Know Your Public Records Rights

In March, the Florida Legislature passed a law that changes Florida’s public records policy for businesses that contract with local or state government and helps protect businesses from being sued. Now, a request for public records must be made directly to the public agency. If the public agency does not possess the requested records, the public agency will request records from the contractor.

In a memo to Florida’s business community, Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) outlines the need for businesses to understand the change in this law.

“Businesses are being sued in direct violation of the process outlined in the new law and are then being pressured into paying a cash settlement to avoid going to court. This is wrong,” writes Sen. Simpson.

Protect Your Business:

Has your business been targeted by an illegal public records request? Contact us today and let us know.

Make sure that your employees and General Counsels are aware of the statute change. Click here to view the full bill.

Florida Chamber Congratulates Member Companies Ranked as America’s Best Employers

Florida Chamber members are growing Florida’s economy by creating jobs and economic opportunity for all Floridians. We are proud to recognize the following companies for being named to Forbes’ America’s Best Employers 2016 list.

#1           Marathon Petroleum

#5           United Services Auto Assoc

#9           Mayo Clinic

#17         Publix Super Markets

#34         Florida International University Education

#42         Skanska

#58         Walt Disney

#65         Genentech

#69         Ford Motor

#88         Memorial Healthcare System

#89         UF Health

#90         University of Florida

#112      CSX Transportation

#141      Duke Energy

#142      Boeing  Aerospace & Defense

#143      Navy Federal Credit Union

#153      Johnson & Johnson

#156      Chevron

#182      Fidelity Investments

#203      Bright House Networks

#210      Nielsen Professional Services

#228      General Electric Engineering, Manufacturing

#244      Kinder Morgan

#254      Expedia                Travel & Leisure

#261      Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

#262      NextEra Energy

#270      Allstate Insurances

#273      Lockheed Martin

#305      Raymond James Financial

#313      Caterpillar

#315      HDR

#334      Coca-Cola

#359      State Farm

#362      United Parcel Service

#391      B/E Aerospace

#398      Altria Group

#406      FedEx

#420      IBM

#425      SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

#438      Lilly

#448      Beall’s

#451      Nestle

#458      McLane Company

#493      AT&T

Fortune Magazine Honors Florida Chamber Members in Newest Ranking

Fortune Magazine recently released its rankings for the World’s Most Admired Companies and several Florida Chamber board member companies topped the list!

Congratulations to Publix, for ranking as the most admired company in Florida.

The list also includes:

  • NextEra Energy
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Walt Disney
  • FedEx
  • Boeing
  • CocaCola
  • CVS Health
  • Delta
  • IBM
  • UPS
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Nestle
  • Wells Fargo
  • Walmart
  • PepsiCo
  • Caterpillar
  • AT&T
  • Allstate
  • Bank of America
  • Best Buy
  • Comcast
  • Chevron
  • CSX
  • General Electric
  • Graybar Electric
  • HCA Holdings
  • Jacobs Engineering
  • Macy’s
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
  • Pfizer
  • PNC Financial Services
  • Prudential Financial
  • State Farm
  • USAA
  • Quest Diagnostics
  • Raymond James Financial
  • Southern Co.

Congratulations to all the companies that made the list. To view the full ranking, click here.

5 Ways Social Media Can Land Employers In Court

By Arthur Lambert, Fisher and Phillips

Law360, New York (February 22, 2016, 10:37 AM ET) — The words post, like and share have taken on new meaning as social media continues to redefine our society, including the workplace. Employers have recently come under attack by government agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board, for their social media policies and practices. Failing to follow local and national laws relating to social media can result in a court date posted on an employer’s calendar.

In-house counsel must review social media policies and share their knowledge with employers in order to avoid preparing comments for court when they’d rather be sharing comments on Facebook. Below, I have provided what are, in my opinion, the top five ways social media can land employers in court.

