As we progress through the year and draw closer to the State Legislature session of 2017 the chamber begins studying legislative issues that might affect our members and community. While the State Legislature meets every two years the US Legislature is there all the time, so are the bureaucracies that pass regulations and laws without anyone having to vote. These same bureaucracies also decide on permits that allow our industries to conduct business. In answer to that the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce joins with area, state and federal chambers and business organizations to do what we can to support or defend against bad law and legislation. April was a busy month for such action.
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce joined with the US Chamber, Texas Association of Business and other chambers by sending a letter to the members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives supporting the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (S.2707/H.R. 4773) introduced in May by Senators Scott and Alexander, and Representatives Walberg and Kline.
The bill would prevent the Department of Labor’s disastrous overtime regulation from taking effect and directs the Secretary of Labor to conduct a more detailed economic analysis to determine the impact on an array of employers before proposing a new rule.
Last July the Department of Labor proposed a dramatic change to the regulations that determine whether a “white collar” employee (executive, administrative, or professional) is eligible to be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 per week. Currently, if these employees are performing the “primary duties” of their classification and paid a salary more than $23,660 annually ($455/week), they are classified as exempt from being paid overtime. The new proposal would increase that salary to $50,440 annually ($970/week), and increase it annually.
If implemented, this higher salary will mean many employers will have to either increase their employees’ salaries to keep them exempt, or reclassify them as hourly employees and possibly pay them overtime. For many of our small businesses, and other employers, this could mean a disastrous financial hit, or reducing their ability to serve their customers. Reclassifying employees will mean they will lose the ability to set their own hours, and to work from home or use electronic technology to handle their work since that time will be considered “hours worked.”
The Chamber also sent a letter in support of H.R. 4775, the “Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016” to Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, and Minority Leaders Reid and Pelosi: part of which read:
The undersigned, which represent a diverse group of industries from across the country, write to express our strong support for H.R. 4775, the “Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016.” This legislation provides a common-sense approach for implementing national ambient air quality standards, recognizes ongoing state efforts to improve air quality through a reasonable implementation schedule for the 2015 ozone standards, streamlines the air permitting process for businesses to expand operations and create jobs, and includes other reforms that bring more regulatory certainty to federal air quality standards. Additionally, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce joins the numerous members of the House of Representatives that certain elements of H.R. 4775 be included in the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment and related Agencies Appropriations bill.
In an effort to obtain money to restore our marsh, the Board of Directors voted to add our support for Jefferson County’s RESTORE Act Bucket 1 grant request for partial funding of the Salt Bayou Watershed Restoration Plan project that would help fund beach dune sand renourishment to fortify our part of the Texas coast.
Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing has long contributed to our state and nations economy. In an effort to help continue this history a letter was sent to Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Ph.D. and Dr. Jill K. Lewandowski, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-OEP) to urge the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to finalize a 2017-2022 leasing program and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that includes the Gulf of Mexico without any further exclusions or restrictions.
The experience in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates the significance of offshore energy development to the Gulf Coast states and coastal communities. As BOEM acknowledges in the Proposed Program, the Gulf is “one of the richest oil and natural gas regions in the world,” and Gulf Coast states and communities strongly support Gulf of Mexico energy development. A source of nearly 20% of the nation’s crude oil supply, the Gulf remains one of America’s greatest energy resources and we must continue to support its safe development. In FY 2014, offshore oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico contributed over $64 billion in GDP, supported 651,000 jobs, and provided over $7 billion in revenue to the federal government.
Finally, on April 20 chamber members and community leaders traveled to Sabine Pass to voice our support for the Golden Pass LNG Export Project. The economic benefits of this project will create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs in the Greater Port Arthur community, 45,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide, generate billions of dollars in economic activity for the local, state, and national economies and generate millions in taxes for local, state and federal governments.
The environmental benefits to the coastal wetlands are 880 acres donated for wildlife protection and ecosystem restoration and 3 million cubic yards of donated material to restore areas of the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Golden Pass is a proven leader in our community as evidenced by their recent success with the Local Business Initiative. Golden Pass successfully pre-screened more than 150 local businesses for an opportunity to compete for work with the EPC. This, first of its kind program, was a concentrated effort by Golden Pass to pre-qualify area companies to enable them to bid for business on the upcoming Golden Pass project.
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is continuing its 116-year history of economic development for Port Arthur, Texas. If you wish to become part of this organization call 409-963-1107. Together we can make a difference in our community and help you generate new business.