Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Advocacy

Federal Legislative Agenda

The Cobb Chamber’s 2018 Federal Legislative Agenda represents our commitment to advance a vibrant and thriving economy by enhancing the business climate and quality of life for Cobb County, the region and state.

Our agenda addresses the key concerns from our 2,500-member organizations representing more than 16,000 business leaders, as well as the feedback we received from more than 1,029 business and community leaders during the Chamber’s strategic planning process for 2018-2022.

The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, working with its strategic partners, offered their specific expertise and perspectives, to thoroughly evaluate these federal issues and their potential impact on businesses and the community. As a result, our federal agenda includes key information about the following areas that impact our Cobb businesses and citizens:

  • Dobbins Air Reserve Base
  • Transportation
  • Tax Reform
  • Health Care
  • Immigration Reform
  • Banking and Financial Services
  • Regulatory Burdens on Cobb Businesses
  • Cobb National Parks

The Cobb Chamber strongly believes the positions taken here will provide us with the tools needed to continue advancing a thriving economy to attract, recruit and retain quality jobs to Cobb and our state.

Your support on these issues is critical to our success. Thank you for your continued service to our nation.

Dobbins Air Reserve Base

Dobbins Air Reserve Base serves as a major component of the Cobb County community, the state of Georgia, and the United States. Dobbins is home to the 94th Airlift Wing, the 22nd Air Force Headquarters, the Georgia National Guard Headquarters, Navy Operational Support Center Atlanta, units of the Army Reserve, Marine Reserve, Civil Air Patrol, and other civilian tenants. Dobbins has more than 5,000 assigned military members, including all branches of the military. Dobbins is also the servicing installation for more than 400,000 eligible beneficiaries in the greater Atlanta region, including retirees from all services.
The primary missions of the 94th Airlift Wing are to provide Rapid Global Mobility through cargo and personnel airlift and tactical airdrop missions via their C-130H aircraft, and Agile Combat Support through Airmen trained in Security Forces, Civil Engineering, Force Support, Aerial Port, Communications, Logistics, and other specialties.

Dobbins is the site for:

  • Force Support Silver Flag Training (Force Support Schoolhouse)
  • Expeditionary Combat Support Training Certification Center (Civil Engineering Schoolhouse)
  • Transportation Proficiency Center (Aerial Port Schoolhouse)
  • Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Small Arms Range
  • Southeastern Regional C-130 Simulator

Dobbins’ strengths include the 10,000-foot runway that can support all military aircraft in inventory. 
With the runway and immediate access to major medical facilities, Dobbins is uniquely positioned in the Southeastern United States to provide a platform for comprehensive disaster response operations.  During hurricane relief efforts, Dobbins was the designated Installation Support Base for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a Federal Coordinating Center for the National Disaster Medial System. Dobbins served as an air logistics hub, preparing and transporting cargo to and from affected areas, and a reception location for medical patients, evacuees and responders. In total, Dobbins supported 134 flights of military and civilian aircraft and received over 200 patients for assessment and transport to Atlanta area medical facilities.

Dobbins continues to expand its community partnerships, including the recent expansion of the Georgia Tech Research Institute facilities on property adjacent to the base.

Our main concerns in 2018 for Dobbins Air Reserve Base are:

  • Missions – We want to ensure that the missions and resources described in this document are valued and secured to remain at Dobbins.
  • Budget – It is necessary to have a Federal Budget that will cover the cost of our military and allow for modernization and training. Continuing Resolutions are detrimental to mission readiness and personally impact service members, especially those serving in the Reserve and Guard. Dobbins is extremely important nationally, and monies need to be appropriated to adequately support the facility.
  • Medical Insurance – Tricare Reserve Select Insurance should be available for Air Force Reservists who are also federal civilian employees. Currently, most of the full-time Airmen at Dobbins fall into this category and are not eligible for Tricare Reserve Select Insurance, the health insurance option offered to Reservists.

