Tobacco, E-Cigarettes and Cigarette Tax Topics in Interim Study Meeting

On October 6, the Interim Public Policy Committee met for nearly four hours to discuss a host of issues related to tobacco and e-cigarettes.

The group first entertained debate regarding whether smoking should be prohibited in bars, casinos and private clubs, as well as the fiscal impact of such a move. State law was passed in 2012 that prohibited smoking in the workplace with the aforementioned businesses excluded. The Casino Association testified in support of maintaining the carve-out. Representative Charlie Brown (D-Gary) asked the Indiana Chamber’s if its policy was still to support a workplace ban on smoking; we confirmed it is.

The most interesting exchange surrounded whether e-cigarettes should be defined as tobacco products and the potential taxation of them. Proponents of e-cigarettes testified that because nothing burns, no smoke is released and these products should not be classified as tobacco. The liquid in e-cigarettes contains 0, 3, 6, 12 and 18mg/ml of nicotine, thus enabling these products to be used as cessation devices. Prohibiting them and/or taxing them as tobacco products would treat them as products that are as harmful as cigarettes; they are generally considered not to be in that category. A manufacturer of e-liquid testified that a 20-cent tax per milliliter would put him out of business.

Testimony was also provided that Indiana University’s Prevention Resource Center conducted a survey among Indiana high school seniors and found that 25% had used a vaping device in the past month. That was a higher number than had used traditional tobacco products. Both are prohibited for sale to minors.

Further discussion revolved around the impact of taxation on the consumption of cigarettes. Several individuals testified that studies indicate (including one fiscal modeling of Indiana) that a 10% increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes results in a 3-5% reduction in tobacco consumption. The fiscal analysis that was conducted indicated that a 50-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes would generate approximately $137 million in additional revenue.

The Indiana Chamber testified that the state’s overall health ranking is 41st nationwide and 39th for smoking. Indiana has decreased from 25.6% to 21.9% of adult smokers in the population since the enactment of the 2012 smoking ban. While acknowledging the studies referenced above, the Chamber also cited a recent study from the Cato Institute that indicates that it may take a 100% increase in the cigarette tax to accomplish a 2-3% decrease in tobacco use.

No decisions were made about any of the topics discussed. The committee will meet again on October 22.

Taking the Digital Age Into New – and Very Green – Territory

36886821What does the world’s greenest office building look like? You’re about to find out.
The Edge (enticing moniker) towers over onlookers in Amsterdam and is home to 2,500 Deloitte employees … who don’t have desks.

Let me back up. There are desks, but employees aren’t assigned one of their very own. The space they occupy each day is based upon their schedule. They may get cracking on projects in the concentration room, along the sun-infused balcony, in the atrium – it’s called “hot desking.”

Living on The Edge (or at least working there) is all about innovation. Connectivity and going green are king. A smartphone app allows employees to control lighting and climate preferences at their workstations. Rainwater is collected for flushing toilets and irrigating gardens. A security robot stands guard. And that’s just the beginning.

Check out this short video and share your input: Brilliant work environment or too much of a good thing?

Monarch Beverage: Best Places to Work Recognition Has Internal, External Benefits

Monarch Beverage has been recognized as a Best Place to Work in Indiana five times. CEO Phil Terry explains how that recognition helps with both validation and recruitment.

Nominations are now open for the 2016 contest!

Indiana Businesses: What Could You Do With an Additional $126 Per Employee?

That is the savings – $327 million statewide – you will realize if the state temporarily advances sufficient funds to pay off the federal unemployment insurance loan that has been in place since November 2008.

Business Savings with Early Loan Payoff:

  • 10 employees – $1,260
  • 25 employees – $3,150
  • 50 employees – $6,300
  • 100 employees – $12,600
  • 500 employees – $63,000

Sign the Petition to Governor Pence today! Ask Governor Pence to execute an early payoff of the federal unemployment insurance loan.

The State Budget Committee will consider authorizing this action on Oct. 16. Governor Mike Pence must make a final decision before Nov. 9. The approximately $250 million temporary advance would be reimbursed by the end of fiscal year 2016 through collections of existing state unemployment taxes. Once repaid, the funds used to eliminate the outstanding penalty will be available to be used for other priorities.

The decision is straightforward: have additional funds to invest in your organizations and employees – or send the money to Washington as an ongoing penalty for the loan being in place.

State leaders need to hear from the business community – employers and employees. Share this with your team members and encourage them to “sign” the petition.

If you wish to contact the governor’s office directly, please do so by calling (317) 232-4567. If you have a question and/or an interest in publicly stating your support, contact the Indiana Chamber’s Mike Ripley (317-264-6883 or

Property Tax Assessment Appeal Issues Continue

Last session, county officials sought drastic changes to Indiana’s property tax assessment methodology in reaction to two decisions from the Indiana Board of Tax Review (IBTR) involving “big-box” retail stores (e.g., a Meijer and a Kohl’s store). Officials complained that assessment appeals were being wrongly decided because the IBTR allowed the consideration of the sale price of like buildings that had been closed and were vacant at the time of the transaction as evidence of the value of the operating stores. Assessing officials called these transactions “dark sales” and contended such sales should be precluded from being considered in determining the assessment of like structures that remain open and occupied by large retail entities. The legislative result was something of a standoff between county officials and affected taxpayers. The ultimate legislation (SB 436) left a lot to be desired since the interested parties maintained such disparate viewpoints. They were – and remain – fundamentally divided on how real estate should be valued under Indiana law.

The issue came to the forefront again last month when the IBTR issued another decision that resulted in a significant reduction to a large commercial entity; this time, a CVS Pharmacy store in Bloomington. Interestingly enough, this case did not involve a “big-box” and was not based on the application of “dark sales” (even though you would have thought so from the way it was being publicly described by many.) Nevertheless, it was cited as another case where the IBTR had somehow gotten it wrong and was making a bad decision.

The situation essentially reveals: Assessors and county officials believe that large national chains should be taxed more because they are large national chains (and refuse to acknowledge the state of the law which just doesn’t support their higher assessments.) The IBTR has merely been doing its job, applying case law that has developed from Tax Court decisions issued since 2010 and before.

What’s more, assessors and county officials do not want to assess the property based on its fair market value, they want to assess it based on the value of the business operations that take place on the property — what I call “value to the user.” Property tax is supposed to be a tax on the value of real estate, not a tax on the investment value that real estate has to the owner. This debate arises out of the statutory and administrative rule definitions that govern our assessment system. Indiana defines true tax value as something different than the market value-in-exchange (what the property could sell for); instead it creates a hybrid standard referred to as “market value-in-use”. This hybrid was created to protect some properties from higher taxes. The best example is when a highly valuable piece of prime commercial real estate is actually used for agricultural or residential purposes.

But now there is a movement to interpret market value-in-use as a means for taxing the value the property has to its specific user, i.e., the national retail chain owner. This is not only subjective, unfair and inequitable; it is unworkable. It would result in nearly identical buildings being assessed at widely differing values based on the financial status and circumstances of the particular owner. Such a standard is contrary to our Indiana Constitution and would effectively undermine the integrity of our entire assessment system.

It is an important issue and appears it is going to be taken back up next month by the Interim Committee on Fiscal Policy, which has scheduled meetings for October 7, 13 and 21.

New Workplace State and Federal Posters: Order Yours Now

Poster_Subscript_serviceWe’re printing new state and federal workplace posters due to some material changes that have been made this year — including a new mandatory supplement for federal contractors to the “Equal Opportunity is the Law” posting that was released this week. Here are the recent updates (below), and you can order new sets online — or join our free subscription service to take the burden off of yourself when it comes to tracking changes:

  • Indiana Teen Worker Hours: The differentiation between “your work permit allows you to work” and “with parental permission you may work”; maximum hours; break requirements; graduates/withdrawn from school information.
  • OSHA Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law (updated in early 2015): The federal OSHA poster was given a new look. The changes were mostly visual, although two new bullet points were added, stating employers must: (1) Report to OSHA all work-related fatalities within eight hours, and all inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours; and (2) Provide required training to all workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
  • Supplement to “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” Poster for Federal Contractors: This supplement was released in September 2015 as part of the OFCCP’s final rule promoting pay transparency. It requires that federal contractors and subcontractors amend equal employment opportunity information to state that it is unlawful to discharge or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants. It also contains information on federal contractors’ obligations regarding affirmative action and employing individuals with disabilities and veterans.

Allied Tube and Conduit: Maximizing Its Chamber Membership Through Participation

alliedAt Allied Tube and Conduit, safety must come first.

Randy Pratt, a member of security and traffic control staff, checks drivers in and out, makes employees aware of safety rules and keeps an eye on operations such as tubing fabrication and laser machine usage. In a manufacturing environment, Pratt understands the importance of keeping his team safe.

Pratt is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. Attending the Chamber’s 2015 Safety and Health Conference & Expo provided further training while exposing him to the opportunity to learn more about business.

“The safety conference was very engaging.” Pratt says. “I was grateful for the many leaders who taught and for the many ideas and learning experiences that I had.”

Pratt has been a part of his company for seven and a half years, with two years in his current position. Since attending the conference with the Chamber, Pratt has tried to implement a “safety culture” in his workplace where employees will be held accountable for being safe.

“After having the understanding of ‘watching everybody’s back’ when it comes to safety, I have tried to encourage my newly-learned word of safety ‘culture’ and encourage it to others,” Pratt described shortly after the spring event. “I recently brought it up in the safety committee asking for any ideas about how to make it more concrete among all.”

One tool he has used from the conference is “gamifying” safety, which makes the concept more inviting by presenting safety rules like a game. Pratt also enjoyed the legal briefings he received.

“This (conference) has been very informative and it actually gets you thinking on things that are not only pertinent to safety, but the legal ramifications,” he explains. “I was totally unaware of the necessity of legal issues for OSHA.”

Allied Tube and Conduit in Kokomo is part of Atkore International, which allows its employees to pursue continuing education. After his experience attending the safety conference, Pratt says, “I kind of hope they pick me again.”

Defying – Not Glorifying – Stereotypes

Every once in a while, something really fires me up. Today’s trigger is about misconceptions regarding women engineers.

First, there’s the words of wisdom (insert heavy sarcasm) of Nobel Peace Prize winner Tim Hunt. This summer, he declared – at the World Conference of Science Journalists – that labs should be segregated by sex. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he reportedly mused. “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry!”

Shameful, indeed. It reminded me of another recent high-profile controversy, this time involving Isis Wenger. The brilliant OneLogin platform engineer unwittingly found herself at the center of a firestorm when she posed for a recruiting photo.

To both the company and Wenger’s surprise, what got people talking about the campaign wasn’t the image of its security engineer wearing a black hat and hackers shirt … Instead, it was the photo of Wenger. TechCrunch reported a taste of what people had to say about it:

“This is some weird haphazard branding. I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes. Perhaps that’s the intention all along. But I’m curious people with brains find this quote (appearing on Wenger’s shirt) remotely plausible if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like. Idk. Weird.”

And here’s what another guy said:

“If their intention is to attract more women, then it would have been a better to choose a picture with a warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk. …”

To change the way people think about engineers, Wenger started the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

“#ILookLikeAnEngineer is intentionally not gender specific,” Wenger says. “External appearances and the number of X chromosomes a person has is hardly a measure of engineering ability. My goal is to help redefine “what an engineer should look like” because I think that is a step towards eliminating sub-conscious bias towards diversity in tech.”

Wenger’s hashtag has inspired women to post their own photos illustrating that they also “look like an engineer.”

You go, ladies!

Jobs Numbers You Need to Know

rThe National Conference of State Legislatures breaks down some recent job statistics and trends. A few of the numbers:

  • 5 million new workers in health care from 1997 to 2012
  • 77.5% — growth in the mining industry in that same time period
  • 157 million – number of people 16 and over in the nation’s labor force in June 2015
  • 15 million – number of female workers 16 and over in service occupations in 2013 male workers numbered 11.6 million
  • 86.1 – percentage of full-time, year-round workers ages 18 to 64 with health insurance during all or part of 2013
  • 76.4 – percentage of workers who drove alone to work in 2013
  • 25.8 – average time in minutes it took workers to commute to their jobs in 2013
  • 4.4 – percentage who worked from home in 2013

Fewer Are Taking the Start-Up Route

Lower unemployment is just one of the factors a declining number of Americans are looking at starting their own businesses.

In the first half of 2015, an average of 5.1% of job seekers decided to begin a new business, according to global outplacement and coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

CEO John A. Challenger notes, “While many Americans love the idea of being their own boss, we consistently find that 95% of those who are in-between jobs do not take that route. Most don’t even consider it to be a viable option and those who do contemplate entrepreneurship often conclude that the risks are too numerous and significant to pursue.”

The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly 5.2 million Americans were hired in June 2015. Furthermore, there were still more than 5.2 million unfilled job openings at the end of the month.

But it takes more than just industry knowledge to pursue entrepreneurship. Challenger offers some of the other necessities required for those considering a start-up venture.

A Plan
Having a plan can help the would-be entrepreneur map out his or her vision. It does not have to be the 50- to 70-page formal plan taught in MBA programs. It can just be a few pages. Though something more detailed and formal might be required when it comes time to seek funding from banks or investors. The key benefit of the plan is that helps to focus one’s efforts.

A survey of more than 800 people in the process of starting businesses by the University of Michigan found those who wrote a plan were two and a half times more likely to actually go into business.

It takes money to make money, as they say. Not only is there the initial investment associated with starting a business, whether it is buying computers or business cards, but the fact is that it could take several months before the new business makes any money.
Unless one is trying to get a business up and running while holding down another full-time or part-time job, which is an entirely different challenge altogether, substantial savings are absolutely necessary to make up for the loss of income that occurs during the initial phases of the start-up.

The reason it would be challenging to start a business while holding down a traditional job is that most new businesses require a substantial amount of time to get up and running. Entrepreneurs can expect to log 60 to 80 hours a week in the first two years.

The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs coming from a traditional workplace may be the lack of a manager giving you tasks and deadlines. Especially for those working from home, there are a lot of distractions that can pull your attention away from the task at hand. Some would say that telecommuters face the same challenge. However, they are still accountable to a supervisor, so there is more motivation to stay focused on work.
Until a new entrepreneur has that first customer, who then provides the motivation to set and meet deadlines, the only person an entrepreneur must answer to is himself. So, are you going to do the work necessary to find that first customer or fix that leaky faucet? If the faucet takes precedence, you may need to rethink entrepreneurship.

Strong Sales Skills
Regardless of the primary skills you are ultimately plan to provide through your new venture, whether it’s financial planning consulting or cupcakes, the first order of business is to get customers. In order to do that, you need to be a salesperson. As an entrepreneur, you should expect to spend 75% or more of your time on sales as the business is getting off the ground.

If you do not feel comfortable selling, your business is probably doomed before it even begins. No business can succeed without sales. A strong sales commitment is necessary, especially in the first 12 to 24 months.