Chamber Statement on State Takeover of I-69 Project

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar, who is also the board chair for Hoosier Voices for I-69, comments on the state’s announcement today that the Indiana Finance Authority is taking over management of the I-69 section from Bloomington to Martinsville:

“It’s the absolute right thing for the state to do to ensure that this segment and the entire project is completed as quickly as possible.

“We must stay on course, because the ramifications are too important. When fully finished, the new I-69 – from Evansville to Fort Wayne – will help further Indiana’s position as the Crossroads of America.

“It will provide many more Hoosiers with better road access, leading to reduced travel time. And that also is very attractive for businesses, making Indiana an even more viable hub for companies and new jobs.”

Chamber Scores Lawmakers on Voting Records, Honors Five as Legislative Champions

Each year, the Indiana Chamber holds state lawmakers accountable for their voting records on pro-jobs, pro-economy legislation. Today the 2017 results were revealed in the organization’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis, with vote scores ranging from 29% to 100%.

“We want employers and citizens to take note of this report because it makes it very clear which legislators were supportive of bettering Indiana’s economic climate and which were not,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Bills included for examination in the Legislative Vote Analysis can be traced back to the Indiana Chamber’s economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025). The plan contains 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber acknowledged 11 legislators who made a difference in the 2017 session. Five legislators were named Indiana Chamber Legislative Champions for “taking on tough assignments and working diligently to see much-needed policy cross the finish line or at least meaningful debate started,” Brinegar offers.

These legislators are: Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (Dist. 89 – Beech Grove); Rep. David Ober (Dist. 82 – Albion); Sen. Jeff Raatz (Dist. 27 – Centerville); Rep. Holli Sullivan (Dist. 78 – Evansville); and Rep. Ed Soliday (Dist. 4 – Valparaiso). (Why each received the honor is listed on page 6 of the report.

Additionally, appreciation was noted for six lawmakers in leadership positions: House Speaker Brian Bosma (Dist. 88 – Indianapolis); Senate President Pro Tem David Long (Dist. 16 – Fort Wayne); House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning (Dist. 91 – Indianapolis); House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (Dist. 41 – Crawfordsville); Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chairman Brandt Hershman (Dist. 7 – Buck Creek); and Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (Dist. 14 – Auburn).

All scores and the full report are available at the Indiana Chamber’s web site at www.indianachamber.com/lva.

Base scores for each legislator are calculated as a percentage of votes cast in agreement with the Indiana Chamber’s position on the bills included in the Legislative Vote Analysis. Six pro-economy, pro-jobs bills were double-weighted to reflect their importance. These include legislation for long-term road funding, ISTEP replacement, pre-K expansion for children from low-income families, an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a broad energy policy and prohibiting a “ban the box” practice against employers seeking criminal history information on an employment application.

A modest adjustment factor (positive or negative) was added to the Legislative Vote Analysis scoring model to factor in very important legislative activities outside of floor votes. These include whether a legislator sponsored/authored these important bills and whether committee chairs held hearings or killed these bills.

Legislators who score 70% or greater for the most recent four-year voting period are eligible for endorsement by the Indiana Chamber’s political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government.

Lawmakers are notified of the Indiana Chamber position and reasoning on the bills in this report through various communications during the legislative session – and prior to key votes being taken. Only floor votes for which there is a public record are used in the Legislative Vote Analysis.

Copies of the Legislative Vote Analysis report are sent to all legislators and Indiana Chamber board members, and made available online for all businesspersons, community leaders and citizens.

This marks the 33rd year the Indiana Chamber has measured state legislators’ voting performance on bills that reflect the organization’s public policy positions.

Gov. Holcomb Statement on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card

Gov. Holcomb offered the following statement on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and 10th annual workforce survey released Tuesday:

This report card makes clear our state’s strengths and challenges: Indiana is a top state for doing business, but to meet the demands of our growing economy we must double-down on efforts to attract and prepare a ready workforce.

There is no single solution for improvement. The only way we’ll take our state to the next level is with a comprehensive strategy, and Indiana has the right roadmap.

From improving roads and bridges to attacking the drug epidemic, from prekindergarten to adult career training, from more direct flights to enhanced regional development—all of these efforts combined will help build healthier, more vibrant communities that are magnets for jobs and growth.

Now is the time for our state’s leaders to come together and put in the hard work that will improve the lives of Hoosiers.

We appreciate the governor’s support and attentiveness to our efforts.

