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Springfield Regional Chamber Releases Legislative Agenda

April 3, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., March 19, 2018 –  At the Springfield Regional Chamber’s (SRC) March 9, 2018 Outlook event, the SRC released its legislative agenda outlining its priorities for the second legislative session and the major issues it will focus on to strengthen business competitiveness, lower business costs and stimulate growth in the greater Springfield region.

The 2017-2018 legislative agenda touches upon key issues in the areas of tax policy, workplace issues, health care, and education and workforce development. Most notable, the agenda focuses on three of the 2018 ballot initiatives, which could, if passed, impose rigid nurse staffing requirements; increase the minimum wage and create a new statewide paid family and medical leave program requiring all employees and employers to participate and fund.

“The Springfield Regional Chamber advocates for all business when we support or oppose legislation that affects the economic vitality of our region,” said SRC President Nancy F. Creed. “We will oppose legislation that would place undue burdens on business -- including increasing costs and hindering job creation,” she added.

In addition, more than 6,000 pieces of legislation haven been filed since the start of the legislative session in January of 2017.  Creed said the SRC has identified nearly 300 pieces of legislation that could impact the regional business community and researches, monitors and advocates as appropriate on each piece of legislation as it moves through the process.  This work formulates the SRC’s legislative agenda. 

Creed said, in addition to its work on the ballot initiatives, the SRC’s legislative focus for the second session includes focusing on the state budget and how revenues are prioritized and spent, including: supporting the rebuilding of the Stabilization Fund, or “Rainy Day” Fund and encouraging it only in dire circumstances; supporting adequate funding for programs to meet the unique needs of the region’s Gateway Cities; advocating for adequate funding for local aid; supporting the maintaining of the state’s high bond rating; continuing its support for an appropriate cannabis tax position which fully funds all regulatory, social and enforcement costs, and opposing any increase in the income tax on business.

In addition to the paid leave and minimum wage workplace issues, the SRC will oppose any efforts to discontinue the use of non-compete agreements and will oppose “wage theft” legislation.  “The SRC vigorously supports our existing laws that guarantee workers are paid what they are due, but we oppose legislation that would shift legal responsibility for wage theft committed by one business to another that did not employee the affected worker or workers.” she stated.

Creed also said that the cost of healthcare and access to its coverage is a critical issue for SRC members.  To that end, in addition to opposing the Patient Safety and Hospital Transparency ballot initiative, she said the SRC will continue to follow changes in the Affordable Care Act at the state and/or federal level; review areas for cost containment at the state level and oppose mandated benefits that are not evidence based and whose costs exceed their value; and advocate for appropriate Medicare, Medicaid, and Disproportionate Services Hospital payments so as not to penalize our health care providers or drive up costs to the commercial markets.

Creed said energy costs remain on the SRC’s radar and to that end, the SRC will advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy which includes a balanced energy portfolio, development of alternative renewable energy sources, expansion of the supply of natural gas and conservation and energy efficiency measures.  “It is our position that while we have made great progress jumpstarting clean sources of energy for the future, failure to address our need for reliable and affordable sources of energy generation makes us extremely vulnerable economically while calling into question our ability to meet our ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals,” she said.

Rounding out the SRC’s work for the remainder of the session is education and workforce development.  “The Chamber believes that all students should leave the school system with the knowledge, skills and experience they will need in the 21st century,” Creed said, adding that the SRC will continue its support for programs and services which close the “Skills Gap,” the gap between the skills and knowledge employers need and what the school system produces; supporting higher appropriations for high quality pre-K-12 programs, but only if coupled with reforms which address the failure to close the workforce readiness gap; and to advocate for the protection of existing education reforms and opposing the rollback of these measures.  “Massachusetts has become a national leader in education and, while there is still more work to be done, we cannot turn our backs on the significant progress we have made for the students of today and we must continue to look forward for the students of tomorrow,” she added.

For information about the SRC and its legislative advocacy, contact Creed at creed@springfieldregionalchamber.com.

 

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