dorn Policy Group represents many business clients at the Legislature and also lobbys for the East Valley Chamber of Commerce Alliance (EVCCA), which includes chambers of commerce from Apache Junction, Mesa, Queen Creek, Chandler, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Tempe.
The EVCCA chooses issues at the beginning of each year to include on its agenda, which is sent to legislators that represent their areas. At the end of the year the group also compiles a report card to grade each legislator based on how they voted for certain issues.
The Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce was once a member of EVCCA but due to financial reasons, had to leave membership in the group. Emmert explained to the Public Policy Committee that many chambers are formed to be a voice for the business community so it makes sense for a chamber to be actively involved in politics that affect businesses. He offered the group suggestions on ways they could become more involved, like informing its members of issues, advocate for change, endorse a position or candidate and even recruit members of the group to run for public office.
The Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy Committee hosts meetings to inform the public but doesn’t currently take a stand on issues or endorse any candidates.
“That would be a board decision,” said Anne Gill, president and CEO of the chamber. “the Public Policy Committee would need to come together and discuss and put together a proposal to the board of directors of the chamber and they would have to issue the endorsement. They have not in the past… This just gave the committee ideas on what we could do to be more effective for our members. We’ve had a lot of great presenters this year, but what can we do to take it to the next level?”
Gill said the chamber currently doesn’t have funds to regain membership in EVCCA, but if the group wanted to join again the board might leave it up to the Public Policy Committee to decide if that was of interest and earn the funds to make the move.
EVCCA is a consensus group. All chambers in the group must agree on an issue before it is assigned to their agenda, which means the items on their agenda are more likely to receive attention, Emmert said.
Jeremy Calles, chief financial officer for the Kyrene School District, also spoke at the public policy meeting. Calles explained the challenges the district is facing with funding.
Because Proposition 204 was not passed, Calles said the district is not expecting further cuts to its budget but schools won’t see any funding that was cut in the past restored.
Kyrene schools are looking for more business sponsorships to help make up the difference and are also working with legislators to pass a bill temporarily increasing their bonding capacity.
The exact schedule for the Public Policy Committee in 2013 is unknown but the group covered many topics in 2012 including the Legislature, doing business with the city of Phoenix, and an update on the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway. The group plans to have more speakers covering these topics and more in 2013.
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