The Cobb Chamber and the metro region support Dobbins as an integral part of our national security, readiness, and responsiveness. We will work to tell the Dobbins story to our community, our legislators, and our nation, to ensure the future of Dobbins Air Reserve Base and all who work there.


Transportation

We believe that transportation investments are a core function of the federal government and critical to the long-term health of our county, region and state. It is also a partnership and our local and state governments are making significant investments in order to provide matching funds to move critical projects forward. Our transportation challenges are real and we look forward to seeing a robust discussion on infrastructure spending as the Trump administration continues to outline its priorities. We ask Congress to act on the following immediate needs.

Project Needs:

  • We ask for members’ vocal support of the $5.9M Akers Mill Ramp phase II onto the NW Corridor Managed Lanes. Cobb County and the Cumberland Community Improvement District have successfully assembled 86 percent of the estimated cost and are seeking the balance – $5.9M – via USDOT BUILD grant program. The Akers Mill Ramp is regionally significant and will provide direct, safe access for thousands of people traveling to and from the Cumberland submarket, one of the largest employment centers in the state of Georgia. It will also help to ensure success of the state’s first billion-dollar P3 investment by allowing better access to the entire Managed Lane network upon full build out.
  • We support the state’s Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP), the 10 year, $10B effort to build Managed Lanes along I-75/I-285/400/I-85 as one of the ways to address the region’s mobility needs. We encourage federal support where needed to assist with P3 opportunities and innovative financing.
  • The South Barrett Reliever is a four-phase, $43.5 million project that provides an alternate route to Barrett Parkway - a state route that sees more than 70,000 cars daily and has a LOS of D or F during both peak and off-peak periods. Phase one was completed in 2010 and Phase Two recently opened in May 2018. Phase Three, which is currently in the engineering phase, is a $33.5M project that includes a road realignment and 450’ bridge that connects the southeast and southwest parts of the Town Center district over Interstate 75 and the Managed Lanes. Phase Three was awarded a $1.5M GTIB grant and $10.4M in TIP funding, the largest amount given to a regional roadway project in 2018. The Town Center Community Improvement District is currently working with Cobb County, state and federal partners to secure the remaining funds for phase three, which is anticipated to go to construction in fall 2020.
  • We support funding for the proposed Third Army Road interchange, which will provide necessary traffic relief, as well as a direct connection between I-75 and US 41 near the Bartow/Cobb County line. This project has been identified as a high priority by the county governments of Cobb, Bartow and Paulding Counties.

Programmatic Needs:

  • We encourage Congress to ensure the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund in a manner that promotes mobility and economic growth.
    • The Trust Fund needs significant and bold investments by Congress and should be treated as a major budgetary priority.
    • The Trust Fund must be a long-term, multi-year bill that will allow communities and governments to plan more efficiently and effectively for the public infrastructure projects so critical to their growth.
    • We support the continued flow of enough federal funds to large urbanized areas, specifically MPOs of 200,000 people or more, to meet the growth and urbanization challenges these larger regions face.
  • We support streamlining the environmental review process to help alleviate the unnecessary financial burdens on projects’ sponsors over multi-year timeframes.
  • Continued federal investments in alternative modes of transportation are critical as they address capacity and connectivity challenges in our growing county. To that end, with the passage of HB 930 at the state level, our 13-county region is prepared to develop a regional transit plan through the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority or ATL. This comprehensive transit plan will require local, state and federal funding, to ensure we adequately address the future mobility needs of our region.


Tax Reform

Eighty-five percent of our members are small businesses. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has changed the trajectory of the economy for the better and it is succeeding. Jobs are being created along with higher paychecks and optimism is evident. American workers want to compete and win world-wide and lots of progress is being made.

With that said, we feel that our government should operate as closely as possible like a successful business operates. Successful businesses continually study what they are doing and continually look for ways to become more competitive, more innovative and simply better at what they do.   

