Monday, April 21, 2014

We've Moved!

We have recently moved to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry's website.  Now all Hamer Times posts can be found at  Check it out!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Arizona rocks down to Electric Avenue

The Arizona Chamber, Arizona Manufacturers Council and other Arizona business leaders joined Gov. Brewer this morning as she signed into a law a bill to improve Arizona’s competiveness in manufacturing. SB1413 was sponsored by Sen. Steve Yarbrough and will remove the sales tax that manufacturers pay on their electricity and natural gas usage. Prior to the passage of SB1413, Arizona was one of only 12 states to levy this tax on manufacturers.

Introduced by Gov. Brewer in her State of the State Address back in January, this legislation is the latest move in the governor’s work on the Arizona Comeback. As she said this morning, “I want Arizona to be the number one pro-business state in the nation. We have lowered and simplified taxes, reduced burdensome red tape and kept government out of the way of business success and job creation. Ending this tax removes one more barrier to business expansion and job creation”

Steve Macias, Pivot Manufacturing and AMC

Steve Macias, president and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing and chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council was also on hand and remarked that he could, “feel the [tax-free] electricity in the room.” He spoke about the importance of this bill for the “retention and attraction of business,” as it will save manufacturers “$18 million in annual operating costs.”

Also providing remarks was Dawn Grove, vice-chair of the Arizona Manufacturers Council and corporate counsel for Karsten Manufacturing, which manufacturers the Masters-winning Ping golf clubs right here in Arizona. Dawn noted, “Manufacturers in other states have fled the United States for less regulated and less taxed shores, but in Arizona we have leaders like Governor Brewer, who have understood the importance of eliminating obstacles to investment and who have found new ways, like Senate Bill 1413 to encourage the building of products in Arizona for export to the rest of the world.”
Dawn Grove, Karsten Manufacturing and AMC
We are enormously grateful to Gov. Brewer, Sen. Yarbrough and the Arizona Legislature for their support of the manufacturing industry, not only this session but also in years past. The governor has made significant progress over the past several years to ensure that Arizona is an attractive place for manufacturers to conduct business, and we thank her for allowing us to be a partner in the process.
As Gov. Brewer said this morning, “Together, we’ve made our message to manufacturers loud and clear: Arizona is open for business” 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mining Day at the Capitol puts Arizona heritage and jobs on display

I had the great pleasure of attending the Arizona Mining Association's "Mining Day at the Capitol" this week. The power and size of the heavy machinery on display was awe inspiring.

Similar to the machinery that runs it, the Arizona mining industry is a powerful giant in the state's economy. Led by President Kelly Norton, the Arizona Mining Association is the state's leading voice for the industry. Arizona is the largest copper-producer in the U.S. and would be considered the sixth highest producing nation if it were a country. Responsible for almost 70 percent of all copper production in America, Arizona understand the importance of this "C."

This industry is responsible for an estimated $4.6 billion fiscal impact on the state's economy, or half of the state's proposed budget. In addition to producing and exporting large amounts of copper, the mining industry is also responsible for providing almost 50,000 jobs, and on average the jobs pay over $100,000 a year, which is double the state's average salary rate.

Whether I am driving in my Prius (64 lbs of copper) or using my cell phone (16 grams), copper is very much a part of our daily lives.  Unlike many other mined metals, copper is an essential that will always be needed and we are lucky to have such an abundant source in our state. Kudos to those of you at the Arizona Mining Association for all of your hard work. You have ensured that Arizona will remain a major player in this industry for years to come.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez visits Arizona, discusses importance of STEM education

This past Friday I had the privilege of attending breakfast roundtable with Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, where I had the opportunity to learn a few of the ways in which the current 2.3 million members of Girl Scouts are being challenged to assume leadership roles from a young age.

An Arizona native, Anna Maria Chavez is well-respected in Arizona for her contributions to community service and development programs under former Gov. Janet Napolitano. Though she now calls New York home, her work for Girl Scouts of the USA continues to influence the growth of young women leaders in our state.

While some of us might associate Girl Scouts with delicious cookies, the real treat is seeing young girls learn important skills that will prepare them for their educations and eventual careers. With Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Inc based in Phoenix and Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona in Tucson, Arizona is home to over 38,000 Girl Scouts alone. Aside from all the great places in Arizona for girls to earn their badges in outdoor activities, Arizona is a hot spot for girls to earn their badges in education.

What is especially extraordinary about Girl Scouts of the USA is their concentrated effort in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In a time when education policy is abuzz at both the state and federal level, Girl Scouts of the USA is encouraging girls to participate in activities that help them to enhance their learning inside and outside the classroom.

All six Girl Scout levels are required to earn their STEM badges through activities that range from learning how a car’s engine works to understanding the physics behind a rollercoaster. Just think, that’s over 38,000 young women in the state of Arizona who have earned badges in STEM subjects through hands-on learning. As a proud father of Ella, a 9-year-old Girl Scout, I am thankful to see my daughter participate in activities that promote STEM education.

This focus on STEM goes hand-in-hand with another one of Girl Scouts of the USA’s current campaigns, “Ban Bossy,” a campaign spear-headed by the Lean-In Movement  and Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg. Says Sandberg, "I want every little girl who's told she's bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skills." This quote has inspired leaders such as Anna Maria Chavez to join Sandberg in support of the Lean-In Movement, and further develop the leadership potential of young girls and women by preparing them to become business leaders.

