PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA
AMHERST CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Table of Contents 01. PUBLIC POLICY COMMITTEES 02. MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD CHAIRMAN AND PUBLIC POLICY COMMITTEE CHAIR 03. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT POLICY 04. HEALTH CARE POLICY 05. ENERGY POLICY 06. HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY 08. FEDERAL POLICY 09. OTHER POLICY ISSUES 10. EMERGING BUSINESS LEADERS PUBLIC POLICY Follow us
Public Officials Serving Amherst United States Senate
Town of Amherst
Charles Schumer Kirsten Gillibrand
Executive - Mark Poloncarz
Supervisor - Dr. Barry Weinstein
County Clerk - Chris Jacobs
Council Member - Deborah Bucki
United States House of Representatives
Comptroller - Stefan Mychajliw
Council Member - Francine Spoth
Brian Higgins Christopher Collins
Legislator - Tom Loughran
New York State Senate Michael Ranzenhofer
New York State Assembly Raymond Walter
Legislator - Edward Rath Sheriff - Tim Howard
Council Member - Steven Sanders Council Member - Ramona Popowich Town Clerk - Marjory Jaeger Mayor Villiage of Williamsville Brian Kulpa
The Amherst Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee Robert Mills Daemen College Chair
Colleen DiPirro Amherst Chamber of Commerce President/CEO
Jack Colocousis Corporate Training Services
Ed Damico National Fuel Gas
Rick Glogowski Keller Williams Realty
Jonathan Hager Home Depot
Lippes, Mathias, Wexler, and Freedman
Mike Hughes Kaleida Health
Don Ingalls/AJ Wright BlueCross BlueShield of WNY
Kevin Kennedy National Grid
Jeffrey Lehrbach McGuire Development Company
Mike Pietkiewicz Erie Community College
Roberta Rifkin Independent Health
Suzie Rivo Solender Solender Services, LLC
Dominic Vivolo RBC Wealth Management
Laura Zaepfel Uniland Development Company
The Emerging Business Leaders Public Policy Committee Julie Bishop Hyatt Place
Camille Farkas CBRE
Patrick T. Fitzgerald Phillips Lytle, LLP
Maggie Henderson Ingram Micro
Daniel Keating National Grid
Adam Keller RealtyUSA
John MacDonald AXA Financial Advisors
Jeff Moses Moses Insurance Group
Matthew Smyczynski Bank of America
Lippes, Mathias, Wexler and Freedman
Parkside Community Association
MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD CHAIRMAN
AND THE PUBLIC POLICY COMMITTEE CHAIR The Amherst Chamber of Commerce is pleased to present its 2016 Public Policy Agenda. With its deep roots in the Town of Amherst, the Amherst Chamber of Commerce has developed into the largest chamber of commerce in Western New York. The Chamber is proud of its record of advocacy on behalf of our members and its evolution into a preeminent voice on Regional issues ranging from economic development, energy, health care, and other critically important issues facing the business community. We provide significant added value to our membership by helping the business community we serve to grow and prosper, with special emphasis on assisting in the navigation through the complex governmental and regulatory processes that continue to pose difficult challenges to the private sector, particularly small businesses that often require special assistance in a challenging business climate. Our Public Policy Agenda is designed to identify issues within the Region that directly impact our members and must be brought to the attention of policymakers at the Federal, State, and local government levels. The Public Policy Committee of the Chamber continues to be the forum for the analysis and discussion of key public policy matters including the formulation of formal positions on these issues. The Amherst Chamber of Commerce is a “democratic” organization that responds to requests from its members on various policy, regulatory, and legislative matters, and only takes position on such matters when it receives majority support of the Public Policy Committee and the Chamber’s Board of Directors. Furthermore, the Chamber is an organization that is non-partisan and believes in a non-partisan approach to advocacy on behalf of its members. The Chamber does not endorse specific candidates for public office. Rather it supports good public policy that is in the best interest of its membership, the Town of Amherst and the Buffalo Niagara Region. This approach allows our organization to earn and maintain a well-deserved reputation for being, fair, effective, non-political advocates for the businesses that it represents. The Emerging Business Leaders once again is providing its input to our 2016 Public Policy Agenda. The EBL program is the conduit for Western New York emerging professionals to help shape the Chamber’s public policy positions from the perspective of young business leaders, and to pave the way for the cultivation of the next generation of business leadership in the Buffalo Niagara Region. We welcome and solicit the input of our members in the formulation of our annual Public Policy Agenda and this document reflects those views. Sincerely,
Earl V. Wells III Chairman of the Board
Robert Mills Chair Public Policy Committee
Economic De velopment Policy Programs, policies, and other initiatives that impact Economic Development continue to be a priority of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and its membership. Targeted economic development incentives, reforms, and investments in Amherst, Erie County, and throughout the Buffalo Niagara Region will continue to be a focus in 2016.