We believe:

  • Locking in the individual and small business tax cuts and making them permanent is pro-growth. Smart people and smart businesses plan and planning requires assumptions. Optimism is a foundational ingredient to a growing economy. Tax cuts with an expiration date soon make projections unreliable and lower confidence.
  • The accumulated budget deficits and significant entitlements are a cloud looming over our economic future. A thriving economy fueled by favorable taxes and regulatory environment are central to our future economic health.
  • The transition from defined benefit retirement plans to defined contribution plans is not going well for America’s workforce. The voluntary nature of most defined contribution plans is leading many into an underfunded future. In fact, many workers do not have access to a retirement plan through their employer. Thanks to the TCJA, most employers and families have more money in their pockets. Therefore, the time is appropriate to enhance tax-advantaged plans which will help families fund future education, healthcare and retirement needs. Otherwise, more government entitlements will be needed in the future.
  • Taxpayers and their advisors need clarified rules and regulations in order to properly satisfy tax obligations.

Some specifics:

  • Do more to level the tax playing field between big business (usually C-corporations) and small business (usually S-corporations, partnerships or LLCs). Allow individuals to take a state income tax deduction on business income from flow through entities and sole proprietorships. Simplify the 20 percent deduction for individuals that have income from these entities and allow more taxpayers to qualify for the deduction. Also, all service businesses which create the majority of jobs in our local economy should be eligible businesses for the 20 percent flow through deduction.
  • Allow a limited above the line charitable contribution deduction for non-itemizer taxpayers.
  • Employees who incur substantial unreimbursed employee business expenses will often have a substantial tax increase due to non-deductibility under TCJA. Allow these employees a deduction once they reach some type of substantial expense threshold.
  • The new provision under TCJA that limits Excess Business Losses adds an additional level of complexity to the existing multiple limits on business losses and all it does is postpone the loss deduction for one tax year.
  • Overhaul the rules for Unrelated Business Income Tax (“UBIT”) for non-profit entities including changes made by TCJA. These rules were originally put in place so that certain non-profits that engage in activities that compete with for-profit entities would pay their fair share of income tax.  However, the current rules put many non-profit entities at a disadvantage from a tax standpoint. In addition, under TCJA many churches and other non-profits will be required to file additional tax returns and pay tax because they allow employees to park on their parking lot. The filing threshold needs to be raised much higher ($10,000 would be our recommendation) so that the cost of compliance does not exceed the amount of taxes raised.

TCJA Cleanup Issues:

  • Depreciable life of Qualified Improvement Property needs to be corrected so that it does not default to 39 years.
  • Qualified Opportunity Zone reinvestment requires a 10-year holding period to avoid paying tax on any gain from sale of the reinvested property. However, the current law does not extend beyond 2028 which creates uncertainty for investments made after 2018.
  • We are still awaiting guidance from the IRS on meals and entertainment deductions under TCJA. We believe Congress should act to allow a limited deduction for all meals whose primary purpose is a business discussion.
  • Since taxpayers have not had all the necessary rules and regulations relating to TCJA to properly estimate their 2018 tax liability, consideration should be made to waive underpayment tax penalties due to TCJA provisions.

 

Health Care

We believe healthcare providers’ mission to care for patients is being threatened by repeated ratcheting of Medicare and Medicaid payments for services they provide. Hospitals have already been subjected to well over $100B in cuts since 2010 and cannot continue to do more with less. We need your commitment to support the hospitals that serve as economic engines as well as healthcare providers in our community. Further cuts will only cost jobs and limit patients’ access to healthcare.

The opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc in Georgia, with a heightened prevalence in Cobb and surrounding counties. We support access to federal funding to combat the epidemic that will enable states to enhance their resources for treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, and education. The total economic cost of opioids to Georgia in 2016 was over $12 billion and resulted in 1,475 deaths in 2017. While 14 states have seen a decline in the number of opioid related overdose deaths, Georgia has not, experiencing a 16.1 percent increase between 2016 and 2017 according to the CDC.