Anna Maria Chavez is the perfect example of why Girl Scouts of the USA is such an empowering organization, especially here in Arizona. She started as a young Girl Scout in Eloy, Arizona and grew up to become an influential leader at both the state and national level. Knowing that Girl Scouts of the USA is a launching pad for this kind of success makes me proud to see my daughter involved in this organization. As the Girl Scout Mission states, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Progress at the Ports

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced on Monday that it will allocate 2,000 additional CBP officers to the United States’ ports of entry. Of the 2,000, 175 will be allocated to Arizona.

The additional officers were included in the federal budget deal reached in January to fund the remainder of fiscal year 2014. The Arizona Chamber encouraged the members of the Arizona delegation to be the proverbial “squeaky wheels” to ensure that Arizona received a share of these new officers, in order to facilitate trade with Mexico that 6 million Arizona jobs rely on.

Kudos to Rep. Salmon and Sen. Flake for leading the charge on this effort. Rep. Salmon put together a coalition of Arizona Representatives that included Rep.s Barber, Franks, Gosar, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, Sinema and Schweikert to advocate for more CPB officers for Arizona’s ports of entry. Sen. Flake authored a letter with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) stressing the importance of additional CPB staffing at land ports of entry along the southern U.S. border.

Thanks to their efforts, Arizona will receive 175 of the 2,000 new CBP officers, 120 of whom will head to Nogales. This is an important first step in capitalizing on Arizona’s full trade and tourism potential.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It’s time.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation this morning released a video titled, “It’s Time for the Common Core State Standards.” The video demonstrates broad support for the Standards spanning political parties, states, districts and generations. From former Governors and state Superintendents to teachers, military families and business leaders, it’s clear that those with an interest in ensuring our children are ready for the jobs of tomorrow think that these Standards, known in Arizona as the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, are an important step forward. Adopted in Arizona in 2010, these new standards are internationally benchmarked to college and career readiness, and received even higher ratings from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute than Arizona’s 1999 standards.

As Governor Brewer notes in the clip, “Everyone knows that global competition for jobs has changed. Our schools must keep pace.” Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida- a state Arizona and others look to as inspiration for successful education reform- states, “if we aspire to greatness as a nation, we have to have standards that are benchmarked to the best in the world.”

Also featured in the video are University of Arizona mathematics Professor Dr. William McCallum and former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan.  (I also make a brief appearance.)

Dr. McCallum was the lead author of the Common Core math standards, and notes that these Standards are, “the best chance that we have to improve mathematics in this country that has come along in my lifetime.” Former Michigan Governor and President of the Business Roundtable John Engler agrees, calling these standards “the single most effective education advance we have seen in a generation.”

Ms. Keegan says, “This is the way our students reach their potential. And for American children, it’s how our country remains the strongest country in the world and the greatest country ever imagined.”

Please take a few minutes to watch the video here. These standards aren’t a silver bullet, we must continue to work to improve choice, accountability and quality in our K-12 system, but the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards are an important part this improvement. It’s time to ensure Arizona’s children have Standards that will ensure they are ready for college and career.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sen. Flake joins us at the Chamber for a special roundtable

The Arizona Chamber this morning was privileged to host U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake for a roundtable discussion on issues important to the Arizona business community. Sen. Flake has been an avid supporter of the state’s job creators and a leader in addressing some of the most critical issues of the day.

Not the least of which is the current international environment. Sen. Flake recently joined Sen. McCain and a bi-partisan delegation of five other Sen.s on a trip to Ukraine to meet with top political leaders and show support for the Ukrainian people. Last night, the Senate passed a bill to provide $1 billion in aid to Ukraine, a measure Sen. Flake supported. (I felt the need to ask, but Sen. Flake assured me that he has not yet been sanctioned by Russia.) Sen. Flake also touched on the administration’s interim agreement with Iran to halt nuclear exploration.

Today’s discussion focused primarily on immigration reform, water, trade and federal agencies.


Both Sen. Flake and Sen. McCain have led the charge on immigration reform, participating in the “Gang of Eight” Sen.s who last year proposed comprehensive immigration reform legislation that ultimately cleared the Senate. The Arizona Chamber has been very vocal about our support for the Senate effort, and immigration reform in general, but the legislation has stalled in the House. House Republican leadership announced a set of principles in January that they wish to see reflected in any immigration legislation their chamber considers. Sen. Flake noted that he supports these principles, was encouraged to see fresh efforts to find common ground in recent weeks and promised to continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Sen. Flake has been working on immigration reform since 2004, when he first introduced a comprehensive reform bill with Congressman Jim Kolbe and Sen. McCain.


As Sen. Flake mentioned, when Sen. Kyl retired from the Senate in 2012, he took with him an enormous amount of institutional knowledge on national and Arizona water issues. Fortunately, Sen. Flake picked up some of Sen. Kyl’s key staff, and continues to work closely with Sen. Kyl to ensure that Arizona has the water supply it needs to support projected growth in the coming years. Sen. Flake noted that Arizona has planned well over the last few decades, and has become a model for other states in this regard. As we look to the future, we will need to look at augmentation or conservation, and Arizona is in good hands with Sen. Flake leading on this issue.


Sen. Flake gave an update on another important priority of the Arizona Chamber: securing Trade Promotion Authority for the Administration. He noted that nearly every free trade agreement in the last three decades has been negotiated under Trade Promotion Authority, and urged stakeholders to reach out to the Administration to encourage its continued engagement.

We were very encouraged to hear Sen. Flake predict that the Miscellaneous Tariffs Bill will be reauthorized this year. The bill expired on January 1, 2013, and failure to reauthorize would result in decreased competitiveness for Arizona and U.S. manufacturers.

Federal Agencies

There was a lot of praise around the room for Sen. Flake’s leadership to ensure Arizona’s voice was heard on commonsense reforms to the EPA’s Exceptional Events Rule. Last fall he was able to secure an unprecedented Arizona-only listening session with the EPA where a wide range of industries were able to share their concerns with the Exceptional Events Rule with the EPA. Last year the EPA issued interim Exceptional Events Implementation Guidance to help air agencies manage air quality data recorded during exceptional events.

As a result, the EPA just recently proposed approval of the Five Percent Plan for the Maricopa County PM-10 Nonattainment Area. We thank Sen. Flake for submitting comments to the EPA urging them to issue final approval of the plan.

Moving forward, Sen. Flake noted that Congress must return to business as usual in passing a federal budget. When the House and Senate are able to go through their appropriations processes, which require agencies to make the case for their funding, Congress has more oversight and ability to reign in overzealous agency regulation. We applaud Sen. Flake for his continued efforts to reduce regulatory burdens for businesses.

I want to thank Sen. Flake both for his leadership and for taking the time to sit down with us this morning. Arizona is fortunate to have such a sharp, thoughtful, committed leader representing us in DC.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Arizona business community not going to party like it's 1999

Here they go again. For the second time in as many weeks, the state Senate today will consider two pieces of legislation that will dramatically weaken Arizona's ability to give its students a world-class education defined by rigorous standards.

The Senate is set to take up SB 1395 and SB 1396, which would allow local governing boards and charter holders to opt-out or opt-in of our state's higher standards and a corresponding assessment. Schools can already exceed the minimum standard. These bills would let them achieve below the minimum and allow schools to opt in to old academic standards from the 90’s.

If these bills were to become law, it would open the door to opting out of standards that will allow our students a chance to compete for tomorrow's jobs. Instead, the bar for our kids would be lower; much lower.

Don't like today's standards? Then you can party like it's 1999, and revert back to the standards from 15 years ago. You remember 1999: Ricky Martin was Livin’ La Vida Loca, Keanu was in The Matrix, Bill Clinton was in the middle of an impeachment trial and Google turned 1.

These bills harm Arizona's reputation as a state where school choice thrives. If every school district has its own standards, the ability to compare schools across districts goes away. Without uniform, rigorous standards, parents won't be able to make apples to apples comparisons that help them determine where to send their kids.
Today's exercise is another attempt to lower the expectations for our kids and  deny them the high quality education they deserve.

Please take thirty seconds to watch this video that shows the resounding business community support for higher standards.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Teachers, education advocates and business leaders gather to hear Michael Petrilli discuss Arizona’s new education standards

Today, the Arizona Chamber partnered with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Expect More Arizona to host “Phoenix Forum: Our Classrooms, Our Workforce, Our Future.” The event was attended by nearly 300 business leaders, education advocates, teachers and elected officials. The featured keynote speaker was Michael Petrilli, of the conservative education policy think tank the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Petrilli spoke of the bold vision that Arizona has for its education future; and how improving our educational standards and adopting a quality, aligned assessment is a critical first step towards this vision. The Fordham Institute looked at Arizona’s current standards back in 2010, and graded them a B in math and a B in English Language Arts. The new Arizona College and Career Ready Standards received a B-plus in math and an A-minus in English Language Arts. It’s clear we’re heading in the right direction.

But the real problem with Arizona’s old standards was less in the content of the standards themselves and more in the assessment we used to measure those standards, the AIMS test. As Petrilli shared, AIMS defines third grade reading “proficiency” as being at or above the 23rd percentile. What Arizona needs to move forward and be competitive both nationally and internationally is a test that keeps us honest, and doesn’t allow us to lower the bar again.

Pearl Chang Esau, President and CEO of Expect More Arizona was on hand to share the story of one Arizona school district in a high poverty neighborhood who have embraced the new standards, and as a result have seen more than two years of academic gains in only half a school year. Many teachers were also in attendance, and were acknowledged by the crowd with a thunderous applause for the great work they do for Arizona’s kids. Their overwhelming support of the standards for the freedom it allows them to teach the way they know works for kids was a frequent topic of discussion today.

        Four of the teachers in attendance today to support Arizona’s new standards

Superintendent Huppenthal was also in attendance, and deserves many thanks for his unwavering support of these standards that we know are working in our classrooms today. Three former Arizona Superintendents were also in the crowd- Lisa Graham Keegan, Jaime Molera and Carolyn Werner- to express their support for Arizona’s new standards.

I was glad to be a part of such a wonderful event, honoring the great work that Arizona has done in education over the last 20 years, and setting a vision for where we can be in the next decades.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bill to repeal new Arizona standards fails in Senate

Today the Arizona Senate rejected a measure that would have caused chaos in Arizona classrooms. Thanks to Senators Driggs, McComish, Pierce, Reagan and Worsley and all thirteen Democratic Senators, the efforts of Arizona’s teachers and school leaders will not be interrupted.

SB 1310 failed to pass 18-12, but would have prohibited Arizona schools from implementing or “effectively implementing” the Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core). These standards were adopted in 2010, and schools have been diligently working to implement them ever since. And, as the five recent Arizona Educational Foundation Teachers of the Year testified before the Governor’s AZ Ready Council this morning, the standards are working.

As the 2013 Teacher of the Year Nancy Lindblom said, “we have never seen a set of standards that challenges students and offers them the education they deserve like the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards do.”

