EchoChamber is a new informal discussion with Indiana leaders in business, education, technology, politics and much more. We’ll begin with the following three outstanding guests in as many weeks before reverting to a biweekly format:
Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation and one of the foremost minds in the world on education and workforce policy and initiatives
Lee Hamilton, an 17-term U.S. representative who remains a thoughtful voice on state, national and global issues
Graham Richard, the innovative one-time Fort Wayne mayor who is now guiding efforts at a national organization called Advanced Energy Economy
Subscribe at iTunes, GooglePlay or wherever you get your podcasts to be notified about the latest interview.
The following is a release from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM):
IDEM is seeking nominations for the 2017 Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. This award is the state’s most prestigious environmental recognition.
The Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence is open to any Indiana citizen, business, nonprofit organization, school, or government agency. All projects submitted must demonstrate significant, measurable results that positively impact Indiana’s environment. Nominated projects must be sustainable, innovative, exemplary, and thoroughly documented. Nominations must be received by IDEM no later than 5 p.m. (EDT) Friday, July 28, 2017.
To learn more about the Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, including past awardees and the nomination process, please visit http://www.IN.gov/idem/GovAwards or contact Justin Paicely, IDEM’s Program and Compliance Director, at 800-451-6027 or GovAwards@idem.IN.gov.
Understanding your wastewater permit and water balance
Emission inventory: how to develop an inventory
Hazardous waste changes
Recent and upcoming regulatory changes impacting permitting and reporting
Two additional EHS (environmental, health and safety) training programs, presented by Bobbi K. Samples, can help your employees maintain OSHA standards and keep your workplace safe! Both will be held at the Indiana Chamber Conference Center in Indianapolis.
Forklift Safety: Train the Trainer (May 23) will feature topics such as safe truck operations, performance certification, inspection requirements and how to dispel myths. Receive a hard copy of all materials presented – including a disk with additional fillable forms for creating a customized safety program for your facility.
Senator Joe Donnelly joined a select few Democrats last week to announce support for President Trump’s pick to the U.S. Supreme Court: federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch.
Donnelly stated, “I have said consistently that part of my job is to carefully review, debate and vote on judicial nominations, including nominees to the Supreme Court. It is my obligation as senator to consider the qualifications of each nominee that comes to the Senate floor to determine if he or she can faithfully serve on our nation’s highest court. I take this responsibility very seriously.
“After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers.
“I was deeply disappointed by the way the most recent Supreme Court nominee, judge Merrick Garland, was treated by the Senate, but as senator, I can only vote on the nominee that comes to the Senate floor. However, I believe that we should keep the current 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.”
Responding to the requests from a bipartisan cohort of Indiana elected officials, newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced he will visit the U.S. Smelter and Lead Superfund site in East Chicago on April 19. Senators Donnelly and Todd Young, congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01) and Gov. Eric Holcomb each had invited Pruitt to visit after his appointment to the position. The area has been the focus of concern for local, state and federal officials since the magnitude of the environmental (water) lead contamination became clear.
Representative Luke Messer (IN-06) last week called on Congress to come back, instead of breaking early for Easter, to repeal and replace Obamacare. In a floor speech addressing his colleagues in the House, Messer said, “Congress is leaving for Easter break with work undone. For seven years, we’ve told the American people we would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better, and we have legislation that provides that opportunity. … We need to do what we said we would do.” Earlier, Messer joined members of the House Republican leadership – led by Speaker Paul Ryan – to announce an amendment to the American Health Care Act that safeguards patients with pre-existing conditions in a way that will also lower premiums. This amendment creates the $15 billion new federal risk-sharing program that will help states reduce premiums by reimbursing health insurance issuers for high-cost individuals beginning in 2018. The proposal by congressmen Gary Palmer of Alabama and David Schweikert of Arizona is modeled after a program in Maine.
Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) has introduced the Head Start Improvement Act, a bill to reform the Head Start early childhood education program. The legislation would give states increased flexibility in spending the Head Start dollars they receive from the federal government to better meet the specific needs of low-income children. The bill would provide Head Start block grants directly to eligible grantees, which include states, territories and federally-recognized Indian tribes. He got the idea from state Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), who has suggested this as part of the larger pre-K pilot program at the state level. “As a father of three young girls, I understand the importance of making sure our kids receive the best education possible,” said Banks. “Unfortunately, Head Start is failing to make a significant contribution to student development, and it is clear that Head Start needs a new start. Giving states, local officials and parents greater control over the Head Start program will result in better tailored pre-K programs for Hoosier students.”
They found a striking difference between public and private companies’ behavior after signing onto the United Nations Global Compact program. Their analysis shows private companies are significantly more likely to follow through on their promises than public companies.
“There do seem to be conflicts for public companies when it comes to corporate social responsibility,” says Li, professor of technology and operations. “They are constrained by shareholders and by law to maximize profits. If the CEO of Patagonia wants to buy organic cotton, he can make it happen even if it means lower margins. A public company has to justify that to shareholders.”
Li and Wu developed a novel method to find a common corporate social responsibility proxy and track the outcomes. They examined the 6,420 companies that signed onto the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) between 2007 and 2016. It covers a broad array of responsibility goals — such as labor standards, environmental, and corporate governance — and it’s a unified set of standards.
They then matched those companies with reports from RepRisk, a third-party firm that screens more than 80,000 media, regulatory and commercial documents in 15 languages each day for negative events regarding company-level environmental, social and governance events.
Li and Wu found that private companies that signed onto the UNGC reduced their negative impacts, as reported by RepRisk, by 6.3 percent per month. There was no change for public companies, though in some cases the negative impacts increased slightly.
“If you think about corporate social responsibility, it’s mostly a diversion of resources,” says Wu, professor of technology and operations and professor of finance. “Not only from company shareholders to other stakeholders, but also from short-term to long-term. But public company managers tend to focus more on the short term and are incentivized as such.”
The exceptions they found among public companies were ones that own customer-facing brands. In those cases the value of corporate social responsibility is aligned with shareholders, since consumers often punish companies for irresponsible behavior.
Three amendments were recently offered to SB 309 and approved during last week’s hearing – two by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion) and one by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville). One amendment clarified who qualified as an applicant for a CPCN, one for the study of self-generation by schools and one changes the deadline of installation to receive the 30-year grandfathered rate to December 31, 2017.
The Indiana Chamber testified in support of the bill and tried to clarify some of the confusion over net metering (no one is trying to kill the solar industry). We also expressed some of the concerns that some members have over co-generation (that they would like more flexibility). We emphasized that we do not want the bill to fail because it is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all concerns our members have expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs and building a statewide energy plan. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s competitive edge when looking at energy costs that have risen over the past decade.
On March 22, the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee heard nearly a day of testimony on this bill in a full House chamber from many groups and individuals, both in support and against the bill. No vote will be taken until Wednesday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Obama regulation on coal industry is rolled back! On Thursday, President Trump repealed the Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule. The Indiana Chamber previously had signed on to a letter in support of this action. The letter stated that the Stream Protection Rule “is a one-size-fits-all federal mandate that interferes with the longstanding federal-state balance in overseeing mining operations. It will place massive amounts of coal reserves – and the affordable energy they provide – off limits.” Congressman Larry Bucshon (IN-08) also issued a statementat this welcome news.
On Thursday, Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young introduced fellow Hoosier Seema Verma to the Senate Finance Committee immediately before the hearing on her experience to become administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Young met with the chief of naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, to discuss the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane and its critical support for our warfighters and national defense. During the meeting, Young urged Admiral Richardson to ensure that NSWC Crane is exempt from the hiring freeze so that it can continue its important work. Young’s meeting this week with Admiral Richardson follows his letter to Secretary of Defense Mattis on January 27.
Previously, Sen. Joe Donnelly met with Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer on the same subject.
Young was also among a group of legislators that met last Friday in Washington D.C. with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Young says the gathering involved a lot of discussion on global security and trade agreements, but his time with the prime minister was focused on economic issues. Read the Inside Indiana Business story, which also includes audio from Young.
Congressman Todd Rokita (IN-04) on Thursday re-introduced an important piece of legislation to protect the rights of workers. The Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act amends the National Labor Relations Act to allow employers to give merit-based bonuses, raises or other increases to an individual employee above the level set by the employee’s union contract. Per Rokita, a union contract should not be the ceiling on how much a good employee can earn and the RAISE Act would provide every worker with a chance to earn a bonus.
On Wednesday, the CEO of Aetna, one of the nation’s largest insurers echoed growing concerns that the Affordable Care Act is in a death spiral. According to a Politico report, Aetna’s CEO argued that, “More insurers will pull out of the government-run marketplaces in the coming weeks and many areas will have no insurers to provide Affordable Care Act coverage in 2018.” He went on to say, “It’s not going to get any better; it’s getting worse.”
On a related note, Rep. Bucshon recently introduced legislation to help stabilize the insurance markets by giving states the flexibility to meet the needs of their unique patient populations.
Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) introduced a measure this week to help veterans get the most from the GI Bill.
A honor for Rep. Pete Visclosky (IN-01): He recently received the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award from Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer.