GREENVILLE - The Ohio Chamber of Commerce Chamber Action Alliance (CAA) recently announced its current statewide rankings for grassroots legislative advocacy by local chambers. The Ohio Chamber CAA and local chambers across the state equal the largest business grassroots network in Ohio.
The Darke County Chamber of Commerce (DCCC) received a ranking of six out of 92 chambers in the state. Chambers accrue points on their level of activity in the grassroots arena including public policy, member advocacy, and hosting legislative events.
“We know that time is a precious commodity for our member businesses and that following the issues going on in Columbus - as important as they may be to our members - is not always their top priority,” stated Sharon Deschambeau, chamber president. “We sift through all the issues and supply our members with a focused approach to public policy. The fact that a chamber of our size is ranked sixth in the state is a result of the DCCC Legislative Committee and the board of directors rolling up their proverbial sleeves.”
Part of that sleeve-rolling includes discussion, which can sometimes be tough, said Aaron Ward, legislative committee chairman for DCCC.
“Political and policy discussions with friends, family members and coworkers can sometimes lead to tense conversations,” said Ward. “As an advocate for the business community, the chamber must take positions on issues that will help support a healthy economy. The legislative committee does its best to communicate and educate our membership on the issues and the reasons why getting involved and taking positions is critical to business.”
Jeff Kniese, legislative committee vice-chair for DCCC, said that education is a big part of what the committee does.
“The DCCC strives to be the first to educate its members on an issue,” said Kniese. “One way the committee identifies issues is through requests of legislative advocacy by Chamber members.”
One local company, Midmark, requested DCCC support of H.R. 436, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, aimed at repealing the medical device tax implemented as part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, cited Kniese regarding a recent grassroots advocacy effort.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Medical Device tax will impose a new $30 billion tax on medical device sales in the United States beginning in 2013. The tax will apply to products ranging from wheelchairs, pacemakers, hip replacements, and MRI’s. This added cost will have a significant negative impact on medical device companies and may have some bearing on their ability to invest in Research and Development. Medical technology is one of the only American manufacturing sectors that is a net exporter, exporting $5.4 billion more than it imports.
The legislative committee and board of directors sent a letter to President Barack Obama and U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman urging repeal of the 2.3 percent Medical Device Tax. Chamber members were also asked to support Midmark by contacting U.S. Senators Brown and Portman. A copy of the letter can be found on the chamber’s website at darkecountyohio.com.
“Ohio is one of just 10 states where municipalities impose a personal income tax and a business tax,” said Deschambeau, giving an example of how she brings information to the chamber legislative committee to gauge their level of interest in public policy issues.
“If there isn’t sufficient committee interest in a grassroots effort, then the legislative committee just considers itself to be well-informed by receiving a thorough report and information,” commented Kniese.
In November, the Education and Workforce Committee of the Ohio Chamber will begin discussion to develop an agenda on the K-12 education, higher education, and workforce training and development issues that companies want to advocate and promote in the next legislative session. DCCC looks forward to being a part of that discussion, Deschambeau stated.
“It is rewarding to be able to communicate the education and workforce challenges of businesses in Darke County and exciting to work toward state policy changes to remedy these challenges,” she said. “With grassroots advocacy, the power rests in the voice of the people - in our case, the men and women who own and operate businesses. Being part of the legislative and policy process gives us a seat at the table in D.C. and Columbus and provides a strong voice for Darke County Chamber member businesses and their employees.”
Members of the legislative committee include Aaron Ward, chairman, Jeff Kniese, vice chairman, Steve Badgett, Tyeis Baker-Baumann, Christina Chalmers, Pat Custenborder, Kathy Daniels, David Dunaway, Todd Durham, Tony Roberts, Wayne Deschambeau, Eric Fee, Chris Gigandet, Ted Hafer, Kent James, Bob Nelson, Randy O’Dell, Perry Walls, Jim Ward, John Warner, Nancy Zechar and Sharon Deschambeau.