Tourism, Coast Guard Museum near top of list for chamber in legislature

Development of a U.S. Coast Guard Museum in New London and support for a $15 million statewide tourism campaign are just two of the legislative priorities of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut this year.

The Waterford-based chamber, with more than 1,600 members, released a 48-point legislative wish list Friday on its website at www.chamberect.com/legislative-initiatives, just two days after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered his proposed budget for the fiscal year.

"These legislative goals, supporting some measures and opposing others, were established by a volunteer chamber committee that conducted a membership survey and spent a lot of time deliberating," said Tony Sheridan, the chamber's president and chief executive, in a statement.

Other items receiving chamber support were:

• completion of Route 11.

• funding for Groton-New London Airport.

• fast-tracking of a regional transportation center in New London.

• funding for a feasibility study to expand the rail bed between Mystic and New Haven.

• programs to promote regional partnerships for items such as 911 calling systems.

• the Next Five program, aimed at bringing major employers into the state, similar to the First Five program instituted two years ago.

• the Summer Youth Employment Program.

• Malloy's high school reform initiatives.

• funding for the state's Incumbent Worker Training program.

At the same time, the chamber released its 2012 Legislative Survey, which identified economic development and job creation as the leading issue among its members. Ninety-three percent of respondents said this was a top priority, with a nearly identical percentage saying that tax and fiscal policies were very important.

"If we don't get economic growth and creation of more jobs, and businesses growing and doing better without any attrition, our businesses will decline," the chamber quoted one respondent as saying.

"Startups are selecting other regions and states because of the lack of resources and services in Southeastern Connecticut relative to competing regions," said another.

Seventy percent of respondents said the best way the chamber can address some of these issues is by providing a voice in the legislature for local business people. This was the memberships' highest priority for the chamber, a task that has been taken on for more than a decade by the Hartford-based lobbying firm Levin, Powers & Brennan LLC.

"The chamber ... is supporting issues in a number of key areas that are important to our members, and opposing others that will hurt business competitiveness and job creation," chamber president Sheridan said.

l.howard@theday.com

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