Rep. Messer Appointed to Task Force on Reigning in Federal Government, Empowering States

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) was recently appointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan to serve on the recently created bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, which is charged with working to restore the proper balance of power between federal, state and local governments.

Messer is among seven Republican House members appointed to the 13-member task force.

“Indiana has proven time and again that the best government is closest to the people it serves,” Messer said. “Our states, cities and counties are the true engine for innovation in government. I’m excited to work on this task force to combat federal overreach and return power to states.”

The task force will partner with state and local governments to determine where the federal government has overstepped and come up with solutions to return control to states and local entities. The task force will also provide a forum for states, cities and counties to showcase innovation and creativity in solving public policy problems.

“Federalism is not a Republican or Democrat principle, but an American principle – and one that is integral to a thriving culture and economy,” Speaker Ryan said. “But in recent years, the principle of federalism has been slowly chipped away at by an overzealous federal government. Under Chairman Rob Bishop’s leadership, the Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs will study ways to restore the proper balance of power between the federal government and states, tribal and local governments, and eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens facing communities across the nation.”

MEMBERSHIP

CHAIRMAN:
Speaker’s Designee Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

REPUBLICANS:
Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN)
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL)
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC)
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX)
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)
Rep. Jenniffer Gonzáles-Colón (R-PR)

DEMOCRATS:
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA)
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD)
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

ADVISORY COUNCIL TO THE TASK FORCE:
National Association of Counties (NACo)
National Governors Association (NGA)
Council of State Governments (CSG)
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
National League of Cities (NLC)
U.S. Conference of Mayors
International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

Health Care: Donnelly Co-Authors Bipartisan Bill to Speed Up FDA Approvals for Devices; Young Reaches Across the Aisle on ACA

Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have re-introduced the bipartisan FDA Regulatory Efficiency Act, which would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring innovative medical devices to market more quickly.

Donnelly stated, “As scientists and innovators across Indiana and our country work to find new cures and therapies, we should be making it easier for them to bring these products safely to those who need them. I’m proud to work with Sen. Gardner on this bipartisan legislation to cut through the red tape at the FDA and safely speed up the approval process.”

The FDA Regulatory Efficiency Act would help the FDA concentrate on high-priority activities by authorizing third parties to approve quality systems of device companies. Authorized third parties could only approve changes that do not involve major technology changes or changes in the use of the product. The legislation would still hold companies accountable for their quality systems, while also helping to alleviate the overwhelmed FDA. Donnelly and Gardner first introduced the legislation in October 2015.

Health Care Reform Notes
Freshman Sen. Todd Young has reached across the aisle in an attempt to find common ground on health care. He recently sent a letter to all Democratic senators urging them to share their views on what’s working and what’s not with the Affordable Care Act. Young is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will have a key role in shaping the Senate’s version of health care reform.

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) is touting the American Health Care Act (AHCA), as passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and how it “brings us closer to a better health care system that puts patients first.” Her editorial appeared Sunday in the South Bend Tribune.

Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08), who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce where he is a member of the Subcommittees on Health, is using his web site to promote the Washington Post’s fact-checking of several recent claims about the AHCA. One is on coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and the other on classification of assault as a pre-existing condition; both claims were deemed untrue.

Chamber Goes to D.C., Talks Top Member Issues With Hoosier Delegation

The Chamber’s Caryl Auslander met with Sen. Todd Young last Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Indiana Chamber members were once again represented in Washington as Caryl Auslander, VP of federal relations, returned to meet with over half of Indiana’s congressional delegation last week. On the agenda: the most pressing public policy matters the Chamber hears about from its member companies throughout the state.

On this trip, Auslander met with Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05), Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09), as well as with key legislative staffers from the offices of Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03), Rep. André Carson (IN-07) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (IN-01).

Below are the five main policy areas discussed with these delegation members:

Health Care Reform
The Indiana Chamber wants to see lower health care costs and improvement to the overall system. We believe the Affordable Care Act is overly complex, administratively burdensome and financially unsustainable as-is. We support a “repeal and replace” approach, but in the absence of that, substantial changes should be made to make the law more workable and viable for the long term.

Infrastructure
The Chamber is looking for a stable, long-term way to pay for highway infrastructure, with a separate, sustainable and dedicated transportation funding source. Whatever the upcoming Trump and congressional plans entail, Indiana deserves its fair share of federal transportation dollars. Equity guarantee would ensure that all states receive a minimum level of funding relative to other states. All states should receive a minimum of 95% return on their share of fuel tax contributions and on any additional funding sources. Without an equity guarantee, overall funding may increase; however, Indiana could receive less overall or comparatively.

