Technology Policy Summit, Other Events on Tap

One sign of the continued growth of Indiana’s technology and innovation sectors is the plethora of meetings, conferences, summits and other events that fill the calendar.

Leading the way is the Indiana Chamber’s second Technology Policy Summit. After a successful year advocating on innovation and entrepreneurship issues at the Statehouse in 2017, the organization’s tech policy committee has identified priorities for the year ahead. Look for summit sessions on data center strategies; autonomous vehicles; Smart Cities, Smart State initiatives and more.

The December 1 event (8:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) will take place at the Conrad in downtown Indianapolis. We’ll share a more in-depth preview in this space in the coming weeks. Learn more and register at https://www.indianachamber.com/event/technology-policy-summit/.

Among the many other programs coming up:

  • Indy IoT 2017: The New Crossroads of IoT features a focus on making things, moving things and growing things. ClearObject is the organizer of the luncheon program on October 25 at 502 East Event Centre in Carmel.
  • The CIS-IEEE EnCon Engineering Conference highlights the cutting edge of technical innovation. The Cyberinfrastructure Building and the Innovation Center on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington will host the November 10-11 sessions.
  • Innovation, entrepreneurs and more will come together for the 2017 Indiana AgbioSciences Innovation Summit. AgriNovus Indiana presents the daylong program on November 29 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Again, these are just a few of the many programs focused on advancing technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Indiana. We encourage you and your team members to take advantage of the opportunities, get involved and benefit from the collective learning.

New Training Grants for Employers Now Available

The Indiana Chamber has been strongly encouraging our state government leaders to take bold action to address Indiana’s current and future workforce needs – a significant concern for many of our members.

We’re pleased to see Gov. Holcomb’s recent rollout of the Next Level Jobs initiative, which will help to further ensure employees have the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workforce.

What does this mean for your business?

Employer Training Grants are available! Employers in high-demand business sectors can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for each new employee that is trained, hired and retained for six months.

• Your employees can also take advantage of Workforce Ready Grants and access free education opportunities to help sharpen their skill set for the changing workforce.

Let us know if you need assistance in navigating these opportunities.

State Wants to Hear From You on How to Streamline Small Businesses Reporting

Cutting red tape for Indiana’s job creators is key to making our state a better place for small businesses to expand and hire more Hoosier workers. To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, the Indiana Chamber supported House Bill 1157, Small Business Duplicative Reporting, which was authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). The law is simple, but hopefully effective in generating ideas to make early-stage and small business interactions with state government in Indiana even more business-friendly.

As a result of the successful legislation, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has set up an online survey to gather feedback from employers and government officials on instances of duplicative reporting.

The Indiana Chamber is encouraging small business owners and local governments to take part in the survey. It only takes about five minutes to complete and asks participants to identify situations where they are required by state law, rule or guideline to submit similar information to at least two state agencies. Duplicative information can include notifications, tax reports, employment information and other statistical data.

By helping to identify these issues, the state can work to streamline reporting processes or even eliminate some – which should save business owners time and money.

What’s Up With Federal Tax Reform

Is anything really happening? Yes.
Will something eventually get passed? Probably.

A group of key individuals who dubbed themselves the “Big 6” has been meeting for a few months and more intently in recent weeks. They include two members each from the administration (Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn), Senate (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch) and House (Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady.)

Are they motivated to find common ground? Certainly. Is there a consensus? Not yet. Right now, they don’t even agree on whether, or to what extent, the legislation must be revenue neutral.

But they all seem to recognize that they need to do something – failure to coalesce is not in anyone’s interest. So what have they agreed on so far? The border-adjustment tax is out. Some method for allowing the repatriation of overseas earnings (at a one-time low-rate tax) is in. The corporate rate must drop to 25% or less (depending on how many deductions and breaks they can eliminate.) They appear to be embracing a way to allow small businesses to immediately deduct investments in new equipment and facilities, i.e. “full expensing.” On the individual income side, a collapsing of the brackets and lowering of rates (no details.)

Possible tradeoffs or “pay-fors” in tax circles: eliminating some business interest deductions, eliminating the state and local tax (SALT) deductions and capping the mortgage interest deduction. These are yet unsettled issues. But listen and watch closely to the SALT discussions going forward; there is a lot of money and a lot of political (with a small p) interest in this item. It is more a geographic than partisan issue because taking the SALT deduction away will have a significant negative impact on people (constituents of Republicans and Democrats) in states that have high state and local taxes. This item could have a big bearing on the entire effort and whether we get true reform or temporary tax cuts.

Tax cuts are the easy part for these folks. The hard part is finding ways to pay for reductions. The last true tax reform was in 1986, 31 years ago, and it required a lot of time and bipartisan buy-in. The Big 6 are all Republicans and they are anxious to get something done. They could mimic the Bush tax cuts of 2002 and 2003, passed through the reconciliation process, which means whatever they do expires after 10 years. Somewhat ironically, most of those Bush cuts were only made permanent as part of the Obama budget deal of 2012.

