Recent News from Washington

  • Per last Thursday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indiana has been selected for a $10.9 million federal grant to fight the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. Senator Donnelly talked about this needed boost during a visit to Granger. Read the story. Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) also weighed in: “… Indiana is getting the resources it desperately needs to reduce overdose deaths; help Hoosiers get treatment for substance abuse and stay in recovery; and reduce the over-prescription of opioids.” Read Brooks’ full statement.
  • Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) believes Congress should exert influence by authorizing military force against ISIS. He said, “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent use of chemical weapons against his own people is a grim reminder of the deep challenges that continue to exist in Syria and the surrounding region.” Read his op-ed.
  • Congressman André Carson (IN-07), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was on CNN last Wednesday talking about the situations with North Korea and Syria. Of North Korea, he said our country’s “tough talk has to get tougher”. Watch the over six-minute interview.

BizVoice Earns SPJ Honors

Congrats to our communications team /BizVoice writers who earned three honors at the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists Awards Friday – a second place and two third place finishes:

Donnelly Talks Policy to Chamber Group

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly discussed a wide variety of issues with members of the Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee during an hour-long visit last week. Among his comments on the issues before Congress:

  • Opioid crisis: Senators are working on a federal law that would limit painkiller prescriptions to one week (hopefully reducing addictive outcomes)
  • Transportation infrastructure: There will be a big bill and he believes it will pass as long as it gets paid for
  • Tax reform: Stuck for now because money to pay for it was going to come from the failed health care overhaul
  • Health care bill: Legislation can’t be passed that would result in fewer people having insurance coverage. Democrats, Donnelly noted, have ideas that should be considered

Other topics of conversion: immigration, trade agreements and global threats (Donnelly is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee).

After Session: A Look at What Passed and What Didn’t

Now that the legislative session has concluded, learn the final status of key bills monitored and advocated for/opposed by the Indiana Chamber in 2017 (links are PDFs):

2017 passed bills

2017 defeated bills

Indiana Chamber Applauds Final General Assembly Road Funding Plan

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on the long-term road funding agreement, which was unveiled late this afternoon by Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long:

“We laud the compromise reached by House and Senate fiscal leaders that will fund Indiana’s infrastructure needs for the foreseeable future. We are very pleased to see such a substantial long-term funding plan to address the many maintenance and new construction needs that exist throughout our state. This legislation was the Indiana Chamber’s top priority for this session.

“This thoughtful approach also makes sure to fund both state and local road projects – which we know is very important for Hoosier companies – and that everyone pays their fair share through a user-fee based model.

“This agreement has been the product of several years of research and discussion and we congratulate everyone involved. We strongly encourage the members of the General Assembly to support this legislation with their vote Friday.”

Federal Front: Congressman Messer Launches American Worker Task Force

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06), chair of the Republican Policy Committee, announced the launch of the Task Force for the American Worker – an effort to examine challenges facing modern-day working Americans. The task force will hold a series of hearings to examine workforce issues, including stagnant wages and a slow economic recovery, manufacturing, higher education costs, the opioid abuse epidemic, health care, retirement security and trade. The task force will seek to find solutions that help address each of these challenges.

“For generations, the American dream has meant that every American who works hard can find success. But in recent years, frozen paychecks, a tough job market and rising living costs make the American Dream too often seem out of reach,” Messer said. “During the 2016 election, Republicans promised a renewed focus on addressing these challenges and improving the lives of everyday working people. This task force is about making those promises a reality.”

The task force’s first hearing will be held Tuesday, April 25, with the goal of helping set a policy agenda for the modern American worker. Among those asked to testify is LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo.

Also, this week started a two-week recess for the Senate and House of Representatives, which means most of our delegation is back in the state for the Easter and Passover holidays. Be on the lookout for them in your hometowns!

A Pleasant (Revenue) Forecast

The revenue projections for the next two fiscal years were updated on Wednesday, giving the General Assembly revised numbers to use in finalizing a state budget before the session wraps up next week. The update also readjusted the current Fiscal Year 2017 numbers; the FY17 numbers that were reduced by nearly $300 million dollars in December were now adjusted back upward by $124 million (so FY17 won’t turn out as bad as previously thought).

That FY17 readjustment serves as a foundation for the forecasters’ confidence that the slow but steady economic growth will continue at a moderate pace over the coming biennium. The pleasant result: a modestly higher revenue forecast for FY2018 and FY2019. The forecast increase resulted from projected growth in sales tax collections (2.7% in FY18 and 3.4% in FY19), sales tax being the source that Indiana is most dependent on, and the larger percentage increase but smaller cumulative dollar increase anticipated in income tax collections (3.4% in FY18 and 5.9% in FY19) – the source that represents the next largest contributor to the state coffers.