Regulatory Reform
The federal government has consistently overreached its authority, which has left Hoosier companies facing a multitude of complicated and changing federal regulations. It’s not only burdensome and time-consuming, but has created a lot of business uncertainty and hinders the ability to expand in the U.S. NOTE: Auslander reiterated the top regulations to overturn from the Chamber’s standpoint and gave the delegation another copy of the list.

Rural Broadband
The Chamber believes that advanced communications and digital infrastructure is critical to long-term economic development. Yes, we have come a long way, but still not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We encouraged our delegation to find more ways to bring the most rural parts of the country and state up to date technologically to help reverse downward economic trends. Broadband in rural communities helps businesses, schools and communities at-large; it is no longer a luxury but now a necessity.

Tax Reform
We need a tax code that is certainly simpler. It’s complicated and it costs way too much to comply with. Lowering the corporate income tax rate – which puts us at a competitive disadvantage globally – is something virtually everyone agrees on. We also urged getting rid of the ineffective alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the federal estate tax, which poses a real threat to small businesses and family farms. And while it is important for comprehensive tax reform, we need to do it in a way that does not increase the deficit.

A Success in Protecting Taxpayer Rights

Protecting and maintaining the rights of taxpayers (as they comply with procedural requirements or seek a determination regarding a tax dispute) became a chief cause of the Indiana Chamber in several cases this session.

First, there was a bill (SB 546) introduced to substantially reorganize the Tax Court. Why? This was our question. It seems that some feel that the governmental entities should win many more cases (meaning that taxpayers should be losing many more cases.) Yes, taxpayers do win more frequently than the officials in charge of assessing taxes. Why? Because the assessment determinations that are disputed are those where the taxpayer feels they are being charged more than the law requires them to pay – nobody needs to appeal when the government has gotten it right.

The Chamber strongly believes in the value of a specialized court with tax knowledge and expertise that allows for cases to be resolved in a consistent and uniform manner. That was the original purpose, and is the ongoing function of the Tax Court. The transition to a new judge a few years ago has been a little bumpy, but it is all smoothing out and restructuring the Court was exactly the wrong thing to do.Fortunately, we were able to convince others of this and, consequently, the bill did not receive a hearing.

Then there was the Department of Revenue (DOR) bill (SB 515); generally speaking, it’s a good bill, except that in connection with federal law changes it resulted in making corporate returns due on the same day as federal returns. Existing law gave preparers a 30-day breathing period before the state return came due. Meaning no harm, DOR and administration officials agreed to alter the provision to maintain the more favored status quo.

Another problem bill (SB 501) sought to revamp the property tax appeals procedures; it was later merged into SB 386 in the House. The objectives of the bill were admirable, and it included some real improvements to the process; most notably, it established a uniform June 15 appeal deadline statewide. Previously, the deadline was tied to the assessment notices and varied from county to county. However, the provisions of SB 501/386 extended a bit too far in attempting to streamline the process as it impacted a taxpayer’s ability to correct what are typically clerical type mistakes made by the assessor or other county officials.

These type errors have historically always been correctable for up to three years, but the bill restricted many of them to a period of just 45 days. This over encompassing contraction of rights – restricting the remedy for taxpayers to correct errors – was unnecessary and unacceptable.

The Chamber concentrated its focus late in the session on reinstating the full complement of existing rights back into this procedural recodification. Here again, with the help of several stakeholders, including the Indiana Manufacturers Association and Indiana Farm Bureau, we were successful at protecting the legislation from impinging on taxpayer rights. The Chamber wishes to recognize the efforts of Rep. Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) in working with the interested parties in the waning hours of the session to successfully resolve these concerns.

Separately, an issue that didn’t make the headlines but you could have felt in your wallet centers on school bonds. The rating entities had concerns about the state’s potential role in ensuring these payments are made by the individual schools. Legislators took care of this with SB 196 and Indiana avoided a rating downgrade. Otherwise, this would have triggered increased interest rates on these bonds and cost taxpayers millions in additional property taxes.

Work Share Continues to Get Cold Shoulder in Indiana

In December, the Chamber introduced the work share policy to the new chairman of the House Labor Committee, Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo). He made no commitment to hear a bill but indicated that he would keep an open mind.

A work sharing program would allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary economic downturns. Employers then could reduce hours without layoffs, enabling workers to keep their jobs, which hopefully could be returned to full-time status once economic circumstances improve. Also part of the equation: unemployment compensation to partially compensate workers for their lost hours.

After several discussions with the Indiana Manufacturers Association (IMA), the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Chamber, Rep. VanNatter decided to host a meeting with the three parties present. He later informed us that he was being told different things about the issue than what the Chamber was being told and wanted everyone in the room at the same time. Simply stated, the Chamber supports work share, but DWD and the IMA do not.

What Rep. VanNatter was able to do was get the IMA to admit in the Chamber’s presence that it was opposed to the bill. As a result, Rep. VanNatter didn’t feel that he could move forward with the two organizations in disagreement. In a subsequent discussion, he did say that he would like to study the issue (himself) this summer and then make up his own mind.

Over the course of the last five years, the bill has been heard twice but no vote has ever been taken. This is very frustrating for a measure that is a no-brainer and would garner bipartisan support – if it can ever make it to that point!

A Clearer Path for Indiana’s Innovation Sector

Last summer, the Indiana Chamber formed the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council. A large part of the group’s mission it to protect and advance the public policy interests of related organizations. The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council’s Tech Policy Committee developed an agenda going into the 2017 session with several significant objectives.

We are happy to report – thanks to the work of many – that the group’s first legislative session proved to be highly productive and rewarding, with several key policies to advance innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Indiana set to become law.

These include enhancing early-stage and scale-up funding for promising Indiana business opportunities, an increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, better digital and physical connectivity with other parts of the world, funding for better use of big data and providing funding mechanisms to enhance regional infrastructure projects.

Management and Performance Hub Information Holds Promise
Indiana has been a leader in using government data to improve the delivery of services to its citizens. The Management and Performance Hub (MPH) is an evolving integrated data system that links government agency data and allows for data-driven analytics and research, which can help inform policy and improve the delivery of government services to come from that information. House Bill 1470, Government Data, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion), was the main vehicle to codify the MPH and ensure it has maximum utility for taxpayers, government agencies, the Legislature and other external stakeholders.

The measure started off smoothly, but when it got to the Senate, it was derailed during a hearing before the Senate Commerce and Technology Committee. Based on fear that the information would not be secure or de-identified, the committee amended it to be only a summer study committee issue. Fortunately, the original content was restored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), the bill’s sponsor, on the Senate floor. The Chamber has supported HB 1470 to maximize its utility as a consistent data source and analytical tool for a variety of public issues with multiple stakeholders.

Fortunately, the budget bill, HB 1001, authored by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) ended up providing good resources to the MPH –$9 million per year for the next two years. This allows MPH the ability to continue to develop to provide timely and accurate information that can help track vital information for the state’s economy, education and a host of other matters where better data can help inform better decisions.

Municipalities Work to Hinder Small Cell Legislation, But It Passes
A bill to more easily move Indiana’s mobile broadband connectivity to the next generation of technology passed the Indiana General Assembly. Senate Bill 213, Wireless Support Structures, authored by Sen. Hershman, focused on streamlining permitting, fees and co-location to increase coverage by current cell towers and facilitate more rapid installation of small cell technology in Indiana communities.

Specifically, an objective was to eliminate excess fees and permitting by local units of government that would hinder installation of small cell antennas. A lot of misinformation was communicated by detractors to say many of the antennas were the size of a refrigerator or Volkswagen, when, in fact, they are much smaller. It is in the providers’ economic interest to co-locate small cell antennas on current towers, light poles or other structures.

This legislation also highlighted an interesting dynamic: Many municipalities who want better broadband in their communities as an economic development tool also want a “say” in the small cell tower locations and to be able to collect fees and issue permits. And those desires are quite strong.

Case in point: There is a provision in the bill that allows Indiana communities to designate local ordinances (and possibly resolutions) to direct where and how those small cell devices can be put in their community by making them an underground or buried utility area. The deadline for seeking this additional protection was May 1. Realizing this, Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (AIM) sent information to its members around the state to quickly pass an ordinance or resolution by that date. Almost 100 locales were considering doing so. But that move may backfire on these same communities whose citizens want
better broadband. What’s more, whether those new ordinances are legal remains to be seen.

The Chamber supports more and better broadband for Indiana and strongly advocated for SB 213 during the process. We appreciate the hard work of Sen. Hershman and Rep. Ober in getting this legislation over the finish line.

Major Tech, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Progress
Several tech innovation issues ended up advancing in the state biennial budget, HB 1001, authored by Rep. Tim Brown.

A Chamber priority was to increase early stage capital in promising Indiana companies. While making the Venture Capital Investment (VCI) Tax Credit transferrable (to attract out-of-state investment to Indiana) didn’t happen, it arguably worked out even better with the creation of the $250 million Next Level Trust Fund. This allows for up to half of the $500 million corpus from the Major Moves highway infrastructure program to be used for investments outside of conservative fixed income investments. It creates a Next Level Indiana Fund investment board with fiduciary responsibility to direct investments in equities or “funds of funds” which could be directed toward promising Indiana businesses.

In addition to the Next Level Trust Fund, legislators adopted options for Indiana public employees and teachers with defined contribution plans to invest up to 20% of their contributions in an Indiana-focused fund.

This summer, the Legislative Services Agency is conducting a deep study of the impact of the VCI. That report is due in October 2017 and based on information that comes from that report, we hope to better advocate for the enhancement of the tax credit during the 2018 session, if warranted. In SB 507, authored by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), the expiration date of the VCI tax credit of 2020 was eliminated so the tax credit now has more certainty for the future.

House Bill 1001 also funded $30 million for the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. Additionally, $15 million for each of the next two years was allocated for the Business Promotion and Innovation Fund, which combined several requests. It gives authority to the Governor and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to incentivize direct flights from international and regional airports in Indiana, encourage regional development activities (aka Regional Cities), advance innovation and entrepreneurship education programs through strategic partnerships and support international trade.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute was funded for $20 million for year two of the budget. This should pay dividends down the road to further grow Indiana life sciences opportunities.

Better Performance Metrics to Recertify Technology Parks
Certified technology parks (CTPs) around the state will benefit from House Bill 1601, authored by Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers). The bill requires IEDC to develop new metrics for performance of CTPs as they are up for recertification.

The IEDC will work with local units of government to develop the metrics. They will include the criteria used to evaluate each category of information by a CTP and a minimum threshold requirement to be recertified in each category.

This is good for both state and local governments to ensure the CTPs are truly being an effective driver of economic activity for that community and region. The bill did not receive any no votes during the legislative process and was supported in a bipartisan fashion. The Chamber backed the bill and appreciates the good work that Rep. Huston and Sen. Hershman, the Senate sponsor, did to ensure its passage.

On the Federal Front: Around the Horn

The U.S. House of Representatives was on a week-long recess, which means our delegation was back home and visiting with their constituents around the state. The Senate, however, remained in D.C. working. Both will continue on the job in Washington starting next week until their recess around Memorial Day. A few news and notes:

* Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) held a job fair in Terre Haute on Wednesday in coordination with WorkOne Western Indiana, Indiana State University and the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. The event, held at Indiana State University’s Hulman Center, afforded potential employees the opportunity to meet with employers hiring in the Wabash Valley. A special emphasis was given to hiring veterans.

* Bucshon recently attended the Indiana Chamber’s I-69 Regional Summit in downtown Indianapolis. He was fresh from the floor vote in Congress on health care reform and also took time to meet with Chamber executives to discuss the topic.

* Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement on Thursday regarding reports that the Trump Administration is considering sending more American troops to Afghanistan:

“I am glad that President Trump is willing to seriously consider the request of his commanders on the ground, who are asking for additional forces. We’ve been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, but in recent years, decisions about troop levels have been based on politics instead of military strategy. We’ve invested too much blood and treasure in Afghanistan to tolerate a stalemate or defeat. I look forward to learning more about the administration’s plans in the coming days.”

* U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has released his Foundation for Families Agenda – a series of policy proposals aimed at improving the quality of life for Hoosier families. Included in the policy agenda:

  • Paid family and medical leave
  • Expanding access to pre-K and quality childcare options
  • Affordable higher education
  • Equal pay for women

Donnelly released a video explaining his agenda. He stated, “I am unveiling the Foundation for Families Agenda because we need to ensure our policies and priorities support hardworking Hoosier and American families. When our families succeed, so
does our economy. The foundation for our families should include family leave, options for affordable childcare and pre-K, access to an affordable college education, and the assurance that Hoosier women are paid equally when they do the same job as their male counterparts. These are common sense ideas that I am hopeful we can advance in a bipartisan manner in the Senate.”

* Many news organizations are speculating that a potential candidate to be the new FBI director might be the current president of Anderson University, John Pistole. Pistole is former deputy director of the FBI (and led significant counter-terrorism efforts) and past head of the Transportation Security Administration. He has declined all requests for interviews since the speculation began, but a few friends and family spoke to the Indy Star.

* Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson has been tapped to serve on President Trump’s national commission investigating the integrity of American elections; see The Northwest Indiana Times story. Vice President Mike Pence is chairing the commission.