We were blessed with a beautiful weekend… and school starts next week!
Over the weekend it was announced that Minnesota gets federal approval for additional $300 weekly unemployment benefits. The good news: if you already are receiving unemployment benefits, you don’t need to do anything new or different. DEED’s Unemployment Insurance Department will review all payment requests made the week of July 26 going forward, and automatically pay applicants who are eligible.
Ready for the next Special Session? If you remember, earlier in August Governor Walz signed an EO extending the state’s peacetime emergency through September 11 (initially declared on March 16). More to come, but we can expect another Special Session soon to extend another month.
Last Wednesday, August 26, was Women’s Equality Day and 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This is a hallmark moment in history, though this amendment did not grant all women the right to vote, specifically women of color. Indeed, most Black women would wait nearly 5 decades more to actually exercise that right.
Please take the time to learn more! To commemorate this historic centennial, the Women's Business Development Center, in collaboration with Target, is launching ‘Raising Up The Vote’ , a virtual nonpartisan campaign designed to increase awareness and drive action around the long-lasting impact voting has on communities now and into the future.
The campaign is 11-weeks long, launched on 8/26 and will continue up until election day in November. As part of the campaign they have created a podcast series called ‘Make Your Mark’, which will launch on 9/21. Also, as part of the campaign landing page they have a link to a curated resource page for resources related to voting, gender and racial equality and all things civic engagement related.
Ultimately, it is proof that women have triumphed in difficult circumstances before and we can again. We need that reminder now more than ever amid a sobering avalanche of news in recent weeks about the impact of the pandemic on working women. Study after study is now confirming what many of us already know and feel – while juggling work and childcare responsibilities is tough on all parents, women are bearing the greatest share of this increased COVID-19 related load.
How are women doing in leadership? One report found that there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses across the U.S. that employ 7.9 million people. These businesses generate a total of $1.4 trillion in sales, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.
The latest Fortune 500 list reveals that 37 companies (7.4%) have female CEOs, an increase from 33 in 2019. Seven of the 37 women lead Fortune 100 companies. While the 2020 Fortune 500 list has the highest number of female CEOs in history, only three of the CEOs included on the list are women of color and there are no Black or Latina women represented, a decline from 2019. This data illustrates the lack of diversity among the percentage of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list and highlights the work that still needs to be done to increase gender and racial diversity at the highest-levels of the business community.
We are a work in progress people, and it requires great intentionality to diversify our leadership. We are better for it!
Three steps the Minnesota Legislature should take to dismantle the Capitol’s structural partisanship
How do we fix the gridlock? In part, we fix the rules and traditions that create the “winner take all” system.
By Shannon Watson. Originally published by MinnPost
As the legislative and campaign seasons collide this year, the politics that are always part of the process have had an increasingly intrusive role in governing. Some of this is a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to call the Legislature back repeatedly. But this is also an unintended consequence of how our state-level legislative bodies are organized in Minnesota.
During campaign season, partisanship, competition, and differing views of governance are appropriate – campaigns are contests, after all. In November voters will go to the polls and decide which candidates will win, but most important: who will control the State House and Senate.
There are a lot of benefits in winning a majority, which is why the parties work so hard to achieve that goal. However, the infrastructure that encourages continued partisanship and division after the polls close is a problem. The Minnesota Legislature should take three steps to dismantle the structural partisanship that currently exists at the Capitol. How do we fix the gridlock? In part, we fix the rules and traditions that create the “winner take all” system.
Integrate legislators’ offices
First, integrate legislators’ offices. Currently offices are segregated by body and party. At the start of each biennium, offices are distributed based on seniority – the majority members pick within their space, and the minority within theirs. Instead of encouraging that separation, we need more opportunities for members to connect informally and build relationships – say hello in the hall, make small talk while waiting for the microwave, share photos of their kids. The floors and wings that are currently divided should be mixed up and offices be picked by seniority across the chamber, not solely within caucuses.
Or, as a more extreme fix, at the start of the 2021 session, do a lottery for offices that will become the permanent home base for that district moving forward – even if the person holding the seat changes, the office location would stay the same.
Depoliticize the staff
Second, it’s time to depoliticize the staff. Campaigning is about activism and winning. Legislating is about governing and coalition building. As long as the same people are doing jobs supporting both goals, with the opportunity to use one as a vehicle to advance the other, the culture at the Capitol isn’t going to get any better. Governing should not be about winning – or worse, obstructionism with the intent of denying the other side a win. Fiscal and legal staff are already nonpartisan, so reclassify committee administrators, legislative assistants, constituent services, and research to match.
