VIDEO: Mitch Daniels Discusses Cutting Government with Reason Magazine

Matt Welch of Reason magazine, a libertarian publication, sat down with former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels to discuss his thoughts on making government more efficient, as well as social issues, the debt and being president of Purdue University.

A Look Back at the Legislative Session: Some Major Accomplishments and a Few Missed Opportunities

statehouse-picMeaningful long-sought accomplishments mixed with a few missed opportunities and one highly unfortunate detour quickly tell the tale of the 2015 legislative session.

The Key Victories
The state’s common construction wage statute has unnecessarily cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on public construction projects over many decades. With the repeal finally in place, there will be open and fair bidding among all contractors for these projects.

Also gone: The hassle of filing personal property tax returns – or paying to have them filed – for what amounted to a very small tax liability for many small businesses. This will positively impact over half of all businesses in the state – some 150,000 in total. The throwback rule – really an unfair and inappropriate tax – is eliminated, too. It allowed for Indiana to tax whatever portion of your business income that wasn’t already taxed in Indiana or elsewhere.

Other Good Outcomes
We have a balanced two-year budget that puts as much emphasis as the revenue forecast would allow in prioritizing K-12 education, higher education and expanding funding for career and technical education – all Indiana Chamber priorities.

Another focal point of ours is water resources. The General Assembly took heed of our study last summer and passed two important next-step pieces of legislation that center on getting better data on what water resources exist throughout the state.

The Governor’s Regional Cities initiative recognizes and puts an appropriate focus on the important concept of quality of place. It acknowledges that population within our state and elsewhere is shifting from rural and less populated areas to urban and suburban areas. Similarly, we are in an era where young adults are increasingly choosing the place where they want to live and then looking for employment instead of letting the job dictate their location.

We were also satisfied that a reasonable conclusion was reached regarding the property assessments of “big box” retail stores. As it was initially introduced, it would have been devastating for many businesses by putting far too much specificity into law.

Missed Opportunities and One Detour
Conversely, there are a few decisions that stand out as particularly unfortunate that more or anything wasn’t done.

A work share program that would benefit employers and their workers as well as repealing the smoker’s bill of rights for new hires are still facing resistance from key individuals, which is preventing the issues from even getting a committee hearing. Likewise, regulating the practice called lawsuit lending, which translates to prolonged litigation and more costs for employers, continues to be stymied by two legislators.

An issue we hoped was going to be properly addressed was the dysfunction between the state superintendent and the State Board of Education. The best solution and one we have advocated for the last 30 years would be to let the Governor appoint the state superintendent like he does all other agency heads. But we ended up with something not even a middle ground. Instead, Senate Bill 1 is a rather convoluted piece of legislation that does nothing in the immediate term to remedy the situation in the least.

And then there was the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the historical fallout and the “fix”. We were pleased by the legislative response to specify that in no way could that statute be used to discriminate against individuals or different groups of Hoosiers. We anticipate there will be efforts by legislators to further strengthen that stance next year.

A Badge of Honor for Bilingual Grads

????????????????They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That notion also holds true for State Seals of Biliteracy, which recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English.

California led the way nationwide in adopting the seal (in 2011). Indiana became the ninth state to do so during the current legislative session.

This excerpt from an NPR story has more:

Beyond shedding a more positive light on bilingualism, proponents say the seal allows employers to distinguish between people who can get by in another language from those who are truly fluent.

Each state determines who gets a seal, but several national language organizations have created guidelines. Recommendations include: passing the AP exam, the International Baccalaureate exam or the Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency.

Today, 74% of students who earn these seals are bilingual in Spanish. More than 165 school districts are currently granting the award.

One big question about the value of the seals is whether employers care about them. UCLA professor Patricia Gándara explored that question in a 2014 study. She surveyed 289 California employers, and found that they overwhelmingly prefer hiring a multilingual person. And, they said, they would favor someone with a certification that proves it.

Kruse, the Indiana bill’s author, says the seal goes beyond the obvious choice of speaking Spanish and English.

“A lot of businesses want to know, ‘Do you know Chinese? And how do I know you know?’ And you can have your certificate as verification.”

Cheer Earth Day, Not EPA’s Latest Moves

87741351Something to celebrate for Earth Day: Indiana’s air quality has not been as good as it is today in over 60 years! I remember the first Earth Day 45 years ago and for a decade served on the Indiana Earth Day board. I’ve witnessed step by step Indiana’s group effort to make the air cleaner and cleaner.

Today, more than 90% of Hoosiers live in areas that meet ALL air quality standards. In 2005, that number was only 61%. To monitor all the air quality and progress, Indiana operates and maintains more air quality monitoring sites than any other state in the Midwest on a per-person basis. We’re on top of it.

Indiana does have a few remaining air issues in pockets of the state, but those are being addressed. Whether that’s the lead level in Muncie, the ozone standard in LaPorte County or the one-hour sulfur dioxide standard in parts of five counties – all are making progress and should be remedied in a reasonable timeframe.

Still business and industry in Indiana and across the nation continue to be whipped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with regulations that are grossly unfair and frequently tightened on a whim. All the vast improvements go unnoticed and the goalposts keep moving further and further away. Ironically, as our ozone levels have declined, the incidence of childhood asthma has actually increased.

The impact of EPA’s pending controls is real and will cost every business and person that uses electricity. Yet there is no real environmental benefit that will be realized. Industry in the U.S. and Indiana has spent billions of dollars installing expensive pollution control equipment. The data clearly shows that our emissions have substantially decreased. In other words, we’ve pretty much squeezed everything out of the ozone orange.

Over the many years, Earth Day has helped bring attention to industry practices that needed scrutiny. That was a very good thing. But the EPA is taking its efforts too far. It’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and exhale. And you know what? We can do that outside today because the air is so much cleaner.

Indiana’s Economic Outlook Places High on “Rich States, Poor States” Ranking

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) just released its 2015 “Rich States, Poor States Rankings,” which positions Indiana as having the third best economic outlook in the nation.

You can view the full report online. The economic outlook criteria is explained: 

The Economic Outlook Ranking is a forecast based on a state’s current standing in 15 state policy variables. Each of these factors is influenced directly by state lawmakers through the legislative process. Generally speaking, states that spend less—especially on income transfer programs, and states that tax less—particularly on productive activities such as working or investing—experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.

 

alec

Chamber Supports Amendment to RFRA Law

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts to the proposed clarification to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA):

“Our state has suffered tremendously the past week. It was absolutely essential to clarify and affirm that Indiana’s RFRA law does not permit discrimination against any person or group of people. The legislative amendment spells out that Indiana will not permit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s what businesses and individuals from around the state, country and world needed to hear.

“We believe this effort begins to help re-establish Indiana’s identity as a welcoming place and will go a long way toward reversing the tide of negative sentiments that has threatened our state’s economy.

“We encourage the General Assembly to pass this legislation in a bipartisan fashion today to show the nation that Indiana is united in sending the message that our state is a hospitable one which does not discriminate.”​

Chamber Encourages Swift, Meaningful Action on RFRA Law

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar encourages state legislators to act swiftly and thoughtfully regarding national reaction to the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA):

“Since late last week, we have urged state leaders that additional action is required. We communicated that a legislative fix must be significant and make it crystal clear that the law does not in any way open the door for discrimination of any kind toward any individual or group of individuals.

“Unfortunately, Indiana has taken a tremendous hit to our national identity as a welcoming and hospitable state. The business community is concerned about losing contracts and customers for a law that it did not support and did not want to see happen. Hoosier businesses want nothing more than to continue to serve their customers in the state, nationwide and beyond.”

Background: The Indiana Chamber testified in opposition to the RFRA law and believes that it’s unwarranted.

Brinegar: RFRA Law is Unnecessary, but Indiana Remains Open for Business

16891298Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on SB 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration bill, becoming law today and the reaction to that:

“In our eyes, the law is entirely unnecessary. The reactions to it are not unexpected or unpredicted; passing the law was always going to bring the state unwanted attention.

“Yet we are optimistic that the public overall will continue to look to Indiana as a place to come to do business, attend a convention or enjoy a sporting event. Indiana has shown time and time again – whether it’s hosting the Super Bowl or working with companies to bring new jobs to the state – that it’s full of individuals and businesses who are truly welcoming and hospitable.

“Businesses are open for business and want to continue to serve customers in Indiana and throughout the country. That’s the message we are hearing from our members and want to communicate.”

Bad ‘Sunday Sales’ Bill: Hoosier Businesses and Consumers Line Up in Opposition

BOrganizations representing Hoosier consumers and businesses today announced strong opposition to House Bill 1624 (Sale of Alcoholic Beverages) citing concerns that the legislation as amended is anti-consumer and anti-business.

“This issue has always been about bringing greater convenience and choice to consumers,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council. “Hoosiers believe that a product sold responsibly six days a week should be able to be sold on the seventh day. Instead of focusing on that, this amendment has turned this legislation into a debate about increasing restrictions on alcohol for consumers.”

The organizations stated that House Bill 1624 would negatively impact consumer choice and convenience regarding the ability to purchase alcohol at drug, grocery and convenience stores. Current language in the bill would place a mandatory ban on self-service shopping for distilled spirits at grocery and drug stores by requiring those stores to build a separate area to keep distilled spirits away from customers behind a counter. The Indiana Retail Council estimates that costs incurred by drug and grocery stores to retrofit each store to accommodate these new restrictions would exceed $100 million.

“The House took a bill intended to allow drug, convenience and grocery stores to sell alcohol on Sunday, the second-busiest shopping day of the week and modified it significantly – to shield package liquor stores from competition,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “Hoosiers wanted more convenience but instead, the Indiana House of Representatives is on the verge of making their shopping less convenient every day of the week.”

