The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s advocacy efforts are driven by our mission of mobilizing private sector leadership, expertise, and resources from businesses of all sizes to create attractive economic conditions that create jobs, grow investment, and improve the prosperity of our region. Our public policy priorities are driven by you and we work to provide a unified voice for the Northeast Ohio business community to our elected officials and regulators on key issues that are critical for business growth. In 2016, we enjoyed some significant victories for the business community locally and throughout Ohio. We take great pride in serving as your voice and we look forward to continuing our shared work into the future.
A Look Back
Minimum Wage & Part-Time Workers
An initiative that proposed a Cleveland-only minimum wage increase was brought forward that would have phased in a $15 minimum wage (starting with $12 an hour in January 2018) while the rest of the state remained at $8.15. In December, state legislation – Senate Bill 331 – passed that aimed to prohibit Cleveland and other political subdivisions from establishing minimum wage rates different from the rate required by state law. Senate Bill 331 was signed by the Governor on December 19, 2016 and it will be effective 90 days from the Governor’s signature. As a result of this work, petitioners announced they are suspending their effort and we are no longer facing this issue.
A separate Cleveland-only part-time workers’ initiative that was in-line to appear on the November ballot was also eventually withdrawn by petitioners. The state legislature and Governor chose to protect employers from similar measures in the future by approving a provision – also found in Senate Bill 331 – that grants a private employer the exclusive authority to govern matters concerning work hours, location of work, scheduling, and fringe benefits.
GCP and our partners advocated for state intervention and opposed these misguided local ballot issues due to the bevy of job-threatening regulations the part-time workers’ issue would mandate on businesses and because the Cleveland-only minimum wage issue would place Cleveland at a disadvantage, hinder job creation, business growth, and the overall momentum the City of Cleveland is now experiencing.
Cleveland Schools & Income Tax
Two issues backed by GCP — the Cleveland school levy renewal (Issue 108) and a 0.5 percent income tax increase (Issue 32) — won voter approval in November 2016 allowing the City to continue academic improvement and protect city services.
GCP formed a working group of members to examine the city budget and the need for the income tax proposal. GCP ultimately supported the measure and member companies contributed over 95% of the funds needed to support the effort. Our support of the initiative came after lengthy review and analysis; Issue 32 is designed to help improve many city services like trash collection, pothole patching, demolition of vacant homes, and allow for the hiring of more than 100 additional police and safety personnel, among others. And, while we do not take tax increases lightly, our members became convinced that it will help to further energize Cleveland’s renaissance and offer multiple benefits to people who live and/or work in the city, as well as those who visit.
The passage of Issue 108 will help to continue the work underway with the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, without raising taxes. The levy, which generates about $77 million annually, was originally passed in 2012 and provides the needed resources to fund the Cleveland Plan, which includes reforms such as: growing the number of high-performing district schools in Cleveland, and closing and replacing failing schools; investing in high-leverage system reforms across all schools from preschool to college and career; and creating the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, a public-private partnership, to ensure accountability for all public schools in the city.
GCP has been a leading supporter of efforts to improve public education in Cleveland and played a key role in the creation of the Cleveland Plan, House Bill 525 that codified the plan in state law, and the passage of the initial 2012 operating levy. Within its four years of existence, the Cleveland Plan is yielding promising results. Cleveland schools have made steady progress on increased test scores, student attendance and graduation rates. The renewal of the levy provides the needed momentum for further improvements that will ultimately lead to more students who are college and career ready.
Cuyahoga County Health & Human Services
In March 2016, Cuyahoga County voters approved an eight-year renewal of one of two health and human services levies. GCP’s board of directors endorsed Issue 23 because of its vital role in providing funding for those most in need in our community. The eight year renewal is longer than prior renewals, meaning the “no tax increase” rate of 4.8 mills is locked in for a longer period of time, and fewer campaigns are needed to maintain the services. The levy generates roughly $130 million annually.
Cuyahoga County Inclusion
GCP and the Commission on Economic Inclusion championed the passage of county legislation that will increase opportunities for small and minority-owned firms to do more work with the County. Specifically, the legislation allows for (1) exclusive contracting opportunities or “set asides” for small businesses; (2) aspirational goals for minority and female-owned business participation on County contracts; (3) criteria to waive performance bond requirements on projects of a certain size, and; (4) a business economic inclusion program as an incentive for contractors to engage more minority and female-owned firms on projects. County Council also passed a resolution that makes Cuyahoga County an endorser of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Community Benefit Agreements on major construction projects. GCP played a key role with the City of Cleveland and other core partners on the development of the MOU in 2013. Cuyahoga County is one of the newest partners to endorse this initiative.
State Legislation & Initiatives
Unemployment Compensation Reform
It is clear Ohio’s current unemployment system must be re-structured for it to be viable in future generations. In 2016, the GCP supported and helped secure legislation that allowed the state to pay federal debt a year ahead of schedule, saving Ohio job creators millions of dollars in 2017. However, reforms still must be implemented that allow the unemployment fund to achieve a path toward solvency and the importance of this issue was highlighted by a GCP board member over the summer.
While the legislature ended its 2016 “lame duck” session without a long-term fix of the state's unemployment compensation system as planned, some progress could have been made to that end. The plan, which the legislature approved via Senate Bill 235, calls for an actuary be hired to analyze various long-term solvency proposals going forward. The legislation – endorsed by the Governor – also directs lawmakers, labor leaders, and business officials to negotiate a permanent agreement by April 1, 2017.
New Market Tax Credits
Having the tools to advance physical development in Northeast Ohio is critical. GCP played a lead role to secure a needed reform to Ohio’s New Market Tax Credit program to remove a restrictive real estate provision that limited the use of this tax credit. With this provision now gone, the state program will be in greater alignment with the federal and allow mixed-use development projects – a growing trend in development happening in Cleveland’s major business and technology corridors – to be eligible for the program.
At the federal level, GCP supported Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA), a real estate and business development finance affiliate of GCP, on its winning application for a $60 million federal tax credit award. This is the largest federal NMTC award in Cleveland to-date, to spur economic growth in our region. The prior NMTC allocations to CDA ($155 million) have spurred more than $796 million in investment in Cleveland and nearly 5,000 permanent jobs.
2020 Tax Policy Study Commission
The Ohio 2020 Tax Policy Study Commission was created in the last state budget cycle. The commission is a bi-partisan group of state legislators charged with examining Ohio’s tax structure to determine any reforms that might be necessary in the next state budget that will strengthen Ohio’s economic competitiveness. GCP consistently reiterated the perspective of small, mid-market and large employers as it relates to tax policy in Ohio before this panel, including through staff testimony.
Medical Marijuana Legalization
The legislature and Governor pre-empted a campaign to place the legalization of medicinal marijuana on the ballot by approving legislation that technically made Ohio the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana in September 2016. The legalization effort that was working to put their separate initiative – which was broader in scope – before voters this past November discontinued operations. The entirety of the legalization plan that will go into effect is required to complete the regulatory process within 2 years and a GCP board member was appointed employer representative on Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee. The good news for employers is specific protections GCP advocated for were included in the legislation that passed and were not addressed in the now defunct referendum proposal.
State Capital Budget Bill
GCP was successful in advocacy efforts on the state’s 2016 capital bill that brought more than $23 million to Cuyahoga County for core community projects, more than half of which were for projects that GCP directly championed. Of note is $3.5 million that was secured for the completion of the Public Square transformation project, which revitalized a key public space in our community. There is an appropriate role for state support on economic impact projects of significant magnitude. Another capital bill is expected in 2017/2018 and GCP will advocate for greater investment for transformational projects in our community.
Protecting the Great Lakes & Cuyahoga River
The Great Lakes is a major economic force, with the existence of more than 1.5 million jobs due to activities in the Great Lakes region. Lake Erie alone has an annual $10.7 billion economic impact and accounts for 30% of the tourism dollars that come to Ohio. The Cuyahoga River is an important international shipping channel in our region and critical to our local economy. The direct and indirect jobs generated from ArcelorMittal are estimated at over 14,000 with an annual payroll of $820 million. Thus, protecting the Great Lakes and the Cuyahoga River are important for ongoing job creation and economic development. GCP has long advocated with the Port of Cleveland for state and federal policies that protect the health and economic activity of our major water ways. In 2016, GCP continued efforts to advocate against open lake disposal of dredged materials in Lake Erie and to ensure that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers appropriately dredged the Cuyahoga River so business activity was not disrupted.
Workers’ Compensation Subrogation
Effective August 31, 2016, a state fund employer could have a workers' compensation claim (when based on a motor vehicle accident involving a third party) be paid from the surplus fund account in the state insurance fund rather than charged to the employer's experience. In short, this new policy is due to legislation GCP supported – House Bill 207 – that became law and added language to Ohio Revised Code that states the criteria for a workers’ compensation claim to be charged to the surplus fund and not impact the employer’s experience. Click here to learn more and read the GCP’s written testimony in support of HB 207.
Small Claims Disputes
On May 11, 2016 the GCP submitted testimony before the Ohio Senate Civil Justice Committee in support of small claims courts legislation, House Bill 387. In the past, a small claims division had jurisdiction in civil actions for the recovery of taxes and money only, for amounts not exceeding $3,000, not including interest and cost. Our members were encouraged by efforts to double the maximum dollar amount to $6,000 for all sizes of business and, with the ultimate approval of House Bill 387, this act became effective on September 28, 2016. Adjusting the maximum level small claims courts have jurisdiction over will allow for additional business owners to participate in a process that was not available to them in years past. It will help them: contain legal costs, save time and effort that could be better spent managing their businesses, and utilize a more informal, expeditious, and inexpensive means to pursue claims for smaller sums of money through the small claims division.
Small Business Regulatory Toolkit
In 2016, the launch of a new electronic toolkit that is designed to help Ohio’s small businesses navigate regulatory issues and other matters was unveiled. The new business asset - available at www.governor.ohio.gov/csitoolkit - is part of Ohio’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI), which was created in 2011 to help create a more jobs-friendly regulatory climate in Ohio. Two GCP members serve on the CSI Small Business Advisory Council and the concept of the toolkit was conceived by business members of the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), the small business division of the GCP.
The DC Fly-In provides GCP members with an opportunity to engage directly with Ohio’s congressional delegation and other federal public officials throughout a series of workshops and events over the course of two days in Washington D.C. Local government partners from Northeast Ohio also have the opportunity to hear directly from agencies about federal resources that they can leverage for their communities. In 2016, attendees heard from nearly two dozen elected officials, including Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Congressman Dave Joyce, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, and Congressman Jim Renacci. Attendees also heard from federal agency and White House staff on key policy developments and from major corporations on developing technology trends to follow.
COSE Day at the Capitol
COSE Day at the Capitol provides our members with the unique opportunity to meet with policymakers in the Statehouse and discuss ways in which we can work together to enhance the business climate in Ohio. This annual event provides direct access to key stakeholders and allows for an exchange of ideas and policy priorities. In 2016, COSE Day afforded attendees the chance to lobby legislators on the issues that impact the workplace, ranging from health care to energy policies. In addition, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber and State Representative Barbara Sears were presented Small Business Advocate of the Year awards for their successful efforts to support small businesses in Ohio.
GCP Public Officials Reception
The 53rd annual Public Officials Reception, presented by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, brought more than 500 of Northeast Ohio’s business and community leaders together with elected local, state, and federal officials at Windows on the River. The event kicked off with a pre-reception conversation with Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Cliff Rosenberger moderated by GCP President and CEO Joe Roman. The discussion focused on legislative priorities for the coming session. Many thanks to our sponsors, members, and their guests for once again making this not-to-be-missed event a tremendous success.
Republican National Convention
After years of revitalization and careful preparation, Cleveland truly shined brightly at the Republican National Convention as state delegates, visitors, and media from all over the world raved about our city and the individuals and organizations in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who made the experience possible. GCP’s leadership played an important role in bringing the Convention to Cleveland and led efforts to accelerate the progress on key community projects, like Public Square. GCP hosted a reception for the Great Lakes Metro Chamber Coalition, a group co-founded by GCP and that includes more than 30 chambers of commerce that collectively work to leverage the economic force of the 12 states and two Canadian provinces that comprise the Great Lakes region. Click here for a snapshot of some of the positive Convention media coverage that praised Cleveland.
Greater Cleveland Partnership Political Action Committee (GCP PAC)
Aside from voting, you can contribute to Cleveland’s growth and momentum going forward in many ways. The Greater Cleveland Partnership Political Action Committee (GCP PAC) is an important advocacy tool in our efforts to ensure the collective voice of our members is heard in state and local government. By contributing to the campaigns of officials who have demonstrated a desire to work with Northeast Ohio businesses for the good of the greater community, the GCP PAC helps advance policies and projects in line with the common goals of our members.
In 2016, the GCP carried out a strategy to double the dollar amount raised for GCP PAC from the previous year. If you are interested in increasing the strength of our region’s voice even further, please consider making a contribution to the GCP PAC and be a part of our movement. Your contribution helps maximize the impact we have and ensures elected officials understand the policy priorities that are important to our members and helps drive investment in our region.
A Brief Look Ahead
The next few years will bring a number of changes to the political landscape at the local, state, and federal levels (for the GCP’s comprehensive analysis of the 2016 General Election results and what it all could mean for Northeast Ohio businesses click here). The future will undoubtedly offer opportunities and simultaneously present challenges, but we will be prepared to work with all our elected leaders to advocate for you on the issues that matter most for our region.
In January, GCP will release its board-approved 2017-18 Public Policy Agenda. This document will serve as a road map for the top public policy issues that you have identified as important to you and your business. It provides a comprehensive framework to ensure we are focused on core business needs, such as smart, balanced tax reform and regulations, while responding to the critical community needs that are important for economic growth – education, workforce development, and public infrastructure and transportation priorities.
Our members’ support of our advocacy work comes in many ways. Whether you are an active member of our Government Affairs Council, attended the GCP Public Officials Reception, or you volunteered your time in other ways we thank you for your extraordinary engagement in advocacy. Your participation allows us to make progress on the policy issues that are vital to helping foster an environment that allows the business community to achieve success.
Happy New Year! Your support is important and is always appreciated.