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.

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.

The Week in Federal Affairs

  • 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 statement at 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.

Bill to Change Net Metering for Those Investing in Wind and Solar Energy

The Senate Utilities Committee heard a full day of testimony on SB 309 on February 9 from both sides. No vote was taken and the bill will be heard again on February 16.

Most of the committee testimony was focused on net metering. Senator Hershman offered an amendment on the floor and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) indicated he will be offering additional amendments to be considered at the next hearing. The Indiana Chamber gave testimony in support of the bill, including stating: the expectations for energy needs are diverse; our concerns about net metering if we do not make a step forward; the potential for rising costs through continued litigation; and the concern of numerous parties intervening in cases which will further slow down the process and increase costs to both utilities and ratepayers.

Overall, we testified the current bill is a step in the right direction and can be used as a building block going forward.

This bill 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 of the concerns our members expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs. It has elements of competitive procurement, net metering, distributive generation and transparency of utility rates. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s historical competitive edge, given the increase in energy costs over the past decade. With that said, we will need to consider all of the amendments before ultimately taking a final position on the bill.

Seeding Success: Sonny Beck Named 2016 Business Leader of the Year

Stroll through the expansive Beck’s Hybrids operation in northern Hamilton County and one will find no shortage of inspirational messages. Speak to CEO Sonny Beck for any
period of time and many of those same sayings seamlessly flow into the conversation.

In other words, the “words” are much more than terms or expressions that are placed on paper and forgotten. They are the driving force behind the largest family-owned seed company in the country – one that has experienced tremendous growth over the past quarter century.

Sonny Beck was born three years after his father and grandfather founded the company in 1937. That was a result of Purdue University offering three acres worth of this “great new invention,” hybrid seed, to anyone who wanted it. Sonny earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue, returned to the family operation a short time later and has led – or maybe more appropriately been behind the wheel of – one of Indiana and the nation’s leading business success stories…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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Unfunded Burden of EPA Mandates on States Grows

Protecting the environment is a noble goal. However, when the EPA issues mandates that are not reasonable, states suffer. A new U.S. Chamber report has more:

How can states administer 96.5% of all federal delegated environmental programs when federal grants to the states fund no more than 28% of the amount needed to run the programs? The study, the eighth in a series on the federal regulatory process, concludes that instead of being the system of cooperative federalism that Congress intended, the current relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states has become one-sided, with the federal government imposing its will.

The U.S. Chamber recommends Congress take specific steps to alleviate and prevent EPA from continuing to commandeer the states. These recommendations include redefining the term “mandate” to better track the impact on the states, passing the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015, enacting the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, and several other actions outlined in the study.

All About the Water

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The governors of the Great Lakes states recently approved a request by a Wisconsin city to draw water from Lake Michigan after its existing water supply dried up. But because the city isn’t in the watershed of the Great Lakes, the two Canadian provinces that share Great Lakes water rights say the request should be denied.

Waukesha, Wisconsin will be allowed to tap Lake Michigan for up to 8.2 million gallons per day once it completes a $207 million pipeline project that would draw in lake water and return fully-treated wastewater.

Delegates for the governors of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York gave their unanimous consent to the first formal request to divert water outside the Great Lakes basin during a meeting of the compact council.

The 2008 compact prohibits water from being sent outside the basin watershed. Communities like Waukesha, located over the line but within a straddling county, can apply under a limited exception.

The eight governors approved the request over the objection of widespread opposition. Mayors, legislators, policy-makers and citizens around the Great Lakes have worried about the precedent Waukesha’s application represented.

Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to provide safe drinking water by mid-2018. The city draws most of its water from a deep aquifer that is contaminated with unsafe levels of radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen. The city has a population of about 70,000 people.

Kiplinger warns that more water conflicts will flare up, citing California, India, South Africa and the Middle East among the likely areas of dispute.

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

Business direction background with two people

Summer will be in full swing with a multitude of training opportunities to enhance employees’ expertise and protect your bottom line this August.

First up is the 2016 Indiana Tax Conference, one of the state’s largest, on August 11. Learn the latest in tax case law and legislation as highly-experienced speakers identify ways to help you stay in compliance and reduce tax liability.

Francina Dlouhy, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, will share her perspective on a crucial issue during her keynote luncheon presentation – It Was a Bad Idea Then and It Still Is Now! What Combined Filing Would Mean for Indiana. Among other themes are multistate tax hot topics for 2016, Affordable Care Act reporting compliance and an Indiana Department of Revenue update.

BKD, LLP is the presenting sponsor. Gold sponsors are MCM CPAs & Advisors and McGuire Sponsel. The silver sponsor is DMA – DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.

Fuel business savings the following week by attending the 14th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management on August 17-18. Learn how to cut costs and maximize resources as energy experts from throughout the state share practical – and effective – compliance strategies.

Don’t miss engaging keynote presentations:

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (invited) – opening general session: August 17
  • Canadian Consul General Doug George – Energy Security and Supplies: the Canada-U.S. Relationship – general session: August 18
  • Kyle Rogers, The American Gas Association, and The Edison Electric Institute representative (invited) – Outlook on Natural Gas and Electric – closing luncheon: August 18

Additional highlights include panel discussions, customized training (choose from a variety of options) and an expo showcasing the products and services offered by businesses in your field. Explore topics such as distributed generation; reducing utility bills; using the government and tax code for energy efficiency; and energy bankruptcies.

The 14th Annual Conference on Energy Management will take place at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis-Downtown Union Station. Register online or call (800) 824-6885.

Gold sponsors: EDF Energy Services; Ice Miller LLP; MacAllister Power Systems; and Vectren. Silver sponsors: Cummins, Geronimo Energy, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, NIPSCO and Telamon Corporation.

Rounding out August offerings are:

Sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

Ellis, Lawrance Bring Chamber Advocacy Team to Full Strength

lawrence ellisThe many programs and benefits of Indiana Chamber membership include the state’s deepest and most effective group of issue experts. That team welcomes two talented additions.

Mark Lawrance returns to the Chamber in the new position of vice president of engagement and innovation policy. That includes advocacy work in the areas of technology, economic development and infrastructure.

Greg Ellis begins his work May 31 as vice president of energy and environmental policy. His variety of public and private sector experiences, including serving as an administrative law judge for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission since 2010, will prove valuable in his work on behalf of Chamber members.

Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar leads an experienced lobbying team that also includes: Caryl Auslander, education, workforce development and federal relations; Mike Ripley, health care policy and employment law; and Bill Waltz, taxation, public finance and local government reform.

“The hard work that takes place in the summer and fall – Chamber policy meetings, interim legislative panels, individual meetings with lawmakers and more – leads to effective General Assembly sessions,” Brinegar says. “Chamber members will be well represented by these issue experts and the support team we have around them.”