Work Share Continues to Get Cold Shoulder in Indiana

In December, the Chamber introduced the work share policy to the new chairman of the House Labor Committee, Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo). He made no commitment to hear a bill but indicated that he would keep an open mind.

A work sharing program would allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary economic downturns. Employers then could reduce hours without layoffs, enabling workers to keep their jobs, which hopefully could be returned to full-time status once economic circumstances improve. Also part of the equation: unemployment compensation to partially compensate workers for their lost hours.

After several discussions with the Indiana Manufacturers Association (IMA), the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Chamber, Rep. VanNatter decided to host a meeting with the three parties present. He later informed us that he was being told different things about the issue than what the Chamber was being told and wanted everyone in the room at the same time. Simply stated, the Chamber supports work share, but DWD and the IMA do not.

What Rep. VanNatter was able to do was get the IMA to admit in the Chamber’s presence that it was opposed to the bill. As a result, Rep. VanNatter didn’t feel that he could move forward with the two organizations in disagreement. In a subsequent discussion, he did say that he would like to study the issue (himself) this summer and then make up his own mind.

Over the course of the last five years, the bill has been heard twice but no vote has ever been taken. This is very frustrating for a measure that is a no-brainer and would garner bipartisan support – if it can ever make it to that point!

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.

Smoking Reform Elements (Mostly) Move On

HB 1578, as recently amended, repeals employment protections for individuals who smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, and passed the House Ways and Means Committee 19-4.

Committee Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) lowered the $1.50 cigarette tax increase in the bill to $1.00 and put it in the budget (HB 1001) along with funding for cessation. Additionally, the committee voted to remove the increase in smoking age from 18 to 21 from the bill and left in place only the repeal of the special treatment for smokers in the workplace. The Indiana Chamber and the Indiana Hospital Association testified in support of that provision.

The Chamber, along with other members of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, has been lobbying House members for votes. The Chamber also has been working to secure a Senate sponsor for the bill.

Learn About Alliance for a Healthier Indiana; Reducing State’s Smoking Rate First Up

The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana formed last year; it includes health care professionals, advocates, and community and business leaders from across the state who are committed to improving the health of citizens.

The Indiana Chamber is among the four founding organizations; the others are the Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana State Medical Association and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana. The group’s chairman is Bryan Mills, CEO of Community Health Network.

The group came together to jointly pursue public policy measures in several critical areas of need. Indiana ranks at the bottom in many important health metrics including tobacco use, obesity, infant mortality and opioid abuse – and these are just a few critical examples. Our progress toward improvement is impeded by Indiana’s low public health spending per capita.

This contributes to higher health care spending, challenges for employers who want to provide health insurance, premature deaths, poor work and school attendance, and perpetuation of poverty. Our terrible health measures create a negative image for Indiana, making it more difficult to recruit new businesses and professionals looking for a healthy place to live, work and raise a family.

The Alliance will ultimately tackle public health issues such as obesity, infant mortality and opioid abuse. But the first priority is to substantially reduce tobacco usage, which is the leading cause of preventable death in Indiana. The severity of the problem was reinforced just this week during a presentation to the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee by Dr. Jerome Adams, Indiana’s state health commissioner. He emphatically said: “The number one issue that the Legislature could address is smoking.“

Misclassification of Workers and Cost of Surety Bonds Debated

The second meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Employment and Labor took place recently. Committee members discussed a proposal offered by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) that would address some concerns related to the misclassification of workers specific to the construction industry. Her proposal would create a payroll fraud task force that would identify those commercial and industrial construction projects in which payroll fraud or employee misclassification is suspected of occurring.

The task force would assess investigative and enforcement methods. Additionally, the group would supervise and direct an investigator hired by the Department of Labor (DOL) and assigned to the task force to conduct investigations and enforcement activities.

The task force would consist of the commissioners from the DOL, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Department of Revenue (DOR), plus the chair of the Worker’s Comp Board. A task force fund would be created as result of penalties and interest assessed against employers that would be used to administer the investigations. Most of the public did not have access to a copy of the proposal until after the hearing.

