Chamber Pushes Bold 2008 Policy Agenda
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Health Care, Tax Relief, Labor Among Targeted Issues
As public interest turns to the presidential primaries, the U.S. Chamber is gearing up to take care of unfinished business in Washington, promoting a pro-growth, job-generating agenda in 2008. Here are some highlights.
The Chamber will continue to support bipartisan legislation encouraging widespread adoption of health information technology including a national standard for E-prescribing, a paperless approach that would reduce administrative costs and human errors in prescribing and dispensing prescriptions.
The Chamber will also support legislation that provides tax credits for employer-sponsored workplace wellness programs, which have proven to better the health of employees while lowering medical costs.
The Chamber will push for legislation to repeal or reform the alternative minimum tax (AMT), reduce corporate income tax rates, and extend or make permanent the Bush tax cuts and other tax extenders such as the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The Chamber will oppose offsetting taxes on businesses and increases to capital gains and dividend tax rates.
The Chamber will also work to head off legislation and regulations that would attempt to close the IRS tax gap by placing excessive paperwork and withholding burdens on compliant small business taxpayers. Instead, the Chamber will push for simplification of the Internal Revenue Code.
Further, it will aggressively work to prevent backdoor taxes on businesses to pay for spending increases or tax cuts. Such tax hikes could take the form of changes to the tax treatment of carried interest, restrictions on or repeal of the last-in, first-out inventory method, and inclusion of S corporation net earnings in shareholders' self-employment tax bases.
The Chamber will work to defeat a broad array of new regulations and mandates governing the workplace including mandatory paid sick leave; expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to apply to smaller companies and to require six weeks of employer-paid leave; the resurrection of a one-size-fits-all ergonomics standard; attacks on binding arbitration in employment agreements; stiffer penalties for criminal violations of OSHA; and expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act to cover virtually any type of impairment.
The Chamber will oppose renewed efforts to ease union organizing. Unions are fighting to replace secret ballot elections in union organizing drives with a card check system that could lead to abuse and intimidation of rank-and-file employees by union bosses.
The Chamber will defend against trial lawyer-inspired attempts to expand liability for America's business community, including criminalization of product liability law and an attack on preemption of federal laws.
The Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform will continue educating voters about important state judicial and attorney general races while supporting legal reform in key problem states and jurisdictions.
Energy and the Environment
The Chamber and its Institute for 21st Century Energy are leading the lobbying efforts against misguided energy bills in Congress that would effectively throw the country in reverse when it comes to producing the affordable, diverse, clean, and secure energy supply needed for a growing economy.
The Chamber is urging Congress to review the climate change issue before taking further action on recently introduced legislation. Proposed policies must improve energy efficiency and conservation, increase energy production to meet growing demand, expand and modernize our energy infrastructure, and provide incentives for investment in new technologies.
Additionally, the Chamber will advocate for full funding and implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which is designed to increase and diversify domestic energy production and conservation efforts.
The Chamber will continue fighting to reduce disproportionate costs and unintended consequences related to Sarbanes-Oxley, pushing for a further one-year delay of Section 404 compliance for smaller public companies. To make it easier for small businesses to obtain government contracts, the Chamber will work to streamline the contracting process. It will urge passage of legislation to allow small businesses to be reimbursed for attorneys' fees when successfully challenging the government's regulatory actions in court.
Education and Workforce Development
The Chamber will pursue policies to ensure that America's high school graduates are college ready or workforce ready. Central to this goal is the reauthorization and strengthening of the No Child Left Behind Act, which expects all K-12 students to be proficient by 2014.
The Chamber also supports reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, with a focus on making the public workforce development system more business-led and business-driven.
The Chamber, together with its partner the Center for American Progress, will continue to publicize its Leaders and Laggards report card on all 50 state K-12 public education systems and carry its school reform agenda to public school systems around the country.
The Chamber will conduct voter outreach, registration, mobilization, and fundraising activities related to the 2008 elections using all of its resources including corporate, chamber, and association partners; field staff; and the state-of-the-art VoteForBusiness.com Web site. Issue and candidate education is the focal point of this effort.
Transportation and Infrastructure
The Chamber's Let's Rebuild America initiative will work to galvanize support for a modern, efficient, and safe infrastructure to meet the needs of the growing U.S. economy. To help relieve airport congestion and flight delays, the Chamber is taking a lead role in supporting full funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to modernize the air-traffic control system from a radar-based system to a satellite-based one. The Chamber will continue pushing for full funding for highway and transit programs as provided under current law and will begin to frame the debate on a multiyear surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2009.
Counterfeiting and Piracy
The Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center will expand its efforts to thwart the threat of intellectual property theft, counterfeiting, and piracy. Enactment of a comprehensive enforcement package and increased resources for law enforcement units in the departments of Justice and Homeland Security are part of this effort. The Chamber will put money, people, research, programs, and political action around a sustained, long-term campaign to rebuild global support for fundamental intellectual property rights.
The Chamber will continue working to open new markets for American companies overseas, beginning with the approval of already-negotiated free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama, while also seeking a global trade deal through the World Trade Organization's Doha Development Agenda negotiations. Through its Global Regulatory Cooperation Project, the Chamber will press governments around the world to avoid divergent regulations and other in-country barriers that undermine effective market access and stifle free market competition.
Immigration and Visa Reform
The Chamber will continue pursuing comprehensive immigration reform that balances the nation's security needs with its need for a larger pool of workers. It will oppose unreasonable immigration enforcement measures. Priorities also encompass a continuation and expansion of both temporary and permanent visa programs for highly skilled and low-skilled workers, including the H-1B and H-2B programs, and facilitating business travel across borders.