1. Firing Employees For Social Media Posts

In past cases, the courts have found that a violation of a social media policy constituted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing an employee. However, there are several recent decisions by the NLRB that hold an employer liable under the National Labor Relations Act for terminating an employee related to social media if the actions are related to protected concerted activity under the NLRA. The NLRB has made a point of protecting employees who discuss their working conditions, complaints and terms of their employment with other employees through social media. Therefore, before making the decision to terminate an employee because of a social media post, employers need to ask:

• Was the employee discussing issues with another employee that may be interpreted as protected concerted activity?

• Was the employee criticizing a management policy or complaining about compensation or other terms and conditions of employment?

If the answer to either question is yes, employers and their legal counsel should know that these types of postings are protected under the NLRA, regardless of whether a union is involved. Employers also may violate NLRB rules if social media policies are so broad they prevent employees from discussing their wages or other conditions of employment. Though it may seem as if employers are defenseless in protecting their name and reputation on social media, they do have the right to take adverse action against an employee if the employee’s social media posts include:

• Complaints and/or threats against customers

• Harassing speech against a co-worker

• Confidential information about the company or client relationships or other information that may harm the company’s reputation in the marketplace

• Information regarding an employee engaging in deception or violating company rules. For example, in most cases a company may terminate an employee for calling in sick and then posting a picture at a St. Patrick’s Day parade or for posting a customer’s private information on a social media site. None of these are good ideas and employers may be able to terminate employees for these reasons. However, it may not be legal to terminate employees for these reasons in states that have laws restricting how much employers can regulate off-duty conduct.

Before implementing policies that may affect off-duty conduct, employers need to review state and federal laws. Some states have laws that protect broad categories of off-duty conduct or require that employers demonstrate a connection between an employee’s engagement in an activity and the employer’s business. In total, at least 31 states have some sort of off-duty conduct law, and social media posts or the information gleaned from them may be covered. Therefore, employers and their legal counsel must take all relevant laws into consideration when drafting or updating a social media policy.

2. Using Social Media in the Hiring Process

Employers who use social media in the hiring process must be aware of the associated dangers. Employers may be opening up the doors to discrimination claims if social media competence plays a part in hiring decisions or if they run across information on an employee’s account that cannot be unseen.

Some companies use social media platforms and campaigns as part of everyday work and need employees to be social media savvy. Is this a problem? The answer is yes, it could be. Social media savvy could be interpreted as discriminatory against people who either have not had access to social media or do not have the resources to use social media and become familiar with it. Therefore, it could be interpreted as a selection tool that eliminates the older, presumably less tech-savvy workers. Also, it could impact poorer workers without access to the multitude of expensive media platforms out there. A way to avoid this is to not require job candidates be up-to-speed on social media, but rather require they are willing to learn how to operate social media platforms upon hire. Employers should offer employees who are required to use social media as part of their job functions with trainings and access to the needed devices.

Employers may risk claims of discrimination not only if they require social media proficiency, but also if they browse through candidates’ social media accounts in the hiring process. In some cases, the initial hiring process is fairly blind and companies can collect amass of resumes/applications without knowing too much information about the applicants.

Therefore, any early decisions made cannot be discriminatory as there is no knowledge of whether or not an applicant is in a protected class. However, if companies routinely search social media on their applicants, they may be exposed to significant amounts of personal information about the candidates. The company may find out the race, national origin, sexual orientation and possible disability of an applicant.

For example, an employer receives an application from “John Doe” containing no improper questions. The employer then looks up the applicant on Facebook and discovers that he recently had cancer, has a same-sex spouse and is Asian. Then, if the applicant is denied employment and sues the employer because he believes the employer was discriminatory in the application process, the employer loses the defense that these factors did not enter into the hiring decision.

In addition to reviewing federal law as it pertains to social media in the hiring process, employers must also review state legislation. Several states have enacted statutes that limit the interception and monitoring of social media. Employers, particularly those that do business in multiple jurisdictions, need to stay up-to-date on all developments in this area. Laws governing employers’ access to candidates’ social media accounts are diverse, however several states, including California, prohibit employers from requiring or requesting employees or applicants to disclose their usernames or passwords to their social media accounts, as well as prohibit employers from requiring the employees or applicants to access their social media accounts in the presence of the employer.

3. Employees Posting Inappropriate Content on Company Platforms

Every employee has a right to work at a place free from harassment and discrimination. There are dozens of stories of employees harassing co-workers through social media. Sexual harassment may occur if, for example, a manager posts comments such as “hot stuff” or “sexy” on every picture a subordinate posts. This could lead to the subordinate feeling uncomfortable. A company that is aware of such harassment and fails to take steps to prevent it could be vicariously liable. Any company with a harassment policy should include social media into the equation. Employees need to be made aware of where and when they will be accountable for their actions.

Social media policies should include provisions prohibiting discrimination and harassment and outlining what action may be taken if policies are violated, e.g. disciplining up to and including termination. This includes threats to co-workers as well. Increasingly, employers are asked to judge whether a post is an indication of violence or merely blowing off steam. In this instance, some states are helping employers by criminalizing such behavior. Some have made it a crime to use a fake name or identity to create a website or social media account, as well as made it illegal to attempt to intimidate or threaten any person through social media.

4. Befriending and Following Employees

Employers who befriend or follow employees on social media may subject themselves to discrimination claims, as they may have access to an employee’s medical history, religious affiliation or other information that would place an employee in a protected class that the employer would not have access to otherwise. Though there may not be immediate repercussions following the employer’s new insight, if the employee is later terminated, he could claim it was because of information the employer had access to on social media.

Further, co-workers who friend one another may compromise workplace morale if they are exposed to one another’s political views, religious views and other personal views and do not agree.

5. Failing to Preserve Evidence

In this era, with so much information being transferred electronically, courts have had to reassess what the term ~~document” means. It now encompasses all communications on social media platforms, including tweets, posts, snapchats, etc. Unfortunately, this leaves companies left to figure out how to keep track of these things in case they enter into litigation or become subject to some investigation in which these documents are relevant. The information seems transitory but often, the more valuable a piece of information is, the harder it is to find.

If companies let a manager post something embarrassing, it will be reposted forever until it is a feature on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” However, if an employee posts something improper, it often gets taken down before the company can take steps to preserve it as evidence of any subsequent discipline. Therefore, when the employee complains about harassment from a co-worker or a customer complains that an employee has breached some privacy right, how do employers respond and should they keep track of these communications?

Often what we see are screen shots of texts or some post but not the real post, even when it is on the company Facebook account. Screen shots are better than nothing but they produce just what you can see and not the metadata. Often they are incomplete and do not show the full picture —they lack context and therefore are subject to misinterpretation. Having the actual communications is the best course of action. This gives employers the best picture and allows them to assess potential liability, intent and possible steps they need to take to remedy whatever harm may have been caused.

Legal counsel must work with companies to ensure they have a social media policy, which must include retention of these communications. If an employee posts on company Twitter or Facebook accounts, they should not be allowed to delete the post without approval. It is prudent to have some method of archiving this data —have an “Internet Czar” responsible for overseeing such content and the company rules related to the use of social media.

Even if companies store any comments into a Word document, it is better than nothing. As part of the policy, employers should also make sure to clarify that any posting on company social media is the property of the company along with the accounts, usernames and any other information associated with the accounts. This way, when an employee leaves, the account information stays with the company. Make sure employers clearly communicate the policy with all employees. Social media archiving is becoming big business —use it. Get with people in IT to make sure you have the means to preserve all posts, when you need to.

Though social media is widespread and loved by many, it can lead to a major headache for employers. Legal counsel should guide employers and share all necessary information that may help employers to craft and post legally enforceable social media policies.

 

—By Arthur V. Lambert, Fisher &Phillips LLP

Arthur Lambert is a partner in Fisher &Phillips’ Dallas office. He has experience advising and defending employers in all phases of labor and employment matters, including those involving sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and Fair Labor Standards Act disputes.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general

Harris Corporation’s 65-Year Florida Partnership Continues

By William M. Brown, Chairman, President and CEO of Harris Corporation

Many have wondered about the long-term benefits of a pro-business environment, such as the one fostered by state leaders and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  Bringing in new businesses makes headlines, but what happens over time?