  • We commend action by Congress to pass nearly 70 bills aimed at making resources readily available to address various aspects of the epidemic. 
  • We commend action by the Senate for passing a $857 billion spending package which included funding of $3.7 billion to continue combatting the opioid epidemic.
  • The Senate and House are expected to enter into conference negotiations to reconcile their bills.
  • We ask the Georgia Delegation and Senators to oppose any attempts to reduce funding levels for opioid treatment ultimately contained in the final package and to ensure language allows for those patients, including, but not limited to cancer, sickle cell disease and hospice patients, who truly need high doses of opioids, remain able to obtain them without being burdened.

We believe preservation of the 340B Drug Discount Program is a crucial cost-savings mechanism for non-profit disproportionate share hospitals and oppose any efforts to reduce the benefits of the program or create greater regulatory burdens. 340B enables safety net providers to reinvest their savings through the program into our communities by reducing the price of medications for patients, expanding needed services, increasing the number of indigent and underinsured patients treated, supporting patients with chronic diseases, and other services that increase access and enhance the quality of care delivered. In Georgia, qualified community providers and children’s hospitals are utilizing this program in order to stretch limited financial resources at a time when hospitals are continuously experiencing cuts in reimbursement rates while simultaneously treating a greater number of uninsured patients (12 percent of Georgians are uninsured, third highest percentage in the U.S.).

  • Expansion of the program would benefit both taxpayers and hospitals because it would generate savings for the Medicaid program by requiring hospitals to rebate Medicaid a percentage of their savings on inpatient drugs administered to Medicaid patients. According to the Congressional Budget Office, expanding the program to include inpatient services would save the federal government at least $1.2 Billion. 
  • 340B is a small but mighty program for community and children’s hospitals and only accounts for 2.8 percent of the $457 Billion in annual drug purchases made in the U.S. The 340B program has a proven record of decreasing government spending and improving access to care.


Immigration Reform

As concerned Americans, we all share a responsibility to look to the future and envision where current policies may lead. Immigration is no different. Immigration policies will greatly determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.
Immigration Reform should be comprehensive, striking the proper balance between the demand for high-skilled and low-skilled labor, the legal status of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country, border security, and interior enforcement. Reforms should bring overall immigration to a more normal level. Considerations for reducing legal immigration levels from well over one million presently to 300,000 a year over a sustained period could allow America to manage growth and maintain a high quality of life for all. It is understandable that under any rational system of ordered entry, the demand will always vastly exceed available slots. Tough decisions will therefore always be necessary. The Congress has debated numerous pieces of immigration reform over the last two decades, we request Members rededicate their efforts to secure a bi-partisan solution to the immigration reform issue.

 

Banking and Financial Services

We have taken the time to listen to our banking and financial services professionals and have found they are concerned with increased regulations, in particular those regulations enacted after the passage of the Dodd Frank Act in response to the most recent economic downturn. Congress responded to many of these concerns with the passage of S. 2155 this past spring which eased the regulatory burden regarding mortgage lending, lengthening the exam cycle for more institutions than before and more simplified capital rules, among others. There are still several areas that need addressing in our view that could help our financial institutions serve the community:

  • Anti-Money Laundering/Bank Secrecy Act (AML/BSA) regulations, such as the "Know Your Customer" program, are imposing a costly burden upon banks. While executives acknowledge the importance of combating criminal activity, they are concerned that the burden has been shifted disproportionately from law enforcement agencies onto financial institutions.
  • Congress should pass data security legislation that holds retailers and others to high, uniform, nationwide standards for safeguarding sensitive customer information. Banks have had such an obligation to protect their customer's sensitive financial information for years. Further, those responsible for data breaches should be responsible for their costs.
  • Reform is needed for the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) that are critical to the mortgage lending market. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the two government sponsored entities that were placed into conservatorship in 2008 own or guarantee more than half of the $10 Trillion U.S. mortgage market. Because this conservatorship puts U.S. taxpayers at risk, it is important that Congress develop a plan for shrinking the GSEs’ outsize role in the housing finance market.
  • The Durbin amendment included in the Dodd Frank Act, which restricted swipe fees on debit cards, is equivalent to rent controls in housing markets. It has created distortions in the consumer credit arena and reduced many low-cost or free banking services.
  • The rise of the "shadow banking" industry is giving nonbank financial entities a competitive advantage over their more heavily regulated commercial bank counterparts. These shadow banking entities, once defined as "a diverse set of institutions and markets that, collectively, carry out traditional banking functions—but do so outside, or in ways only loosely linked to, the traditional system of regulated depository institutions," are generally not bound by the same level of federal regulation as FDIC insured institutions. Examples of such include securitization vehicles, asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) conduits, money market mutual funds, markets for repurchase agreements (repos), investment banks, and mortgage companies. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is deciding whether to create a new charter for FinTech companies which we will closely monitor.

Consider legislative and or regulatory reforms, which would incentivize individuals and families to greater participate in savings programs.

 

Regulatory Burden on Cobb Businesses

A tide of regulations implemented by Federal Administrative Agencies continues to drown Cobb County businesses creating an undue burden on our job creators that affects every American household. It is critical to capture and reduce the burden of excessive regulation as it acts as a hidden tax on our over 50,000 Cobb County businesses and the consumers they service across the United States.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s 2018 study, Federal regulations cost Americans 1.9 Trillion, nearly $15,000 per U.S. household. This amount is more than the average U.S. household spends on any category except housing. Amazingly, total regulatory costs in 2017 exceeded the 1.88 Trillion dollars the Internal Revenue Service collected in Corporate and Individual Income Taxes combined. In 2017, Congress enacted 97 laws while Administrative Agencies imposed 3,281 rules, amounting to 34 new rules to every new law. Ultimately business and then consumers pay for the cost of these regulations as they directly affect efficiency and profitability resulting in unnecessarily limited product choices, higher costs, and limitations on speed of technological growth. The five most active rulemaking entities are the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Transportation, the Treasury, and the Environmental Protection Agency which account for 43 percent of the 3,209 new regulations in various stages of development in 2018. We have an excessive regulation problem at the Federal Level and our Cobb businesses are suffering from Regulation without Representation. 

While we greatly appreciate the actions taken to date to reduce these burdens, we continue to support the following reforms and Congressional actions that will furthers these activities and prevent these recent  achievements from becoming transitory:

  • Significant Legislative action to reverse the entrenched delegation of rule-making power to Agencies by Congress. 
  • Enhancing transparency to businesses in the rule making process.
  • Including a requirement for legislation to undergo an impact analysis before a floor vote in congress.
  • Requiring Congressional approval for all major rules (REINS Act).
  • Congressional Action on hidden Guidance Documents implementing agency regulatory burdens such as the Guidance Out of Darkness (GOOD Act.)
  • Sunset deadlines being put in place for all Major Rules.
  • Establishment of requirements that all rulemaking be based upon Proper Scientific Analysis.
  • Insuring ability for businesses to protect valuable Confidential Business Information across State lines using Federal Preemption.
  • Require that any “settlement” practices between agencies and advocacy groups be required to be subject to Public Notice and Comment.
  • Fees charged by governmental agencies go directly to the General Fund to be distributed within the congressional budgetary process rather than to the agency to support the implementation additional regulatory actions.   
  • Continued focus on Health Care and Financial reforms

In addition, we wish to express our concern regarding the impacts of potential Office of the Trade Representative action on Section 301 Tariffs. While we are strongly supportive of efforts to level the worldwide trade playing field and the protection of U.S. intellectual property, this proposed list of products affects a massive amount of materials that are used across consumer product categories. This list was supposed to have been developed to target products that benefit from China’s industrial plans – such as Aerospace, Robotics, and Machinery – while minimizing the impact on the U.S. economy. This list instead contains a huge swath of chemical ingredients that are used across the entire consumer marketplace and are not available in the United States. Increased Tariff on these ingredients would affect every American household, drive up the cost of basic consumer goods, and disproportionately impact businesses that are manufacturing these products used in cleaning, air care, laundry, personal care, pet, and food, healthcare, and industrial products produced right here in the United States. This would have the effect of harming US manufacturers rather than supporting them and place significant, multimillion dollar burdens on Cobb County businesses.
 
