National Emergency Declared for Opioid Crisis; Donnelly and Walorski Applaud President’s Action

Building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Trump recently instructed his administration “to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

Both Sen. Joe Donnelly and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) issued statements supporting the decision:

“I am pleased that President Trump plans to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. We know that it will take all of us working together to effectively turn the tide against this public health crisis that has harmed so many families in Indiana and across the country,” Donnelly said. “I hope this declaration will lead to necessary, additional resources for states and local communities to ensure those battling substance use disorders can access treatment.”

Walorski stated: “Opioid abuse is having a devastating impact on our communities, and President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency treats this epidemic with the urgency it requires. I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to make sure first responders, law enforcement, medical professionals, treatment providers and families in our communities have the tools and resources needed to solve this crisis.”

Congress last year passed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), bipartisan legislation to address the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Congresswoman Walorski served on the conference committee that negotiated the final bill, which included two provisions she authored. One requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to participate in state prescription drug monitoring programs, and the other allows the VA to use FDA-approved medical devices and other non-opioid therapies to treat chronic pain. Donnelly also helped enact CARA, which included several of his provisions. Additionally, Donnelly helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act into law, which includes a $10.9 million federal grant that will support prevention, treatment and recovery services in Indiana.

More recently, in late July, Donnelly introduced a bipartisan package of legislation “aimed at providing the facilities and access to telemedicine needed “to prevent and treat substance use disorder in rural communities.”

Republican Field Grows for U.S. Senate; Reminder of Chamber Endorsement Process

It’s been a busy week for Republicans wanting to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly for his seat. The number now stands at six.

On Wednesday, Congressman Todd Rokita (IN-04) officially announced his intentions while on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse – it marked the first stop in his nine-city tour sharing the news.

“Hoosiers want a commonsense senator willing to take on tough fights. Hoosiers want a conservative senator who shares our values and works with President Trump and Vice President Pence to turn the country around,” Rokita said. “Hoosiers want a senator who votes the interests of Hoosiers, not the Washington elite. We don’t have that in Joe Donnelly, and too much is at stake to accept it. That’s why I am announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate.”

Rokita’s campaign slogan promises to “Defeat the Elite” in Washington.

Meanwhile, Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) will formally announces his bid Saturday at the 6th Annual Messer Family BBQ in Morristown.

Senator David Long, President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate, has already thrown his support behind Messer:

“As a young and talented member of the Indiana House, Luke proved his conservative credentials early on by helping us create a new vision for Indiana in partnership with Gov. Mitch Daniels. As a strong and innovative leader for educational choice, Luke fought to ensure Hoosier families and children have the options they need to obtain a world-class education. As a quickly-rising star in Congress, Luke has proven he can work with difficult coalitions of interests to move an agenda for the American people.

“While the Republican Party is blessed to have a number of candidates interested in the seat, I believe Luke to be the absolute best person to effectively represent the interests of all Hoosiers in the U.S. Senate.”

State Representative Mike Braun of Jasper officially entered the race on Thursday. He previously cited the public sparring of Messer and Rokita as well as his business experience as reasons for his decision.

Meanwhile, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill made it clear on Wednesday that he hasn’t ruled out joining the GOP primary.

Other Republicans already in the field are Hamilton County businessman Terry Henderson, Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt and Floyds Knobs educator Andrew Takami.

In terms of any congressional endorsement the Indiana Chamber may provide, the matter is taken up by our federal political action committee (PAC). Bill authoring and voting history on pro-jobs, pro-economy legislation and in-person interviews of the candidates will play large roles in the decision making.

The PAC’s work won’t begin until after the candidate filing deadline early next year – as it’s possible a candidate may decide not to run, while there also could be someone else elect to throw their hat into the ring. But when the time comes, you can be assured that a thorough vetting process will take place before a determination is made to endorse a candidate (or no candidates).

Details Announced for Chamber’s 2017 D.C. Fly-in

Hoosier business leaders can discuss public policy with their congressional members during the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s annual D.C. Fly-in event on September 27-28.