To recap the status of tax reform: Much remains up in the air.

Tech Talk: Breaking Down the H-1B Visa Numbers

U.S. employers planned to pay high-skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas a median salary of $80,000 a year in fiscal year 2016, up from about $69,000 a decade earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. This is the first time the U.S. government has made salary information about H-1B applicants publicly available.

The 2016 median salary reported for H-1B visa applicants was higher than the median salary paid to some U.S. workers in similar high-skill occupations. For example, U.S. workers in computer and mathematical occupations had a median salary of $75,036 in fiscal 2016, a slight increase from 2007, when the median salary was $73,979 (adjusted to 2016 dollars), according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on all U.S. workers. The majority (60%) of all H-1B applicants from fiscal 2007 to 2016 were seeking employment in computer and mathematical occupations.

Several bills have been proposed in Congress this year to change the H-1B program, and the Trump administration has said it backs a plan that would reverse decades of U.S. immigration policy by admitting more high-skilled immigrants and fewer low-skilled immigrants.

The USCIS data show that overall demand for H-1B visas has increased sharply over the past decade. The number of total H-1B visa applications filed by employers on behalf of foreign workers increased from 246,126 in fiscal 2009 to 399,349 in 2016, and is on pace to reach a new high in 2017. Overall, U.S. employers filed more than 3.4 million H-1B visa applications from fiscal 2007 through the end of June 2017 (the first nine months of fiscal 2017).

The U.S. government also released H-1B visa salaries that individual employers plan to pay foreign workers, as indicated on applications approved by USCIS (and still subject to State Department review).

The biggest names in technology planned to pay the highest average salary to H-1B visa holders in fiscal 2016. But they also expected to hire fewer workers than other companies, according to data on applications approved by USCIS. Facebook planned to pay an average salary of $140,758 on 1,107 H-1B visa applications (a total that includes both first-time and renewal applications), the highest average salary paid among the 30 companies with the most visa approvals. Apple planned to pay a $138,563 average salary on 1,992 applications, while Google paid a $131,882 average salary on 2,517 applications.

The top prospective employers of foreign workers on H-1B visas provide information technology and other business services. Cognizant Tech Solutions, an IT consulting company based in New Jersey, had 21,459 applications approved in fiscal 2016, the most of any company. The next two top H-1B employers are companies based in India with offices in the U.S.: Infosys (12,780 applications approved) and Tata Consultancy (11,295).

Management Performance Hub Picks Up Speed

The Indiana Chamber has been a key advocate for Indiana’s Management and Performance Hub (MPH) by recently supporting legislation to codify and fund it so it can achieve more.

MPH is a data hub that can link and aggregate state agency datasets with other data to help improve the performance and outcomes on many issues, including education/workforce, the opioid crisis and traffic safety. Think of it as a depot, where data can be assembled and studied to further outcomes and make better data-driven decisions.

Beyond improving state government performance and enhancing transparency, there is the ability to provide useful information to external partners including researchers, the business community and not-for-profit organizations. There will be an external-facing component of MPH to determine protocol on how this information can be utilized for maximum benefit.

The Indiana Chamber is a member of an advisory group to review guidelines and policies being established by MPH. We are also part of the Indiana Open Data Council to provide advice and guidance as MPH evolves; this includes the state and researcher and community advisors to help further MPH’s goals, scale innovation and increase utilization of the MPH.

For more information about the latest with the MPH, read its newsletter.

Tech Talk: Federal Tech Team Still in Place

The following is excerpted from NextGov:

An Obama-era technology troubleshooting team has continued under President Donald Trump, maintaining projects some experts suspected would be shuttered in the new administration.

The U.S. Digital Service, a task force of professionals recruited from the private sector, was established to tackle some of the federal government’s highest profile and highest risk technology challenges. Today, it has satellite operations in seven federal agencies, including Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

The team reports to the Office of Management and Budget and is now part of the American Technology Council, a group of business leaders that President Trump taps for advice on federal problems. The Digital Service (USDS) also works with the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and is aiming to modernize government technology.

Among the recent USDS priorities, according to its report to Congress:

  • A variety of projects for Veterans Affairs – building and deploying a system to process claims for disability compensation; piloting a tool to allow lawyers and judges to review evidence from those claims; and launching Vets.gov, an online portal consolidating thousands of federal benefit sites for veterans.
  • Collaborating with U.S. Citizenship and Innovation Services to digitize the immigration paperwork processing system.
  • Shoring up the federal purchasing process, including an education program to train contracting officers on buying digital IT services.

The USDS web site notes that in support of its goals, “We recruit top technologists for term-limited tours of duty with the federal government. We hope to encourage a tradition of public service in the technology industry that will support the ongoing improvement of government digital services.”

Bottom line: There’s no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement when it comes to government and technology. Let’s hope USDS can play a positive role in that mission.

