Indiana Chamber Earns National Honors at ASCP Event in Oklahoma

ascp awardsThe Indiana Chamber earned the prestigious President’s Award for overall excellence at the recent Association of State Chamber Professionals (ASCP) meeting in Oklahoma City. ASCP is comprised of membership and marketing professionals from state chambers of commerce throughout the country. Its annual meeting is in conjunction with a gathering of the Council of State Chambers (presidents and CEOs of the same organizations).

The Indiana Chamber competed against 11 other states in the large Chamber category. In addition to the top honor, three second-place membership awards were also earned: highest market share, highest non-dues growth and highest retention in dollars. None of the 22 states competing in two categories won more than the Indiana Chamber’s four awards.

Chamber membership director Brock Hesler accepted the awards on behalf of the entire staff.

Texas/Oklahoma Saga Latest in U.S. Water Battles

We've discussed battles over water rights previously — and certainly will again. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court basically told Texas it has no right to claim billions of gallons of water on the Oklahoma side of the Red River. The Court reinforced an existing compact between those two states, Arkansas and Louisiana. Stateline reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday unanimously rejected a Texas water district’s attempt to tap river water in Oklahoma, settling a dispute that raised questions about state sovereignty and natural resources at a time when water is increasingly scarce and fought over.

The ruling found that the Texas authority had no right to the water in question, despite a four-state pact designed to ensure equal access to the water that flows in the Red River. The Tarrant Regional Water District had filed a lawsuit in 2007 saying Texas was entitled to some 130 billion gallons of water on Oklahoma’s side of the river basin.

As Stateline previously reported, the questions at the heart of the case have taken on increasing importance as drought and water shortages have strained water supplies and relations among many western states.

The dispute was seen as a potential test case for states’ rights over natural resources, but it’s likely the effect will be narrow, Marguerite Chapman, a law professor at the University of Tulsa, said.

“I think it affirms the integrity of an interstate compact as essentially a contract,” she said. “I don’t think it will disturb other compacts…the far-reaching effect would essentially be affirming the language that’s in the contract.”

The case centered on the Red River Compact that was signed by Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and approved by Congress in 1980.

The compact grants the states “equal rights to the use and runoff” of undesignated, or unallocated, water that flows in the sub-basin where the Tarrant district is staking its claim — but only if flows to Louisiana and Arkansas reach a certain threshold.

“No state is entitled to more than 25 percent of the water,” the pact says.

The compact has been in place for decades, but Oklahoma lawmakers enacted a moratorium on cross-state transfers in 2002. When the original moratorium expired in 2009, the Oklahoma legislature overhauled the state’s permitting process to effectively exclude out-of-state applicants for water.

Thoughts of Old Ireland

On this glorious day, State Legislatures magazine offers some useful facts about the Ireland/USA connection. Here are a few:

  • 36.9 million U.S. residents claim Irish ancestry (more than 8 times the population of Ireland)
  • America produced 26.1 billion pounds of corned beef and 2.3. billion pounds of cabbage in 2009
  • There are 4 American towns named "Shamrock" — located in Indiana (woo hoo!); Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia
  • 9 states boast a town named "Dublin"
  • Other U.S. towns with Irish names include Emerald Isle, N.C.; Irishtown, Ill.; and Cloverleaf Township in Minnesota

The Environmental Debate: Expect a Whole Lot of Gas in Washington

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an endangerment finding on Friday for greenhouse gases. What does that mean? Two members of Congress have decidedly different views.

Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Energy and Environment Subcommittee chairman in the House: "History will judge this action by EPA, along with the Supreme Court decision (which led to the EPA review)  … as the environmental equivalent to what Brown v. Board of Education meant to our nation’s civil rights laws."

James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Environment and Public Works ranking member in the Senate: The finding "is the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America’s global competitiveness."

President Obama and Democratic leaders want to move forward legislatively with a cap and trade plan, along with renewable energy and efficiency mandates. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold four days of hearings this week on a draft plan, including an expected 80 witnesses.

The impact on Indiana, and its reliance on coal, would be enormous. Yes, protecting the environment is important. Doing so at the expense of business and economic development would be devastating. 

Coburn Slices Wasteful Spending in 2008 Report

No matter your political leanings, you’ll likely find this report by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, 2008: Worst Waste of the Year, to be worth perusing. He basically takes government to task for what he perceives to be a national barrage of pork. Many of these programs are laughable, while some might be defendable depending upon your perspective.

Here’s an example:

First Tee Program – South Carolina ($3 million)

Kids around the nation will be invited to learn and appreciate the game of golf through a $3 million grant from the Pentagon to First Tee. First Tee is a non‐profit organization that was founded to bring underprivileged youth off the streets and onto the golf course. When one member of Congress responsible for arranging the grant was asked what childhood golf had to do with the military, he responded that golf “helps you make generals and colonels.”

I remember hearing about this one when it earned Rep. James Clyburn (South Carolina) a nomination for the Citizens Against Government Waste’s Porker of the Year Award. I must agree that there are some holes in the logic. For starters, I played quite a bit of golf as a youngster (in the converted cornfields of Boone County, not fancy golf with sand traps and such), and I’m hardly qualified to lead an army of ants, let alone becoming a general or colonel. Nor did it teach me about decorum as I was a known club-thrower, and I learned little about finishing what I start as I became a master of the four-foot gimme.

Worst of all, I never actually became good at golf, which led to a poor self image (frowny face).

Hat tip to Chamber staffer Chase Downham for passing the report along.

2008 Election Tidbits

A recent article in State Legislatures magazine, titled "The Perils of Success," outlines the respective battles going on at the state level throughout the country. I found the following passage to be most interesting:

The last time Democrats controlled more than 23 states was before the 1994 election, when Republicans walloped Democrats by seizing the majority in 21 chambers. Currently, Democrats have a 57 to 39 edge in control of individual chambers. There are two legislative bodies that have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats — the Oklahoma and Tennessee senates.

History suggests that success for either Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama will produce a coattail effect. Since the 1940 election of Franklin Roosevelt, the party winning the presidency has gained legislative seats in 11 of the 17 elections. That trend did not hold in 2004 when Republicans suffered a net loss of 25 seats despite George Bush’s reelection. On average, the party that wins the White House adds more than 125 legislative seats to its column.

Going into this election, there are 3,993 Democratic legislators — almost 55 percent of all seats held by the two major parties. There are 3,310 Republican legislators — 45 percent of the total. Only 21 legislators are independent or from other parties.

In Indiana, Democrats currently control the House by a slim 51-49 margin.

Lacy: Right-to-Work Would Benefit Workers, Taxpayers

Our Chairman of the Board, Andre Lacy, offers convincing commentary for Inside INdiana Business outlining how Right-to-Work laws would truly benefit Indiana.

We recommend you take a look at the column in its entirety, but here are some highlights:

In a 2002 study entitled “The Effect of Right-to-Work Laws on Economic Development,” economist William T. Wilson of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy compared Michigan’s economic performance to right-to-work states. Wilson found that during the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, RTW states created jobs nearly twice as fast as did Michigan. While poverty rates dropped dramatically during these 30 years, Michigan was one of seven states (all lacking right-to-work laws) that witnessed an increase in the percentage of residents living in poverty. Finally, the study showed that right-to-work states created 1.43 million manufacturing jobs, while non-right-to-work states lost 2.18 million manufacturing jobs during the same three decades …

There are practical reasons for Indiana to adopt a right-to-work law. First, Hoosiers agree with it. An overwhelming majority – 71 percent – favored or strongly favored right to work in a 2007 statewide survey conducted for the Chamber’s Indiana Business for Responsive Government. There is also the broader moral question of whether a Hoosier breadwinner should be forced to join and/or pay dues to a labor organization to get or keep a job.