The original version of HB 1624 allowed for carryout sales of alcohol at retail stores on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and repealed an existing restriction which limits liquor stores ability to sell commodities. The repeal of the commodity restriction would enable liquor stores to sell nearly any product that a grocery store is able to sell, therefore better leveling the field of competition among retailers.

The current version of that bill places restrictions on the ability of consumers to purchase alcohol at drug and grocery stores by requiring that all distilled spirits be placed in a segregated area within the store in order to regulate the purchase. The amendment contains additional restrictions including limits on where beer and wine can be displayed in drug, grocery and convenience stores and new barriers on the “checkout process” at drug, grocery and convenience stores.

House Bill 1624 places no additional restrictions on package liquor stores.

“Everybody loses but liquor stores. Customers should decide who wins and loses in the marketplace – not the House of Representatives,” said Brinegar. “It’s time to go back to the drawing board for a new bill that would be truly pro-consumer and pro-business and not simply cater to the package stores interests once again.”

An amendment offered by State Rep. Jud McMillin would have removed the requirement on grocery and drug stores to retrofit their stores and place spirits away from customer behind a counter was defeated last week 47-45.

In the original and amended versions of the bill, liquor store owners continue to retain the monopoly on selling cold beer. The current version of HB 1624 will extend the liquor store monopoly to include self-service of liquor (the ability for a customer walk down an aisle to select products for purchase on their own before making a purchase at the register).

Indiana is the only state that allows alcohol sales on Sunday by the drink at bars, restaurants, sporting events and concerts yet prohibits the safer option of carryout sales for consumption at home. Indiana’s neighboring states all permit Sunday sales (IL, KY, MI, and OH).

Under current law, retailers are currently permitted to sell carryout alcohol from 7 a.m.-3 a.m. the following day (prevailing local time) Monday-Saturday. The bill does not change current laws allowing microbreweries and farm wineries to sell carryout alcohol on Sunday.

Common Construction Wage Repeal Now in the Mix at the Statehouse

statehouse picIt was a welcome surprise last week when the Indiana Chamber learned that the Common Construction Wage Bill (HB 1019) was going to receive a committee hearing. The Chamber testified it was in strong favor of repealing the CCW statute, noting this has been the organization’s position for many decades.

The Chamber told the committee that CCW prevents open and fair bidding competition for public construction projects. It establishes a government-sanctioned advantage for one set of contractors and workers over all others. It requires taxpayers to pay significantly above market wages, and therefore excessive taxes, on public construction projects. And it requires the setting of a government-mandated price to be paid for construction labor that is excessive and completely unnecessary; we don’t set minimum prices to be paid on other forms of labor, construction materials or equipment.

At the core of the issue for the Chamber: CCW costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in excess and unnecessary tax burdens. Chamber members – over 80% of which are small businesses – and the rest of the business community pay over half of the excess taxes caused by CCW. The remainder is paid by farmers and residential property owners, including elderly homeowners on fixed incomes.

In testimony, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar relayed the unfortunate situation that occurred nearly a decade ago when three massive public construction projects were going on in Indianapolis at the same time: Lucas Oil Stadium, the new Indianapolis Airport and the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.

The wage committees on those projects chose union scale. And they further chose union-only project labor agreements which effectively excluded the non-union contractors from participating. At the height of the construction of those projects, there was not enough union labor to work on all three simultaneously. And rather than go to skilled, trained Hoosiers who didn’t happen to hold a union card to fill those needs, they went to union halls in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. That meant literally thousands of out-of-state workers – approximately 4,000 – came to work on our projects funded by our tax dollars instead of using qualified Indiana workers. The wages paid to those individuals went back to Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky to be used in their economies, not in ours. The Chamber views this as unfair and inappropriate.

Brinegar also told the group he served on approximately 40 wage-setting committees during his 12 years on the Noblesville School Board. In a property tax-capped environment, cash-strapped local units of government, like schools, cannot afford to pay inflated costs for their construction projects.

The Chamber closed its argument by calling CCW an unnecessary and wasteful interference by government into the free enterprise system and a relic of the 1930s – a costly one that is far past time to be repealed.

Many others testified in favor of the repeal. The Anderson Economic Group said it had conducted a study in Illinois and Michigan on how much CCW added to overall costs. The Fort Wayne City Council president testified to the many projects that will be coming to Fort Wayne that could save millions of dollars if CCW is repealed. He further testified that the CCW committee process is predetermined. The former mayor of Terre Haute added that cities have been beaten up over the property tax caps; repeal of CCW would alleviate some of that problem. The Associated Builders and Contractors stated that government should not be in the business of mandating wages.

House Bill 1019 is expected to receive a final floor debate on Monday. Organized labor is mounting stiff opposition to the measure in an effort, much like in the fight over right-to-work, to protect a special, government-created privilege at the expense of taxpayers and the free market. The Chamber will be diligently working with like-minded organizations to secure passage of HB 1019.

Call to Action: Please send a brief message to your state representative in support of HB 1019 and repealing the common construction wage law. It’s quick and easy via our grassroots program!