Legislative Testimony: Sunday Alcohol Sales

BThe Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter testified today in support of Sunday liquor sales, but opposition to the amended House Bill 1624 by Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte).

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce supports the retail sale of alcoholic beverages for carryout on Sunday – for ALL classes of licensed retailers. We believe this would improve Indiana’s business climate and be a big win for consumers who want to see this modest and common sense change to existing law. A law that has remained on the books for far too long. A debate, in our estimation, that has gone on for far too long – and we are not alone in this opinion. Polling shows a growing majority of Hoosiers want this change.

You have the power – and the responsibility – to bring this change about by passing Sunday sales. However, to do so, you must craft a compromise between the liquor stores who have fought this change year after year after year, and other retailers, “big box” or otherwise, who have sought this change for just as long.

We supported the introduced version of HB 1624 and still do. We were encouraged when we heard rumors about a “compromise” on this issue; indeed one media outlet reported that a “compromise” had been reached. We began to rejoice.

But, then we saw the chairman’s amendment and we knew that no such compromise had been reached. Indeed, we were not invited to a negotiation. A negotiation between two liquor stores or their lobbyists is not a compromise.

To have a true compromise, you have to have two sides agree on something. Yet, the two sides on this issue agree on nothing. In fact, their roles have reversed since the introduction of the amendment with liquor stores now quoted in the media as supporting it and historical supporters of Sunday sales opposing it.

Why this sudden role reversal? Sometimes to ask a question is to answer it. So, with all due respect, the amendment under consideration today falls short of being a good faith effort at a workable compromise. It is objectively one-sided with all of the burdens placed on one class of alcohol retailer to their competitive disadvantage. And, that class is every single retailer that is NOT a package liquor store.

Under the amendment, liquor stores change nothing about their business model except they can now open on Sunday, if they choose. Their competitors? They have new, unacceptable regulations placed upon their stores, their personnel, and most importantly their customers.

Anyone with any familiarity with the Sunday sales issue had to know that this amendment would be unacceptable. The cost of retrofitting retail stores alone will run to at least $50-$60 million by conservative estimates and will affect all non-liquor store retailers large or small, big box or mom-and-pop. Some may be unable to comply with the provisions of this amendment at all.

Retrofitting is only the beginning of the economic costs represented by this amendment. Consumers will not stand for turning back the clock some 40-50 years and moving distilled spirits back “behind the counter”; that model of retailing can be seen at the Hook’s Museum and that is rightly where it belongs – in a museum.

Today’s consumers will revolt at being forced by you, elected members of the Indiana General Assembly, to go to “Tony with the name tag” at a separate counter or checkout lane, to then ask for a specific type of alcohol, a specific brand of alcohol and a specific bottle size.

To what end, one may ask, are lawmakers putting me through this when all I want is a little rum to mix with my lime and Coke? And, this new, government-imposed restriction will hassle consumers not just on Sunday, but every single day of the week.

Consumers will be needlessly inconvenienced and they will rebel. Just a couple of years ago they wanted your heads on pikes for carding them if they looked under the age of 40! Remember that? Passed in one session, repealed the next. Total run time: less than a year.

Do you think they will accept the serial inconveniences in this amendment? No, they will not. There will be a backlash, deservedly so, and it won’t be aimed at the businesses selling alcohol.

This is not the commonsense reform that Hoosiers are asking for. It is concierge legislating for the liquor store lobby. No one here is fooled by this so-called “compromise”, and here’s the trick box you’ve placed yourselves in by trying to place advocates of Sunday sales in a similar box:

With talk of a “compromise,” the public now EXPECTS you to deliver on Sunday sales. They’ve been reading about it for months now and, suddenly, a (so-called) compromise is here! The public doesn’t do nuance and they could care less about the machinations inside this building or the welfare of lobbyists, liquor store owners or this or that grocery store chain.

All they want is to be able to conveniently buy alcohol on Sunday like residents of other states do. It is not an unreasonable expectation. But, this is an unreasonable amendment that places unreasonable burdens on consumers.

With that, I’ll conclude the Indiana Chamber’s support of Sunday sales but opposition to the bill as amended.

Legislative Testimony: State Board of Education Governance

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 1 – State Board of Education Governance, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle).

While the Chamber prefers to have the Governor appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction, allowing the State Board of Education to appoint its own chair is a step in the right direction and will allow for a more seamless way for education policy to be enacted.

However, the Chamber believes that the Governor should be allowed to control the appointment process for State Board members as a right of the executive branch leader (as opposed to having the Indiana House Speaker and Senate Pro Tem make several selections, which SB 1 proposes).

Legislative Testimony: Annual Mega Department of Revenue Bill

The Indiana Chamber’s Bill Waltz testified today on Senate Bill 438 – State and Local Tax Issuesauthored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek). The Chamber supports various provisions and the general intent of this Department of Revenue bill, but also opposes other aspects at this time.

The Chamber generally supports the effort in this bill to clarify a number issues and ease administrative burdens for both the Department of Revenue and taxpayers. However, there are several new provisions that still need work in order to be confident that the language will fulfill the apparent intentions.

The Chamber has serious reservations regarding attorney-client and deliberative process privilege provisions as written. Additionally, the Chamber opposes changing the Tax Court’s standard of review of the state Department of Revenue decisions.

This is a very complicated bill and our position will be adjusted as amendments are made; our support and opposition will match the degree that our concerns are addressed.

Legislative Testimony: Tax Credit for Classroom Supplies

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1005 Tax Credit for Teachers’ Classroom Supplies, authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn).

This bill would allow teachers who often dip into their own pockets to provide classroom supplies for their students to receive a tax credit of up to $200 per year.

This is especially helpful for new, young educators that are just starting their careers and will assist all educators as they support Indiana students.

Legislative Testimony: Supporting Energy Efficiency

The Indiana Chamber’s Vince Griffin testified today in support of Senate Bill 412 – Demand Side Management, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis).

The Indiana Chamber supports a diverse energy supply. Energy efficiency is an essential element in that diverse portfolio. It is in the best interest of both the industry and utility to promote energy efficiency.

The industry benefits by lowering its utility bill and the power provider benefits by not building additional and very expensive generating facilities.

Legislative Testimony: Employment for Non-Union Teachers

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 302 – Employment Contracts for Non-Union Teachers, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown).

The Indiana Chamber has long supported similar legislation allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to join their union. And as such, those that choose NOT to join their respective union for whatever reason should have the opportunity to negotiate their contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement that was set forth by that union – just as any other employee in the state might be able to do.

We feel that this legislation empowers both the employer and the employee to negotiate a contract that works best for BOTH parties.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

BizVoice: Social Media Changes Landscape of Hoosier Politics

Longtime WTHR-TV political reporter Kevin Rader says he picks up “ripples” on Twitter or Facebook about posts that are gaining steam, getting retweets and likes, that make him take notice to a certain policy or official’s statement. “It’s almost like an immediate Nielsen Report that comes to your desk every day that you can look at and say, ‘Oh, this is interesting … or this is interesting,’ ” he notes.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, believes social media is “big” for candidates and officeholders – and not just in a reactionary sense. “You have to think about how people are receiving news. It’s not just one way (traditional media) or the other (social media). You’ve got to have the proactivity to get out there and make sure it’s communicated every single way and exhaust every possible resource.”

His counterpart for the Republican Party, Tim Berry, says “The advantage of social media is that you can talk directly to your constituents. You’re not taking through Kevin or the Indianapolis Star. You’re talking directly to your constituents and then that is shared – your perspective is shared. And that’s what people sometimes miss through the use of social media – the opportunity to talk directly to your intended target.”

But there does need to be caution with social media usage, according to Andrew Downs, IPFW political science professor and director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

“It has got to be part of an overall strategy. You can’t ignore it; you’ve got to be present. But if you let it dominate, which it’s easy to do, you will lose. It doesn’t play that big of a role yet,” he asserts.

Rader offers another example of how Twitter, for example, has changed his job.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated by people who have now realized, ‘Look, I don’t have to make a statement to the media. All I have to do is Tweet a little something out and I don’t have to answer a question.’ You find yourself thinking, ‘Oh boy, so are we really serving the people sitting at home?’ You don’t get any follow-up, anything in-depth and it’s become acceptable now.”

But what can the media do? It has little choice but to cover it. And as Downs quips, “Yes, you don’t have to answer questions. That’s the beauty of social media (for candidates).”

Read much more from this group in the September-October edition of BizVoice magazine, where they discuss the climate in the state and what to look for on Election Day. A related article in the same issue focuses on the use of “digital first” technology to reach voters.

Eight Hoosier Organizations Earn Prestigious Governor’s Safety Awards

Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann and Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Sean M. Keefer presented Governor's Workplace Safety Awards today to eight Hoosier companies for advancing occupational safety and health in their industries.

"Dedication to a safe work environment should be an absolute goal of every Indiana employer," said Lt. Gov. Ellspermann. "I commend our award winners for successfully implementing significant health and safety practices."

The companies were honored at the 2013 Indiana Safety and Health Conference and Expo luncheon ceremony in Indianapolis. The event was presented by the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

"The Indiana Department of Labor is proud to recognize these organizations where the safety and health of their workforce is a top priority," said Keefer. "These organizations represent the best of the best, and Indiana is proud to honor these leading companies and their employees."

Indiana organizations were recognized in the following categories: external education and outreach, innovations, internal education and outreach, and partnerships.

The 2013 Governor's Workplace Safety Award recipients are:

  • Aisin Drivetrain, Inc., in Crothersville — internal education and outreach for a medium-sized company
  • Marmon Retail Home Improvement Products, Inc., (formally known as Cerro Wire, LLC) in Crothersville — external education and outreach
  • Cummins Seymour Engine Plant — innovations for a large-sized company
  • DePuy Synthes Joint Reconstruction in Warsaw — internal education and outreach for a large-sized company
  • Gribbins Insulation Co., Inc., in Evansville — innovations in construction
  • Lebanon Community School Corporation — partnerships for construction safety
  • Lord Corporation in Indianapolis — internal education and outreach for a small-sized company
  • PAOLI Furniture — innovations for a medium-sized company

"Safety in the workplace cannot be overrated," said Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. "When a company ensures that safety is a top priority and implements an occupational safety plan, employees, customers and the community win.

"A major benefit of a safe workplace is an efficient, profitable organization with employees who feel they are valued," added Brinegar.

The 2013 Governor's Workplace Safety Awards are a result of a partnership among government, business and safety leaders: the Indiana Department of Labor, on behalf of the governor, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Governor Mike Pence plans to further honor award recipients at their worksites in the near future.

To learn more about the Governor's Safety Awards program, visit www.in.gov/dol/2381.htm. For more information about the 2013 Indiana Safety and Health Conference and Expo, visit www.insafetyconf.com.

New Cornerstone Partners Program Recognizes Chamber Members

Who doesn't like a little extra recognition? Indiana Chamber of Commerce members now have the opportunity for a LOT more of it through the new Cornerstone Partners program.

Cornerstone Partners will enable member companies – those investing at the $10,000 level and up – to take their visibility to new heights. The Chamber works directly with nearly 5,000 member companies, which represent more than 800,000 Hoosier workers. As the fourth largest state Chamber in the country, its impact is broad and significant.

"The Cornerstone Partners program is a way to recognize these member companies and their commitment to the work of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce," shares Tim Brewer, vice president of membership. "Through the Chamber's brand strength and awareness, we have strong relationships with thousands of companies and numerous other stakeholders. This will help generate good exposure for their organization. It's all about exposure and recognition."

Membership levels include Leadership, Chairman's Circle, Champion and Pinnacle. Some of the benefits (depending on the level) include visibility on the Chamber's web site, as well as on new Cornerstone office and mobile displays; special seating at the annual Legislative Dinner; and recognition in a BizVoice® magazine tribute.

"Before this program launched, we had member representatives who were interested in growing the statewide visibility of their companies. We think this is a great way to do that," Brewer adds.

While the Cornerstone Partners program highlights leading investors, it does not change the Chamber's commitment to small businesses or its advocacy role on their behalf. It simply offers new resources for exposure and brand recognition.

"For our small businesses, our focus continues to be on businesses of all shapes and sizes and industries. We have a number of tools already designed for small businesses, including our free HR helpline, the Business Research Center, exposure on our web site through member press releases and member spotlights," Brewer affirms.

Learn more online or contact Brewer via email or at (317) 264-7539.