Most important, eliminate partisan caucus communications departments. Currently, the caucuses have taxpayer-funded communications staff. Both the Senate and House have official nonpartisan media service departments – those should be more than sufficient for promoting the news of the government. The only reason for partisan communications departments to exist is to promote partisan talking points. Taxpayers should not be funding political operations at the Capitol. While this kind of communication is appropriate for campaigning, it is not necessary for governing, and as we’ve seen this year, is actually hurtful to the legislative process. If the parties want to promote their positions on issues outside the Capitol, they can. But having state employees, paid for by taxpayers, advancing partisan positions isn’t helpful. Stop paying for it and stop letting it drive more wedges into the governing process.
Reform the committees
Third, reform the committees. Instead of having all committees chaired by members of the majority party, have them co-chaired by members of the majority and minority. This would mean the co-chairs trade holding the gavel and running the meetings — much as members of conference committees do — and would share the responsibility of determining which bills get hearings. Having co-chairs and a nonpartisan committee administrator would also ensure that any omnibus bills coming out of committee would be created with input from members of both parties. (This move in and of itself could drastically reduce the number of amendments being proposed from the floor.)
Much has been talked about how this year’s bonding bill has been held up by the minority in the House. From my perspective, I’m not surprised. The 60% supermajority is the only issue on the agenda this year that requires the minority caucus’ participation and approval to pass. When you give a caucus one place to participate, a chair at only one table so to speak, of course they’re going to use it. When you only have one card to play, you make it count.
The only detriment in being in the minority party should be that you have to work harder to get members to vote for your ideas. But right now the structure in both chambers works against too many elected members and their constituents, just because they were elected to the minority.
A pandemic situation can’t be changed. But the structural issues that add to the dysfunction can. Even casual observers of the “inside baseball” inner workings at the Capitol know that there’s way too much campaigning that’s conflicting with governing. Let’s fix the system. Let’s reform the infrastructure to support a focus on governing for the people of Minnesota, and minimize the campaigning at the Capitol.
Shannon Watson serves as the Director of Public Affairs at the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and is the founder of Definitely Someday. Watson worked on campaigns on both sides of the aisle for 20-plus years, as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Minnesota Senate. She is a 2020-21 policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Lots of work going on in support of business!
Visit Saint Paul is offering a Ready Together Pledge. The idea is to bring business together under a commitment to cleanliness and safety. What happens when you sign up? By taking the pledge, your business will be listed so visitors and customers can be made aware of your participation. You will also gain access to resources and marketing tools to help communicate your pledge and commitment to public health. Not regulatory, not punitive, simply us banding together in support of us. Sign the pledge for business inclusion here
In case you missed it, last Thursday Mayor Carter announced his proposed budget and it calls for a zero percent tax increase and no layoffs for city staff. Our thoughts? Here is our statement – cautiously optimistic.
Tax implications of COVID-19 are with us all year. For those of you unable to capitalize on a PPP, you may be eligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit. The SBA is providing training on this and other tax relief options. This week is on August 26, 9 a.m. CT; Register here. Other training and links to the SBA are at the bottom of this email. The SBA is really engaged here; take advantage of the tools and training they offer!
And for those of you considering new employment options, be sure to check out the Ramsey County jobs board. Many companies ARE hiring!
And, finally: You are invited to attend a Ramsey County Community Build Session being held Aug 31 - Sept 1 via video conferencing. This is a friendly reminder to register, if you haven't already, and/or share the invitation with your networks. These sessions are being held by Ramsey County Community and Economic Development to inform the development of a county-wide Competitiveness and Inclusion Strategic Plan that will guide its economic future.
Mon. Aug 31 @ 10:00 a.m. | Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Mon. Aug 31 @ 3:00 p.m. | Industry and Infrastructure
Tues. Sept 1 @ 10:00 a.m. | Placekeeping: Corridors and Culture
Tues. Sept 1 @ 3:00 p.m. | Affordable Housing Development
For more information, read the brief attached or visit the County's Plan Engagement website (scroll to the bottom of the homepage to register).
One last note: because we’ve been watching this, an update on USPS from Lockridge Grindal Nauen, earlier today: The House on Saturday passed a bill aimed at rolling back service cuts at the U.S. Postal Service that many say could harm the ability of Americans to vote by mail in the November general election. The Delivering for America Act would allocate an additional $25 billion for the Postal Service. The bill passed on a vote of 257 to 150, with all Democrats and 26 GOP members voting yes, including Minnesota Congressman Pete Stauber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated the Senate would not be taking up the House bill, and the White House has threatened to veto it should it come to the President’s desk.
One of the hardest things about the COVID-19 pandemic, in my opinion, is how long the recovery is going to take. The economic slowdown has had deep impact. There are things that can be done to help, and there are things that can be done that might feel good, but will hurt in the long run.