The Washington gathering offers the opportunity for business leaders to meet with members of Indiana’s congressional delegation and let the lawmakers know how policies and bills being debated on the national stage will impact the state’s economy back home.

A highlight of the agenda: Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young will lead a policy discussion following a dinner on the event’s opening night.

Day two includes a breakfast program that will feature Marc Lotter, special assistant to the President and press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence. Lotter is a native Hoosier with decades of experience in Indiana politics and was also Pence’s press secretary through the 2016 campaign and transition.

Group visits to congressional offices will take place after the morning program.

Zimmer Biomet is the dinner sponsor. Allegion is the cocktail reception sponsor. Build Indiana Council is the Legislative Briefing Sponsor.

“Zimmer Biomet is proud to be a long-time sponsor of the Indiana Chamber’s D.C. Fly-in. This is a unique opportunity to interact with members and staff of the Indiana Congressional delegation. There is no better way to discuss a wide range of policy issues affecting the Hoosier business community and to see firsthand what is happening on Capitol Hill,” says Chris Cerone, vice president of global government affairs for Zimmer Biomet of Warsaw.

Register for the D.C. Fly-in online or by calling customer service at (800) 824-6885. Cost is $199 per person, with group discounts available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Indiana Chamber Fly-in guests at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

Event sponsors are AT&T, The Boeing Company, Duke Energy, The Kroger Co., Old National Bank and Wabash Valley Power.

Donnelly Urges Market Stability on Health Care; Association Plans in the Offing?

Senator Joe Donnelly is urging the Trump administration to make a public commitment to continue cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which lower consumers’ deductibles and co-pays.

Early in the week, Donnelly continued his push for stability in the insurance markets in a letter to Hoosier Seema Verma – the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – who he partnered with to help establish Indiana’s bipartisan Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) 2.0 program through the Affordable Care Act. Donnelly’s letter comes as President Trump has declined to commit to continue making CSR payments. Donnelly says if these aren’t maintained, it could cause people to pay at least 15-20% more for health care.

In the letter to Verma, Donnelly wrote: “…It is our job to protect American families from unnecessary increases in the cost of health care, particularly those within our control. That is why I am very concerned by recent comments and actions made by the administration demonstrating a willingness and desire to undermine the health care system, even at the expense of the health and economic security of millions of Americans. These efforts to create uncertainty are harming working people and are already having a detrimental effect in Indiana.

“As we work to improve our health care system, we must first do no harm … The administration has the ability to help provide market stability today, and I respectfully request that the administration make a strong public commitment to continuing the CSR payments so that Congress can work together in a bipartisan fashion in an effort to reduce costs, expand access and strengthen the American health care system.”

Additionally, Donnelly said he’s recently heard from several insurance companies which provide coverage to Hoosiers – including two that have recently left the market – that cited lack of certainty, particularly as it relates to the CSR payments, as a key reason for increasing prices or leaving the market.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that CSR payments were, at this point, bailing out a failed law. She also said no final decision had been made by the President on continuing them.

Read Donnelly’s full letter to Verma.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is making a case to President Trump to use his executive authority to permit associations and organizations to offer group health insurance plans. Paul says this could impact tens of millions currently in the individual marketplace. The White House has yet to comment on the possibility. This action would be very helpful to Indiana Chamber members and we have previously discussed this positive policy proposal with members of the Indiana delegation.

Legislation Favorable to Drug, Medical Device Manufacturers Passes Senate, Heads to President

Legislation which passed the Senate Thursday ensures that drug and medical devices can move to the market quicker. Manufacturers of these products would pay higher user fees and the revenue raised would help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review the items in a more expedited process. The law governing this process was set to expire by September 30, so it was imperative that the Senate act before members left for their August recess.

The legislation passed the Senate 94-1 with both Indiana senators supporting the legislation. The bill was not amended in the Senate and so therefore it now heads to the President for final signature.

The Indiana Chamber advocated for the passage of this bill during the Hoosiers Work for Health summit in July.

The legislation aligns with the Chamber’s legislative policy regarding the FDA: “The FDA has an important responsibility to make sure consumers get expeditious access to safe and effective products. Thus, the Indiana Chamber supports a well-resourced FDA, especially in the area of drugs and medical devices, through appropriated funds and user fees (tied to specific and measurable performance requirements for the FDA).”

Federal Health Care – Republicans Can’t Do It Alone

Progress on health care reform by Senate Republicans came to a halt very early this morning as the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) narrowly failed 49-51. All Democrats were joined in their opposition by Republican senators Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Arizona) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

While Collins and Murkowski’s votes came as no real surprise, the GOP hope was for McCain to allow the bill to proceed to an expected conference committee for further work. But in McCain’s statement explaining his decision, he mentions the lack of complete certainty provided by House Speaker Paul Ryan that the bill wouldn’t be voted on as-is and passed by the House instead – as well as his opposition to voting on what he considered to be a “shell of a bill.”

Essentially, this outcome means the only path to reform now would appear to be a bipartisan approach, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) alluded to in his remarks following the defeat.

Indiana’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, has been pushing for this path all along and reiterated those thoughts after today’s vote:

“I still believe that by working together we can improve our health care system and, at a minimum, Congress and the administration should do no harm to the millions of Americans’ whose health and economic well-being are at stake. I share the frustration of Hoosiers and Americans who are tired of partisan proposals that fail to address issues with our existing health care system and the continued legislative uncertainty that is undermining the insurance markets.

“We should do the hard and necessary work to gather the input of doctors, nurses, hospitals and patients, and work in a bipartisan manner to make coverage more affordable and accessible for Hoosier and American families.”

Of note: Donnelly attended a dinner Wednesday evening with a bipartisan group of senators to discuss ways to work together on health care. In May, Donnelly also had a similar meeting.

Our junior senator, Todd Young, voted for the “skinny repeal” bill as “another step towards relieving Hoosiers and millions of Americans from the burdens of Obamacare. Too many Hoosiers have been left with too few options and rising costs. It is more important than ever that we keep our promise to them and fundamentally reform our health care system.”

Like Donnelly, Young is eager to strengthen the ACA and work in a bipartisan fashion to get that done.

“Going forward, I will participate in hearings in the HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee and continue to work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to come up with a solution that provides long-term stability to our health care system and gives each and every Hoosier the opportunity to access quality and affordable insurance.”

Additionally, Young has previously looked for ways to find common ground. In the spring, he sent a letter to all Democratic senators urging them to share their views on what’s working and what’s not with the ACA.

Indeed, there are aspects of the ACA that both Democrats and Republicans have acknowledged as problematic; the medical device tax, which needs to be permanently repealed, is among them. So hopefully these areas can serve as a starting point for crafting a bipartisan solution.

From the Indiana Chamber’s perspective, the reality is that the ACA has not made life easier or costs cheaper for businesses (or many Hoosiers).

Separately, the ACA’s pending collapse – with insurers pulling out – isn’t surprising based on its inherently flawed assumptions. Unfortunately, very little of the congressional debate so far has focused on shoring up the ACA at its core, or how to put forth a replacement program that is stronger foundationally. Hopefully, that will occur in future discussions.

Indiana Delegation Talks Affordable Care Act Repeal

The vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) couldn’t get off the ground in the U.S. Senate. But President Trump, Vice President Pence and many members of Congress instead have called for a simple repeal of the ACA – with a replacement coming at a later date.

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) is on board with that process. “Hoosiers are sick and tired of endless debate on the Obamacare repeal bill, and the failure of Congress to act. This is D.C. politics as usual, and exactly why Americans sent the President to Washington to shake things up and get something done.

“We’ve had more than enough time to deliver on this promise to Americans, who have sent us here for three election cycles to repeal this failed law. I agree with President Trump that we must repeal Obamacare NOW and then work together on a plan to ensure Hoosiers get the health care they want and deserve.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Donnelly urged bipartisanship in finding common ground. “The proposed Senate health care bill would have been disastrous for Hoosiers. The latest plan to repeal without any replacement is downright reckless, playing politics with the health and economic well-being of millions of American families.

“It is time to do the hard work of forging a bipartisan bill to strengthen our current health care system, so that we can reduce costs for Hoosier families, continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions, and preserve the good work states like Indiana have done to expand affordable health care. The American people are counting on us to take a thoughtful approach together, and I urge the Senate to take this path in the coming days.”

Congressman Larry Bucshon (IN-08) had a different take. “Obamacare is collapsing and as a result patients across the country are at risk as premiums skyrocket and insurers flee the exchanges. In Indiana, premiums have increased an average of 74% and two of our state’s four insurers recently announced their departure from the Obamacare exchanges. Hoosiers are being priced out of the insurance market, if they can find insurance at all. This is not the health care Americans were promised by President Obama and congressional Democrats when they passed Obamacare, and certainly not what they deserve.

“To me, this is personal. I spent more than a decade as a surgeon before coming to Congress. This is about the well-being of my constituents who are struggling to access quality, affordable health care under Obamacare. That’s why I made a promise to repeal and replace this failed law to help drive down costs, expand access, and get the federal government out of decisions that should be left up to patients and their doctors. The House did its job to fulfill our promise. I’m extremely disappointed that, thus far, the Senate has failed to live up to its commitment to the American people. It’s time for the Senate to act.”

Rep. Messer Appointed to Task Force on Reigning in Federal Government, Empowering States

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) was recently appointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan to serve on the recently created bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, which is charged with working to restore the proper balance of power between federal, state and local governments.

Messer is among seven Republican House members appointed to the 13-member task force.

“Indiana has proven time and again that the best government is closest to the people it serves,” Messer said. “Our states, cities and counties are the true engine for innovation in government. I’m excited to work on this task force to combat federal overreach and return power to states.”

The task force will partner with state and local governments to determine where the federal government has overstepped and come up with solutions to return control to states and local entities. The task force will also provide a forum for states, cities and counties to showcase innovation and creativity in solving public policy problems.

“Federalism is not a Republican or Democrat principle, but an American principle – and one that is integral to a thriving culture and economy,” Speaker Ryan said. “But in recent years, the principle of federalism has been slowly chipped away at by an overzealous federal government. Under Chairman Rob Bishop’s leadership, the Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs will study ways to restore the proper balance of power between the federal government and states, tribal and local governments, and eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens facing communities across the nation.”

MEMBERSHIP

CHAIRMAN:
Speaker’s Designee Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

REPUBLICANS:
Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN)
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL)
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC)
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX)
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)
Rep. Jenniffer Gonzáles-Colón (R-PR)

DEMOCRATS:
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA)
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD)
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

ADVISORY COUNCIL TO THE TASK FORCE:
National Association of Counties (NACo)
National Governors Association (NGA)
Council of State Governments (CSG)
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
National League of Cities (NLC)
U.S. Conference of Mayors
International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

We Can Check These Education Matters Off the List (For Now)

For the last decade, the Chamber has strongly advocated to have a state-funded high quality pre-K program for children from low-income families. While we were successful in achieving a small pilot program for five counties a few years ago, we were able to significantly increase the state’s investment this legislative session. The Chamber helped to lead a strong coalition of community leaders, businesses, philanthropies and providers to achieve $44 million appropriated in the two-year budget (HB 1001) to expand the pilot. We can now increase the number of counties from the original five to up to 20, with a preference given to rural areas.

Separately, we successfully advocated for a lowering of the county match of dollars from a base of 10% down to 5%. In addition, we worked on offering up to 20% of the appropriated dollars to be used for capacity-building grants to allow for providers to grow more high-quality placements. This was a priority for both the House and Senate leadership, as well as Gov. Holcomb and the final bills passed with strong bipartisan votes of 82-16 and 31-19, respectively.

The Chamber also were able to pass a bill (SB 248) that would allow small school corporations situated in the same or adjoining counties to consolidate services if 20% of legal voters in both school districts petition the trustees of their respective school corporations. A small school consolidation grant that was originally included in this bill was moved into the budget to help offset costs. The Indiana Chamber has been supportive of this legislation in previous sessions and most recently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation has commissioned and is finalizing a study that shows the direct correlation between smaller school corporations and lower postsecondary attainment for students.

The Chamber has had a long-standing policy to support the opportunity to reduce administrative costs by merging or consolidating administrative services in smaller school districts, which we believe will in turn reduce the duplication of programs or services, increase cost efficiencies relating to the use of school facilities, plus reduce debt and provide for establishing other cost-cutting measures.

And we can now check off a legislative agenda item that the Chamber has been advocating for over 30 years to complete. House Bill 1005 will move the Superintendent of Public Instruction from an elected to appointed position. We had originally advocated for this bill with an effective date of 2021 (and therefore no election in 2020); however, the Senate version of the bill died by surprise on the Senate floor on third reading. That meant to consider the House version (which was virtually identical), the content had to be “substantially different” than the failed bill, per Senate rules.

Therefore, the Senate amended the bill to change the effective date to 2025 and include a residency requirement of two years and have certain educational experience. The Chamber did not support these changes as we felt that Indiana’s education leader should be the best person available and no other appointed state agency position has such required qualifications. However, it was decided by Senate leadership and counsel that the changes had to remain for the measure to proceed. So while we are extremely happy that we were able to get the position appointed, we are disappointed with the additional requirements. The Chamber will continue to advocate for these to be stripped from statute in subsequent sessions, although we feel that it will likely be a very difficult lift.

On the Federal Front: Around the Horn

The U.S. House of Representatives was on a week-long recess, which means our delegation was back home and visiting with their constituents around the state. The Senate, however, remained in D.C. working. Both will continue on the job in Washington starting next week until their recess around Memorial Day. A few news and notes:

* Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) held a job fair in Terre Haute on Wednesday in coordination with WorkOne Western Indiana, Indiana State University and the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. The event, held at Indiana State University’s Hulman Center, afforded potential employees the opportunity to meet with employers hiring in the Wabash Valley. A special emphasis was given to hiring veterans.

* Bucshon recently attended the Indiana Chamber’s I-69 Regional Summit in downtown Indianapolis. He was fresh from the floor vote in Congress on health care reform and also took time to meet with Chamber executives to discuss the topic.

* Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement on Thursday regarding reports that the Trump Administration is considering sending more American troops to Afghanistan:

“I am glad that President Trump is willing to seriously consider the request of his commanders on the ground, who are asking for additional forces. We’ve been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, but in recent years, decisions about troop levels have been based on politics instead of military strategy. We’ve invested too much blood and treasure in Afghanistan to tolerate a stalemate or defeat. I look forward to learning more about the administration’s plans in the coming days.”

* U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has released his Foundation for Families Agenda – a series of policy proposals aimed at improving the quality of life for Hoosier families. Included in the policy agenda:

  • Paid family and medical leave
  • Expanding access to pre-K and quality childcare options
  • Affordable higher education
  • Equal pay for women

Donnelly released a video explaining his agenda. He stated, “I am unveiling the Foundation for Families Agenda because we need to ensure our policies and priorities support hardworking Hoosier and American families. When our families succeed, so
does our economy. The foundation for our families should include family leave, options for affordable childcare and pre-K, access to an affordable college education, and the assurance that Hoosier women are paid equally when they do the same job as their male counterparts. These are common sense ideas that I am hopeful we can advance in a bipartisan manner in the Senate.”

* Many news organizations are speculating that a potential candidate to be the new FBI director might be the current president of Anderson University, John Pistole. Pistole is former deputy director of the FBI (and led significant counter-terrorism efforts) and past head of the Transportation Security Administration. He has declined all requests for interviews since the speculation began, but a few friends and family spoke to the Indy Star.

* Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson has been tapped to serve on President Trump’s national commission investigating the integrity of American elections; see The Northwest Indiana Times story. Vice President Mike Pence is chairing the commission.