Updates to the Amherst Comprehensive Land Use Plan The Chamber strongly supports the strategic repurposing and redevelopment of properties along such key business thoroughfares as Main Street in the Village of Williamsville; Sheridan Drive; Millersport Highway; and Niagara Falls Boulevard. Along these lines, the Chamber strongly recommends the updating and re-validation of a comprehensive land use plan for Amherst, and seeks to have a prominent role in this process.
Establish a CountyWide Community Development Plan The Chamber is pleased with the increased focus of the Governor and his administration on bolstering economic development in Buffalo and throughout Erie County. We propose that representatives from the Chamber work with the University at Buffalo Regional Institute and the New York State Department of Economic Development to draft a county-wide Community Development Plan that will identify resources that can be dedicated to distressed and underutilized properties in the Region that meet a pre-determined criterion. The Amherst Chamber of Commerce supports re-development projects throughout the Region, in both our urban core and first ring suburbs, and will work with our public officials to enhance these projects.
Targeted economic development incentives, reforms, and investments will continue to be a focus in 2016.
Small Business Tax Cuts As an advocacy organization whose membership is primarily comprised of small businesses, the Amherst Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically supports Governor Cuomoâ€™s proposal to cut small business taxes by $300 million. Small businesses that pay taxes as personal income taxes, not as corporations, will be permitted to exempt 15 percent of their income for taxable purposes. The Governorâ€™s other proposal would lower the income tax rate to four percent for small businesses that pay taxes as corporations, beginning in 2017. These proposals would benefit thousands of small businesses throughout Western New York.
Health Care Policy The Amherst Chamber of Commerce continues to support policies that reinforce the need for healthier communities in Western New York, which make health care affordable for business, particularly small and medium-sized businesses throughout the Region. The Chamber urges State and Federal officials to give special attention and priority to the following key health care issues facing the private sector and citizens in the Buffalo Niagara Region.
Affordable Care Act (ACA) Changes The Chamber continues to support reasonable modifications of the ACA to assist small businesses. As Congress looks forward to 2016, the Chamber strongly recommends that the Western New York and State Congressional delegations take a lead role in changes to the underlying Affordable Care Act that will remove those provisions that drive up costs and impede the creation of jobs in the small business sector.
Remove those provisions that drive up costs and impede the creation of jobs in the small business sector. Mitigating the High Cost of Prescription Drugs The explosive growth in prices for prescription drugs, including specialty drugs, new brand name drugs, as well as existing generic and brand name drugs jeopardize patientsâ€™ access to affordable, innovative treatments. Skyrocketing drug prices are forcing insurers to increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs for drugs. The Chamber supports efforts by policymakers to increase transparency of drug pricing.
Transparency in Health Insurance Premium Rate Approvals New York State reinstated a health insurance premium rate setting process in 2010. The Chamber supports State legislation that would improve transparency of the rate approvals process.
Energy Policy Energy Infrastructure
Gross Receipts Tax
The Amherst Chamber of Commerce supports natural gas infrastructure projects bringing low cost Marcellus Shale gas into the interstate pipeline system. Access to abundant and economical natural gas is imperative for the local and greater Region. In addition to improving the interstate natural gas market for all consumers, these projects significantly increase local municipal, school, and county tax bases without raising taxes and create jobs for WNY’s workforce.