The battle isn't over- there are other bills that would threaten the progress we've made, and we still need to secure funding for a new assessment aligned to the standards. But for today, we thank the 18 members of the Arizona Senate who supported the efforts of teachers and schools over the last four years by voting “No” on SB 1310.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tchaikovsky is Commerce

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to testify before Representative Tom Forese’s House Commerce Committee, in an informational hearing on the impact of music on Arizona’s economy. As always, we appreciate Rep. Forese continuing to use this forum to highlight all the innovative and interesting things happening across Arizona’s economy.

The music industry is making deep impact – and has made a deep impact – on our state.

Nationally, a new analysis just released in December 2013 shows that the total contribution of arts and culture sector to the economy in current-dollar GDP is $504 billion, or 3.2 percent of GDP. This compares favorably to tourism nationally which represents 2.8% of GDP.  A conservative estimate from Dun and Bradstreet identifies more than 17,000 creative industry businesses in Arizona, employing more than 56,000 individuals, and representing almost 5% of the workforce.  Of those, 1,077 are categorized in “music,” with 3,595 employed.  Recent data collected from the 219 non-profit arts and culture organizations participating in the Arizona Cultural Data Project accounted for more than a half billion dollars in direct and indirect spending in the economy.

Our state has produced a number of recording artists, from Stevie Nicks to the Gin Blossoms to our Heritage Award honoree from last year, Alice Cooper. The industry is also wide in its scope: from the “Soul of Tone,” Fender guitars to “A”-rated Charter school, the Arizona School for the Arts, we cover the full spectrum of music performance.

We’re also very fortunate to have a world class symphony and opera, led by Chairman Bob Stump. Last Friday, the Arizona Chamber was lucky enough to welcome the Phoenix Opera’s Johnny Huerta to sing the national anthem at our Heritage Award tribute to Governor Brewer last Friday. Let me tell you that the crowd was blown away by his performance.

And I want to congratulate Jim Ward for the recent hiring of the Phoenix Symphony’s new musical director, Tito Muñoz. I know the community is excited about his arrival and we look forward to his debut. As Jim mentioned in his testimony, it is absolutely critical that we work to bolster our cultural economy. A vibrant cultural economy is an important tool in our economic development toolbox.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the great work of Carrie Heinonen, at the world-class Musical Instruments Museum. I recently had the chance to tour the MIM and was incredibly impressed by everything it has to offer. It is no wonder that in its short history it has received so many accolades.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Treasury announces delay of employer mandate

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Monday that it would delay the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate for medium-sized businesses. Employers with 50-99 employees will not be required to provide health insurance for full-time employees until 2016.

You can find an overview of the recent delay here, and U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue’s statement on the delayed mandate here.

As the implementation of the healthcare law plays out, the Arizona Chamber will continue to share updates about the law and what it means for Arizona businesses in real time and … without delay.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Glenn Hamer's testimony before House ad-hoc Committee on International Trade and Commerce

FEBRUARY 10, 2014

Representatives Forese and Miranda and committee members, for the record my name is Glenn Hamer and I am the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. On behalf of Arizona’s job creators, I thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony at this important hearing.

I believe you have convened this hearing at a critical time in our state’s relationship with our neighbor to the south, a relationship that continues to improve and strengthen thanks to outstanding leaders like Sandra Watson at the Arizona Commerce Authority; Margie Emmermann at the Arizona Mexico Commission; and Hank Marshall at the City of Phoenix, who you will hear from later in this panel.

Last month we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trilateral trade pact that created incredible market access for manufacturers, increased consumer choice and was integral to the creation of millions of jobs here in the U.S.

With 20 years of positive experience under our collective belts, the U.S., Mexico and Canada are now part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, an agreement poised to link the markets of Asia and the Americas, accounting for 792 million people and a combined GDP of $27.5 trillion. [1] The NAFTA nations together are stepping strongly into the next generation of international trade.

The importance of trade with Mexico is not lost on the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the larger business community. We are fully cognizant of the six million U.S. jobs that depend on trade with Mexico and the $12 billion in trade between Mexico and Arizona in 2012 alone.[2] A productive, meaningful relationship with Mexico is critical to our country and our state’s economic health.

To that end, the Chamber in 2012 formed a Trade and Tourism Committee, which serves as our one-stop public policy shop for trade and international travel promotion. Under the auspices of this committee, our Chamber has advocated for improved transportation links between our state and Sonora, increased international flights from Mexico and better resources and infrastructure to process the trade flowing between our two countries.  Last year, Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padrés Elías was a featured speaker at our Arizona Manufacturers Council Manufacturer of the Year Awards. The governor reminded everyone in attendance of the unique and special relationship between our two states and why our two states’ economic futures are so intertwined.

In 2013 alone, I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Mexico City with our Speaker of the House Andy Tobin and members of this committee as part of a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers and business leaders to visit with members of Mexico’s Congress, and I have traveled to Guadalajara with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to kick-off new air service between those two cities by Volaris Airlines, a Mexican low-cost carrier, adding to the already robust offerings to and from Mexico by U.S. Airways from their Phoenix hub.

Our professional sports teams have also recognized the importance of the Mexican market and the positive role sports can play in forging new relationships. I can tell you from my experience on the Guadalajara trade mission that having the Diamondbacks’ World Series hero Luis Gonzalez as part of your delegation makes an incredibly positive impression. Our NFL Arizona Cardinals have played a regular season game in Mexico City and have a huge broadcast presence in Mexico, where their games are broadcast to 18 cities throughout the country, including Mexico City and Guadalajara. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns have not only participated in trade missions to Mexico, but they are the first NBA team to conduct their own youth basketball clinics in that country.