The DOL testified that there was already a mechanism for fraud. A web site hosted by the DOL allows for online reporting of any suspected misclassification of workers. The information gets forwarded to the DOR, DWD and the Worker’s Comp board; these agencies then handle each tip accordingly, with all information remaining confidential. It was estimated that there are two to four reports per month. Committee Chair Rep. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville) did not allow the proposal to be included in the recommendation report of the committee. It is anticipated that Sen. Tallian will draft similar legislation in the upcoming legislative session.

The committee also heard testimony from the Surety & Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) on the pricing of surety bonds on public works projects. As a licensed rating or advisory organization for the states, SFAA develops a manual of rating rules for surety bonds that their members may adopt. Bond companies may either file the rates advised by SFAA or file their own. SFAA serves as the statistical agent in Indiana for reporting premium and loss data to the Department of Insurance. The premium for a bond is based upon the construction contract. The surety’s assessment must take into account the size and scope of the underlying obligation and is designed to prevent defaults on construction projects.

The cost of surety bonds on public work projects is generally between .5% and 3% of the amount of the construction contract. From 2001 to 2014 the surety industry collected $380 million in premiums and assumed a total exposure of about $38 billion. Approximately $85.4 million was incurred in direct losses on those bonds during the same period. Representative Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) suggested that Indiana might be able to self-insure on surety bonds and come out financially a little better. No action was taking on his suggestion.

Workers’ Comp Rates Being Reduced; Will Save Millions for Indiana Businesses

Earlier this month, Indiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen Robertson announced the approval of a 9.3% reduction for workers’ compensation rates to be effective January 1, 2017. The reduction is the biggest rate decrease Indiana has seen in 25 years.

This reduction will result in savings of approximately $82.7 million dollars for Hoosier businesses.

The Indiana Comprehensive Rating Bureau established this recommended advisory rate by taking a two-year review (2013-2014) and estimating going forward.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers medical costs associated with workplace injuries and provides wage replacement benefits to injured workers for lost work time. The frequency of such claims is down both in the state and nationally. These lower rates are also likely a result of workplaces generally becoming safer.

For many years, the Indiana Chamber has fought for rational, reasonable laws; we are glad to see the Department of Insurance recognize the current climate and take this positive step. The savings are significant and will help encourage additional growth in the business community.

Immigration Discussion Continues; Recommendations on the Horizon

The fifth meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues was recently held. Topics discussed included Indiana demographics, provided by a representative of the Partnership for a New American Economy. The chairman of the 6th congressional district Latino caucus also provided the committee with information about the struggles of Hoosier Latinos in Union City. He further testified to the use of and success of a voluntary emergency ID program for undocumented immigrants in his community. He suggested the idea could possibly be mirrored by the state.

Senator Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) discussed the quandary for employers that would be presented with an ID/driver’s license that could be used for purposes of the I-9 for hiring but on that document specifically identifies that the person is undocumented. Social work students from Valparaiso University testified to the need to allow for undocumented immigrants to have access to higher education. Senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel) asked committee members to provide thoughts for recommendations to the General Assembly before the next and final meeting on November 10. At that time, we should get a feel for what Sen. Delph will be wanting to do in regards to potential upcoming legislation.

Interim Committee Votes Down License Compact, Approves Debt Forgiveness Program

The second meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Public Health was held recently. Committee members first heard testimony regarding a multi-state nurse licensure compact, which would allow nurses to practice in different states without obtaining another license. Kentucky is the only border state that is a member of the compact. If legislation is passed in Indiana to participate in the compact, the adoption of any rules by the commission for the compact would be binding on Indiana. The attorney general’s office addressed legal concerns for the compact. The Public Health Committee voted to not recommend the adoption of a multi-state nurse license compact by a 14-0 vote.

The committee also entertained discussion about forgiveness of student loans for dentists and dental hygienists accepting Medicaid reimbursement. The IU School of Dentistry provided information on the debt burden of both resident and non-resident IU dental grads. The combined average debt is a little more than $189,000 upon graduation. In addition, only 16 of Indiana’s 92 counties had an adequate supply of dentists to service Indiana Medicaid patients – suggesting that significant gaps may exist in Indiana’s oral health care safety net for both urban and rural communities. A loan forgiveness program was proposed that would support six to eight dentists and two to three dental hygienists in high need Medicaid areas by forgiving some of the debt if a four-year commitment was made. The program was approved by the committee unanimously.