The bottom line is that the forecast adds $200 million, only about six-tenths of one percent of the roughly $32 billion that the lawmakers now can expect to see collected in tax revenue over the next two years. While it is a small addition, it is still $200 million that they hadn’t planned on when they put together the budget numbers in HB 1001.

Understandably, the fiscal leaders caution against any major changes to what they have formulated to this point, but as the budget negotiations continue into the last days, they are certain to hear this additional money referenced as justification for some new or additional funding requests. Read the details from the forecasters’ presentation.

Health Insurance Assistance for Your Lower Income Employees

The following was provided by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration:

HIP Employer Link is the state of Indiana’s program to help your eligible workers with their health insurance costs. Once your company is enrolled, for free, eligible employees can then sign up to receive assistance towards their employer-sponsored insurance premium and deductible throughout the insurance year.

How It Works: When an employee enrolls in HIP Employer Link and your health plan, you continue to deduct their health insurance premium from their pay. Each month, before the cost is deducted, HIP Employer Link sends the employee a pre-payment check for the amount of the deduction, minus a small monthly contribution of 2% of the employee’s household income.

Employee Eligibility: Eligible employees are Indiana residents, aged 19-64, who earn 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or less, and who are eligible for an enrolled employer’s insurance plan. For instance, the income limit for a household of four (either two parents and two children, or one parent and three children) is just over $34,000. For a household of two, the income limit is just over $22,000.

The program is free to employers and requires very little time on your part. Signing up your organization is simple with the online application and a quick upload of insurance plan documents. Employers are only responsible for verifying the employment of any enrollees; the state of Indiana is responsible for income verification. You can learn more about the program by visiting http://hipemployerlink.in.gov.


ChamberCare Solutions from the Indiana Chamber
Indiana Chamber members also have access to a full range of high-quality group insurance plans and options through the ChamberCare Solutions program, a partnership between the Chamber and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield that has served thousands of Chamber members for the past fourteen years. Retain your valuable employees, attract new talent and take advantage of significant savings with the right plan for your business’ unique needs and preferences. Ask your insurance agent, or contact us at (317) 264-6858 or membership@indianachamber.com for questions and additional details. 

Recent Happenings in Federal Affairs: Gorsuch Sworn in with Donnelly’s Support

Senator Joe Donnelly joined a select few Democrats last week to announce support for President Trump’s pick to the U.S. Supreme Court: federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch.

Donnelly stated, “I have said consistently that part of my job is to carefully review, debate and vote on judicial nominations, including nominees to the Supreme Court. It is my obligation as senator to consider the qualifications of each nominee that comes to the Senate floor to determine if he or she can faithfully serve on our nation’s highest court. I take this responsibility very seriously.

“After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers.

“I was deeply disappointed by the way the most recent Supreme Court nominee, judge Merrick Garland, was treated by the Senate, but as senator, I can only vote on the nominee that comes to the Senate floor. However, I believe that we should keep the current 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.”

Gorsuch was sworn in on Monday.

In other news:

  • Responding to the requests from a bipartisan cohort of Indiana elected officials, newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced he will visit the U.S. Smelter and Lead Superfund site in East Chicago on April 19. Senators Donnelly and Todd Young, congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01) and Gov. Eric Holcomb each had invited Pruitt to visit after his appointment to the position. The area has been the focus of concern for local, state and federal officials since the magnitude of the environmental (water) lead contamination became clear.
  • Representative Luke Messer (IN-06) last week called on Congress to come back, instead of breaking early for Easter, to repeal and replace Obamacare. In a floor speech addressing his colleagues in the House, Messer said, “Congress is leaving for Easter break with work undone. For seven years, we’ve told the American people we would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better, and we have legislation that provides that opportunity. … We need to do what we said we would do.” Earlier, Messer joined members of the House Republican leadership – led by Speaker Paul Ryan – to announce an amendment to the American Health Care Act that safeguards patients with pre-existing conditions in a way that will also lower premiums. This amendment creates the $15 billion new federal risk-sharing program that will help states reduce premiums by reimbursing health insurance issuers for high-cost individuals beginning in 2018. The proposal by congressmen Gary Palmer of Alabama and David Schweikert of Arizona is modeled after a program in Maine.
  • Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) has introduced the Head Start Improvement Act, a bill to reform the Head Start early childhood education program. The legislation would give states increased flexibility in spending the Head Start dollars they receive from the federal government to better meet the specific needs of low-income children. The bill would provide Head Start block grants directly to eligible grantees, which include states, territories and federally-recognized Indian tribes. He got the idea from state Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), who has suggested this as part of the larger pre-K pilot program at the state level. “As a father of three young girls, I understand the importance of making sure our kids receive the best education possible,” said Banks. “Unfortunately, Head Start is failing to make a significant contribution to student development, and it is clear that Head Start needs a new start. Giving states, local officials and parents greater control over the Head Start program will result in better tailored pre-K programs for Hoosier students.”