That Arizona is actively courting new business opportunities in Mexico might come as a surprise to some, but not to longtime Arizonans, who can point to a rich legacy of cross-border leadership.

Former Southern Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe is a nationally recognized expert in the importance of trade between the U.S. and Mexico. His contribution to the U.S.-Mexico relationship is so consequential that it is not hyperbole to say that without Jim Kolbe, there might not be a NAFTA.

Congressman Kolbe was also critical in the expansion of the border travel zone, which governs how far Mexican nationals in possession of a valid Border Crossing Card may travel before requiring additional documentation. Because of Rep. Kolbe’s work in 1999, Mexicans crossing the border into Arizona may travel as far north as Tucson, where they can enjoy world-class resorts and shopping destinations. Along most of the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican visitors may travel only 25 miles north before requiring an additional form[3], though last year, the Department of Homeland Security expanded the border zone in New Mexico, where business leaders there cited Arizona’s positive experience as a case study for increased travel access.[4] The Maricopa Association of Governments is now leading an effort for the entire state to be considered as part of the border travel zone as a means to further grow the tourism opportunities between Arizona and Mexico.[5]

Congressman Kolbe’s work for the border and Arizona continues. As you know, he is now co-chairing the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, which is charged with linking Arizona to the global economy by improving our state’s trade and logistics offerings by identifying ways to increase the value of our trade corridors.

We should also recognize Congressman Matt Salmon, who has fully embraced his role as chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Congressman Salmon in December convened a hearing in Tucson that was attended by Representatives Schweikert, Sinema and Barber where US-Mexico trade was the main topic.

Arizona is also home to the Arizona Mexico Commission. The Chamber commends Margie and the AMC for being at the forefront of travel visa policy, trade promotion and transportation. It is because of the AMC that the governors of Arizona and Sonora have had a direct line of communication for over 50 years.  

In just the last few years, Arizona has dramatically stepped up its efforts to promote our state’s outstanding business environment to the rest of the world. Mexico figures prominently in that strategy. Sandra can discuss how the ACA, in partnership with the AMC, has re-opened the once shuttered Arizona state office in Hermosillo, Sonora, ensuring that once again Arizona has a presence in our neighboring state’s largest city.

And now we’ve learned of the partnership between Phoenix and the state to open a trade office in Mexico City, which speaks to Hank’s and Mayor Stanton’s hard work. Arizona leaders know that so much more can be done to grow the $6.3 billion in goods Arizona exports to Mexico, $1.8 billion of which comes from the metro Phoenix area. [6]

There are so many positive things happening between Mexico and Arizona and our state leaders are redoubling their efforts to forge closer ties with our southern neighbor. Mexico finds itself in a unique period in its history that creates new opportunities for Arizona. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is a reformer who understands that Mexico must embrace change if it is to assume its rightful place as an economic power.

This is not to say that challenges do not remain. While Arizona’s business community is excited about the overhaul of the country’s major port for Mexican produce, the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, by improving its layout and capacity, we are concerned about the staffing resources that will be deployed to the port.

I still believe that 2014 can mark the passage of a package of immigration reform bills. I am hopeful that legislation would look for opportunities to improve the human resources devoted to our ports of entry, not just the areas between our ports that are the responsibility of the Border Patrol. Adequate staffing is so vitally important to reducing the miles-long backups of legitimate trade into Mexico. The budget deal passed by Congress last month included funding for 2,000 new CBP officers slated for the nation’s busiest ports of entry is a positive sign.

We also must greatly improve our transportation links in the border region. Congress took a positive first step by designating the highway between Las Vegas and Phoenix as Interstate 11, an integral link in the so-called Canamex trade corridor linking all three NAFTA nations, which will also connect the country’s two largest metro areas not connected by an interstate. But we must also reduce the bottlenecks that prevent freight from reaching the interstates in the first place. Mariposa Rd., also known as Arizona 189, needs to be expanded or reconfigured in such a way that trucks leaving the port of entry can bypass the congestion of Nogales and head north on Interstate 19.

In a time of tight federal and state budgets, we understand that there are no easy solutions to the challenges of port staffing and transportation infrastructure, but please know that you have a willing partner in Arizona’s business community in addressing these challenges.

Once again, on behalf of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I very much appreciate the opportunity to be here today and I would be happy to take any questions you might have.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NLRB reintroduces rule to speed up union elections

It’s not yet Throwback Thursday, but the National Labor Relations Board announced today that it would resurrect a 2011 rule to speed up the Board election process and to eliminate defenses and procedures previously available to employers during a union election.

If adopted, the rule would limit employers' ability to communicate with employees during union campaigns by shortening the period in which a representation election is held. Under the proposed rule, an election could be held in as few as 10 days. It also imposes disturbing new mandates on employers, such as forcing them to turn over employees’ e-mail addresses.

A federal court overturned a substantively identical rule last year on a procedural technicality- the Board then lacked a quorum to pass the rule- but now, with a fully loaded Board, the “ambush election rule” has resurfaced. James Plunkett, Director of Labor Law Policy for the U.S. Chamber noted, “this is a significant policy change that is specifically intended to curtail employer speech and increase union organizing.” National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons pointed out, “the Board’s own data do not support a need for a shortened time frame for a representation election. Currently, the average time in which an election is held is 38 days from the time a petition is received. In fact, over the past decade, the Board has either met or exceeded its own goal of the amount of days in which to hold an election.”

The rule is available for public comment through April 7, 2014. The Board will hold a hearing with opportunity for public testimony the week of April 7, 2014 as well. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Affordable Care Act a mess, but piecemeal reform attempts come with risks

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been a story of ineptitude. The ham-fisted attempts to launch the website alone have provided newspaper opinion pages enough material for a year of editorials. Prior to the passage of the Act, the Arizona Chamber was very vocal about the many contradictions and bad public policy contained in the law. We continue to be concerned with the counterintuitive assumptions the law is based on and the adverse outcomes these create.

The central problem with this law is that, under the guise of making insurance more accessible and affordable, the Act has done basically the opposite. First, it mandates that insurers provide more expansive coverage and fundamentally changes the way insurers calculate premiums. For example, insurance companies can no longer exclude those with pre-existing conditions or charge more for consumers with chronic conditions. They must allow dependents to stay on their parents’ plan until the dependent is twenty-six years old and the difference in price they may charge a young person vs. an older person is strictly limited.

Pre-Affordable Care Act, health insurance looked like most other types of insurance; premiums were calculated based on various factors that can predict the likelihood a person will access certain benefits (e.g., age, existing medical conditions). Now, all insurers must provide ten “essential health benefits” regardless of the likelihood that a person will utilize any or all of these benefits. This has the effect of increasing premiums and other costs for the young and the healthy, while decreasing costs for the old and the sick.

The Act attempts to pay for all of this by levying at least a dozen different taxes on employers, as well as a tax on healthcare innovation by taxing the sale of medical devices. Premium costs will increase for the young and the healthy, while employers’ ability to create jobs decreases and companies are taxed out of creating innovative new products.

Bottom line: the implementation has been rocky, to put it in polite terms. As a result, Americans are more skeptical about the law than ever, with 50 percent reporting an unfavorable opinion. The insurance companies didn’t ask for this law, and they have tried to navigate it in the least disruptive way possible. But the President keeps changing the rules in the middle of the game. The administration has authorized 19 delays, amendments and repeals to the law, creating a playing field with more seismic activity than San Francisco.

Now, there are proposals in Congress that, in an attempt to undermine a single piece of the Affordable Care Act, would essentially punish health insurers for complying with the law.  Although well-intentioned elected officials might believe they’re protecting taxpayers from an insurance industry bailout, these alterations would further destabilize the market that insurers are trying in good faith to navigate. Forcing a total collapse of the private insurance industry will push us toward a single-payer, total government-controlled healthcare system.

So as some in Congress attempt to protect taxpayers by targeting insurers, let’s carefully consider the consequences as we deal with the most complex health care law of our time. Attacking the Affordable Care Act in this piecemeal fashion will only get us further from the goal of affordable health insurance that is widely accessible. I would encourage Congress to instead focus on finding a feasible solution to our country’s ongoing healthcare crisis.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

We're getting closer to real, substantive immigration reform

Republican U.S. House members today released their guiding principles for a debate on immigration reform.

The Senate last year passed its own immigration package, but the GOP principles document in its preamble makes clear that the House legislation won’t go to a conference committee to be reconciled with the Senate’s bill; and that’s okay. The very fact that there is positive movement on the House side towards various pieces of substantive legislation should be applauded. It would be easy to wait until after the November election even to release these principles. House Speaker John Boehner’s hiring of Arizonan Becky Tallent, an alumnus of the staffs of former Rep. Jim Kolbe and Sen. John McCain and a veteran of the immigration battles of the past is another sign that we’re on the precipice of something very good.

The economic benefits to be had from an immigration overhaul are too big to ignore, especially in a soft economy that could use a shot of adrenaline. Using last year’s Senate bill as a baseline, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform could reduce federal budget deficits by nearly $200 billion.

Leading the Republicans’ list is border security. This is critically important to Arizona, not only because border states like ours bear an outsized burden for lax border enforcement, but also because our state is economically tied to our ability to process legitimate trade and travel through well-staffed border ports of entry. As we celebrate the 20th year of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, we should embrace immigration reform as means to improving our legal arteries for trade.

The document also speaks of the importance of modern employment verification and workplace enforcement systems. Arizona has proven through the widespread use of E-Verify that this technology can be adopted by employers in a thoughtful way that is not overly burdensome to the hiring process.

American business should be encouraged by the Republican’s effort to offer reforms to the legal immigration system. The principles speak to the need of an immigration system driven by economic needs, one that welcomes talented individuals trained at U.S. universities and that establishes a workable, realistic guest worker program.

For the Dreamers, those who were brought to this country by their parents as children and know no other home, the principles state that legal residence and citizenship should be made a reality.

For those living here now in an undocumented status, the principles state that individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements could be able to “live legally and without fear in the U.S.” But the document also says certain unspecified enforcement triggers must be met.

This outline of principles establishes clear guideposts for crafting legislation that members of both parties can support. I’ve been saying for years now that real immigration reform was imminent, but I believe we’ve now taken a step closer to reform than we’ve ever gotten before to actually sending a bill to the president’s desk. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Arizona kicks off School Choice Week with AZ Charter Schools Association and Stand for Children panel breakfast

This morning I had the opportunity to sit on a panel kicking off School Choice Week in Arizona. I sat alongside esteemed education experts including Lisa Graham Keegan; Julia Meyerson, the founder and E.D. of Vista College Prep; Adrian Ruiz, the Executive Director of Espiritu Community Development Corporation; and DeAnna Rowe, the Executive Director of AZ State Board for Charter Schools. The panel was moderated by Jay Heiler, one of Arizona’s top experts on the charter school movement. The topic of this morning’s meeting was Public School Accountability – something the Arizona Chamber is working diligently to increase.