The Chamber joins other business groups and organizations for a repeal of Section 18-a energy gross receipts assessment which would save residential and businesses approximately $200 million annually.
Reforming the Energy Vision The Chamber supports many of the policy recommendations in the Governor’s Reforming Energy Vision (REV) under the auspices of the New York State Public Service Commission. The availability of reliable, resilient, and affordable electric service is essential to New York’s economy. To ensure continuing economic growth and prosperity for New York, the PSC is aligning markets and the regulatory landscape with the enhanced reliability to provide safe, clean, and affordable electric service. Along these lines, the Chamber advocates for the implementation of a demonstration project in Western New York to further advance REV.
The availability of reliable, resilient, and affordable electronic service is essential to New York’s economy.
Higher Education Policy In developing its Public Affairs Agenda and identifying the critical components of an economic development strategy, the Chamber continues to stress the importance of institutions of higher education as economic engines for the Buffalo Niagara Region.
University at Buffalo The University at Buffalo is not only the State’s flagship State public institution of higher education, but it is a driving force in the redevelopment renaissance taking place in downtown Buffalo, including the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The Chamber fully supports the three primary policy priorities put forth by the University at Buffalo and urges approval of those initiatives that will benefit both the university’s infrastructure requirements and the students who will take their place in the Regional workforce upon graduation.
Main Street Campus Revitalization
Extend and Amend the NYSUNY 2020 Legislation The mission of the program is to elevate SUNY as a catalyst for Regional economic development and affordable education. The program provides incentives for capital development on SUNY campuses and within surrounding communities, while also establishing Maintenance of Effort provisions and a rational tuition program that allows schools, parents, and students to anticipate expenses. NYSUNY 2020 Legislation is set to sunset next year. UB is recommending and the Amherst Chamber is supporting efforts to extend this Act, specifically to adjust two key provisions in NYSUNY 2020 including allowing the Board of Trustees to set tuition rate increases by SUNY college sectors; and to increase the TAP Tuition credit cap for needy students.
UB is a driving force in the redevelopment renaissance taking place in downtown Buffalo.
The Chamber supports additional resources to augment other sources of funding to facilitate the relocation of elements of the University’s Amherst campus to the Main Street campus. This proposed investment will help to stabilize the impact on the local economy brought about by the dual relocations of the Main Street Campus Medical School to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus; and the concurrent relocation of the graduate schools of Social Work and Education to the Main Street Campus from Amherst.
Increase Capital Aid to Address Critical Maintenance Issues at UB The Chamber understands that UB’s infrastructure and buildings are aging and in need of critical repairs. The Chamber supports an aggregate State University of New York system capital appropriation and an increased allocation to the University at Buffalo to meet these critical needs.
Higher Education Policy Erie Community College The Chamber supports the SUNY 2016-17 state budget request of $250 increase in base aid support for community colleges. This increase would provide approximately $2.5 million in state aid to ECC and afford more than 12,000 western New York students a chance to start, restart, or redirect their education with nearly 100 career-focused programs. In addition, the Amherst Chamber of Commerce supports continued and additional support for the community college rental aid program to assist in the realization of ECC’s role in the City of Buffalo’s Northland project and ECC’s downtown plans.
Extend and Enhance Streamlined Academic Program Approval at the New York State Department of Education The Chamber believes that community colleges and four-year institutions must have the ability to adapt quickly to shifting trends and skill gaps within the private sector, by approving new programs to meet those needs. The Chamber urges the State Legislature to ensure that the Department continues all efforts to work with institutions of higher education to ensure that State Education approvals keep pace with the accelerated need for skill gap programs and initiatives at both private and public colleges and universities throughout the State.
Support the Higher Education Capital Matching (HECap) Grants Program The Chamber continues to urge the Governor and Legislature in tandem with institutions of higher education to provide funding for this 3:1 matching grant, capital improvement program. HECap allocations continue to spur economic development, create thousands of jobs across the state, and leverage the state’s higher education institutions to sustain recent economic growth and expansion.