Immigration Matters Continue to Be Debated in Summer Study

The Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues met recently for its fourth meeting. An interesting presentation was provided to legislators by the former director of the statistics division of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

National undocumented immigrant information was provided to the committee along with more specific information for Indiana. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., 106,300 reside in Indiana. That number represents 1.6% of Indiana’s total population.

Marion County, primarily in Wayne and Decatur townships, had the largest population of undocumented immigrants with 12,200; Elkhart and Lake counties came in second and third with 9,400 and 6,100 undocumented immigrants, respectively. Approximately 71,000 overall are in the labor force with 21,500 working as operators, fabricators and laborers, with another 19,100 working in services positions. Sixty percent or 64,200 have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and 77,600 (73%) are between the working ages of 18 and 44. Information on origin of birth was also provided with 67,700 (61%) coming from Mexico.

The committee also heard testimony from Goshen College about unauthorized immigrant students. It was reported that since July 1, 2011, Indiana has prohibited resident tuition rates and state financial aid for undocumented students. Eighteen states, Illinois being one, allow in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Goshen College has provided scholarship aid for undocumented students for the past eight years. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Goshen provided $123,000 in aid for these students. The next hearing is scheduled for September 21. It is uncertain as to what the committee will decide to do with the information garnered from the four previous hearings and the three yet to be held. The Indiana Chamber will continue to be involved in these discussions.

Telemedicine Law Now Officially in Place

Virtual doctor measures blood pressure

The new telemedicine law went into effect July 1. The legislation (House Enrolled Act 1263), authored by Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Indianapolis), was enthusiastically supported by the Indiana Chamber because it increases access to care and potentially could reduce costs. Prior to the bill’s passage, Indiana was one of only four states that had not adopted telemedicine legislation.

Telemedicine is defined as the delivery of health care services using electronic communication and information technology, including: secure videoconferencing; interactive audio – using store and forward technology; or remote patient monitoring technology between a provider in one location and a patient in another location. Physicians, physician assistants who have authority to prescribe, licensed advanced practice nurses who have authority to prescribe and optometrists are all authorized to utilize telemedicine.

To provide the telemedicine service, a provider must have established a patient-provider relationship. In that patient-provider relationship, the provider, at a minimum, must obtain the patient’s name and contact info and location; disclose the provider’s name and title; obtain informed consent; obtain the patient’s medical history and other information to establish a diagnosis; discuss that diagnosis with the patient along with the evidence for and risks and benefits of various treatment options including when it is advisable to seek in-person care. The provider must also create and maintain a medical record for the patient and notify the patient’s primary care physician; issue proper instructions for appropriate and follow-up care and provide a telemedicine visit summary to the patient, including any prescriptions.

The law allows for a provider to issue a prescription through telemedicine even if the patient has not seen the provider in person previously as long as: the provider has satisfied the applicable standard of care in treating the patient; the issuance of a prescription is within the provider’s scope of practice; and the prescription is neither a controlled substance nor an abortion-inducing drug. At this time, the law prohibits ophthalmic devices such as glasses, contact lenses or low-vision devices.

An out-of-state provider may conduct telemedicine business in Indiana but must certify to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency that it agrees to be subjected to the jurisdiction of the courts of law of Indiana and all substantive and procedural laws concerning a claim against the provider.

There was concern during session about liability in providing telemedicine services. Therefore, the General Assembly included a provision that if a provider provides telemedicine services then that provider would be held to the same standards of care as if the health service was provided in an in-person setting.

Regarding the aforementioned prohibition against providing eye glasses and contact lenses, the Indiana Chamber has recently been in discussion with a company that would like to have that provision changed during the next legislative session. This company says it has the capability, via the Internet, of providing a refractive eye exam as accurate as one completed in the doctor’s office. The way the law stands currently, this telemedicine company (based upon its business model) would be prohibited from conducting any business in Indiana.