Surprise Unanimous Vote on ‘Ban the Box’ Prohibition

Regarding SB 312 (Use of Criminal History in Hiring), the Indiana Chamber talked with committee members prior to the hearing to secure support, and numerous business organizations testified in favor of the bill.

The Indiana Chamber was represented by Chris Schrader, a member of our Labor and Employment Policy Committee. Schrader is also the director of government affairs for the Indiana State Council of SHRM. He commented that employment decisions should be made on the basis of qualification, not on factors with no bearing on the ability to perform job-related duties. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided comprehensive guidance to employers regarding consideration of criminal records in the selection process: (1) the nature or gravity of the offense or conduct; (2) the time elapsed since the conviction; and (3) the nature of the job sought or held. These points provide adequate protection to job seekers while at the same time permitting employers to safeguard both their interests as well as the public’s.

The Indiana Manufacturers Association, Employ Indy, the Indy Chamber, the National Federation of Independent Business, Indy Solutions, the Indiana Hospital Association, the Indiana Apartment Association and the Indiana Retail Council all supported the bill. Some of those testifying favored the first half of the bill which dealt simply with prohibiting “ban the box” (the box on an application asking about criminal history). Several testified in favor of the second half of the bill (amended into the measure on second reading in the Senate) regarding criminal information of an employee could not be introduced as evidence against an employer in certain circumstances (referred to as a limited immunity). There is some debate over the effectiveness of this part of the legislation; similar language has been used in Colorado.

Indianapolis City Councilman Vop Osili also testified; he was the author of the city of Indianapolis’ ordinance to “ban the box” in regard to vendors working with the city. He said that he didn’t like to see his legislation be “gutted” but given the potential positive impact of the limited immunity he could support what was being attempted despite it preempting the city’s ordinance.

Given the unanimous vote in committee, we anticipate that the bill will pass the House.

Utah Tops List of Where Growth is Happening

Utah’s population topped three million people in 2016, with the state being the fastest growing in the 12-month period starting July 1, 2015. The western flavor continued with others at the top of the list including Nevada, Idaho, Florida and Washington.

Now, approximately 38% of the population lives in what the Census Bureau identifies as the South, with 24% in the West.

Kiplinger goes a step further, with cities where it expects job creation to thrive going forward. At the top of that list (with a reason or two cited) are:

  • St, George, Utah: magnet for tourists visiting Zion National Park and retirees seeking pleasant weather
  • Bend and Redmond, Oregon: also strong in tourism and drawing retirees
  • Cleveland, Tennessee: home to a wide range of manufacturing operations
  • Prescott, Arizona: cooler climate makes it an attractive alternative to Phoenix
  • Savannah, Georgia: home of the fourth-busiest ocean port, which will grow once its harbor is deepened to handle larger vessels

Education-to-Employment (E2E) Convergence

Representatives of the higher education, business, nonprofit, government, and economic and workforce development sectors will convene for the third annual Education-to-Employment (E2E) Convergence on Thursday, April 20 on the Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis campus.

E2E Convergence is a statewide forum focused on how Indiana can build a stronger workforce by developing and retaining college graduates. It brings together all those with a stake in the successful integration of college graduates into Indiana’s workforce to identify opportunities to promote career awareness and skills development.

Currently scheduled speakers include:

  • Liz Dunlap, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, IU Health
  • Jason Kloth, President and CEO, Ascend Indiana
  • Jill Lehman, Vice President Administration and Chief People Officer, Ontario Systems
  • Naomi Pescovitz, anchor and reporter, WTHR

A reservation form for the E2E Convergence is available online.

Small Cell Broadband Legislation Has Robust Committee Hearing

The Chamber supports SB 213 to help enhance community broadband capacity and speed with the implementation of small cell towers.

The technology is changing and to get to 5G and increased mobile broadband speeds, the small towers have to be located with coverage in mind. These are not your grandfather’s big cell towers but are smaller and are often disguised and co-located with light poles and other utility poles. There was some concern raised by a couple of communities that wanted the ability to say where the towers should go. Ultimately, it is an engineering solution that must prevail based on the coverage area.

The House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee will consider amendments in the coming week or so, and then hopefully the bill will be voted out for further consideration on the Senate floor.

Bumpy Road for Road Funding in Senate?

The Chamber recently testified in support of HB 1002, citing the need for long-term, sustainable funding to adequately maintain, finish what we have started to build and build out our priority new road projects. We also noted that we do not see where the state can magically find the funds in the present budget to address the need outside of taxes, plus the additional 10 cents a gallon to ensure our road quality is a wise investment.

There were no amendments offered as of yet but it is safe to say the bill will have several committee amendments to change it.

Additionally, there are several major issues to iron out in this bill. One is whether to dedicate all of the sales taxes collected on fuel sales to road funding or keep most of that revenue flowing into the general fund. Another is what the Senate will do with the $1 a pack cigarette tax increase passed by the House. The cigarette tax increase would have replaced much of the revenue in the general fund if the fuel sales tax would have gone to the road fund. Yet another issue is to toll or not to toll major interstate highways. While that is a pure user fee for roads, there is quite a disagreement about if and where such tolls should be considered.