Among the issues that were brought up this morning, I wanted to highlight a few of the key items. Julia Meyerson runs Vista College Prep, a K-5 charter in south Phoenix with a winning model. Meyerson’s classrooms are named after universities and the kids are taught that college preparation starts in Kindergarten.  Meyerson indicated that one of her greatest challenges in opening her school was gaining access to a facility. Charter schools don’t have easy access to start-up capital, and the Arizona Chamber seeks to address this issue with a legislative policy that will open up some empty school buildings to high-performing charters and districts. We need to diligently pursue policies that open up opportunities for our highest of performers.

There was also mention of the importance of funding a data system that will be used to maximize accountability. The Arizona Department of Education has been flagging this as a necessity for quite some time, and Governor Brewer proposed in her budget to fund the data system to the tune of $16.5 million. The business community strongly supports this, as we know that without data and measurable outcomes, we can’t measure success.

Also in the Governor’s budget was a $40 million request for “Student Success Funding,” which fits nicely with the topic of accountability. These dollars are based on student performance and are therefore tied directly to accountability. This is yet another example of where Arizona is headed in terms of demanding excellent schools and rewarding them accordingly.

There is much work to be done here in Arizona to ensure that every student, regardless of their zip code, receives a top notch education. Be on the lookout for an announcement later this week to get just at this topic. Thanks to all who made this morning’s bipartisan event possible. It was great to have both chairmen of the Approps committees, Senator Shooter and Representative Kavanagh, as well as a number of other legislators and business leaders in the room. John Fisher and Kelly McManus of Stand for Children, along with Eileen Sigmund of the AZ Charter Schools Association put on an excellent event full of Arizona’s education thought leaders on the topic of school choice. Thanks for including me! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

George Will misses the mark in criticism of state education standards

When it comes to baseball, George Will knows his stuff. Unfortunately, he has missed the mark in his recent piece on the movement to increase the rigor of K-12 education in 45 states, including in Arizona.

George does get one part of this right: Academic standards are a state issue. This is why our primary concern should be whether Arizona’s new state standards are better than our old ones.

And we know, our old standards weren’t working. Less than 20 percent of Arizona students graduate from a four-year institution within six years. Sixty percent of students who attend community college require remedial coursework. Forty-two percent of Arizona employers report that newly hired high school graduates are deficient in writing, math and reading.

In 2010, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute analyzed Arizona’s previous standards and graded them a B in math and B in English. Compare this with the B+ and A- that the new Arizona College and Career Ready Standards received, and it’s clear we are headed in the right direction. This is not to say that we shouldn’t continuously be looking to improve the Standards, but we are on the right track.

Someone with George’s national platform should also reconsider his criticism of the process that resulted in the Common Core State Standards. The idea of state academic standards began during the Reagan administration. After the release of the Nation at Risk report, states started developing academic standards and assessments designed to measure progress against those standards. The process was expensive and the results disappointing.

In the early 2000s, when state superintendents and governors recognized the need but lacked the resources to develop more rigorous standards, they innovated and collaborated. The outcome was a better overall product and a more efficient use of limited resources.

The federal government and the Obama administration got involved after the fact. Yes, there was Race to the Top money, which provided incentive (or coercion, depending who you talk to) for states to adopt a version of the Common Core State Standards. But the Standards themselves were developed in 2006, when President Obama was still a freshman senator. The facts support the idea that this was a state-led effort, developed voluntarily by state officials who, as George points out, are the best at developing creative solutions.

This is a good model. It is appropriate and resourceful for governors to collaborate on issues of national significance, and education is absolutely an issue of national significance. Americans are more mobile than ever (consider the fact that the president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce is a New York native) and children need to know English, math, science and history regardless of whether they are from Massachusetts or Mississippi. I would encourage our nation’s governors to continue to collaborate on these types of issues, to learn best practices from other states and adopt versions of these practices that best suit their individual states.

So, George, allow me to borrow from the game we both love and remind you to keep your eye on the ball. Arizona’s current standards are not preparing our kids to be college and career ready.  We need to keep our focus on improving our system to better prepare our kids. This starts with getting away from our old standards that weren’t making the grade, and ensuring that the more rigorous Arizona College and Career Ready Standards are fully and properly implemented.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trade Promotion Authority critical to U.S. competitive standing abroad

Earlier this week at her State of the State address, Gov. Jan Brewer announced her plan to make Arizona a better place for manufacturers to operate and conduct business in the state. Manufacturers help to drive Arizona’s economy, with $15.1 billion in manufactured goods exported in 2012. Of those, $7.7 billion was with our free trade agreement (FTA) partners. This helps create jobs in the state. In 2009, 25.6 percent of Arizona’s employment stemmed from exports.

While the governor and Legislature are doing what they can at the state level, a crucial piece to our manufacturers’ success lies with trade agreements negotiated at the federal level. We need trade agreements in place in order to open up new markets abroad and increase competition and consumer choice here at home. A key component of our ability to negotiate these new deals is Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives Congress the ability to approve or disapprove - but not amend - trade agreements.

Trade Promotion Authority is important to the American economy as it levels the playing field, increases competition and opens up access to foreign markets. The U.S. is the world’s largest economy and the largest exporter and importer of goods and services. The U.S. has free trade agreements with 20 countries, which make up 50 percent of all U.S. manufactured exports. TPA gives U.S. negotiators the opportunity to get the best trade agreement possible with oversight from Congress.

