2016 Legislative Priorities

2016 Legislative Priorities

TAX REFORM

Tax reform is the number one issue for businesses in the Lake Houston. We are not only concerned with taxes being too high for businesses, but also the complexity of the tax code which leads to an excessive amount of administrative costs businesses spend to calculate their taxes.

  • Streamlined tax system. The Lake Houston Area Chamber supports a streamlined tax system that increases the predictability and attractiveness of the American market.
  • Corporate income taxes. Support efforts to reduce corporate income taxes to increase business investment and profitability.
  • Employment tax credits. Support permanent authorization of the Work Opportunity and Welfare-To-Work tax credits in order to provide continuity and more certainty to these programs to increase employment of disadvantaged workers and improve local economies.
  • Federal unemployment tax. Support efforts to end what was intended to be a temporary federal unemployment tax surtax, repeal accelerated payment of federal unemployment tax and undertake a comprehensive review of the unemployment tax program to determine its effectiveness, fairness and value.
  • Global competition. Support tax code reforms and trade provisions that will improve the ability of U.S. companies to compete fairly in global markets. Support federal tax rates that will be more consistent with those in other countries, remove disincentives for domestic re-investment of foreign income.

TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING

  • We support providing long term transportation investments based on regional priorities to facilitate economic growth.
  • We support programs that result in adequate federal investments in the nation’s transportation systems that are sustainable, predictable and dedicated funding mechanisms and encourages public/private partnerships.
  • We support transportation programs that enhance the movement of goods and U.S. economic competitiveness.
  • We believe programs that facilitate economic development and increase access to jobs and markets should be prioritized for funding.

HEALTHCARE

We support health care reform that addresses the irrepressible costs of our health care system and improves the quality of healthcare and expands coverage to the uninsured. We feel it is necessary to continue to evaluate reform options that decrease the current strain on our nation’s job creators while also enabling our healthcare providers to provide innovative, high?quality care. We support growth and reform in the individual marketplace.

  • Medicare reform. We support changing components of the Medicare System by fixing structural problems that will allow the program to continue. We support Medicare reform to include medication therapy management which reduces health care costs by increasing patient adherence.
  • Pharmacists as healthcare providers. We support legislation that would improve patient access to care through expanded utilization of pharmacists by extending them healthcare provider status.
  • Market flexibility. Ensure that market-based solutions and approaches are used in our health care system. We support making coverage more affordable by monitoring and opposing health insurance regulations that increase the costs and undermine the concept of a free market for contractual medical services without contributing to better access and better quality of care for patients.
  • Interstate insurance. Support the interstate marketing of individual health plans and allow insurance to be purchased across state lines. Support efforts to allow citizens to purchase insurance policies, which have been approved by the insurance boards of any state and contain adequate consumer disclosure, without imposition of individual state insurance mandates, therefore increasing options for citizens in purchasing health care policies.
  • Increase the disclosure of providers and carriers in pricing and performances. Support legislation ensuring access to health care cost transparency for consumers.

REGULATORY REFORM

We support regulatory structures that are consistent and open, and allow businesses to adequately plan. We feel policy makers should focus on reducing excessive regulations in order to promote economic growth and job creation.

  • Federal agency authority. We oppose expanding the authority of federal agencies to intervene in local and state business affairs, particularly where such authority is duplicative or inconsistent with current regulations.
  • Congressional approval of major new regulations. We support efforts to strengthen the authority under the Congressional Review Act or similar legislation to require congressional approval before any major rule (defined as having a cost in excess of $100 million) can take effect. Such authority would provide some check against regulatory agencies and improve the accountability of Congress in terms of the appropriate latitude given to federal agencies in federal statutory language.
  • Swipe fee reform. We support credit and debit card swipe fee reforms which protect merchants and retailers from fees mandated by credit card companies.
  • Overtime compensation exemptions. We oppose rulemaking to redefine and limit the ability of employers to use exemptions from overtime compensation.
  • Overtime expansion. We oppose the U.S. Department of Labor’s draft rules for overtime expansion that dramatically increases compliance costs for the retail and restaurant business by $745 million as well as allow workers making up to $970 a week to qualify.
  • Retirement Savings Reform. We oppose the Department of Labor’s major new regulation that would make the DOL the primary financial regulator of retirement savings financial advice, thus increasing costs and reducing access.

EDUCATION

Postsecondary Education

  • As our very own Lone Star College System is the fastest?growing community college in the nation and a major contributor to the local and regional economy, we support policies to increase college access and success, affordability, and transparency.
  • Support efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) to support community college access and success by improving student aid programs, ensuring accurate and complete measurements of student success, reducing regulatory burdens, and embracing institutional support.
  • We support legislation to ensure student loans are affordable and simplifying the federal student aid application.
  • We support federal funding for key community college programs that is at least equal to the prior year’s funding levels.
  • Support efforts to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and focus on reforms that strengthen business engagement, promote innovation, enhance accountability, integrate work-based learning, and prioritize credentialing outcomes that better prepare youth and adults for careers aligned with the needs of the economy.

Pre-K – 12

  • The Lake Houston Area Chamber supports the government giving flexibility to local school districts to allocate federal funds to the areas of greatest need. We oppose measures to place demands on the specifics of spending federal monies
  • We support reform for special education (IDEA) grants. We support an exception from “maintenance of effort” for school districts that demonstrate efficiencies in lowering costs while maintaining all required programs.

ENERGY

Lake Houston Area is a vital part of the Greater Houston Region which is one of the largest producers of oil and gas in the world.

  • We support a regulatory frame work that encourages responsible development of newly discovered energy resources and keeping industry taxes fair and conducive to economic expansion and growth.
  • Streamlined permitting. We support streamlining the permitting process for energy infrastructure projects, and resisting regulations that burden the economy and threaten the reliability of our energy supply.
  • Restrictions on new energy resources. We support efforts to remove unreasonable restrictions on development of new energy resources, such as shale natural gas resources, based on unsound or unproven technical assessment of environmental impact.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

We support agreements which help small and large businesses reach new customers by opening foreign markets.

  • Cross-border transportation. Support improved highways, ports of entry and other infrastructures that facilitate trade.
  • Export controls. Oppose regulations that limit U.S. exports of widely available technology products, shutting U.S. companies out of foreign markets.
  • Non-tariff barriers. Press foreign regulators to ensure a level playing field for U.S. companies and free competition in their domestic markets through judicious use of competition policy, intellectual property law, technical standards, government procurement rules and investment requirements.
  • Trade facilitation. Support legislation that makes the flow of international commerce faster, cheaper, and more efficient.