In an article appearing in PCWorld, reporter Lucian Constantin outlined a new phishing campaign targeted to Apple iCloud users. The complete article can be found at http://www.pcworld.com/article/2604060/hackers-launch-apple-id-phishing-campaign-playing-on-icloud-security-worries.html. The Chamber would like to remind members that phishing schemes can lead to identity theft, computer and network crashes, and loss of vital information.

Microsoft has provided a good overview of information on how to recognize phishing email messages, links, or phone calls and what to do if you have been subject to phishing.

What does a phishing email message look like?
Here is an example of what a phishing scam in an email message might look like.
phishing_email_example
To view the complete article – http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/phishing-symptoms.aspx

Please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with some of the ways to recognize these malicious attacks and protect your information.

We all win by voting “YES” on Proposal 1!

Proposal 1 will make sure 100 percent of the estimated lost revenue will be reimbursed to communities when the Personal Property Tax (PPT) is eliminated.

Eliminating the PPT is expected to create up to 15,000 jobs and increase business investment by $450 million.

As you know, Proposal 1 would end the unfair and antiquated double tax (also known as the personal property tax) small businesses pay every year on the equipment they already own, while stabilizing funding for police, fire, jails, roads, schools, senior services and other important municipal services.

Business Leaders for Michigan recently produced a short, simple video explaining how Proposal 1 would benefit all of Michigan. Watch the new video here:

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce urges you to vote Yes on Proposal 1. Please share this information with your voting friends and acquaintances.

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Update to previous alert from July 26, 2013: Federal agencies release proposed rule on 90-day waiting period limitation

On Feb. 20, the Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly released both the final rule and proposed rule on 90-day waiting periods.

The final rule on waiting periods applies to plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2015. For the 2014 plan year, compliance is based on the proposed rule from 2013, which states that group health plans (including grandfathered, non-grandfathered and self-funded plans) and group health insurance coverage issuers cannot apply a waiting period that exceeds 90 days.

The final rule maintains that eligibility conditions that are not based solely on the passage of time are generally acceptable unless designed to avoid compliance with the 90-day waiting period limitation.

  • If a group health plan conditions eligibility for health care on an employee regularly working a specified number of hours per period (or working full time), and it cannot be determined that a newly hired employee is reasonably expected to meet the required number of hours (or work full time), the health plan may take a reasonable period of time to determine whether the employee meets the plan’s eligibility conditions. A time period designed to determine whether such an employee meets the plan’s eligibility conditions is considered compliant with the 90-day waiting period limitation if coverage is made effective no later than 13 months from the employee’s start date plus, if the employee’s start date is not the first day of a calendar month, the time remaining until the first day of the next calendar month.

Health insurance issuers may rely on the eligibility information reported by employers (or other plan sponsors) and will not be considered in violation of the 90-day waiting period limitation if:

  • Issuers require plan sponsors to make a representation regarding the terms of any eligibility conditions or waiting periods imposed by plan sponsors before an individual is eligible to become covered under the terms of the plan (and requires plan sponsors to update this representation with any applicable changes); and
  • Issuers have no specific knowledge of the imposition of a waiting period that would exceed the permitted 90-day period.

All calendar days are counted beginning on the eligibility date, including weekends and holidays. Employee coverage must begin on or before the 91st day of eligibility.

Proposed rule on waiting periods and orientation periods
The proposed rule on orientation periods may be relied on for the 2014 plan year.

The proposed rule, issued in conjunction with the final 90-day waiting period rule, allows for a “reasonable and bona fide” employment-based orientation period of no more than one month.

During this time the employer and employee can evaluate whether the employment situation is satisfactory, and standard orientation and training processes begin.

The Proposed Rule may be relied on throughout 2014 and if a final rule is more restrictive, reasonable time for compliance will be provided.

More information can be found at:

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*Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is not responsible for the content or practices of the destination website.
The information in this document is based on preliminary review of the national health care reform legislation and is not intended to impart legal advice. The federal government continues to issue guidance on how the provisions of national health reform should be interpreted and applied. The impact of these reforms on individual situations may vary. This overview is intended as an educational tool only and does not replace a more rigorous review of the law’s applicability to individual circumstances and attendant legal counsel and should not be relied upon as legal or compliance advice. As required by US Treasury Regulations, we also inform you that any tax information contained in this communication is not intended to be used and cannot be used by any taxpayer to avoid penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce was invited to join Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan State Police, Saginaw County and City Law Enforcement, Community Leaders and the Faith Community in a round table discussion to talk about continuing efforts to make Saginaw one of Michigan’s safest communities.

The invitation-only event allowed for candid discussion about the Secure City Initiatives that Governor Snyder implemented in the past two years, including Community Ventures, the Pathways to Potential, and increased presence in targeted areas by the Michigan State Police, as well as engaging the community with law enforcement and law enforcement with the community.
For its part, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce fully supports the resources and focus that Governor Snyder, through his Office of Urban Initiatives, has placed on Saginaw. The Community Ventures Program in Saginaw focuses on getting the chronically unemployed into jobs and is Michigan’s most successful implementor of the program, moving over 300 people into the workforce. The Community Ventures Offices were originally housed at the Chamber, and we continue to work closely with Saginaw Future Inc. and Community Ventures to connect companies with the Community Ventures Program.

One of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce’s great members, Consumers Energy, has spearheaded an initiative called Light Up The City. Consumers employees, along with volunteers and community leaders are going door to door and replacing burnt-out porch lights with new, energy-efficient bulbs that not only save energy, but provide the light that dissuades wrong-doers.

All in all, we’re pleased to have participated in this important community meeting and will continue to work with our members, the governor and community leaders to make Saginaw a safe place where business can thrive.

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is proud to support Michigan Citizens for Strong and Safe Communities’ campaign to protect local community services and help small businesses create jobs – without increasing taxes for anyone.

This important proposal will be on the August 5 primary ballot across Michigan. We encourage you to learn more about this proposal and to vote YES in August.

This proposal would create 15,000 jobs in Michigan by eliminating the personal property tax on small businesses. Businesses must pay this tax every year on every piece of equipment they own, which is unique to Michigan and puts our state at an economic disadvantage when competing for new businesses and jobs. This proposal would immediately eliminate the personal property tax on small businesses and phase it out over nine years for larger businesses.

Many communities rely on revenue from the personal property tax to fund local services like police, fire, ambulances, jails, roads, schools, parks and libraries even though it is an unreliable revenue source. This referendum guarantees that 100 percent of the money a community loses from the elimination of the personal property tax will be replaced using the more stable State Use Tax.

This proposal is not a tax increase – for anyone. It is paid for by eliminating special corporate tax breaks that the legislature has voted to end, and by establishing a statewide Essential Services Assessment paid only by manufacturers receiving a personal property tax reduction.

We strongly encourage you to sign up for Michigan Citizens for Strong and Safe Communities’ email alerts at www.strongandsafecommunities.com to receive updates from this important campaign to strengthen Michigan communities and help local small businesses create jobs.

State and local Chambers from around the state gathered in Lansing for meetings with legislators and staff and to advocate for policies that foster business and job growth

On Tuesday, May 6, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and 31 other local Chambers met in Lansing to discuss their combined goals and strategies in 2014. Participants were scheduled to attend a series of meetings with legislators and policymakers throughout the day to discuss issues favorable to job creation and business growth in Michigan.

The Saginaw Chamber of Commerce is leading the way for members in our community to be better informed about issues affecting their businesses,” said Chamber President Bob Van Deventer. “Our participation in Chamber of Commerce Day demonstrates we are engaging our members with lawmakers and opinion leaders to make a difference.”

Participants met early in the day with policymakers to discuss topics on transportation and infrastructure funding, minimum wage and personal property tax reform. In the afternoon, chamber leaders met with legislators and concluded the meeting with a forecast on the remainder of the legislative session.

The event marks the first Chamber of Commerce Day, but participants are already making plans for an annual event.

“We had an impressive turnout today with many important chambers of commerce from around the state,” said Bob Thomas, Executive Director, Michigan Chamber Foundation. “Legislators heard directly from local businesspeople in their district about policies affecting their companies. Having so many business leaders convene at once is a powerful opportunity to send a message.”

 

Saginaw County Chamber Logo 2012

On April 9, 2014, the Lansing Regional, Saginaw County, and Traverse City Area Chamber CEOs and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy hosted an energy-focused briefing call with Governor Snyder’s Office and 40 local chamber representatives and member companies from around the state. Following is a recap of the discussion and important information the chamber and members can use to pursue energy efficiency retrofits and clean energy generation.

Valerie Brader, Governor Snyder’s Senior Policy Advisor on Energy, updated the audience on key elements of the Governor’s energy goals. Brader has been very supportive of local chambers and had spoken in person at a gathering of local Michigan chambers in Lansing in January. As Michigan plans for the eventual retirement of some of its coal plants and how to replace this supply, it wants to be adaptable and ready for the future. Michigan uses 38% more energy per capita and pays six percent more than the national average for heat and power. The Governor’s office sees an opportunity in diversifying sources of energy and significantly increasing energy efficiency. Diversifying the portfolio of energy sources also has the potential to increase Michigan’s business competitiveness. There are opportunities to reduce mercury and particulate matter in the air, increase the desirability of Michigan as a place to do business, and improve public health.

Michigan’s industrial sector is energy intensive, in part due to older equipment and buildings. While businesses have a financial incentive to upgrade or do energy retrofits, they don’t always have the time and financing to do them. The Governor is interested in examples where chambers and their members overcame these barriers.

Doug Luciani, CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber, outlined a revolving loan fund created to fund building retrofits. Loans go up to $250k at low interest rates. The program has been very well received. The Saginaw County Chamber said it plans to involve its members in one of the state’s new energy working groups and the Lansing Regional Chamber discussed its continuing efforts to guide innovative energy policies in the state.

In terms of facilitating change through policy, right now there is a bill in the legislature (HB 5397) that would allow qualifying municipal electric utilities to offer innovative financing options to customers interested in making energy efficiency improvements. These financing mechanisms, such as on-bill financing or locally issued bonds, allow customers to spread the cost of efficiency and renewable energy projects out over a set amount of time, rather than bearing the full cost up-front. The final speaker was Erin Lane with Cascade Associates in Washington D.C. Erin gave an excellent overview of the high level of bi-partisan momentum in Congress around energy efficiency. Follow this link to a summary of legislative bills.