When overseas markets are open, businesses and employees benefit. One of five jobs in the U.S. today are supported by trade. As the U.S. negotiates the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the need for TPA is critical. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Roadmap for Readiness: Arizona Chamber Foundation hosts briefings for business leaders across the state on ACCRS

A Guest Post from Gretchen Martinez, executive director of the Arizona Chamber Foundation and Katie Fischer, research analyst for the Arizona Chamber Foundation 

Here at the Arizona Chamber Foundation, we don’t get out much. Typically, you can find us buried in the books, getting deep in the weeds on the issues that impact the Arizona business community. 

Last week, however, we got out of the office and onto the road to talk about education with local businesses. In partnership with the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Chamber Foundation sponsored briefings throughout the state for local business leaders to hear about Arizona’s new K-12 standards from former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan and education policy expert Becky Hill. 

Known as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, these more rigorous learning goals were created in the early 2000s, following a cry from business leaders for graduates who were more prepared to enter a rapidly changing economy. Governors and State Superintendents from across the country developed a more rigorous set of math and language arts standards designed to achieve the levels of reading, writing and arithmetic necessary to be ready for college, career and life. Arizona adopted these Standards in 2010, and our teachers have been diligently implementing them ever since. 

As we enter a new legislative session in Arizona, it’s important to reaffirm our support for these Standards, rededicate ourselves to enacting positive changes to our education system and remember where these reforms originated. In his State of American Business Address, U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue expressed his support for the new Standards, which have been adopted in some iteration in 45 states, and acknowledged the opportunity for continued improvement: 

“Economic growth is absolutely critical, but it is not a panacea. I’ve talked in positive terms about America’s energy revolution. Well, we need a positive revolution in American education and training as well. 

“It is beyond me how this nation can be so complacent while some 30% and more of our young people don’t even graduate from high school. Millions who do graduate have not even learned to properly read, write, or count—and tragically, that can be a prescription for permanent inequality. 

“Where is the outrage? Where is the urgency? Where is the political courage to really challenge the status quo in our educational establishment? The severe educational and skills gap we face is a challenge that should unite us as a nation and a society. 

“Of course the states should adopt and implement the Common Core educational standards, which the Chamber strongly supports. But that’s just a start. Teachers, parents, school districts, businesses, community leaders, and institutions of higher education must all get directly and personally involved. “We must ensure that every young person learns basic skills and is properly equipped for jobs and careers that are actually going to exist in the 21st century.” 

Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of conservative education policy think tank, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently reminded the Idaho Legislature of the importance of moving forward with Idaho’s version of these higher standards: 

“I’m here to remind you that it’s been conservatives, for thirty years, ever since the Nation at Risk report during the Reagan Administration, who have been fighting for higher standards and greater accountability for our schools. 

“It’s been defenders of the status quo who have been arguing, all these years, that it’s ‘not fair’ to hold schools accountable for results, because there are so many factors schools don’t control. Really, it’s not fair to expect schools to teach students to learn to read, write, and compute? 

“It’s been defenders of the status quo who have been arguing, all these years, that it’s ‘not fair’ to have high expectations of kids growing up in poverty, that they face too many challenges. But it’s fair to give those kids a diploma they can’t read, or pass them along from grade to grade even if they can’t write or do math?” 

As we traveled across the state, we were inspired by the desire of business leaders to engage on this issue. We sincerely enjoyed these briefings as an opportunity to talk with local business leaders about the new Standards and the importance of raising the bar for Arizona students to become the innovators of tomorrow.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Gov. Brewer's State of the State reminds Ariz. and nation of competitiveness reforms

I had the privilege today of being on the floor of the state House of Representatives as  a guest of Speaker of the House Any Tobin for Gov. Jan Brewer’s State of the State address.

I was thrilled that Mexican Consul General Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez delivered remarks to the assembled representatives and guests before the governor’s arrival, stressing the importance of the Arizona-Mexico relationship. It’s encouraging to hear that more legislative delegation visits to Mexico are in the planning stages.


Governor Brewer delivered a speech that made clear to anyone listening that Arizona has done more than any other state to attract jobs. She mentioned a number of the tax reforms we’ve made over the years, including reductions in the corporate income tax and capital gains. As she said, “Our message to job creators has been heard: Arizona is open for business.”

She mentioned companies like Apple, GM and State Farm by name, saying that landing those deals over the last several months was made possible by listening to what businesses need. To that end, the governor called on the Legislature to end the sales tax assessed on the power manufacturers consume. Expect this issue to be a major one this session.

Washington’s stumbles

The governor contrasted Arizona common sense with the silliness that plagues Washington, citing the brouhaha over keeping the Grand Canyon open while Congress and the White House stumbled their way through the government shutdown. She rightly urged the feds to get to work for American people.


The governor shifted to education’s essential connection to a thriving economy. She commented that improving the business environment has been a hallmark of the last five years, but that she’s proud of what we’ve done for families, including school choice legislation.

By 2018 three out of five jobs will require post-secondary training. The governor made a full-throated appeal to stop funding the status quo, to reward innovation and to fund the results we want. She is seeking this session to reward and replicate the practices that help students achieve through her Student Success Funding model, which will reward schools monetarily for student results.

In the area of higher education, she called on the Arizona Board of Regents to develop a plan and adopt a policy for stable tuition for the four years it should take a student to graduate.


As you could imagine, reforms at Child Protective Services loomed large. The governor announced that she had abolished CPS as we know it in place of a child welfare office that will report to governor. She called on the Legislature to statutorily establish a separate agency that focuses on families in distress and makes child safety must be priority.

This might be Gov. Brewer’s final State of the State address. She has many challenges ahead of her this legislative session, but she should not be bashful about telling the world about all that Arizona has done to jumpstart its jobs machine. She should be applauded for continuing to keep her foot on the gas in 2014.