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The Leader – February 2013


Welcome to The Leader – Leveraging Limited Resources

By Carl Guardino, President & CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Those who know me are keenly aware of a core belief – “I can be generous with my own money, but incredibly frugal with our Member Companies money.”  With this in mind, the Leadership Group strives to leverage limited resources to expand our effectiveness through strategic partnerships at the regional, state and federal level.

In this month’s “Leader,” we highlight two top priorities in our 2013 work plan: Immigration reform for highly-skilled workers and modernization of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Rather than “go it alone,” we take the time to build or join Coalitions to “go further together.”

On Immigration Reform, we have proactively partnered at the national level with outstanding organizations like the Business Roundtable, ITI, Consumer Electronics Association, TechAmerica and others.  We combine this with the active engagement of our relatively new “National Metro Coalition” of 20 like-minded regional business associations and regional chambers of commerce.

On modernization of CEQA, we co-chair a statewide coalition called “The CEQA Working Group” which consists of dozens of regional partners like the Orange County Business Council, Los Angeles Chamber and LA EDC, San Diego Chamber, Bay Area Council, Contra Costa Council and Sacramento Chamber, along with solid statewide partners like the CA Alliance for Jobs, CA Business Roundtable, NAIOP and others.

A great leader once said, “It is amazing what we can accomplish when we do not care who gets the credit.”  The Leadership Group, by proactively partnering with others, expands our effectiveness, more efficiently engages our members and increases our chances for success.

 Startup CEOs Advocate in D.C. for Immigration Reform

By Staff

After 12 years of advocating for high-skilled worker immigration reform by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, among others, there appears to be significant momentum in Washington, D.C. for change. Year after year we’ve traveled with member-company CEOs to our nation’s capitol to provide vivid examples of why our country’s immigration policy needed revision and now we are hopeful that this will be the year for significant reform.

With the help of members Silicon Valley Bank,Virgin America, NASDAQ and Crescendo Ventures we’re on Capitol Hill and in the White House again this week with a dozen startup CEOs to discuss why high-skilled worker immigration reform is vital to the innovation economy.

Several venture capitalists and local university administrators are participating in the trip, demonstrating the ecosystem involved in making our Innovation Economy a success. Our key message has been:  “Get the job done.”

We have met with more than 20 key members of the Senate, House and Administration to discuss policies that spur startup growth, including the Startup Act 2.0. The conversations with Senators and Congress members were driven by the reforms needed to ensure our innovation economy has the talent necessary to help companies grow and compete in the global economy. Here are a few of the changes we think are necessary:
• Establish a market-based H-1B cap.
• Exempt U.S. advanced degree graduates from the H-1B cap.
• Provide visas and green cards to startup entrepreneurs and STEM degree holders.
• Exempt U.S. advanced degree graduates, as well as foreign advanced STEM degree graduates with U.S. work experience, from the green card cap.
• Exempt spouses and children of green card recipients from the green card cap
These changes would help offset the projected deficit of 3 million college graduates needed to meet the demands of the innovation economy. We applaud the efforts made by Senators Chris Coons, Marco Rubio, Jerry Moran and Mark Warner to bring policy changes to stoke America’s entrepreneurial sparks: Through improved access to capital; tax policies that encourage innovation in young companies as well as more established ones; and institutionalizing a process for identifying new policies that harm entrepreneurship.

Roughly 45 percent of Silicon Valley startups are founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs. And these small businesses, as small business have always done, provide the most jobs. Working together, with Congress and the Administration, we can reform our immigration policies to grow our economy and jobs.

Abuse of a Great Environmental Law

By Shiloh Ballard, Vice President

In Governor Brown’s recent State of the State address he called for streamlining regulatory procedures and standards, especially ones connected to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). He stated, “Our approach needs to be based more on consistent standards that provide greater certainty and cut needless delays.”

As Co-Chair of a statewide CEQA modernization coalition, we‘ve gathered case studies that demonstrate how CEQA, a great environmental law, has been misused to block important housing, transportation and job-producing businesses and projects for non-environmental purposes.

For example, several infill housing proposals near the new Milpitas BART station were systematically challenged by the carpenter’s union. In East San Jose, a gas station expansion was held up by a competitor across the street. And, in Los Gatos, residents concerned about the town’s “character” have successfully stalled the expansion of Netflix, even though the project site is an existing office campus backed up against the freeway.

The law firm Holland and Knight, which specializes in CEQA cases for both public agencies and private entities, recently reviewed all 95 published CEQA-related lawsuits decided by the California Court of Appeal or Supreme Court over the past 15 years. The intent of the review was to determine which types of projects are most often the target of CEQA lawsuits.

Among the key findings of the analysis:

  • CEQA litigation is aimed more often at infill than greenfield projects. Nearly 60 percent of the projects sued were infill, often transit-oriented developments.
  • Nearly four in ten of the projects were public agency projects like schools, hospitals, roads and universities.
  • The most commonly-challenged types of projects are public infrastructure (19%).
  • CEQA litigation is mostly about non-polluting projects.  Fewer than 11% of these cases involve industrial projects.
  • CEQA litigation shelters anonymous interests:  The vast majority of cases – 73% were filed by local organizations. Forty three percent (43%) of the local organizations are unincorporated associations, which do not need to disclose their members when filing CEQA lawsuits.

Updating the state’s landmark environmental law is a key component of our 2013 work plan and we were thrilled to hear the Governor’s recent comments. We’ll continue to work closely with the Governor, our coalition and legislators like Senator Michael Rubio, Chair of the Senate Environment Quality Committee to modernize the state’s great environmental protection law to reduce its misuse. For more information, visit our CEQA Working Group website.

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