Another aspect is there are legislators who don’t want to be labelled as “raising taxes” and shy away from the fiscal realities of our very important road infrastructure.

Folks, this is an investment in our future that won’t cost that much individually and has the potential to enhance commerce and Indiana’s “Crossroads of America” location advantage.

The Chamber will continue to advocate for a strong, user-fee based model to address Indiana’s $1.2 billion per year road funding gap.

Call to Action: Connect with your state senator via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!

Commentary: How NOT to Make America Great Again

Dan Berglund, president of the State Science & Technology Institute, offers this analysis of the budget proposal offered by the Trump administration:

The Trump Administration’s skinny budget proposal calls itself, “A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” From the information contained in the document, it is clear the Administration does not view science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship and the economic development efforts built around those activities as the path forward to making “America great again.” The program eliminations and drastic cuts are not the way to move the country forward economically. So what is behind this proposal? Two things: 1) a fight over the proper role of the federal government in the economy, and 2) a negotiating tactic to attempt to lull advocates into thinking program survival or lesser cuts are a victory. A full community response is needed and all of us must get off the sidelines and on to the playing field.

The budget blueprint proposes drastic cuts for research at NIH, DOE’s Office of Science, NOAA and EPA and would eliminate a score of federal programs that serve as the cornerstone of federal activity in supporting an innovation economy, including the Economic Development Administration, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, ARPA- E, the Appalachian Regional Commission, SBA’s Regional Innovation Clusters program and CDFI Fund, among others. (The National Science Foundation is not mentioned in the proposal, so details on how much the Administration will propose it be cut will not be available until the full budget is released in April or May. Similarly, the Regional Innovation Strategies program is not mentioned specifically in the budget proposal.) All of these proposals are against the aims of SSTI’s policy platform for federal support of innovation economies.

Motivations behind the budget proposal
There appear to be two primary motivations behind the budget proposal: 1) a fight once again over the role of the federal government in the economy, and 2) a negotiating tactic to attempt to lull advocates into thinking program survival or lesser cuts are a victory.
Throughout the 62-page document there are recycled ideological talking points to justify program elimination. Many comments contained in the document indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the programs they propose to eliminate or the belief that the federal government has no role in economic development, including:

  • EDA has “limited measurable impacts and duplicates other Federal programs”
  • MEP centers would “transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources, as was originally intended when the program was established”
  • Some SBA programs including Regional Innovation Clusters are targeted because “the private sector provides effective mechanisms to foster local business development and investment”
  • ARPA-E should be eliminated because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies”

Never mind that numerous reports have been done about EDA’s economic impact, that Congress reauthorized the MEP program just last year with a funding structure that includes federal funding and without federal funding the remaining centers would drop their focus on small and medium-sized manufacturers, and that the private sector alone does not provide effective mechanisms to encourage economic development or disruptive energy R&D.

Beyond a clear ideological view that the federal government has no role in promoting economic growth — a position rejected since at least the early 1800s when the federal government funded canals and other key infrastructure items, it is hard to view this proposal as anything more than a negotiating tactic. As anyone who has bought a house or bargained for an item at a flea market knows, you start with a low ball offer knowing that you’ll settle higher and that both you and the seller will ultimately be happy with the final price.

But this budget is not a real estate negotiation and settling for reduced cuts and declaring victory should not be an option for any of us.

A concluding thought
There is broad popular support for an economic growth agenda focused on innovation, science, technology, and entrepreneurship. We regret the Administration’s initial proposal would send this country in a different direction. We look forward to doing our part and working with others to make our case to Congress.

Where We’re Importing and Exporting

A glance at two maps – top import and expert country for each state in 2016 – reveals some interesting observations:

  • On the export side, Canada is the leading destination from 33 states (including Indiana and 25 of the other 31 east of the Mississippi River)
  • Mexico (six states) and China (four states) were next on the list
  • Among the more intriguing partnerships: Nevada’s exports are going to Switzerland
  • On the import side, nine countries are represented with China (23 states) and Canada (14 states) leading the way
  • Indiana and Oregon are the two states in which the lead importer is Ireland (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way!)
  • Of Indiana’s four neighbors, China is tops in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois, while Mexico (think auto industry) is the top partner with Michigan
  • Hawaii stands alone with its top partners of Indonesia (imports) and Australia (exports)

According to the American Enterprise Institute:

Last year, American companies sold $2.2 trillion worth of goods and services to buyers in other countries, and American companies and consumers purchased $2.7 trillion worth of imports from trading partners all around the world. Seven states – Michigan, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Washington and Texas – have their international trade represent more than 30% of their economic output.
Together, that volume of international trading activities represented 26% of the value of America’s $18.5 trillion in GDP in 2016. In terms of employment, more than 27 million American workers, about one in five, have jobs that are directly supported by trade with the rest of the world. Some states like California and Texas have more than two million jobs that are directly supported by international trade.

