Digital: A Disruption to Embrace

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The Kauffman Foundation’s Jonathan Ortmans offers thoughtful perspective on entrepreneurship and technology topics. Below is a summary of his latest entry.

One of the great drivers of innovation today is the promise of digital disruption of complex and regulated industries. Digital disruption is not only behind the public sector’s move toward open government and open data, but is also the rise of civic-centered startups that are changing the rules of the game for traditional industries. It is time for a new wave of policymaking that anticipates a whole new set of issues for policymakers.

A new sense of urgency is called for as policymaking for the digital economy accelerates in response to what entrepreneur Steve Case calls “The Third Wave” of the Internet revolution.

As 1776 co-founder Donna Harris explains, “as digitization moves from basic applications like social media and e-commerce to more complex industries like education and healthcare, entrepreneurs tackle harder and harder problems. And that means government is more involved and that legacy institutions will inevitably play key roles … Frameworks established decades ago no longer apply, and leaders at all levels need to be proactive in understanding and regulating for a digital economy.”

Creating new regulatory frameworks for the digital workforce is a challenge. As I discussed recently, a Princeton/NBER survey found that the share of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements (e.g. independent contractors and freelancers) was 15.8 percent in 2015, up from 10.1 percent in 2005. Beyond the safety net challenges posed by the so-called “gig economy,” the impact of the broader digital economy reminds policymakers that they need to write new rules for an era where digital disruptions are giving individuals greater power and freedom to write their own destinies. The possibilities of the digital age include new remote, flexible and on-demand work opportunities – and a clear shift of power from institutions to individuals as transparency increases.

Yet most cities, let alone the federal government, are not ready to leverage digital disruption. Innovation That Matters, a pioneer report in understanding digital disruption in the United States, ranks 25 American cities’ readiness to capitalize on the inevitable shift to a digital economy, and provides metrics that city leaders can use to evaluate their progress in developing their digital economies.

The greatest policy risk of all in digital disruption is ultimately policymakers reacting too slowly or providing what Harris calls a mediocre legacy of a “patchwork of laws and tensions.” There are some exceptions to follow from smaller nations that are leveraging the fact that small is beautiful and also more doable. Nations like Estonia for example, have their top authorities leading their countries digital economies, through initiatives in digital infrastructure and even an e-residency program for global entrepreneurs.

Getting the public sector up to speed with the digital revolution is not an easy process. Internal capacity and cybersecurity are two large roadblocks. And it will take many intra-preneurs in government to make the necessary changes, as well as increased rapprochement to civic entrepreneurs who can help one of society’s most traditional sectors – government – react responsibly and responsively to digital disruption. Let the work begin.

Read the full post online.

JOIN US: Learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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Connect, Make an Impact at D.C. Fly-In

congressIndiana Chamber members go to Washington each September to discuss key policy issues with the Indiana congressional delegation. In 2016, a little politics might be worked into those conversations. Either way, it’s your opportunity to make an impact.

The event is the annual D.C. Fly-In on September 14-15. It features a roundtable discussion with Indiana’s congressional delegation on the opening night. Day two includes a panel of national and state issue experts, followed by group visits to congressional offices.

Expect to learn more and advocate on key issues such as transportation, trade, immigration and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“It’s a very interesting time in Washington,” remarks Caryl Auslander, Chamber vice president of federal affairs. She points to a few (of many) reasons why: “Indiana will have a new member of Congress with Sen. Coats retiring. And with the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice nominee on the line, the potential for a change in power in the Senate and the Presidential race is extremely important.”

Register today for the D.C. Fly-In online or by calling customer service at (800) 824-6885. Cost is $149 per person, with group discounts available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Chamber Fly-in guests at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

Zimmer Biomet is the dinner sponsor. The breakfast program sponsor is Allegion PLC. The hospitality sponsor is Build Indiana Council.

Event sponsors: The Boeing Company, Duke Energy, Hartman Global IP Law, The Kroger Co., Old National Bank and Wabash Valley Power.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

“The entire Indiana congressional delegation is typically involved in some way in this event,” Auslander comments. “To bring everyone together in the same room is pretty amazing and an incredible benefit for our members.”

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

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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.

Let’s Caucus: Candy, Cut Flowers and Concrete

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What do these three items have in common? No, it’s not a Valentine’s Day gone bad for a mobster (though possible). All three subjects actually have congressional caucuses in their honor, during which legislators explore ways to promote their industries on Capitol Hill.

The newest entrant is the Congressional Candy Caucus – announced June 16 – which highlights “the economic impact, responsibility commitments and community involvement” of the candy manufacturing industry. One of its founders, Rep. Jackie Walorski (Indiana’s 2nd District) says: “Candy manufacturers like the South Bend Chocolate Company in my district have a long and lasting tradition of not only making Americans’ favorite treats but creating good jobs and growing our economy.”

No doubt that’s true, but I’m guessing there will also be some chocolate indulgence when the caucus members meet.

There are literally HUNDREDS of these congressional groups. Some lofty; others more frivolous – at least on the surface.

The July-August issue of BizVoice magazine examines caucuses that may leave you scratching your head or simply wanting to know more about what they really promote.

Seeking Government Answers

If you are not receiving timely responses from written queries to the federal government, join the crowd. Washington is not known for being nimble, but agencies respond differently according to the Center for Effective Government. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Especially slow: Department of Veterans Affairs, State Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • High marks: Agriculture Department and Social Security Administration
    Congress will try to move the biggest offenders, but Kiplinger reminds that “the bureaucracy, after all, is still the bureaucracy. Making agencies more responsive is sure to take time.”

Future Road Funding: Smooth or Bumpy?

36601064This summer, as we wander Indiana for work or pleasure, motorists experience both how good and bad Indiana’s road infrastructure is. The real issue is Indiana’s road funding mechanisms are in need of modernization to keep up with today’s demands.

To address the issue short and long term, several months ago the Legislature passed and the Governor signed two important bills on road funding, HB 1001 and SB 67. Combined, the bills did the following:

  • Provided a total of $689 million of additional funding over the next four years to Indiana’s local governments for their road funding needs.
  • Provided an additional $228 for state road funding in 2017. (Funding for this and the above came from a combination of using some of Indiana’s budget surplus, providing revenue from local option income tax collections and directing some of the sales taxes collected on fuel to road funding.)
  • Provided Indiana counties the option to double their wheel tax and for municipalities with a population over 10,000 to establish a wheel tax. If eligible local governments choose to do this, they can raise up to an additional $376 million a year.
  • Established the FIRSST (Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger and Safer Tomorrow) Task Force to develop a long-term plan for state and local roads and bridges, and develop funding mechanisms for the various components of the plan.

The FIRSST Task Force has a lot of work to do before the end of this year. The goal is to present a plan that will set the stage for what might take place during the 2017 legislative session. Its 16 members will verify the costs of road maintenance needs, look at current revenue streams and determine what current and new ideas are viable for the future. This is important given that the primary funding mechanism, the 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax, is not keeping up with the cost to maintain state and local roads, let alone build new ones.

In a recent Chamber infrastructure policy committee meeting, Senators Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) and Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) indicated their commitment to achieving a solid and sustainable long-term solution during the 2017 session. Given the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 goal area of “Superior Infrastructure”, we will play an active role in this discussion.

Tax Court Under Scrutiny

10044552In April 2015, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered the creation of the Ad Hoc Tax Court Advisory Task Force to review the Indiana Tax Court’s resources, caseload, performance and operations. In May of 2015, the General Assembly passed legislation calling for the Indiana Judicial Center to conduct a like review and submit a report to the Legislative Council by December 1, 2016. The Supreme Court subsequently amended its order to have the task force submit its report to the Judicial Center and the Legislative Council by May 1, 2016.

In April 2016, the task force issued its findings and recommendations along with a report compiled by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), which was contracted to assist the task force. These materials are now getting some attention and are definitely worthy of examination. The nine-member task force was chaired by Court of Appeals Judge James S. Kirsch. The members include a variety of experienced tax practitioners as well as the general counsel for the Department of Revenue and chief deputy for the Office of Attorney General. Tax Court Judge Martha B. Wentworth also participated as an “ex officio” liaison and attended meetings by invitation from the chair.

The NCSC researched the Court’s caseload, staffing and timeliness. It also interviewed stakeholders and conducted a survey seeking opinions on these subjects and on the perceived timeliness, fairness and demeanor of the Court. And it looked into case management, internal procedures and administrative practices. The statistical results, observations and recommendations are all set out in the report. The survey results evidence a contrast in opinions between the government responses and taxpayer responses regarding the quality of service provided by the Tax Court.

In short, it seems that the government representatives are significantly less satisfied with the Court. Not unrelated to their disgruntlement, it was noted in the preface to the findings that the Department of Revenue and attorney general members of the task force sought recommendations to review the very structure of the Court, recommending review of the de novo hearing process and the lack of automatic appeal rights. However, the majority of the group and the chair found these matters “outside the purview of the task force’s directive.”

Several things were apparently deliberated and no specific findings or recommendations were made. Ultimately, the task force’s primary finding was that after 30 years, the existence of the Tax Court still serves its initial purposes of providing tax expertise, tax law consistency and renders fair and thoughtful opinions.

The findings do focus on the need for continued progress in timely addressing pending cases and the utilization of resources and staff. The report recommends an ongoing review and suggests the Tax Court explore several reforms to its case management practices, including ruling on some matters without oral arguments, limiting discovery, requiring the Department of Revenue to certify a complete audit file (to avoid it having to be reconstructed) and referring some cases to mediation.

The findings and recommendations, NCSC report and other materials are available online.

Immigration Committee Hears from Business

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The Indiana Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues conducted its third meeting recently; this time it was the business community which brought its case before Senate legislators. The Indiana Chamber made a very effective plea for Congress and the federal government to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.

At the Chamber’s request, subject experts Jon Baselice, Chris Schrader and Jenifer Brown testified – along with Chamber staff – on the impacts of immigration on companies.

Baselici is the director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, served on the staff of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and assisted in drafting S.744, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate. He testified that our immigration system is working abysmally. The U.S. Chamber sees four areas for reform on immigration:

  1. Controlling our borders and preventing individuals from overstaying their visas
  2. Modernization of our legal immigration system, placing more value on a potential immigrant’s skills and talents, along with temporary worker programs
  3. An enhanced employment verification system as long as there is a preemption of state and local E-verify laws, adequate safe harbors for employers who use the system and the creation of an agricultural guest worker program that provides agribusinesses meaningful access to lawful workers in times of need
  4. What to do with the current undocumented population of 11.3 million.

Chris Schrader, president of the Society for Human Resource Management, presented a perspective on E-verify. He discussed its limitations, that there was no safe harbor for employers and that it is unable to authenticate identity. Jenifer Brown of Ice Miller testified on the actions available to Indiana under federal law (including the Immigration Reform and Control Act); the pros and cons of the federal E-verify system – explaining the complexities of the mandatory versus the non-mandatory system; the effect of unauthorized aliens upon the economic well-being of Indiana and the effect of their removal and changes in federal law or policy regarding legal immigration that could improve the Indiana economy. The Chamber also provided a presentation on the difficulties and the process of the I-9 employment eligibility verification form.

Among others testifying before the committee: the Indy Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana State Building & Construction Trades Council, Indiana Builders Association and Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association. Three more meetings are expected before a report is prepared for the Indiana Senate.

Early Childhood Education Gets a Push in the Right Direction

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Great news: It seems like 2017 will be the year that everyone finally jumps on the train to expand the pre-K pilot program in Indiana. In just the past two weeks, we have had two major announcements from Governor Mike Pence and Superintendent Glenda Ritz on different proposals to expand the pre-K pilot program.

As background, in 2014 Pence testified in front of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee to pursue Indiana’s first pre-kindergarten program for disadvantaged four-year-olds. That session generated legislation to create a five-county pilot program (selected counties were Lake, Marion, Jackson, Vanderburgh and Allen) for 2,300 grants of up to $6,600 for low-income four-year-old students. This voluntary, voucher-based program could place students in public schools, private schools, licensed child care centers, licensed homes or registered ministries – as long as they were a Level 3 or Level 4 on Paths to Quality, which is Indiana’s child care quality rating and improvement system.

This pilot program was awarded $10 million that year and was given an additional $10 million the subsequent year. The response was overwhelming – over 500 low-income applicants in Marion County alone were turned away. In Valparaiso, 600 applications were submitted for only 285 spots. It is important to note that 41 other states have publicly funded preschool programs. Indiana is unique as businesses around the state have stepped up to the plate and have invested heavily to push to expand the pilot program. The business community realizes that having a quality start to school will ultimately lead to a stronger workforce and better communities.

The day of the Indiana Chamber’s spring board of directors meeting earlier this month, Governor Pence announced that he had sent a letter to Secretary Sylvia Burwell of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing interest in expanding pre-K education for disadvantaged children. HHS oversees preschool development grants authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). He has also stated publicly his desire to request additional state dollars in the next budget. It should be noted that Pence had the opportunity to apply for $80 million in federal grant dollars in 2014 and decided not to pursue the application at the very last minute, citing concerns regarding federal intrusion. The Governor now states that the pilot is producing great results and the time is right for expansion.

Similarly, Ritz announced a proposed expansion of pre-kindergarten programs in announcing her Imagine 2020 legislative plan the following week. Ritz’s pre-kindergarten announcement included high-quality, state-funded, universal access to pre-K to the tune of $150 million per year. With this price tag, Ritz stated that if the political will is there, the funds will follow. Her plan utilizes reversions from state agencies already made to the general fund and leveraging federal dollars.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg joined Ritz this week to discuss more details about the pre-K plan. It was explained that the $150 million per year would be available for 289 public school districts with pre-K programs. The program would be voluntary for students, but would be open to all Hoosier four-year-olds, regardless of family income.

While we are thrilled that leaders of both parties are supporting expansion of pre-K programs in Indiana, per usual, the devil is in the details. Expansion can take shape in many forms: universal coverage for all four-year-olds regardless of income levels, increasing the number of counties in the pilot, expanding access to three-year-olds or changing the poverty-level income requirement. These details all are yet to be determined in each proposed plan.

The Indiana Chamber has partnered with many stakeholders to promote expansion of the pre-K pilot and has been meeting frequently to determine our approach to the 2017 legislative session, our messaging and to work collaboratively with community partners and Chamber members to promote a well-funded, high-quality expansion. We will be relying on employers across the state to help us beat the drum about the importance of a great early start to school, which will help lead to lifelong success.

Letter: Federal Health Insurance Tax Harmful to Employers

The federal Health Insurance Tax is an aspect of the Affordable Care Act that poses a threat to businesses across the country. The following letter of concern from Caryl Auslander, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of federal affairs, was sent to Sen. Joe Donnelly and explains the Chamber’s position on the issue.

Senator Donnelly,

As Hoosiers, we are proud that our state has shown strong and sustained economic growth ever since the nationwide recession in 2009. It is our concern that the Federal government is hurting, rather than helping, by enacting policies that harm the employer community, specifically small businesses. In particular, we are deeply concerned by the Health Insurance Tax (or “HIT”) that is embedded in the Affordable Care Act.

This provision ensures that those individuals and businesses that have to turn to private insurance companies for coverage are stuck with a disproportionate share of the costs of the ACA. While the original intent of the HIT was supposed to be paid by the insurance companies, in reality the companies really act only as tax-collecting proxies for the Federal government.

When a consumer cannot avoid purchasing a good or service, they have little or no power to resist price increases imposed by suppliers. And when all of the suppliers are charged the same tax, they all have the same incentive to pass it along to their consumers. Thus the HIT forms a hidden tax on health insurance consumers: The families and small businesses who can’t afford to self-insure.

By some estimates, the HIT will cost more than $500 per family every year. A tax burden like that can place real hardship on a middle-class family, push poor families straight into insolvency, and keep small businesses from being able to hire new workers, reinvest in their company or provide other services to consumers. In a small firm with 80 employees, the hidden HIT alone could cost more than $40,000 a year — well over the state’s per-capita income.

The HIT is a hidden and regressive tax, and bipartisan agreement has been enough thus far to delay its full implementation. But middle-class Hoosiers and small business owners here cannot afford the continued uncertainty. On behalf of 24,000 Chamber members and customers across the state of Indiana, it is our request that you place the permanent elimination of the Health Insurance Tax at the top of your agenda. Its unconditional repeal would be a victory for transparency, good government, and economic opportunity for all.

Thank you for your leadership on this issue and for defending the people of Indiana.

Sincerely,

Caryl Auslander
Vice President, Federal Affairs