Harris Corporation, which is celebrating 65 years in Florida, is proof that such an environment can not only lure businesses to Florida, but lead to even greater gains as those companies thrive and mature.

Like many companies, Harris’ Florida presence began small – fewer than 50 employees in a single Melbourne, Florida operation. By continuing to invest and innovate, the company grew to become a top-10 defense contractor and one of the state’s largest companies with approximately 6,000 Florida employees operating in 22 locations.

Nearly 40 percent of Harris employees are engineers and scientists – highly sought after, high- paying positions.  Harris’ average Florida salary is $95,000 and our total annual state payroll is nearly $600 million – excluding more than $200 million the company pays to Florida-based suppliers.

The benefits of our growth extend well beyond real estate, salaries and supplier support. During the past five years alone, Harris and its employees contributed more than $13 million and donated thousands of hours to Florida community and academic organizations with a special focus on STEM initiatives. In addition, over half of our college recruiting activity comes from Florida-based universities.

Our growth in Florida – and the benefits it provides – would not be possible without the pro-business environment that state leaders and the Florida Chamber fight to preserve every year.

Teaching Parenting Skills At Doctor Visits Helps Children’s Behavior

By Vanessa Rancaño

As researchers have come to understand how poverty and its stresses influence children’s brain development, they’ve begun untangling how that can lead to increased behavior problems and learning difficulties for disadvantaged kids.

Rather than trying to treat those problems, NYU child development specialists Adriana Weisleder and Alan Mendelsohn want to head them off.

They say they’ve found a way: Working with low-income parents when they bring babies and young children to the pediatrician. They’ve been able to reduce key obstacles to learning like hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers recruited mothers with newborns to participate in the study and divided them into three groups. One group received standard pediatric care, which includes some basic coaching on reading to kids. The second went home with books, toys and informational pamphlets, and the third worked with a trained child development professional for about 30 minutes before or after each checkup. The specialist filmed each mother and child reading or playing together for a few minutes, talked to the mother about the positive things she did with her child and sent her home with the video.

At 3 years old, 50 percent fewer children in the video interaction group who were most at risk showed signs of hyperactivity compared with those who got standard pediatric care. The results were positive, though less remarkable, for the video group as a whole.

Improving a child’s ability to focus, regulate behavior and cooperate with other kids can help a child learn. “If [children are] controlling their behavior, not overreacting and paying attention, they will be taking in more information from learning activities,” says early childhood expert Susan Landry, director of the Children’s Learning Institute, who wasn’t involved in the study. “All those things help in the classroom to be a better student.”

The results show that a relatively cheap form of intervention works, the researchers say, and could be used to reach a big swath of the population, including families who are often hard to reach because parents work multiple jobs or phones get disconnected.

By using pediatric checkups as a way to engage parents, the researchers say they could reach every child without burdening parents with additional transportation or logistical demands. “We’re leveraging the relationship they already have with the pediatric clinic,” Weisleder says.

While home visits to provide this sort of one-on-one behavioral training can cost between $1,500 and $10,000 per child per year (models vary widely), the video program costs around $200. David Willis, director of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, notes that the home visit program is far more intensive than the NYU video method, with families getting between 25 and 30 visits per year. Each lasts at least an hour.

“The families we serve are some of the most challenged families in the country,” Willis says. Home visits are an important resource for them, but he estimates the program reaches only 1 to 3 percent of families who could benefit from it. “To simultaneously have this program that’s likewise focused on promoting positive parenting and brain development in the youngest families is really significant,” he says.

Landry thinks the video intervention could be embedded into almost any type of pediatric setting for very little cost. “That’s something all of us have been searching for, “she says. Her team at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston is working to make home visits by child development specialists more affordable by giving parents iPads so they can work remotely with experts.

The findings don’t just apply to disadvantaged families. As a pediatrician, the first advice Mendelsohn gives families when kids have behavior problems is to think not about discipline but rather positive steps.