Community colleges and four-year institutions must have the ability to adapt quickly to shifting trends and skill gaps within the private sector
Expand the STEM Incentive Program The STEM fields are critically important to the future of our economy and there continues to be a growing need for graduates. To meet this need, the Chamber believes that the STEM Incentive Program enacted in last year’s budget be expanded so talented students can take their scholarship dollars to any college or university in New York State including Independent Sector campuses.
Federal Policy In addition to public policy initiatives in the Region and Albany, the Chamber has identified priority issues that it recommends for consideration by our congressional delegation in Washington.
Amend Proposed Department of Labor Overtime Rules On June 30th the U.S. Department of Labor announced new proposed regulations that significantly altered exemptions from minimum wage and overtime requirements. The proposed regulations seek to greatly increase the salary thresholds for employees to qualify for the most commonly utilized exemptions. Therefore, the Chamber urges our Senators and Members of the House of Representatives to identify a legislative opportunity to postpone or vitiate these detrimental Department of Labor regulations, at least until the aggregate impact on small and medium sized businesses can be assessed.
Support full Implementation of the Federal Transportation and Infrastructure Bill (Highway Bill) Now that Congress has reauthorized Federal transportation program funding with a $305 billion, 5-year Highway Bill, the Chamber urges our Congressional leaders to ensure that the needs and interests of the Buffalo Niagara Region are given special priority during the implementation of this critically important funding, today and in the future.
Make Significant Changes to the NLRB Joint Employer Ruling In August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed down a ruling that companies can be held responsible for labor violations committed by their contractors. The â€œjoint employerâ€? decision could have broad repercussions for the business world, particularly for franchise companies.
The Chamber shares the concerns of other business organizations that the ruling could hurt businesses as diverse as restaurants, retailers, manufacturers and construction firms, as well as hotels, cleaning services and staffing agencies.
Other Policy Issues Scaffold Law 240/241
The Amherst Chamber and Public Policy
The Chamber continues to view the current Scaffold Law and its standard of “absolute liability” as an unnecessary, rigid impediment to growth in the construction and development trades. The Chamber continues to support the replacement of the current standard of “absolute liability” with language that establishes a standard of “comparative negligence.”
The Amherst Chamber of Commerce is committed to representing our members as it relates to public policy and governmental issues that impact their businesses. Given that, from time to time, an issue will arise that is time sensitive and demands immediate response. In such a circumstance, we will react on behalf of our members, when we have determine that an action has tangible benefit to the demographic we represent.
The Chamber is particularly concerned about the negative impact the proposed minimum wage policy will have on small businesses and the retail sector of the Regional economy. Minimum Wage The Chamber and the businesses that it represents, continue to be deeply concerned over pending proposals to increase the minimum wage. While the Chamber does support economic growth that will help ensure a workforce with good wages, it is particularly concerned about the negative impact the proposed minimum wage policy will have on small businesses and the retail sector of the Regional economy.
EMERGING BUSINESS LEADERS 2016 PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA One Region Forward In February 2015, One Region Forward, a working group with the goal of fostering a more sustainable, livable Buffalo Niagara for the 21st Century, released its Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. This Plan contains specific planning strategies and action points designed to lift the region as a whole. The EBL encourages municipalities throughout the Buffalo Niagara region to utilize the 1RF Plan as a tool during all stages of their project development initiatives and to implement the policies and ideas therein when practical.
NFTA Transit Options Study The EBL echoes the Amherst Chamber’s support of the thorough study of public transit options for service between Amherst and Buffalo. Further, the EBL calls on the NFTA to invest the necessary resources to extend light rail outside of its current footprint and provide access to, at a minimum, UB’s North Campus, and beyond. Light rail service is essential to the continued revitalization the City of Buffalo and the creation of the modern infrastructure necessary for this region to meet its full potential in the 21st Century.
Economic Development Incentives and Tax Credits The EBL supports the continuation and targeted expansion of existing incentives and tax credits that have proven to be effective in encouraging sustainable long term development bringing aging and abandoned structures back onto the tax rolls. Specifically, the EBL calls for an increase to the cap on the New York State Rehabilitation Tax Credit, without which many of the recent redevelopment projects in the region would not have been possible. In addition, the EBL supports the Chamber’s long-held position supporting legislation creating a refundable Asbestos Removal Tax Credit.