Compton Offers Presidential Perspective at Legislative Dinner

Flanked by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, Ann Compton regaled Legislative Dinner attendees with her stories about past presidents, and her opinions of President Trump and the media today.

With more than 40 years of experience covering the administrations of seven presidents, former ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton had plenty to share Tuesday night at the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 Legislative Dinner.

A few of her reflections and projections:

On the media: “In this digital age, my business, the news industry, is almost unrecognizable to me. It wounds me to hear that the free, American press is the enemy. We in the mainstream press have to work responsibly and openly to earn back your trust.”

On prior presidents and the media: George H.W. Bush originated the hat with the saying, “Annoy the Media: Re-Elect Bush” (Compton still has hers); Barack Obama “lashed out at the press” in a private, off-the-record session when he was not happy with the tone of the reporting.

On fake news sites: “They are more like criminal enterprises.”

On the ultimate test for presidents: “They are measured by the crises they face.” Compton listed several, including the younger President Bush and 9/11, sharing personal anecdotes about that day as a result of her being the only broadcast journalist on Air Force One after the attacks.

On Donald Trump: “This man is remarkably consistent (in style), but not necessarily on policy.” Noting that 30 years ago he didn’t carry a briefcase or schedule too many meetings, saying, ‘You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure.’ We’re seeing that applied today.

On looking forward: Despite her concerns, she says, “I really do believe the republic is strong, our country is strong.”

View event photos.

The Legislative Dinner, with more than 700 attendees at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, was presented by Ice Miller, with Lifeline Data Centers sponsoring the opening reception. Gold sponsors: Eli Lilly and Company, NIPSCO and St. Vincent. Silver sponsors: Alcoa; American Chemistry Council; AT&T Indiana; Delta Dental of Indiana; French Lick Resort; Hoosiers Work for Health; Indiana Career Hub; IGT Indiana; Ivy Tech Community College; The Kroger Co.; Majestic Star Casino & Hotel; Old National Bank; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Smithville; and Vectren.

The 2018 Legislative Dinner will take place February 13.

U.S. Energy’s Impact on Manufacturing

Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, offered recent thoughts on the connection between expanding U.S. energy production and manufacturing:

The energy revolution continues to bring good economic news to an otherwise anemic economy. For years, we’ve been arguing that America’s energy revolution will bring jobs and investment to our economy. Now, there’s a new example to demonstrate just how true that is.

At the annual CERAWeek 2017 conference, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods announced a new Growing the Gulf initiative to increase its manufacturing capabilities in the Gulf Coast region. As part of the initiative, the company will be investing $20 billion to build or expand 11 different facilities – creating 45,000 new American jobs. So why is a giant company best known for oil production investing so much in manufacturing?

Last year, the U.S. Chamber’s Sean Hackbarth captured the essence of how America’s energy revolution has sparked a manufacturing revolution as well. The natural gas, crude oil and gas liquids being produced across the country in record amounts are the chemical building blocks to products we use every day, from clothing to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. One needs to look no further than the aisles of a department store to see all the plastic products, and that plastic comes from natural gas and oil.

Sophisticated high-tech manufacturing facilities turn these energy resources into the products we buy every day. As we produce more home-grown energy, it is leading to more home-grown manufacturing as well. Plentiful energy resources are making it less expensive to build products in the United States, and those same resources are also providing the electricity needed to run manufacturing facilities at reduced costs.

All this manufacturing means more choices for American consumers, and it gives us an opportunity to export products. Domestic U.S. manufacturers are now competing all over the world, helping to reduce our trade deficit and creating jobs back at home. As a result, the United States, and especially the Gulf Coast, is becoming the epicenter of a manufacturing renaissance – exactly as we predicted.

In 2014, we launched our “Shale Works for US” campaign, which included a report produced with IHS CERA that quantified the far-reaching benefits from the shale revolution. It is important to note that because of our national supply chain, the benefits from investments reach each and every state, and in turn bring jobs, revenues and benefits to every corner of our nation.

It’s exciting to see these predictions borne out, and it’s a continued sign that America’s status as an energy superpower will help bring prosperity to us all – while driving innovation and technological advancement that help make America an economic superpower as well.

Compton Shines at 2017 Legislative Dinner

Ann Compton, a 40-year veteran of ABC News and the White House press corps, relayed her experiences and thoughts on President Trump and the media at the 2017 Indiana Chamber Legislative Dinner last night at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.

In addition to her many amusing anecdotes about past presidents and thoughts on President Trump, she also relived the tragic day of September 11, 2001. She was traveling with President George W. Bush on Air Force One as all involved struggled to grasp the magnitude of what had happened.

We were also grateful to be joined by Gov. Eric Holcomb, who offered thoughtful and humorous remarks following his first few months on the job. See photos of the evening below: