New and Improved Legislative Directory App a Hot Commodity for Government Affairs Teams


Want to have up-to-date information about the Indiana legislature, but you don’t want to carry a book around with you? How about using the smartphone or tablet you’re already working on?

The Legislative Directory app, developed by Indiana-based Bluebridge, is more than an electronic version of the long standing Legislative Directory. Here are some of the app benefits:

  • Updated and ready to use on the first day of the legislative session
  • Real time updates to information throughout the session and beyond
  • Less expensive than the book, but contains the same information
  • Legislators’ contact info can be downloaded to your phone

You can order the app online now (order through the Indiana Chamber, not the app stores). The app is days away from being available, at which time you will receive download links for your mobile device. (We’re updating the app throughout December as information comes in from legislators.) Bulk app purchases are now available too; your company contact will receive all of the download links for distribution as needed.

Order online now at

Indiana Chamber Unveils Our Top Six Legislative Priorities for 2016

statehouse picTransportation infrastructure funding, reverse credit transfer to the state’s accredited two-year colleges and expansion of the state’s civil rights law are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2016 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual Central Indiana Legislative Preview in Indianapolis today.

The Indiana Chamber proposes an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges. These include dedicating more of the state’s sales tax on fuel purchases to infrastructure, increasing and indexing fuel excise taxes and implementing fees on alternative fuel vehicles.

“Indiana benefited greatly from the Major Moves program that accelerated our timeline and funded $4 billion worth of projects over the last decade. But those dollars are spent or allocated. It’s time to move forward with the next generation of resources to drive our economy by moving people and products throughout our state and beyond,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“Legislative action is needed in the coming session to address glaring needs and begin implementing long-term strategies to allow our state to live up to its ‘Crossroads of America’ designation.”

Brinegar concludes that the good news is that legislative leaders, the Governor and others are on the same page about the need; the challenge will be how to get there.

Higher education is also a focal point for the Indiana Chamber. One specific proposal the organization will be pushing for is a method to allow for more students to turn their existing college credits into a two-year degree. This would be accomplished by allowing specific credits earned at state-supported colleges and universities to be transferrable to Indiana’s accredited two-year schools, such as Ivy Tech and Vincennes. Credit is already generally transferrable from the two-year schools to their four-year counterparts.

“This would give students more opportunity for post-secondary attainment and then obviously help with employment,” Brinegar offers. “Specifically, it would help fill the gap for those individuals who first went to a four-year school but for whatever reason couldn’t continue. This would be a viable path for them to turn their efforts into a two-year degree and become more attractive to employers.”

Earlier this month, the Indiana Chamber announced its support for expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, with Brinegar noting:

“The time has come for Indiana to expand protections against potential discrimination. This action will increase the state’s future business competitiveness in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent, as well as enhance respect for all employers and employees. We encourage our state leaders to work together to take this next critical step.”

Another initiative the organization will again pursue is a work sharing program, which will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns and enable employees to keep their jobs but with reduced hours and salary (which is partially offset by unemployment insurance). This program has enjoyed support on both sides of the aisle the last few years, but has yet to cross the finish line.

“There is no negative impact on the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Instead of paying full benefits to a smaller group of recipients, a larger group of employees will receive limited benefits – but most importantly remain on the job,” Brinegar explains. “There is no reason not to enact a work share program to help meet future employee and employer needs. They deserve that option.”

The other two legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber are maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures (in the face of recent “big box” retail stores’ appeals and reaction to that); and expanding publicly-funded preschool from the pilot program to statewide so more children are prepared to enter kindergarten.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at

Also at the legislative preview event, four state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the 2015 legislative session.

The 2015 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Rodric Bray from Martinsville, District #37; Sen. Carlin Yoder from Middlebury, District #12; Rep. David Ober from Albion, District #82; and Rep. John Price from Greenwood, District #47.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 6 legislative priorities:

  • Support an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges
  • Support specific credit transfer from Indiana’s four-year, state-supported institutions to the state’s accredited two-year colleges
  • Support expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Support a work sharing program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns
  • Support maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures
  • Support the development of publicly-funded preschool initiatives statewide

Insurance Claims on Interim Agenda

The Interim Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee conducted its final hearing in late October. The only topic of debate was the preliminary draft language that was offered by the chair, Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis). The committee also prepared its final report for the Indiana General Assembly.

Senator Miller’s proposal addressed problems that she believes are occurring related to the handling and denial of health insurance claims. Her proposal would require the Department of Insurance to post on its web site information concerning internal and external grievance procedures for health insurance contracts. Examples include the process that a consumer should follow in filing a grievance along with a contact phone number of the department for the consumer. These provisions were generally accepted as reasonable provisions of the draft.

Controversy arose over the quarterly requirements that will be imposed on insurers regarding the denial of claims and additional burdens placed on them. The Indiana Department of Insurance testified that there really isn’t a problem regarding health claim denial in Indiana and while there have been problems among property and casualty insurers, that has not been the case with health insurers. Further testimony reflected that the department has the ability to do market conducts (on the distribution and sale of insurance), which determine problems with carriers.

Furthermore, the department conducts financial audits once every five years on every Indiana domestic insurer to make certain of insurer solvency and the ability to pay claims. Representative Matt Lehman (R-Berne) commented that the claim problem was .0004 of one percent – implying that there really isn’t any need to impose further requirements. The language passed the committee, with Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) and Rep. Lehman voting against the draft.

Look for Sen. Miller to draft legislation in the 2016 session similar to the language proposed in the draft. A bill may even move through the Senate, but may find more difficulty getting traction in its current form in the House. Still, there will be a fairly good chance that the grievance procedures and the web site information will find their way through the legislative process. The Chamber will be involved in the debate during the upcoming legislative session.

Get Your Tickets for the 2016 Central Indiana Legislative Preview

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Get a sneak peek of the upcoming General Assembly session at the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 Central Indiana Legislative Preview on Monday, November 16.

You will hear directly from the four caucus leaders – Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Senate Minority Floor Leader Tim Lanane – on what their top issues will be and how they see the session playing out.

What’s more, the panel will share perspectives on key issues in areas such as workforce development, transportation and taxation – all of which have great impact on employers statewide.

The Indiana Chamber will preview the session and reveal its top pro-jobs, pro-economy priorities for the new legislative year.

“This may be a short session but there will be many crucial policies considered. Our preview will be the first public forum for the legislative leaders and it’s always insightful to listen to their viewpoints,” offers Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “The priorities we unveil are the ones the Chamber will be pushing hard and what we believe will have the most far-reaching, positive impact on our membership.”

In addition, the Indiana Chamber will honor four legislators as Small Business Champions in recognition of their achievements in enhancing the state’s small business climate.

The traditional 2016 Central Indiana Legislative Preview program runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will take place at the Hyatt Regency in the Regency Ballroom (second floor) in downtown Indianapolis. New this year is a networking/coffee break portion that begins at 10 a.m. and coincides with registration.

Tickets are $55 per person and include lunch. Register online or call Nick at (800) 824-6885.

Chamber Board Votes to Support Expansion of State’s Civil Rights Law

?????????????????????????????????????????The Indiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly at its annual fall meeting Wednesday to support expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Indiana Chamber Board of Directors is comprised of more than 100 top business executives and civic leaders from throughout the state.

“We believe this expansion is a necessary action for the General Assembly to take,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “After the negative perception of our state generated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the spring, we need to get this right in order to secure the reputation of Indiana as a hospitable and welcoming place.

“The time has come for Indiana to expand protections against potential discrimination. This action will increase the state’s future business competitiveness in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent, as well as enhance respect for all employers and employees. We encourage our state leaders to work together to take this next critical step.”

The Indiana Chamber’s annual fall board meeting is where the organization’s public policy positions (formed by members serving on various policy committees) for the upcoming sessions of the General Assembly and Congress are discussed and acted upon.

Lawmakers Hear from INDOT on Road Funding; Gov. Makes $1 Billion No-Tax Proposal

30449450Two key events in recent weeks on the transportation front in Indiana: A long-awaited Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) study on long-term funding options for Indiana’s roads, highways and bridges was presented on Oct. 15 to the Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation; and just a few days before, on Oct. 13, Gov. Pence proposed a $1 billion, four-year plan for short-term transportation needs whose most prominent feature was no tax increases. INDOT Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson appeared with the governor at his announcement and testified before the interim study committee.

Hendrickson provided a broad overview of the state of Indiana’s roads and bridges during her testimony and INDOT’s study vendor, Cambridge Systematics, testified at length on the options available to the state to address long-term transportation funding, concluding that policymakers need to “decide what Indiana should invest in and how best to pay for it.” Both federal and state highway revenues are expected to decline in future years due to a number of factors, including increased fuel efficiency standards and more alternative-fuel vehicles hitting the roads.

All fuel excise tax revenues from the state’s highway fund are required for maintenance of existing infrastructure; no funding is available for expansion projects such as completion of I-69, adding lanes to I-65 or I-70, or new bridges across the Ohio River. Additionally, more than half of the state’s bridges are in the last 25 years of their useful life (50-plus years or older) and will need significant reconstruction or remediation in coming years.

Bottom line: The state needs more revenues to address a growing need for maintenance of existing infrastructure – let alone expansion of the state’s highway network.

Pence proposes a mix of bonding (debt), general fund appropriations and use of the state’s reserves in his “21st Century Crossroads” plan. His proposal would seek $450 million over three years to be appropriated by the General Assembly from the state’s general fund, $250 million to be used from the state’s reserve funds, $50 million from the state’s Next Generation Trust Fund (established by Major Moves monies) and roughly $240 million in new bond financing as existing debt gets retired or refinanced. The plan is short term in nature and, while tapping appropriate sources, needs the consent of the Legislature (where several Statehouse voices expressed reservations about the bonding aspect of the plan).

The Indiana Chamber would like to see a mix of increased fuel excise taxes, indexation, tolling, fees on alternative fuel vehicles and other tools based upon a “user fee” model discussed in the 2016 legislative session, along with the use of existing tax authority by cities, towns and counties to address the needs of local streets and county roads. Policymakers must make some hard choices with the support of the state’s business community to address the scale and scope of the challenge.

In short, the era of strategic investments fueled by the Major Moves program is over. The prevailing (default) practice of making stop-gap appropriations from the state’s general fund is not a reliable or strategic means to pay for future maintenance and upgrades to Indiana’s surface transportation network. Currently, we risk wasting strategic investments already made, and our roads and highways will deteriorate along with our reputation as “The Crossroads of America.”

Chamber Applauds Early Payoff of the Federal UI Trust Fund Loan

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on Gov. Mike Pence’s approval of an early payoff for the state’s federal unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund loan. This is to be accomplished by temporarily borrowing from Indiana’s reserve funds during the next eight months. The funds will be paid back by employers through their regular state UI payments:

“This allows Hoosier employers to save $126 per employee or an additional $327 million in total federal penalties for 2016. That’s very significant for the business community. That money now can be reinvested by growing companies and adding more jobs.

“In the last few weeks alone, we’ve heard from several hundred businesses all across the state about how important this early payoff is to them. They appreciate the efforts of lawmakers to place this option in the state budget and the State Budget Committee and Gov. Pence for their actions to make it happen.”

Charter Schools Being Shortchanged in Federal Poverty Aid

19293579Despite no change in student population, many charter schools across the state are experiencing a sharp decline of federal Title 1 funding, with little to no explanation from the DOE. Title I funding assists poverty-stricken students meet educational goals.

For example, Christel House Academy experienced a 20% drop in funding this year, to the tune of $121,743. Meanwhile, IPS (which has experienced student numbers going down) received an 8% increase, close to a $1.5 million bump. Similarly, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school where 94% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, took a budget hit of $36,000 this year.

Federal rules state that schools cannot have more than a 15% drop in Title 1 funding in any one year. However, all of the schools that received more than a 15% decrease were charter schools.

The DOE response was that the charter schools must have made a mistake, but it is still gathering information. The federal government has since stepped in and is requiring DOE to provide information on calculations of Title 1 funding for the past few years. This story is far from over.

There was a significant decrease in Title 1 funding across the board in Indiana, but it is extremely important that this reduction is allocated equitably among the schools. These charter schools are public schools and provide education and resources to students of poverty means across Indiana. It is extremely important that this issue be resolved accurately and swiftly to provide Hoosier students with the education they deserve.

The Indiana School Matters blog also took a further look at why Title 1 funds were cut for our charter schools.

EPA Releases New Ozone Limits

Although our air, land and water are cleaner than arguably before the Industrial Revolution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month announced its new restrictive ground-level ozone standard: 70 parts per billion (ppb). It could have been set even lower – at 65 or even 60 – which would have been more restrictive and affected a large portion of the Indiana population.

At 70 ppb, we believe that all Indiana counties will meet the standard and thus be in “attainment.” However, there is a monitor in Wisconsin that will trip the Chicago area into nonattainment and include the Indiana counties of Lake and Porter. The consequence of “nonattainment” means that there can be no business expansion or new business unless that expanded or new business does not add any additional components to the area’s ozone. Essentially, it would stop any expansion, growth or new business. Additionally, Clark and Floyd counties will likewise be pulled into the Louisville nonattainment status and there is an outside chance that a county or two near Cincinnati may be affected.

Indiana will likely meet this new 70 ppb standard because power plants have shut down or made the very expensive changes necessary to shift over to natural gas as a result of the many EPA requirements designed to eliminate coal The Indiana Chamber has strongly opposed these anti-coal provisions and will continue to do so because, despite diversification efforts, coal remains Indiana’s primary energy source.