As the adage goes, elections have consequences. The Chamber needs a way to participate with elected officials and thus has created BIZPAC.
It is imperative that the business community's interests and concerns are well represented within our elected officials.
As a member driven organization, the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce continually evaluates our programs to ensure that our outcomes are delivering a positive impact for members. It was this process of program evaluation and guidance from the Chamber's Issues Management Council and Board of Directors that led us to form a political action committee called BIZPAC.
The purpose of BIZPAC is to support candidates seeking state or local office who understand the issues vital to our business community and who are committed to working with the business community to develop sound policies that support economic and job growth.
It's time for BIZPAC. It is imperative that the business community's interests and concerns are well represented within our elected officials. Over the last decade, our community has watched the introduction of legislative bills that would negatively impact our business environment, hinder our workforce development and education efforts, and more. Often this legislation seeks to disrupt and divide our communities rather than focusing on being inclusive. Sometimes legislation is introduced that relates to a national agenda promoted by organizations experimenting with ideas that are being tested in multiple states including South Dakota.
The Chamber's chief concern for all these bills is the potential economic harm to our region and state. We have watched the fallout in North Carolina from HB2, the bathroom bill. There was an immediate economic loss of millions of dollars due to the cancelling of conventions, tournaments, business recruitment and entertainers who chose to boycott their state. But the dark cloud of discrimination still lingers over North Carolina long after HB2, especially with business recruitment efforts.
Here in South Dakota the Chamber's advocacy efforts include stopping legislation to reduce funding and access to the high school dual credit program. One bill would have reduced access to the program for lower income students. That's a swing and a miss by any standard. The dual credit program is a pathway to work by learning skills while still in high school that translate to employment when they graduate. A successful workforce dual credit pilot program between the Development Foundation and a local health system is providing pathways to skilled workforce jobs for kids of immigrant families.
In addition, SB 70, the bill to allow driver's license tests to be given in Spanish was finally passed this year. South Dakota is the 48th state to offer driver’s license exams in Spanish. North Dakota offers exams in 13 languages. SB 70 is a workforce bill and affects all sectors across our state, not just Sioux Falls. Supporters of the bill included over 30 organizations who represent thousands of businesses. Yet, there were Sioux Falls area legislators who voted against the bill.
As stated earlier, elections have consequences. The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce is the Voice of Business and has actively strengthened the economic viability of the greater Sioux Falls area for more than 100 years. The legacy of our innovative partnership between the business community and the Chamber is key to our region’s success and growth.
BIZPAC will be another tool in our toolbelt to keep Sioux Falls moving forward, just like our Legislative Scorecard that was discussed in last month's column.
Your Chamber remains vigilant to ensure your priorities prevail.
Before I close, I wanted to leave you with some important takeaways:
• BIZPAC is a political action committee that receives voluntary contributions from our members.
• BIZPAC is not funded by Chamber membership dues.
• BIZPAC is not affiliated with any political party. Rather, it's organized to support those state and local candidates who have taken responsible positions on issues involving business and the economic well-being of the region and state.
• BIZPAC helps elect business-friendly policymakers.
• BIZPAC works to pass laws that protect business.
• BIZPAC ensures your interests are kept in front of elected officials.