Return to the U.S. Chamber Committee of 100
For several years I’ve been very fortunate to be a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100 (or the CCC100). This group is an advisory team composed of the CEO’s of state and local Chambers across the country. It is one of the most impactful gatherings of leaders I’ve had the pleasure to be around – and we have not convened since the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic. While it was rewarding to be with friends and colleagues, there was much work to do.
On the forefront of everyone’s mind was the status of the two infrastructure bills: the bipartisan compromise bill of approximately $1.5 trillion, and the larger reconciliation bill of approximately $3.5 trillion. The position of the U.S. Chamber is in support of the bipartisan proposal, and against the reconciliation package – an analysis that the Round Rock Chamber agrees with. The bipartisan bill funds investments that are broadly agreed to be in great need. There is much less agreement about the larger reconciliation bill, which many feel is too large and funds programs outside of true infrastructure.
Your chamber has been in vocal support of the U.S. Chamber’s infrastructure initiative (roads, bridges, transportation systems, and even expanded internet services) from the beginning of the year. In January the Round Rock Chamber joined the U.S. Chamber and the Bipartisan Policy Center along with hundreds of diverse business, policy and labor organizations to launch the “Build by the Fourth of July” campaign, urging Congress to enact a fiscally and environmentally responsible infrastructure package by the Fourth of July. The coalition expanded upon work from a group of transportation and infrastructure organizations to emphasize building new partnerships to address our nation’s infrastructure needs.
Since January the effort has been met with several ups and downs, and final votes have yet to come. The importance of infrastructure to businesses and our communities has not changed. A growing economy creates natural needs for maintenance and expansion of logistics and transportation systems.
VACCINE MANATES THROUGH EMPLOYERS
The other topic very much on the minds of those gathered at the CCC100 was the new requirements for vaccination. On September 9, President Biden announced a plan to require all private businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or get tested weekly. The administration intends to implement the mandate the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Round Rock Chamber has been supportive of public health messages that encourage people to take the vaccine – which has been demonstrated to lessen the likelihood of contracting COVID, decrease the severity of breakthrough infections, and is our best resource to prevent local healthcare facilities from becoming overwhelmed. Recently, the largest healthcare systems in our area issued this joint statement and video encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Legal challenges to the federal mandate are extremely likely, precisely because the enforcement mechanism of the mandate comes through employers. Compared to vaccination requirements in the past, some legal experts argue using business to enforce the mandate is unprecedented – and others disagree. It’s likely going to be a matter for the courts soon. Irrespective of the legal arguments at question here, we are concerned about regulation that puts employers in the position of policing this kind of policy. We will continue to monitor the policy implementation, inform our investors of any requirements of their business, and work collaboratively with local employers; and with our state and national advocacy partners including the Texas Association of Business and the U.S. Chamber.
This trip to our national capitol was a somber one as well. Washington D.C. has changed in the same way many of our communities did in the past two years, but more visibly. It is a city that has been at the center of several of the deeply felt conflicts we have all seen recently. The scars from that conflict still mar some of my favorite places to visit: Lafayette Square, the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol grounds, and the White House to name a few.
Perhaps of greater concern, the tides of political discourse have moved elected representatives ever further away from compromise and incremental improvements towards a more hardline approach to party objectives. Over dinner, several of us had the opportunity to ask an experienced advocacy leader, “Are things really different in D.C. now, or is that just exaggeration in the media.” His answer: the discourse is very different compared to only 10 to 15 years ago. Trust across party lines is scarce, and forming relationships across party lines is more difficult than ever. There are active barriers to crafting good policy.
Nevertheless, he also shared the difficulty of modern discourse made him more motivated to do his job every day. The voice of business is pragmatic and still values accomplishment over political purity. Our work as local Chambers is likewise no less important – and made even more important in the current political environment. Each time I visit the CCC100 I return with a renewed energy and new ideas to help craft the future of the Round Rock Chamber and the business community in Round Rock. This time was no different.