Many manufacturers estimate that over One Third of the specialty chemical ingredients they use daily would be impacted. Over the years, increased regulation costs drove manufacturing of these ingredients out of our Country. These ingredients – from waxes, to surfactants, to fragrance materials – require complex manufacturing processes. It is estimated it would take 3-5 years to obtain alternate manufacturing plants for the majority of these items and global supply of these materials does not provide available capacity.

Implementation of these tariffs on specialty chemical materials would dramatically impact US manufacturers and immediately halt all planned growth and expansion initiatives, reduce payrolls, and potentially lead to a reduction in workforces as manufacturing of these cost sensitive products would likely be moved to off shore manufacturers in other countries not affected by the Tariffs.

We ask that implementation of these tariffs be carefully reviewed and considered.

 

Cobb's National Parks

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park: Our National Battlefield Park is a tremendous resource to our community as both an amenity to Cobb’s citizens but also a major tourist attraction, which is Cobb’s largest industry.

  • We support enacting H.R.558 and S.136 to Expand Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Boundary to Include Historic Wallis House and Surrounding Property.

Cobb County acquired the land on which the Wallis House sits in 2002 to preserve it after the house was faced with possible demolition.  However, the county has long felt that the land should belong to the National Park Service. The National Park Service has also expressed interest in acquiring the land, and representatives from the park have even started brainstorming educational activities they could provide should the Park Service acquire the land. The County’s efforts on this project have received strong support from Congressman Barry Loudermilk and Senator Johnny Isakson, who have sponsored the necessary legislation. Congressional staff is also working closely with the Park Service to reduce the estimated costs of the project. Additionally, the annexation of the land is strongly supported by the Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, which stands by as a willing partner to assist in the preservation and interpretation of the Wallis House.

Paces Mill/ Palisades, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA): Paces Mill/ Palisades, is one of the 15 Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) park units. This is the most southerly river unit and last “take-out” point within the CRNRA for casual rafters and kayakers until the river becomes unnavigable. Paces Mill/ Palisades serves as a prominent gateway to the 48-mile Chattahoochee River corridor/CRNRA, to Cobb County, and to the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CCID). The Paces Mill/ Palisades CRNRA is a hidden resource and hidden amenity to the community. Many visiting the Cumberland/ Cobb County area are unaware that there is a beautiful flowing river, multi-use trails, and other natural resources a short distance away that can be experienced.

The CRNRA and the CCID have collaborated in the past. In fact, the CCID and CRNRA have a rich history of partnering and collaborating to achieve common goals. Enhancing access to CRNRA facilities, while completing connections between the CRNRA and other destinations is a longstanding goal of both organizations.

 The CCID in continued partnership with CRNRA is in the process of developing conceptual designs to renovate 22 acres of the 757-acre Palisades unit. The renovation is to enhance the river park experience as a gateway to its 48-miles of river and surrounding park lands by encapsulating the following elements of significance: 1.) expanding parking capacity; 2.) providing superior circulation for vehicles and bikes/pedestrians; 3.) maximizing sustainable construction and operational practices; 4.) providing an iconic NPS visitor experience that connects the visitor to the river and is consistent with the park’s mission; 5.) encouraging/providing outdoor recreation focused facilities and opportunities in a natural setting; and 6.) minimizing manpower and administration burden on park maintenance and law enforcement operations.