Our public affairs department is reminding local units of government that business assistance must be prioritized, to understand that the employer community cannot take on extra burdens at this time, if we want our entire community to be able to grow our way out of the economic slowdown.
We recognize the significant challenge governments are facing in drafting 2021 budgets, in light of increased emergency expenditures and declining revenue. Every business across the county is making the same kind of decisions right now, but without the benefit of levy authority and "guaranteed customers" that units of government depend on for their revenues.
As we move forward with this conversation, it is important to remember that the most efficient tool for community recovery is the ability of residents to work and have a good paying job, so assisting employers’ ability to bring people back to work must be an absolute priority. If a business can’t afford to stay in operation, their absence will only make the recovery take longer for all of us.
As always, we thank you for being partners in the work. If your business is still looking for specific assistance, budgetary or otherwise, please let us know.
Director of Public Affairs
Follow me on Twitter @Shannon_SPACC
Ramsey County’s second round of Small Business Relief Fund applications has been extended to August 21. If you are self-employed/sole proprietor, or a small business with 20 employees or fewer, see more information and apply here.
I read a lot of news over the weekend about the USPS, and we certainly are experiencing delays in this market. What’s up? This article talks about warnings regarding service delays. Lest we go too far down the conspiracy tunnel, you might find this article interesting: written by Nick Harper, a political lawyer, lobbyist and nonprofit program director.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve just released the results of its most recent survey: shows signs that businesses might be settling in – uncomfortably – amid tough and uncertain conditions. If you want more details, on August 20 Ron Wirz, Regional Outreach Director, is hosting a free webinar on survey results. Here is a direct link to the webinar registration site. Feel free to share widely: https://frbminneapolis.cvent.com/RegionalEconomicConditions
Any good news? Yep. On Thursday, the UofM announced they are the first in the country to open a clinical trial for new treatment of COVID-19. Read the full article here.
I’m sending a special shout-out today to Spare Key. This nonprofit member is getting creative in their efforts to keep the doors open. On August 27, Executive Director Erich Mische sets out on a 2-month, 10-state, 1700-mile journey on the river – all the way to Baton Rouge, LA, to raise money for his organization. To support his “Hope On the River” journey, check out www.hopeontheriver.com! Their pre-launch event is on Wednesday, August 26.
By B Kyle. Originally published by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
In St. Paul, more than 275 buildings were looted, damaged, or even razed during the civil unrest that followed the senseless death of George Floyd on May 25. So many of these businesses remain shuttered.
This on top of the ongoing pandemic. One devastating economic blow after another. In particular, businesses with Black, women, and immigrant owners have disproportionately been impacted by both.
We want to help. Will you join us?
Our region is blessed with civic pride, strong companies and leaders who invest in our community. Two of our most engaged CEOs, Chris Hilger of Securian Financial and Doug Baker of Ecolab, are asking for your support in helping to fund rebuilding efforts in the Midway Area and across St. Paul.
Here is their letter to us:
“Saint Paul has been home to Ecolab and Securian Financial for more than 200 combined years. This community is filled with our families, friends and colleagues. We mourn together over the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest it triggered following generations of racial injustice. Our organizations are committed to building a better tomorrow with shared opportunity.
There is a great partnership underway to continue the healing of our hometown. The We Love St. Paul/Midway Fund – a collaboration of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, the Midway Chamber of Commerce and the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance – is raising money for the following priorities.
Please join us in supporting this effort to help rebuild these local businesses, many of which were already struggling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together we will make a difference.”
How to help: Please go to www.welovethemidway.com or www.welovestpaul.com today and contribute. No donation is too small – or too big!
B Kyle is president and CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. Joe Spencer is President of the St. Paul Downtown Alliance. Chad Kulas is Executive Director of the Midway Chamber of Commerce.
My thoughts today are on the economic impacts of COVID-19 on business. Development still pushes on across the metro. We continue to see cranes in the sky, a very welcome view indicating that big projects are enduring.
RiversEdge plans are underway; the Seven Corners Gateway site will be rebuilt; and just this week I learned of two very nice leasing deals – new businesses moving into downtown. Of course, I juxtapose that against the very real drama being played out in the small business marketplace. As we review the applications for our We ❤ St. Paul/Midway fund, as we read about restaurants that are closing never to re-open, we see another story of true, life-changing loss.
Your chamber – and chambers all across the country – feel this pain with you. Our very existence is based on the principle of advancing the business community. My hope is that, though you may not always see it, you know that we are dedicated to serving you every day. Please know you can reach out anytime – we stand at the ready, to help as we can.