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.

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:

WOTUS Executive Order Highlights Recent Federal Activity

  • On February 28, the White House announced that President Trump signed an executive order directing the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps of Engineers) to review the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and restore the rule of law. Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) praised this action that would ensure the rule promotes economic growth and minimizes regulatory uncertainty: “I hear repeatedly from my constituents that the main thing holding back small business owners and farmers is over regulation. The WOTUS rule is an example of Washington overreach that is affecting businesses, utilities, manufacturers, farmers and land owners across northeast Indiana. I’m pleased to see President Trump make the review and revision of this rule a priority.” As a reminder, the Indiana Chamber mentioned WOTUS as a burdensome regulation in its list of regulations we sought repeal of in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and sent to the delegation.
  • The White House sent its initial budget guidance to federal agencies this week, outlining a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding reductions to most non-security agencies. An Office of Management and Budget official told reporters that the Trump administration will propose a 10% increase in defense spending and funding bumps for national security-related efforts. But that will mean cuts to domestic programs as well as foreign aid.
  • Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats – President Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence – faced questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee as phase one of his confirmation process.
  • Hoosier Seema Verma moved another step forward in her confirmation as the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-12 in support of her nomination, which now goes before the full Senate.
  • Senator Todd Young recently introduced the Investing in Student Success Act of 2017 as an out-of-the-box method of financing higher education. According to the Washington Examiner, “…the funding would not come from the federal government, but private companies who sign ‘income-sharing agreements’ with students. As the name implies, the investor finances the student’s tuition, in exchange for a percentage of the individual’s income for a set number of years after graduation.” According to Sen. Young, “Big picture here: There’s currently $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt held by the federal government, and 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with loans weren’t making payments as of Jan. 1. There’s certainly a need for some sort of way to finance your college education that does not place the risk on taxpayers.”
  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) invited former Indiana Chamber board member and current Indiana Economic Development Corporation President Elaine Bedel to be her guest at President Trump’s speech this week to the joint session of Congress.
  • I recently visited D.C. and met with the offices of congressional representatives Banks, Brooks, Bucshon, Hollingsworth and Messer. We discussed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, regulatory reform and our D.C. Fly-in event in September. Look for more in-depth information on my visits in next week’s report.

Hits and Misses: The Indiana Legislature Halftime Report

We are pleased that several of our top priorities are alive and in good shape at the midpoint – including long-term transportation funding, pre-K expansion and anti-smoking legislation. All of these tie directly to the Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.

Long-term transportation funding – tolling around the corner?
This is the Chamber’s top priority in 2017. House Bill 1002 is the proposal to take care of the state’s transportation needs; the 20-year infrastructure plan addresses the erosion in funding that has taken place and the lost purchasing power from the enhancements in automotive technology and fuel efficiency.

We believe that the bill’s proposed gas tax increase is pretty solid. Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), who appears to be taking the lead on this bill in the Senate, may change things like dedicating all of the sales tax on gasoline to transportation needs and put a heavier emphasis on tolling, which would enable the state to undertake major projects like adding additional lane miles to Interstate 70 and Interstate 65 throughout Indiana. Overall, we are very encouraged by the commitment we have seen to date from the House, Senate and Governor. We also realize this will be a little tougher sell in the Senate and are prepared for a strong advocacy effort.

Tax threats avoided; overall outlook good
Everyone should be thrilled that two detrimental proposals – on mandatory combined reporting and sales tax on services – didn’t really get out of the gate. And that’s thanks to the good work of the Chamber’s Bill Waltz over the course of the summer. That means there are no big, threatening tax bills looming for us to worry about.

Instead, this session has brought some positive activity that will improve things procedurally within the Department of Revenue. Additionally, while not involving the Legislature, the Chamber has provided substantial input to the Department of Local Government Finance on a rule with respect to the so-called big box commercial/industrial property assessments. (That input was made possible thanks to a subgroup of the Chamber’s Tax Committee that analyzed the big box assessment issue; we are always grateful to our members for lending their expertise!)

On track: expansion of the state’s pre-K pilot for children from low-income families
Obviously, the expansion – to $16 million total in the Senate (including funds for a new online pre-K pilot); at $20 million in the House proposal – is not as significant as we would like, but we recognize this is still a very young program and are encouraged that what’s being debated is the level of increased funds, not the merit. We also appreciate all of the programmatic language that allows for potential expansion into all 92 counties (SB 276) and increases the income thresholds for eligible families (HB 1004). That said, we are going to continue to work to get as many dollars as possible directed to this. It’s vital for children to have that strong early education as a foundation.

Making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position still can happen
We remain optimistic this longstanding Chamber goal will be realized this session. Yes, House Bill 1005 will have to be amended because it’s too similar to the one the Senate voted down last week. What happened there was, by all accounts, a blunder created by a perfect storm of factors – including little caucus discussion before the vote. But the good news is that the House bill is alive AND Senate leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) has assigned it to the Senate Rules Committee that he chairs, so he’s going to go to work on it and will ultimately determine how much of it needs to be changed. We speculate that requiring Indiana residency – which is not currently in HB 1005 – could be one modification. It definitely will have to be different than the failed bill to pass the Senate Rules Committee.

Comprehensive smoking reform, now in HB 1001 and HB 1578, would send big message
We are hopeful that the increased tax on cigarettes ($1 per pack) and funding for a more robust smoking cessation program will stay in the budget bill (HB 1001). Likewise, that the repeal of the special civil rights privileges for smokers will survive on its own in HB 1578; this marks the first time that policy has been passed by either house, so we are making progress. Seeing these three elements cross the finish line would be a clear indication that the state is taking seriously the ever-increasing costs to employers of Hoosiers smoking – more than $6 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity on the job.

The provision raising the cigarette buying age from 18 to 21 is most likely not happening this session after its removal in the House Ways and Means Committee. That group felt there wasn’t enough definitive information or testimony.

ISTEP, energy and technology updates
The Chamber is supporting legislation that will replace ISTEP with a shorter, more focused assessment. You can put all the debates and disagreements aside because this has to happen this session.

We are encouraged by the Senate’s passing of SB 309, an energy bill, which, among other things, addresses net metering for those investing in wind and solar energy; we believe the bill is consumer-friendly. Moreover, utilities have offered up some ideas and concessions that we think will help control electricity prices. The water infrastructure proposal (SB 416), while not funded, sets up the appropriate framework and keeps that needed policy moving along.

The budget bill (HB 1001) contains some pro-technology priorities, including the transferability and expansion of the venture capital tax credit. This would incentivize additional out-of-state investors without state tax liability to invest in promising early stage Indiana companies. Additionally, the open data measure (HB 1470) would allow public access, in an appropriate way, to the tremendous amount of data the state has collected. This is one of a couple of new initiatives coming from our Indiana Technology & Innovation Council policy committee. To see these efforts making progress right away, in their first session, is very encouraging.

A disappointment for the Indiana Chamber
There were several bills centered on litigation that couldn’t get out of committee. That’s because there are too many attorneys on both civil justice committees who are standing with trial lawyers, which essentially is blocking any sort of tort reform.

BizVoice Tech, Innovation Series Moves Forward; Reid Health Joins as Lead Series Advertiser

The Innovation Connector is a full-service business resource incubator focused on emerging tech and innovative companies in East Central Indiana. In January 2017, the group launched the Coding Connector for area students to promote discovery of coding and programming.

Part 2 of the yearlong BizVoice magazine series on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship is in the books. We encourage you to check out the March-April entries, with the focus on Outstanding Talent, the lead driver in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan.

For the remainder of 2017, we’re proud to have Reid Health on board as the lead series advertiser. Among the upcoming features: meeting the space needs of scale-up organizations, communities investing in their quality of place, financing options for entrepreneurs and more.

The March-April highlights include:

  • Powerful ‘Force’: The second of a six-part series on Recovery Force examines how both team members and advisors were added to the mix to fill critical roles. Also, learn how the co-founders blend their strengths in moving the organization forward.
  • X-Factor: Internship Program Showcases Jobs, City: The Xtern program takes recruitment beyond the job, showcasing Indianapolis and central Indiana to talented young people. The initiative continues to grow and succeed.
  • Vital Connections: Mentoring Snapshot Comes Into Focus: Entrepreneurial leaders in Muncie and Terre Haute discuss mentoring efforts and keys to helping others achieve their business dreams.
  • Quick Hits: A commercialization academy at the University of Southern Indiana, Trine University Hall of Fame and I-Light upgrades.

Access the full interactive version of BizVoice®. If you wish to receive the magazine in print, subscribe online.

Bill to Allow IDEM to Adopt EPA Guidelines for Coal Combustion Residuals Now Law

HB 1230 (Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals) was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb last Thursday.

The Chamber testified in support of this bill during the committee hearings and continued to advocate for its passage. This bill makes corrections to existing law to allow the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to have delegated authority from EPA regarding disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR).

The EPA had primacy over Indiana businesses that have CCR disposal issues.

The Week in Federal Affairs

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) launched a new video series this year called, “What I’m Hearing.” In each episode, she discusses one issue based on concerns from her constituents. The most recent episode is focused on health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Brooks states that this coverage is a priority for her and for her colleagues in Congress.
  • Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman introduced
    legislation, H.R. 1121, Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act, and Rep. Brooks is an original co-sponsor. This bill confirms guaranteed health care access, ensures a person cannot have benefits excluded from a plan due to pre-existing conditions and makes sure that people will not pay more for coverage based off of how healthy or sick they may be. This bill will be debated and discussed in the Health Subcommittee, of which she is a member, in coming weeks.
  • Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, along with local and federal officials, met with Governor Eric Holcomb in East Chicago to discuss the lead crisis after the Governor declared it a disaster emergency earlier this month.
  • Yesterday was confirmation hearing day for Indiana’s former Sen. Dan Coats, who is President Trump’s pick to be director of national intelligence. Coats will appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Representatives Brooks and Larry Bucshon (IN-08) were recently in Japan to discuss economic opportunities and partnerships.
  • Congressman Andre Carson is hosting a Youth Opportunities Fair on March 6 for potential jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities at the Central Library in Indianapolis.