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Greetings from our Nation’s Capital by NVCC President Tom O’Rourke

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Imagine owning a multi-generational family business that sits in a flood plain requiring you to purchase costly flood insurance, then finding out that your already high premiums are going to increase dramatically. What do you do? Well, one South Shore company tore down their building and rebuilt it on higher ground above the flood plain. Then new flood plain maps were drawn and guess what? The new building on higher ground was back in the flood plain and subject to costly flood insurance again!

This situation is one of many issues that I, along with several other Chamber of Commerce staff and members from across the state, took to Washington D.C. last week as part of our second annual D.C. fly-in. The two-day program was a great opportunity to share the concerns of the Massachusetts business community with our nation’s leaders.

We began with a policy briefing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There we met with experts on health care policy (including the Affordable Care Act), labor policy and banking and finance. The U.S. Chamber staff has deep experience in these and other issues and prepared our contingent with relevant and timely information for our meetings with national legislators.

Based on our briefing, and on issues back here in Massachusetts, our group zeroed in on several topics of importance to business that we wanted to discuss with our state delegation:

• Implementation of the ACA – Supporting a waiver of certain provisions of the law including premium rating factors that currently allow for discounts to small business through our ChamberHealth Cooperative. This waiver was requested by Governor
Patrick at the urging of the state legislature.
• Repeal of the medical device tax, which will cost state manufacturer’s like Covidien, Boston Scientific and as many as 400 other businesses millions of dollars.
• Redefining full-time employees as those working 40 hours per week instead of 30.
• Financial & Regulatory Reform – we heard how Dodd-Frank Reform may have created a “one size fits all” regulatory approach that is burdensome to smaller community banks. Smaller lenders are turning away small businesses that are seeking to
grow and add jobs out of fear of regulatory action. The effect is forcing many small businesses to max out other forms of credit like equity line and credit cards, creating other issues for them.
• Labor Law – The U.S. Chamber shared a great deal of information regarding attempts by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to pursue an anti-employer agenda through regulations, case decisions and enforcement. To learn more about their
efforts to protect employers you can go to http://www.workforcefreedom.com/.
• Finally we had several in our group from the South Shore who were deeply concerned about the impact of the new FEMA flood maps and the impact they were going to have on flood insurance premiums as mentioned above.

Fully briefed, we then met personally, first with Senator Elizabeth Warren, followed by Senator Ed Markey and finally Congressman Steve Lynch in their respective offices. Our group included a cross-section of business people, all of whom was impacted by one or more of the issues we identified. Many of them were able to share personal examples of how their businesses were being effected and what remedies might provide relief.

In the end, I feel our messages were heard, and in most cases, agreed with by our state delegation. Certainly not every issued can be fixed quickly, but we were assured of support on several health care issues, regulatory reform issues and the FEMA flood zone maps. In fact, the day after meeting with Senator Warren the Patriot Ledger ran this story on this issue - http://www.patriotledger.com/news/x1343099069/US-Sen-Warren-Delay-new-flood-insurance-rules.

As we continue to build relationships with our leaders in Washington (our two Senators are both still brand new to the job) it’s important that they know that business does pay attention and have a voice. It’s also important that they know what we need (and perhaps what we don’t need) as they work to balance the interests of their constituents.

For those interested in more on this, I invite you to join me on next year’s trip. In the meantime our Government Affairs Committee meets every other month to discuss issues of interest to business and to learn more about the issues by hosting topical guest speakers. Their next meeting is on Friday, November 8th at 8:00 am at the Chamber.