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I’m Dreaming Of A Conservative Chamber Of Commerce

Updated: Apr 13

The 2014 mid-term results really did change something: they forced the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce into acting conservative! From Talk Business:

Former Arkansas GOP spokesperson Holly Wilson has been named Director of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a 501(c)(3) group that will focus on education and grassroots support for civil justice reform, also referred to as tort reform. Wilson, a lawyer and former legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, has served on the Senate Commerce Committee as a staffer and as legal counsel. She has a degree in International Relations with a focus on Economics from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. A native of Osceola, Wilson has worked the last year as communications director for the Republican Party of Arkansas, which made unprecedented gains in federal, state and legislative races this November. Randy Zook, President and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, said Wilson’s role with the foundation will not include lobbying. He said she would conduct research, position development, speak, fundraise, and build grassroots support for civil justice reform.

We’ve written previously about Arkansas’ less-than-stellar tort climate and the reasons why the Arkansas General Assembly should make conservative reforms to the state’s civil justice system in 2015. Tort reform would increase access to health care in rural areas in Arkansas; it would be a real incentive for businesses to locate in the Natural State. That’s why it’s encouraging to see the Chamber of Commerce make tort reform a priority in 2015. Conservative legislators have long grumbled about the Chamber of Commerce’s big-government policy biases and Democratic Party roots in an age where Arkansas has become more and more conservative. For example, the Chamber’s leader, Randy Zook, has defended the indefensible “Quick Action Closing Fund,” a slush fund whereby the state gives taxpayer dollars to politically-connected businesses. Usually, state politicians and bureaucrats send out press releases to notify the masses of all the job creatin’ they’re doing with this program. Businesses receiving this kind of taxpayer largesse have increasingly, in recent years, either laid off workers or not met other hiring requirements. Zook and the Chamber also supported re-upping funding for the “private option” Medicaid expansion during the fiscal session earlier this year, despite the undeniable causal connection between Medicaid expansion and economic slowdown. But we feel Holly Wilson’s hiring is an encouraging sign and an invitation for praise. Although it is odd that a state as red as Arkansas has had such a blue Chamber of Commerce, maybe that is finally starting to change.

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