“Can you start to pay attention to your child when your child is being good?” he asks. Negative interactions can turn into a cascade, he says, in which parents feel worse about themselves, which influences kids negatively, which ultimately makes things even harder for parents. “Kids misbehave because it’s their job,” he says. “It’s our job to be able to help them learn and regulate their behavior.”

Florida Supreme Court Approves Marijuana Amendment

Just minutes ago, the Florida Supreme Court issued their ruling on what is commonly referred to as the “John Morgan Marijuana Amendment.” The Florida Supreme Court ruled the initiative petition, ballot title and summary satisfy the legal requirement and is therefore constitutional, which means the amendment can be placed on the 2016 ballot, providing other requirements are met.

The amendment “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” still must reach the threshold of 683,149 verified signatures from 14 of Florida’s congressional district by February 1, 2016.  Currently, the effort has 400,032 of those verified signatures; however, they have reached their quota in only three congressional districts.

The significance of having this amendment on the 2016 ballot is huge. Our polling shows this amendment will most likely pass as Florida voters are compassionate about this issue and want people with debilitating diseases to have relief. And when we dissect the crosstabs, we find voters between the ages of 18-29, those over 65 and Democrats are most likely to vote for this amendment.

Let’s face it; Florida is the gateway to the White House. In presidential election years, voter turnout is approximately 25 percent higher than in non-presidential years, increasing from 45 percent to more than 70 percent. In the past, the younger voters have needed a reason to go to the polls. What better reason in a presidential year to turn out the younger voters and increase the 65+ voters than to have a constitutional amendment on the ballot?  You broke the code:  it is a voter turnout mechanism.

Should this amendment make it on the 2016 ballot, it will change the dynamics of the elections.

We are in for quite a ride.  So stay tuned and take care,

Marian

Simple Number, Complex Impact: How Many Words Has A Child Heard?

In Courtney Banks’ apartment in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood, Michelle Saenz opens a laptop.

Banks’ youngest child, 18-month-old son, Rasean Wright, squirms and flops on his mother’s lap.

He’s why Saenz is here: to help Banks talk to her son, to build the little boy’s brain.

She is part of a project called the Thirty Million Words Initiative, developed at the University of Chicago after researchers found that children in poor households often hear fewer words spoken to them than youngsters in more comfortable families.

Specifically, 30 million fewer words by the age of 3. And the kids who start behind can stay behind once they get to school, contributing to a growing achievement gap between poor and better off students.

So Saenz asks Banks what kind of books she’s reading with her son.

“When you trace it all back, really the fundamental thing that grows human brains in the first three years of life is parent talk and interaction. And there is no way around it,” says Dana Suskind, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago Hospital and the founder of the Thirty Million Words Initiative. “The brain is hard-wired to learn from human language and interaction.”

Suskind conducted close to 200 surgeries to install cochlear implants in the ears of children, to help them hear. Over the years, she came to see first-hand, in the operating room and X-rays, that hearing words vitalizes the brains of infants.

“The language comes in: You get these neural connections building the sort of architecture of the brain. It’s really the foundation for all thinking and learning,” she says. “I always say that language is the nutrition for the developing brain.”

It’s not just a question of developing vocabulary, she says: That interaction helps the brain develop to handle things like tying your shoe.

“It’s the first three years of life, or the first five years of life, that helps build all of those skills,” says Suskind, who has published a book about her initiative that goes by the same same.

She acknowledges there are many reasons why low-income children might hear fewer words.

“It is a complex situation, and certainly families who live in poverty, there are so many stressors that impact a parent’s ability to interact with their children. Generally families from lower-income backgrounds, the science shows, don’t interact as much.

“But I think that understanding the science allows us to understand why we need social policies that support families in having time with their children, parental leave — those issues are important for helping close the achievement gap.”

Some have objected that her program doesn’t acknowledge other forms of communication between a parent or child, or how relationships might vary between children and parental figures. Other critics point out that the initiative involves ivory-tower academics telling poor families how to parent.

“My response is … that keeping the science away from people I would not consider an ethical thing,” Suskind says.

