Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Chamber has a New President & CEO!

Join the Chamber in welcoming seasoned Chamber Executive Tom Pierson as the new President & CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. Pierson will bring a passion for business and a knack for problem-solving and collaboration.

Currently CEO of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, Pierson will begin work at the Chamber on June 27.

Pierson led the Federal Way chamber for eight years, doubling membership to nearly 500 businesses. He created the South Sound Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition and the Regional Small Business Incubator. Pierson will replace interim President & CEO Mike Hansch, who has led the chamber since David Graybill retired last year.

Under Pierson’s leadership, the Federal Way Chamber received four-star accreditation from the US Chamber of Commerce based on financial controls, management and overall performance.

Community involvement also is important to Pierson. He is chairman of the Woodstone Credit Union board of directors and serves on the Franciscan Foundation board of trustees. He also has board roles with Communities in Schools of Federal Way, Safe City Federal Way, St. Francis Fellowship, Multi-Service Center, Advancing Leadership, Jobs for South Sound and Federal Way Boys and Girls Club.

For more information, see the Chamber’s website.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chamber Testifies for Building Opportunity

The Chamber testified at Tuesday night's Tacoma City Council meeting in favor of amendment #2011-06 of the 2011 Annual Amendment to the Tacoma Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Regulatory Code. 

Specifically, the Chamber addresses the amendment as it affected the South Tacoma Manufacturing / Industrial Center regional growth center boundaries.  The Chamber's testimony to the Council:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in favor of #2011-06, regional center update to the South Tacoma Manufacturing/Industrial Center.

The Port of Tacoma has received many deserved accolades for its foresight and initiative with the Frederickson Industrial Park. Through opportunities realized with the actualization of the potential at Frederickson, our community has gained jobs, income and tax base.

The Chamber appreciates and supports the Council's action to make the next Frederickson - the South Tacoma Manufacturing/Industrial Center - the most attractive economic asset it can be to give us jobs, income and tax base. 

The first and final readings of ordinances adopting the proposed amendments are scheduled to occur on June 7 and June 14.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Deal on Workers' Comp Reform

AWB reports the latest update, after substantial negotiations Sunday, Saturday, and Friday, a deal was finally struck between the five corners on a workers’ comp reform bill for 2011.

Its major highlights include:

  • The “Stay at Work” program return to work subsidy for state fund employers
  • The prior PPD offset and no interest on periodic PPD payments
  • A one year freeze in the COLA payment with no catch-up, and a delay in next year’s COLA payment
  • The “rainy day fund”
  • An occupational disease study
  • SHIP grants continuation
  • A directive on a worker/provider fraud prevention initiative
  • A JLARC performance audit on claims management

By far the most contentious piece is the introduction of voluntary settlements to Washington. Settlements are allowed in this package, subject to the following basic constraints:

  • Age 55 and older at first, phased down to age 50 by 2016
  • Settlement award must be paid out periodically (i.e., structured settlement), with an up front payment of six times the state’s average monthly wage (SAMW) and then the remainder paid out over a period specified by the parties, with the periodic payment no less than 25% of the SAMW (about $1,000) and no more than 150% of the SAMW (a little over $5,000).
  • Same basic sideboards and constraints as in HB 2109, i.e., IAJ review for pro se workers, Board approval for all, etc.
  • Attorney’s fees capped at 15% for settlements

Some details we just won’t know until the language comes out.  The idea is to run it first in the House Monday morning. Then in the Senate Monday evening.

The Governor held a press conference on this with the four corners’ leadership at 6pm. Once TVW gets the video loaded, you’ll be able to view it from this page.   would highly encourage watching it once it’s available as it may answer some of your questions about the political ambience of this all.

As you assess all this, remember Bismarck’s maxim: “Politics is the art of the possible.” This package is much less than what we wanted; more than what we have now. It’s a good first step and we should thank the bipartisan cast of legislators whose holding firm on positions early on and in negotiations this weekend helped attain as much flexibility and reform as “possible” under the political constraints.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Legislative Special Session Update

With less than one week remaining in the 30-day special session, there seems to be new energy and momentum in the legislature for getting finished on time and avoiding the need for a second special session.

by Michael Transue, Governmental Affairs, Lobbying & Advocacy Services

Earlier this week and late last week, I thought a second special session was going to be necessary – Speaker Frank Chopp sent the House members home, except for the budget negotiators. Today however, it looks as if both parties and the House and Senate budget leaders are coming closer to compromise on the operating and capital budgets, the state’s debt limit (SJR 8215) and the bills necessary to implement the operating budget.

There are a multitude of bills necessary to implement the operating budget ranging through Medicaid Fraud reform, department mergers and consolidations, contracting out the state’s liquor warehouse and distribution system and college tuition increases. As of today, the House members have been called back into session and it appears that the legislature will work all weekend to meet the Wednesday (5/25/11) special session deadline to avoid a second special session.

An agreement on workers compensation reform is also being worked on by all four party caucuses and the Governor’s office in this special session. Workers Comp is being used as a bargaining and negotiating chip for budget votes, which makes the certainty around budget votes more questionable. The business community, Governor, House Republicans and Senate continue in their support for SB 5566 and HB 2109. House democratic leaders, however, are not.

The main sticking point is the proposed “voluntary settlement agreement” language contained in those bills. There have been several reports on this issue in the press of late. As of today, there have been recent meetings between the House, Senate and Governor’s office. I understand there was broad agreement on concepts that would be acceptable to all but details of those concepts aren’t public yet. More to come for sure as the next several days unfold.

Of the Chamber’s members’ interests, two issues are tied to the budgets. The first is the continued funding for State History Museum. The Museum is funded in the Senate budget. In the House, funding for the Museum is tied to HB 2033 which merges and consolidates several arts and heritage agencies and uses saving from the consolidation to operate the history museums in Tacoma, Spokane and Olympia.

The second issue is continued construction funding for the Bethel School District’s Pierce County Skills Center. The Skills Center was funded in both the House and Senate’s proposed capital budgets. Unless something unusual occurs, it seems likely this project will be funded and will continue its mission of offering career options for students leading to real jobs that mesh with workplace demands.