Workforce Development The EBL supports the creation and implementation of effective programs that encourage the development of a skilled regional workforce in manufacturing and other trades. In addition, we understand that efficient, reliable public transportation is integral to connecting the existing talent in our region to available jobs, and therefore encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors to develop public transportation solutions that will allow both local workers and local businesses to reach their full potential.
Student Debt The EBL recognizes that the rapidly increasing cost of higher education is burdening the next generation of business leaders with student debt that will dampen their ability to invest in their own futures and that of the Buffalo Niagara region. We call on our elected officials and the leaders in the higher education industry to work together to address increasing costs, including the preservation of existing student aid programs, while at the same time encouraging transparency and financial literacy so that those looking to invest in a college education understand the burdens that come with high student debt.
EMERGING BUSINESS LEADERS 2016 PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA Child Care The EBL supports increasing the money allocated to child care subsidies in the Erie County Department of Social Services Budget, which will provide much-needed assistance to families sending their children to daycare. In addition, the EBL supports an increase in the current cap on pre-tax dependent care expenses.
Redesign of the 198 The EBL supports a responsible redesign of the Scajaquada Expressway to create a safe, efficient and accessible urban boulevard. Such a project should include roadway design and landscape restoration to minimize the intrusion of vehicle travel through the historic landscape of Delaware Park to the greatest extent possible, while maintaining a viable modern thoroughfare.
Ride Sharing in Upstate New York The EBL is a proud member of New Yorkers for Ridesharing, a coalition of community organizations, businesses, civic organizations, advocates, citizens, and more calling for affordable, reliable and safe transportation alternatives for Upstate New York. We call on our state representatives to find a legislative solution to allow these innovative services to operate in New York State as they already do in hundreds of cities and towns across the country.
We call on our state representatives to find a legislative solution to allow ride sharing services to operate in New York State. Minimum Wage The members of the EBL fully support the goal of lifting all people out of poverty; however, we do not believe that the proposed increase of the minimum wage to $15 is the right path. Such an action will devastate small businesses, not-for-profits and community organizations, harming the very people the increase was intended to help. Instead, the EBL encourages local, state and federal leaders to implement policies that create a strong, competitive economy and ensure workers receive the training and skills they need to climb the economic ladder.
Western Ne w York Regional Economic De velopment Council (WNYREDC) Regional Economic Development Councils were created by Governor Cuomo in 2011 and resulted in regions across the state creating strategies for growing their economic base predicated on their individual unique needs. Amherst Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Colleen DiPirro represents the Chamber on the WNYREDC. WNYREDC Co-Chairs Satish Tripathi and Jeff Belt stated in their 2015 Report that council members and work groups have spent years setting the stage for success by establishing strategies and planning for growth. The result has been that our regionâ€™s economic development efforts are more collaborative, more focused, more cost effective, and less duplicative. Our image is changing. Young professionals want to live and work here. The Amherst Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with Empire State Development, our NYS officials and the Council to continue this winning strategy.
A major component of the Councils is the Consolidated Funding Application (CFAâ€™s). The CFA gives economic development project applicants expedited and streamlined access to a combined pool of grant money and tax credits from dozens of NYS programs. The Chamber is working with ESD officials to increase recognition for the availability of funding via the CFA process and to provide assistance to firms and organizations interested in applying. The WNYREDC will be hosting and promoting workshops to help interested applicants understand both the criteria for funding approval and assistance with the application process when the next round of funding is announced.
Get more information about the WNYREDC by visiting: http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/western-new-york
View the CFA Toolkit by visiting:
Why the Amherst Chamber of Commerce? - A Suburban Chamber with a Regional Vision (Membership Representing Over 100 Zip Codes in the WNY Region) - Chamber Health Insurance for Individuals/Sole Proprietors and Small Groups (No Third Party Enrollment Fees)
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Amherst Chamber of Commerce
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