Details Announced for Chamber’s 2017 D.C. Fly-in

Hoosier business leaders can discuss public policy with their congressional members during the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s annual D.C. Fly-in event on September 27-28.

The Washington gathering offers the opportunity for business leaders to meet with members of Indiana’s congressional delegation and let the lawmakers know how policies and bills being debated on the national stage will impact the state’s economy back home.

A highlight of the agenda: Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young will lead a policy discussion following a dinner on the event’s opening night.

Day two includes a breakfast program that will feature Marc Lotter, special assistant to the President and press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence. Lotter is a native Hoosier with decades of experience in Indiana politics and was also Pence’s press secretary through the 2016 campaign and transition.

Group visits to congressional offices will take place after the morning program.

Zimmer Biomet is the dinner sponsor. Allegion is the cocktail reception sponsor. Build Indiana Council is the Legislative Briefing Sponsor.

“Zimmer Biomet is proud to be a long-time sponsor of the Indiana Chamber’s D.C. Fly-in. This is a unique opportunity to interact with members and staff of the Indiana Congressional delegation. There is no better way to discuss a wide range of policy issues affecting the Hoosier business community and to see firsthand what is happening on Capitol Hill,” says Chris Cerone, vice president of global government affairs for Zimmer Biomet of Warsaw.

Register for the D.C. Fly-in online or by calling customer service at (800) 824-6885. Cost is $199 per person, with group discounts available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Indiana Chamber Fly-in guests at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

Event sponsors are AT&T, The Boeing Company, Duke Energy, The Kroger Co., Old National Bank and Wabash Valley Power.

Donnelly Urges Market Stability on Health Care; Association Plans in the Offing?

Senator Joe Donnelly is urging the Trump administration to make a public commitment to continue cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which lower consumers’ deductibles and co-pays.

Early in the week, Donnelly continued his push for stability in the insurance markets in a letter to Hoosier Seema Verma – the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – who he partnered with to help establish Indiana’s bipartisan Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) 2.0 program through the Affordable Care Act. Donnelly’s letter comes as President Trump has declined to commit to continue making CSR payments. Donnelly says if these aren’t maintained, it could cause people to pay at least 15-20% more for health care.

In the letter to Verma, Donnelly wrote: “…It is our job to protect American families from unnecessary increases in the cost of health care, particularly those within our control. That is why I am very concerned by recent comments and actions made by the administration demonstrating a willingness and desire to undermine the health care system, even at the expense of the health and economic security of millions of Americans. These efforts to create uncertainty are harming working people and are already having a detrimental effect in Indiana.

“As we work to improve our health care system, we must first do no harm … The administration has the ability to help provide market stability today, and I respectfully request that the administration make a strong public commitment to continuing the CSR payments so that Congress can work together in a bipartisan fashion in an effort to reduce costs, expand access and strengthen the American health care system.”

Additionally, Donnelly said he’s recently heard from several insurance companies which provide coverage to Hoosiers – including two that have recently left the market – that cited lack of certainty, particularly as it relates to the CSR payments, as a key reason for increasing prices or leaving the market.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that CSR payments were, at this point, bailing out a failed law. She also said no final decision had been made by the President on continuing them.

Read Donnelly’s full letter to Verma.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is making a case to President Trump to use his executive authority to permit associations and organizations to offer group health insurance plans. Paul says this could impact tens of millions currently in the individual marketplace. The White House has yet to comment on the possibility. This action would be very helpful to Indiana Chamber members and we have previously discussed this positive policy proposal with members of the Indiana delegation.

Thoughts on Sen. Luke Kenley’s Pending Retirement

Earlier this summer, Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) announced his plans to retire from the Indiana Senate on September 30 after a quarter century representing constituents in Hamilton County.

Kenley is the longtime chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for that chamber’s budget-writing proposal.

Governor Eric Holcomb said of the news: “Few understand the intricacies of Indiana’s finances like Luke Kenley. He has been an essential state-budget architect for years and years, and he is widely respected for both his expertise and his no-nonsense approach to lawmaking. Even though he is moving on to the next chapter in his life, many will continue to seek his counsel – including me. So, even though he won’t be in the Senate Chamber come January, and he’ll have a little more time to spend at his ranch in Texas, he will continue to contribute to our state’s success in countless ways.”

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, himself a Noblesville resident and constituent of Kenley’s, offered these remarks:

“We were sorry to learn that Sen. Kenley has chosen not to serve his full term; it is undoubtedly a loss for Senate Republicans and the collective body. Senator Kenley brought his vast experience as a lawyer, judge and small business owner to his service and has been an outstanding and model public servant.

“He has been a strong conservative force on fiscal policy matters and that has served our state very well. Senator Kenley has also proven to be an attentive legislator and during his tenure was involved in virtually every important piece of policy and legislation to move Indiana forward and enhance our prosperity.

“It’s been my pleasure and honor to work with him over these many years. I’m proud to call Luke Kenley my friend and wish him the best in his retirement.”

On a related note, Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) was appointed in mid-July to take over chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee.