When the Pennsylvania Chamber was founded over a century ago, it recruited one of the rising stars in the chamber world from Massachusetts – Daniel Casey – to visit locales across the Commonwealth and impress upon business owners the value of having their own local chamber of commerce. Newspaper columns from the era raved about the inspirational messaging in Casey’s speeches. To a crowd in Tyrone, Pa. in November 1919, Casey asked them to “Look at any municipality that is thriving and you will find that it is thriving because there is some dynamic power behind it. The Chamber of Commerce is that dynamic power.” The power behind Casey’s words, as described in this article that highlighted Casey’s influence in the PA Chamber’s earlier years, was that he recognized the extent to which employers were interested in public policy, and the impact their interest had on economic growth.
Nearly 100 years later, the PA Chamber still understands the power behind engaging local chambers in the ongoing effort to promote this economic growth. Also of importance is the real-world experience they bring as we work with them to craft the public policies we advocate for every day in the halls of the state Capitol. The majority of the almost 10,0000 members the PA Chamber represents are small business owners who belong to local chambers, and those chambers are acutely aware of the challenges they face operating in Pennsylvania.
“What are you hearing from your members?” is a question that comes up at nearly all of the meetings we have with our local chamber partners throughout the year, and at events where we present updates on the PA Chamber’s legislative priorities. We’re also proud of our ongoing partnership with the PA Association of Chamber Professionals in hosting Chamber Day at the State Capitol. Of course, our local chamber partners don’t have just this one day a year to weigh in on the issues that matter to them the most – we keep the line of communication open 365 days a year so you can always reach out, stay informed and rally alongside us when we need you to.
The most recent example in which we’ve enlisted the backing of local chambers was in garnering support for an important prescription drug bill. Senate Bill 936 – which was a leading PA Chamber priority this session – aimed to implement a prescription drug formulary within Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system and would have been a critical piece of the puzzle in addressing the state’s ongoing opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis as it relates to injured workers. In dozens of communications to state lawmakers, the PA Chamber listed more than 70 local chambers across Pennsylvania as being in favor of the bill because it would help to mitigate an epidemic that has hit every corner of the state. The term “all politics is local” is truly driven home when discussing the power of local chambers’ support for an initiative such as S.B. 936, because of the impact it has on lawmakers when they realize how the collective business community in their district has weighed in on the issue. It was the extensive support of these local chambers, as well as medical, business and local government groups across the state that helped to get the bill through the state legislature. Unfortunately, despite the aggressive push we made to get S.B. 936 to the finish line, Gov. Wolf ultimately vetoed the bill on April 27 in favor of a series of executive actions that we believe are woefully inadequate to address a crisis of this magnitude. You can read more about our reaction to the veto in this press release.
Despite the disappointing outcome on S.B. 936, the PA Chamber’s shared mission with our local chamber partners – to guide Pennsylvania toward a stronger economy – will continue unabated. We remain focused on working together toward other important workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation reforms. There are other pro-business topics of importance to focus on that Daniel Casey so eloquently referenced in his speeches so long ago – like establishing a competitive tax climate; reducing regulatory red tape; advancing a fair and efficient legal system; among many other issues on which we’ll be enlisting your expertise, opinions and support. Thank you for all you have done to create a pro-business Pennsylvania thus far and we look forward to the number of ways we can work together in the future.