Concerns Over Education Matters Bill

The Indiana Chamber opposes, in part, SB 108, which eliminates the requirement that the Department of Education must publish a model compensation plan. It also:

  • Eliminates a requirement that each school corporation shall submit its local compensation plan to the department
  • Eliminates a requirement that the department must publish the local compensation plans on the department’s web site
  • Removes requirements that the: (1) department shall report any noncompliance of a school that fails to submit its compensation plan; and (2) State Board of Education shall take appropriate action to ensure compliance
  • Makes changes to the time frame, from four to six years, in which the State Board may take over a failing school
  • Provides that a principal or superintendent, or the principal’s or superintendent’s designee, may recommend an individual to participate in the Indiana high school equivalency diploma program

The Indiana Chamber testified against the provision concerning failing school interventions. We feel strongly that the trigger threshold of State Board of Education intervention should be kept at the current rate of four years instead of the drafted language of six years. It is important to keep our schools strong and accountable for our students, and six years is simply waiting too long to act regarding an underperforming school; our students deserve better.

The bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and held until this week for amendment and vote.

Around the Horn on Federal Legislative Issues

As part of the Indiana Chamber’s robust federal advocacy program, Caryl Auslander will be working with the Indiana delegation (both in Washington, D.C. and here in Indiana) throughout the year. Look for additional stories and coverage of our federal efforts on your behalf in these reports and through other communications.

Below are some of the top recent Indiana news items:

  • Congressman Trey Hollingsworth spoke on the House floor in support of the REINS Act during his first week on the job; the measure to curb unnecessary government regulation passed the House on Wednesday. Hollingsworth has also been placed on the House Financial Services Committee.
  • A Hoosier connection remains on the House Ways and Means Committee with Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN 2) receiving a nod; Sen. Todd Young was most recently on this important committee.
  • Chairman alert: Rep. Susan Brooks (IN 5) has officially taken the helm of the House Ethics Committee.
  • This week, freshman Rep. Jim Banks (IN 3) presided over the House floor debate of a statement of opposition to the recent U.N. Resolution on Israel; the measure passed the House easily.
  • Newly sworn-in Sen. Young was assigned to four important Senate committees: Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
  • Retirement is on hold for former Sen. Dan Coats, who was announced as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Director of National Intelligence.
  • Indiana’s now senior Sen. Joe Donnelly was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service; Donnelly is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • Senators Donnelly and Young were successful in getting the Government Publishing Office to formally designate Indiana residents as “Hoosiers” (bye-bye “Indianans”) and celebrated with this video announcement.
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg threw his hat into the ring for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Indiana Chamber Comments on Governor-Elect Holcomb’s 2017 Legislative Agenda

Indiana Chamber executives comment on Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb’s legislative agenda announced today.

Mark Lawrance, Indiana Chamber vice president of engagement and innovation policy:

“His policy priorities match the most pressing needs for employers and residents. Whether that’s backing a long-term commitment to fund the state’s transportation infrastructure or taking steps to address our population’s drug crisis.

“We were pleased to hear that the Holcomb administration will continue the push to make the innovation sector a major part of the state’s identity. Investing in technology companies is so vital because these businesses complement our existing industry strengths in agriculture, logistics and manufacturing. In many ways, innovation has and is transforming those areas. There’s no doubt Indiana can become a highly recognized technology hub, and the state supporting the tech sector’s growth is key to making that a reality.”

Caryl Auslander, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development:

“His broad-based approach to education and workforce development is essential to ensuring students are on the right path from an early age, adults are able to find gainful employment and businesses can fill positions with local talent. We know financial considerations are always part of the equation, but the General Assembly needs to do all it can to fund many of these critical education initiatives. And that should start with an expansion of the pre-K program for disadvantaged youngsters.

“The Indiana Chamber has long supported making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position (by the governor). The governor is viewed as the ultimate leader regarding the state’s education policy. In years past, leaders in both parties have agreed on this issue – but the timing wasn’t right politically. We hope it is now.”

Get Your Tickets Now for 2017 Legislative Dinner Featuring Ann Compton

Join top policymakers and business leaders from throughout the state at the premier legislative event of the year – our 2017 Legislative Dinner on March 14.

More than 500 of Indiana’s most influential business leaders, legislators and government officials will come together at the Legislative Dinner to discuss topics vital to Indiana businesses. Register today for the leading networking event of the 2017 Indiana General Assembly session!

Keynote Speaker
From her front seat at the White House for ABC News, Ann Compton covered seven presidents as well as innumerable life-changing and globe-altering events – from the end of the Cold War to the political dramas that made the daily headlines.

Compton will give a historical perspective of today’s global events while offering a look forward to the impact of current events and her first-hand knowledge of the people and issues that are shaping the future of this country.

Program Description
Lifeline Data Centers Reception: 6 – 7 p.m.
Dinner: 7-9 pm

Investment
Gold Table: $2,250
Standard Table: $1,500
Individual Ticket: $149

Buy your tickets online.

Smaller State Revenue Collections Continue: How Will It Impact 2017 Legislative Session?

Each December the state budget makers receive a revenue forecast prepared by group of very knowledgeable and conscientious fiscal analysts, economists and academics. The group considers economic predictions, uses elaborate models and applies involved equations to generate what has proven to be remarkably accurate predictions of how much the state will collect in taxes over the next two years. Every other year, including this year, their numbers serve as the basis for building the state’s biennium budget. While lawmakers will debate how the projected revenues should be spent, Indiana is fortunate that lawmakers accept the consensus of these experts and do not debate how much money there is to spend – as is the case in many other states.

Forecasters project that Indiana will take in $31.5 billion in FY2018 and FY2019. This is around a billion dollars more than what was projected for the last biennium. However, as good as the predictions have been historically, FY2017 estimates turned out to be off the mark by $378 million. Low gas prices were a major contributor to the inaccuracy. Unexpectedly cheap gas meant less sales tax on those less expensive fill-ups.

When coupled with generally weaker sales tax collections, the FY2017 (ending in July) collections are now expected to be about 2.5% less than earlier projections. That money will have to be made up in the first year of the biennium, from the projected 2.9% year-over-year (FY2018 over FY2017) growth. Fortunately, the forecasters see a little better growth, 3.9%, in the second year of the biennium (FY2019). The bottom line is that the money available to cover growing expenses and new funding desires will be very modest, somewhere around $1 billion – that’s only about 3% more money for the entire two-year period. And essentially it all comes in the second year, so look for budget makers in the 2017 legislative session to be very frugal in FY2018 and then build in some increases in FY2019.

Economic uncertainty, sluggish sales tax collections, further diminishing gaming revenues and other factors will all put additional pressure on the budget process. As these things play out, the forecasters could shift their numbers a little more before they update their two-year projections in mid-April, just a couple of weeks before the budget has to be passed by the General Assembly.

Latest on ISTEP and ‘A-F’ School Grades

The ISTEP Alternatives Panel has made its final recommendations on how to replace ISTEP, which was legislatively determined to sunset in the fall of 2017 after scoring, technical and mismanagement issues plagued the exam the past two years.

These recommendations include: students in grades 3-8 to take one English and math exam at the end of the school year, and 10th grade students to take English, Algebra 1 and biology at the end of the school year. The tests will be taken once and not split into two testing times in the winter and spring.

One of the most important recommendations was to recognize that national testing experts advised that it takes a minimum of two years to fully implement a new testing system throughout the state. So it is very likely that we will see legislation during the upcoming 2017 legislative session to undo the sunset provision.

The recommendations received wide support from 21 of the 23 members of the panel, made up by a majority of educators. The two “no” votes were by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Ayanna Wilson Coles, a Pike Township educator appointed by Ritz. These recommendations now go to the Legislature, which can choose to use them during the 2017 legislative session. The Indiana Chamber strongly advocated last year
to have a business representative appointed to the panel, and we would like to thank our board member, Marilyn Moran-Townsend of Fort Wayne, for all of her work and dedication to the panel and helping lead the collaborative effort that resulted in the recommendations.

This week, the State Board of Education released school A-F grades which, as anticipated, were lower than in previous years. And while expected, it is important to note that it is very difficult to compare this year’s scores to the scores in 2015 for two important reasons. First, last year, the Legislature (with the Indiana Chamber’s support) decided to protect schools from the lower ISTEP scores due to the test mismanagement and scoring
issues. This “hold harmless” provision stated that 2015 grades were changed only if they improved from 2014; otherwise schools were able to hold onto the higher grade. So the 2016 scores released this week are the actual first show of true impact of the more rigorous assessment based on the newer and more-challenging college and career ready standards. Second, this year the State Board of Education determined school grades
based on a new formula that equally weighs growth and proficiency.

While there has already been significant discussion on whether to “hold-harmless” for this year’s ISTEP exam, the U.S. Department of Education has already stated that such a provision would not be allowed. The Indiana Chamber will continue to push legislators on the importance of assessments AND accountability – for teachers, schools and students in the 2017 legislative session and beyond.

On the Passing of Longtime Indiana State Senator Larry Borst

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on the death of longtime Indiana state senator Larry Borst. Brinegar worked for nine years as fiscal analyst for the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Borst:

“Larry Borst was a truly dedicated public servant. He was instrumental in critical pieces of legislation at the local level (UniGov in Marion County in the 1960s and Mayor Bill Hudnut’s transformative efforts in the decades to follow) as well as statewide (major tax reforms in 1973 and 2002, and Gov. Bob Orr’s A+ education plan in 1987 to name just a few). His efforts helped transform Indianapolis into the dynamic city it has become and Indiana into a great state for doing business and creating jobs.

“Senator Borst studied legislation intently and knew the details and intricacies of every bill that came before his committee – often more so than the authors and proponents. I learned so much from him in regard to state government and the importance of being prepared. It was a privilege and an honor to work for and with him.”

Borst, in a BizVoice® magazine interview upon being named the Indiana Chamber’s 2002 Government Leader of the Year, said:

“The more complex it is, the more interested I am. This (the 2002 tax restructuring that was ultimately passed in special session) was a complicated thing, but that’s what I love. In the end, there were going to be no miracles for today or tomorrow. We had to look long term and we did.”

Remembering Bill Hudnut; My Interview with Him on Getting the Colts

Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut was the first mayor I have a memory of. When I read of his passing over the weekend, it took me back to all the landmark accomplishments that took place during his 16 years in office.

I also thought about the lively and interesting phone interview I had with him in the summer of 2011. The Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine was doing a section on famed business deals and I got the best one: the Circle City landing the Colts.

I found Mayor Hudnut more than willing to take a stroll down memory lane and share his opinions.

An excerpt from the interview:

“We thought we’d get a franchise because the league was expanding, not the relocation of an existing one. (Owner) Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders moved (the team) to Los Angeles and, secondly, there was a strike, so they weren’t going to expand – which certainly was sort of a blow to us. But we were pregnant with the thing; we had to keep on building it as an expansion to the convention center. That’s the way it was promoted to the public – that it would justify itself whether or not it was used 12 days a year for a football game.”

Read the full Q&A (you have to love his detail and memory of the events). Also read the full BizVoice article.

Chamber Comments on Recommendations from Transportation Funding Task Force

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on the release of recommendations from the FIRSST (Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger Safer Tomorrow) task force:

“The task force has provided additional emphasis on three key priorities: today’s revenue sources are not adequate; long-term funding is required to meet both current maintenance and future new construction needs; and new funding should be based on a user-fee approach.

“We support the work of the task force and are prepared to assist legislators and the Holcomb administration in passing data-driven legislation that will help drive Indiana’s economic future. Reliable transportation infrastructure is critical for companies and the jobs they provide across the state.”

Pre-Order Indiana Chamber’s 2017 Legislative Directory App or Handbook

The Indiana Chamber’s 2017 Legislative Directory allows Hoosiers interested in legislative affairs to stay connected with their state legislators during the upcoming General Assembly session. The publication is available as an app, for Android and iPhone users, and the traditional booklet format.

The Legislative Directory includes bios, contact information, committee assignments and social media profiles for House and Senate members. Color headshots, seating charts and leadership lists are also provided.

The Legislative Directory app has several additional benefits – most notably it will be current and ready for use on the first day of the General Assembly in January; that’s weeks before the handbook is scheduled to ship. And the app will have real-time updates throughout the session.

The app is available for purchase at www.indianachamber.com/ldapp (not via app stores). Cost starts at $8.99 per download; bulk discounts are available. The handbook can be pre-ordered at www.indianachamber.com/ld; bulk discounts are also offered, with the price starting at $9.99 per copy.