And, she says, her program is created in partnership with parents.

“The beauty of the science is that it really demonstrates how powerful parents are. It’s not skipping around parents,” she says. “I always say, no socioeconomic group has cornered the market on wanting their children to be happy and successful.

Back at Banks’ apartment, the mother of five says she looks forward to Saenz’s visits.

“I’ve learned a lot in the few weeks that I have been doing this, and kind of keeping their behaviors under control,” she says. “I actually see my youngest kids learning from this experience.”

Still, five healthy children are rarely “under control” at the same time. At times, a home visit can resemble a comedy sketch — an earnest academic, trying to get a squirming baby to look at something while the chaos of life goes on around them.

“This is real life. You know, I always say we’re looking to not only impact the individual parent, but our ultimate goal is a population-level shift, where this idea isn’t about a bunch of University of Chicago academics allowing parents to understand this, but this becomes part of the groundwater.

“And it doesn’t happen on one home visit, it doesn’t happen with one intervention,” she says. “It happens when an idea takes hold in a population.”

The idea, in this case, is that the words parents utter to their children have lasting impact.

“Who knew that something that looked so throwaway could be so incredibly powerful?” Suskind asks.

Florida Sen. Aaron Bean Pushing to Grow State’s Medical Tourism Industry

By Michael Auslen

Medical tourism — traveling for specialized or lower-cost health care procedures — is a $100 billion a year industry globally. And state Sen. Aaron Bean wants Florida to have a bigger piece of it.

So Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, is proposing a new program to more aggressively market Florida as a destination for health care…

Bean’s proposal, which does not currently have a sponsor in the Florida House, would build on work done by the Florida Chamber of Commerce to build Discover Florida Health, a marketing plan.

Click here to read the complete article on the Miami Herald’s Naked Politics Blog.

Florida’s Steady And Uprising Sunshine

By Rex Sinquefield, Contributor

While some states’ economic outlooks appear cloudy at best, Florida’s financial future remains bright. This week the Florida Chamber of Commerce released the details of its 2016 Competitiveness Agenda, a detailed legislative blueprint that dovetails nicely with Governor Rick Scott’s pro-growth plans. The Chamber’s agenda offers strong support for two key Scott initiatives: a call for $1 billion in tax cuts to attract new businesses to the state.

Importantly, neither the Chamber nor the Governor show any sign of slowing down on their pro-growth agendas. Florida’s recent successes are encouraging those in business leadership and civic leadership to double down on their efforts to ensure that Florida’s economy continues to rebound at its current quick pace. Late last year, the Sunshine State surpassed New York as the third-most populous state in the nation. Each day, Florida grows by more than 800 people. The 2016 “State Business Tax Climate Index” from the nonprofit Tax Foundation once again ranks Florida among the top 10; this year, Florida takes the number-four spot thanks to its business-friendliness and nonexistent individual income tax.

Click here to read the complete article in Forbes.

Power of pre-K gets boost from new report countering Vanderbilt study

By Marta W. Aldrich

On the heels of a major five-year study questioning the long-term effectiveness of Tennessee’s publicly funded pre-kindergarten program, a new regional report calls on states to raise the quality of such programs and make early childhood development a priority.

The report, released Tuesday by the Southern Regional Education Board, said investments during a child’s critical first years can increase the likelihood of high school graduation, college attainment and workforce readiness.

“Economically, it’s a no-brainer,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who chaired the Early Childhood Commission that developed the report with national experts during a two-year project.

The commission’s work offers a counterpoint to a landmark study released in September by Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education, which upends conventional wisdom about the power of preschool. Vanderbilt researchers found that at-risk students who participated in Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program showed significant gains initially, but by third grade performed worse than non-participants on both academic and behavior measures.

While the Vanderbilt data and a 2011 state comptroller’s report have some Tennessee lawmakers questioning the wisdom of more pre-K investments, state Rep. Mark White of Memphis said Monday that the bigger takeaway is that Tennessee must improve the quality of its early childhood programs.

“We don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” said White, one of three Tennessee lawmakers who served on the SREB commission. “Pre-K, done well and done appropriately, does help, especially in urban areas like Memphis where children face a lot of challenges.”

The commission recommends that its 16 member states boost the quality of both pre-K programs and teacher training — and align curricula from pre-K through third grade so that children’s learning builds over time.

Those are key messages for Tennessee leaders mulling over the Vanderbilt study, says Joan Lord, vice president of education data, policy research and programs for SREB.

“There’s a whole body of research that tells us that gains don’t fade away if you have a high-quality program that’s well-aligned from pre-K through the third grade,” Lord said on the eve of the report’s release.

She said pre-K teachers also must be trained to provide the kind of small-group interaction that can develop high-cognitive functioning in children.

“This is not a babysitting enterprise. It’s not child care,” Lord said. “It’s an educational enterprise. We need to understand what a high-functioning pre-K looks like.”

White, who represented Tennessee on the commission along with Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), said the state should “slow down and examine the quality of our programs and level of teacher training.”

“A year ago, we looked at putting more money into pre-K but put everything on hold because we knew the Vanderbilt study was coming out. Now I think it’s time to move forward, but let’s not throw away the good just because it’s not perfect,” White said.

“In urban areas like Memphis, we have many children coming out of toxic environments and they need a jumpstart to be ready for kindergarten,” White said. “I have principals and teachers tell me that if it wasn’t for pre-K, these kids wouldn’t be ready. They are so far behind.”

Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program, which was started in 2005 and cost about $86 million in 2013-14, serves about 18,000 children.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation Receives National Award

Odahowski

National Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recognized the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation among six of the most outstanding, committed and inspiring donors and volunteers from across North America at the prestigious National Philanthropy Day Honors event on November 11, in New York City.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation was awarded the Outstanding Foundation Honor for their legacy of dedicated philanthropic efforts in Florida and long-standing commitment to serving and promoting the welfare of others.

For more than 20 years, the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation has been a partner of the Florida Chamber Foundation, helping to better the quality of life for all Floridians.

We hope you’ll join us in congratulating David Odahowski and his team as they strive to secure Florida’s future.

Thank a Hero Today

Today and all days, we thank the more than 1.5 million veterans who call Florida home for their service to our country.

At the Florida Chamber, we believe one of the best ways to honor the service of our veterans is to help them build economically stable lives when they return home.

At the Florida Chamber, we will continue advocating for those who fought for our freedom, and we celebrate their service on Veterans Day.

TPP and TTIP – Just What the Doctor Ordered

A sluggish recovery from the financial crisis, the Chinese economic slowdown and other curve balls have been a drag on trade volumes in recent years.  The recently concluded Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the currently being negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) could be just the shot in the arm global trade needs.

TPP- Trans Pacific Partnership

The U.S. recently concluded the final round of the TTP Trade Ministers in Atlanta, GA from September 30-Oct 2st which was preceded by a meeting of TPP Chief Negotiators.  The 12 countries in the TPP discussions represent about 40 percent of the global economy further highlighting the importance and significance of the standards set by this agreement.

TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

TTIP is a very ambitious and is about half way negotiated.   The trade agreement is between the United States and European Union across what would become the world’s largest free trade zone, accounting for 60 percent of global production

The TPP and TTIP are the next generation in terms of free trade agreement standards. They are less focused on trade barriers and have, instead, taken on more challenging issues such as intellectual property and labor.  Services trade has also been a key element in the discussions.  Services increasingly form a larger part of global GDP.  A focus on Services and facilitating trade in that sector would go a long way towards increasing economic activity and incomes globally.

Free trade = new markets

Covering approximately 40 percent of the world’s economy the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest free trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico came into force in 1994.

Free trade agreements (FTA) have been a positive force for economic development. U.S. trade growth with its FTA partners is increasing at a faster pace than with non-FTA partners. Between 2009 and 2014 exports to FTA countries have grown by 64 percent, versus45 percent for all non-FTAs, while imports from FTAs have expanded by 57 percent against 47 percent.

What does this mean for Florida?

Florida has much to gain from these negotiations and Florida has a long history of benefiting from free trade agreements.  Today, 37 percent of Florida’s exports were to FTA countries and 17 percent of Florida’s economy is dependent on free trade.

The Florida Chamber, through its Trade and Logistics Study, outlines key strategies for building the hard and soft infrastructure as well as capacity to capture more trade and create more jobs.

US-EU trade and investment will grow under liberalized FTA rules. The State’s 15 deep water ports and 19 airports compete with EU’s more traditional trading partners to the north, but will become much more attractive to the EU if more efficient and economical FTA benefits are adopted.

An expanded Panama Canal will provide Florida with a more direct water trade with Asia. With PortMiami dredged to 50ft along with other port, rail and intermodal enhancements larger ships will be able to have access to Florida’s ports allowing for growth in trade.  A trade agreement that opens us up to more markets in Asia will create more opportunities for Florida companies.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (One Belt, One Road- OBOR)

The program’s goal is to open China up to new and untapped trade opportunities, and put a shot in the arm on economic development in the “belt”—the land route starting in western China that crosses through Central Asia to the Middle East—as well as to the “road”: the maritime route around Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa.

The Initiative is based on historic trading routes between Asia and Europe 2000 years ago and involves more than 60 countries which represent a third of the world’s total economy. It aims to enhance the cooperation on trade, investment , technology and innovation as well as pursue development projects that enhance the domestic economic viability of potential trade partners  such as large infrastructure projects—ports, energy plants, and urban housing.

China's Silk Road

What does this mean for Florida?

Many view the OBOR strategy as “China’s Marshall Plan”.  It is still too soon to tell what the overall impact will be or how it ultimately gets implemented.

Europe is a key market and anchor for OBOR.  Europe and China have significant interests at stake and both are at crucial points economically speaking.  Europe is looking to strengthen its economic recovery and China’s is continuing to slow.  China is transitioning from an export-oriented economy that is more stable in the long run and the OBOR is an essential element in that transition.  In the process, Chinese infrastructure investments will prop up economies along the OBOR leading to increased market access not just for China and Europe but globally.

Economies that were developmentally challenged could become markets of opportunity as Chinese investment could prove to be transformative.  This is one to watch.

How Worried Should we be About China?

A recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report shows that a slowdown in economic activity by China will be felt by emerging economies but less so on developed economies. China still has many serious issues to address and overcome.  How those issues are handled will have impacts that will affect the global economy overall.

Why has the Chinese slowdown not been so bad for the U.S. and Europe?

One of the side effects of the Chinese slowdown on the global economy has been the lowering of commodity prices – oil in particular. This has had a positive effect the bottom line of the companies that still depend heavily on oil as well as on transportation costs.  Europe is a net importer of oil and the reduction of oil prices has helped its economic recovery.  Oil prices along with other economic measures will help spur along a gradual growth.  For the U.S., the problems in China have contributed to the Fed’s decision to postpone a rate increase. While one is still expected, not raising it has kept the U.S. dollar at current levels and kept it from further hampering export activity.

What is the impact on emerging economies?

Those which are commodity exporters, particularly oil producing nations, have been hit the hardest. But others, like India, will gain from lower commodity prices, as will China itself as a significant net importer. Brazil and South Africa have taken a particularly big hit as a decrease in commodity prices, coupled with high trade deficits which left them more vulnerable to a Chinese slowdown.

Commodity producers in the Asia-Pacific region which depend on exporting to China have also been impacted. This has included more advanced economies such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia, as well as emerging economies like Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

The more advanced economies, while impacted due to strong GDP ties to China, are proving fairly resilient.  South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia have been running healthy trade surpluses which will help them weather the storm.

What does this mean for Florida?

While events in China should be watched carefully and emerging markets have taken a hit, we should not lose sight of the long term over the short term.

China is an economy in transition – from export oriented to more services oriented as its middle class grows.

Many studies and forecast highlight that the long term growth rates of emerging economies as still significantly higher than of many developed economies.  While they may be undergoing a short term slump, the prospects of their strength and growth are great.