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Campaign about Jobs Gives Way to Hard Reality of Creating Jobs

Posted by Rick Lord on Nov 2, 2010 10:29:00 PM

The long campaign about jobs and the economy in Massachusetts is finally over and now gives way to the cold reality about jobs and the economy in Massachusetts.

Governor PatrickIncumbent Governor Deval Patrick defied the national Republican tidal wave to win a second term at the helm of a commonwealth still seeking a post-recession economic identity. Massachusetts voters also retained overwhelming Democratic majorities in both House and Senate on Beacon Hill, sent a blue delegation to a newly red Congress and defeated a proposal to reduce the state sales tax by more than half.

The Massachusetts that Governor Patrick surveys as he savors his accomplishment this evening is a paradox - stronger economically and with many more growth assets than other states, yet fragile in its ability to deliver on the promise of opportunity to all the citizens of the commonwealth.

The commonwealth enjoys a lower unemployment rate at 8.4 percent than the nation as a whole and the $2.5 billion state budget deficit pales in comparison with the fiscal disaster in California. But the 292,300 jobless people in Massachusetts and thousands of employers struggling to hold onto their businesses are anything but sanguine about what the future holds.

The challenges facing the governor and other policymakers seeking to promote economic growth are sobering – soaring health insurance premiums, a looming 40 percent increase in average unemployment insurance rates, high electricity costs, tight commercial credit markets, consumer uncertainty and a state regulatory system that discourages innovation while creating little public benefit. Underlying many of these challenges is a pervasive sense among employers – many of whom expressed the opinion at AIM’s recent regional policy briefings – that neither policymakers nor the general public really appreciate the complexity and risk of running a business in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts employers have solutions to offer and look forward to participating in the debate on the future of the Massachusetts economy. Associated Industries of Massachusetts represents thousands of employers who stand for jobs, economic opportunity, fiscal responsibility, business formation and a government that acknowledges that the private sector has the unique ability and responsibility to create the common wealth for the people of Massachusetts.

We look forward to working with the governor, the Legislature and the Congressional delegation to build support for several key principles of economic recovery:

  • A uniformly favorable environment for business development across all industries and all regions of the commonwealth.
  • Economic policy that balances key public investments with a competitive cost structure that keeps jobs in Massachusetts.
  • Predictable, responsible and long-term state fiscal policy.
  • Well-conceived and collaborative regulation that creates measurable benefits. 
  • A nimble, world-class education system that provides opportunity for all Massachusetts citizens and the knowledge base for economic growth.
  • Collaboration between business and government to ensure mutual success.

These principles will provide the foundation for a sustainable recovery that touches every sector of the diverse Massachusetts economy, from manufacturing to high technology to retail and hospitality. Successful economic policy creates uniform benefit throughout the marketplace, balancing the need to invest in the future without simultaneously harming the industries of the present that employ the vast majority of Massachusetts residents.  

We look forward to the challenge.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Deval Patrick, Election 2010

Massachusetts Employers Required to Give Some Workers Time Off to Vote

Posted by Kyle Pardo on Nov 1, 2010 9:45:00 AM

Voters in Massachusetts head to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes in state, Congressional and local elections.  Federal law does not require companies to allow employees time off from work to vote, but Massachusetts law in some cases does. It is in your best interest to communicate a voting-day policy to your employees prior to Election Day.

Voting Time OffPolls in Massachusetts will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Massachusetts General Laws Section 178 states that employees working in manufacturing, mechanical or retail industries whose shift begins at 7 a.m. may not be required to work during the first two hours that polls are open – as long as the worker has requested a leave of absence in advance.

The law does not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.  In all other industries, if polls are open two or three hours prior to an employee’s regular work hours, the employer is not required to provide time off to vote.  Employers may require employees to request time off in advance.

Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont do not have state laws specifying time-off requirements for employees on Election Day.

Many employers require employees to vote during non-business hours.  Employers may need to be flexible and take an employee’s commuting distance into account when determining the appropriate amount of time to allow for voting.

Employers may not require employees to forfeit their normal lunch time for the purpose of voting.  It is also important to remember that employers may not discipline or retaliate against employees for taking time off to vote.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Employment Law, Election 2010

Political Candidates Make 2010 a Real Bridge Year

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 27, 2010 9:44:00 AM

The Red Sox have just completed their infamous “bridge year,” but it’s shaping up as a real bridge year for politicians who have apparently decided that the election will turn upon their ability to transform every highway overpass in Massachusetts into a campaign billboard.

VoteHereSignLook up on your drive into Boston, Worcester or Springfield and you can’t escape the bridges festooned with campaign signs guarded by campaign workers doing the Queen’s wave at the traffic below.  In an age when campaigns spend millions of dollars carpeting television and the Internet with apocalyptic ads about opponents, politicians have turned 7 a.m. on the Expressway into the Massachusetts version of kissing babies at the state fair.

The overpass stand-outs have become so pervasive that they have all but pushed out the home-made “Welcome Home PFC Smith” signs that normally have the bridges all to themselves. Is this what Bill Clinton had in mind when he talked about building a bridge to the 21st century?

 A strict protocol apparently governs which signs end up on which bridges. There are Democratic bridges and Republican bridges. While one bridge in Quincy recently broke the mold with signs for both Republican candidate for state auditor Mary Connaughton and incumbent Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch, the vast majority of political spans seem to act as a kind of metaphor for the government itself – parallel directions, miles apart.

No surprise, then, that an overpass along Route 3 in Weymouth decked out with signs for Independent 10th District Congressional candidate Maryanne Lewis fell squarely between bridges claimed on one side by Democrat William Keating and on the other by the ubiquitous supporters of Republican Jeff Perry.

It’s hard to tell whether the campaign workers who patrol the bridges keep smiling from a sense of superiority to the caffeinated motorists caught in the gridlock below or simply from spending three hours inhaling carbon monoxide fumes. The one bright spot is that no candidate elected on November 2 will be able claim that he or she is unfamiliar with the issues facing the nation’s crumbling  transportation infrastructure.

Anthony Cignoli, a national political consultant based in Springfield, says campaigns conduct stand-outs to create last-minute name recognition and to build enthusiasm among campaign volunteers. He believes that campaigns are increasingly determined to reach voters behind the wheel – like the candidate for governor’s council in western Massachusetts who spelled his name with artificial flowers in the links of a safety fence on a highway bridge in Palmer.

“There’s also a sense that if the other campaign is doing it, then our campaign should do it too,” said Cignoli, who is working on several campaigns in the Midwest this fall.

Keep in mind that the bridges where campaigns are hanging their political wallpaper are the same spans from which the Massachusetts Highway Department ordered flags and other patriotic displays removed in 2007 because of concerns that the flags and posters might fall on drivers and cause a crash. Perhaps now that the commonwealth has banned drivers from looking down at text messages, lawmakers might do something to reduce the distraction of drivers looking up at bridge displays while crossing three lanes of Route 128 to get to the next exit.

The good news is that overpass standouts ultimately represent one of the oldest and most enduring traditions of free expression in our democracy. Like colonial office seekers carrying leaflets on horseback or depression era politicians mounting loudspeakers on trucks, candidates for office in 2010 stand on bridges as an inexpensive method of reaching voters in the marketplace.  The practice may not add much to our understanding of the issues, but neither do the grainy television advertisements and repeated robo-calls from which there will be no escape during the next seven days.

The only question is whether the candidates in Alaska hang signs from the bridge to nowhere…

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Election 2010

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