“Testify!” Here’s What the Chamber Testified On at the Statehouse Last Week

statehouse picOn behalf of the business community, the Indiana Chamber’s lobbying team testified on a variety of bills last week, including:

HB 1262 – Return and Complete Grant: The Chamber testified in support; the bill would provide opportunities and incentives for students who previously left college to make an easier transition back into school and then into the workforce.

HB 1319 – Acquisition of Distressed Utilities: The Chamber testified in support of a fair, reasonable and effective development of our Indiana water infrastructure. This bill has the potential to do
just that and incentivize new investment, especially in rural Indiana.

HB 1624 – Sale of Alcoholic Beverages: The Chamber testified in
support of Sunday sales but had to oppose the amended bill because
of the onerous regulations and unacceptable costs it now places on liquor store competitors, aka retailers.

SB 1 – State Board Governance: The Chamber testified in support of this bill, which seeks to allow the State Board of Education to elect its own chair in order to have a more effective body. However, we believe the Governor, as the executive branch leader, should be allowed to control the appointment process for State Board members.

SB 177 – Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Costs: The Chamber testified in support, pointing out that this bill allows the water and wastewater utility to make the necessary improvements in a strategic manner, plus the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has approval authority to keep the costs in check.

SB 306 – Limited Liability Arising From Trespassing: The Chamber testified in support, believing that property owners should not owe duty to trespassers (as outlined in this bill).

SB 348 – Advanced Technology Vehicles: The Chamber testified in support because hybrid, electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles currently get a “free ride” as they do not pay fuel taxes that support the state’s roads and highway infrastructure.

SB 373 – Funding of Lawsuits: The Chamber testified in opposition, noting that the preferred regulation of the “lawsuit lending” industry would be with a cap on interest rates and the measures that were presented in the House version (HB 1340).

SB 394 – Reporting of Government Malfeasance: The Chamber testified in support, appreciating the efforts of the bill to help persuade local government employees to speak up without fear of repercussion if they have reason to suspect official misconduct.

SB 416 – Employee’s Right to Scheduled Employment: The Chamber testified in opposition, voicing concerns over the difficulty this bill would place on employers and their ability to be flexible in scheduling employees for work.

SB 436 – State and Local Taxation: The Chamber testified in support of the personal property tax exemption for small businesses but voiced displeasure over the 30% depreciation floor provision being removed and the proposed assessment methods (support in part/oppose in part).

SB 479 – Evaluation of Solid Waste Management Districts (SWMDs): The Chamber testified in support, stating that the overall mission, funding and accountability of the SWMDs should be carefully reconsidered.

SB 568 – Religious Freedom Restoration Act: The Chamber testified in opposition, focusing mainly on the concern that this would place employers in the position of having to determine the legitimacy of religious belief claims and expose those employers to unwarranted legal action.

SR 8 – Guidance for Chemical Facilities for Requirements Under the Environmental Stewardship Program: The Chamber testified in support, citing that recognition provided by the state’s Environmental Stewardship Program should promote a more aggressive safe-handling program for chemicals.

Isn’t That Sweet? Valentine’s Day Spending is Soaring

FWho loves you, baby?

Valentine’s Day spending will reach $18.9 billion this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Gifts run the gamut, but candy takes the cake with consumers.

Here’s an excerpt from an NRF press release, which has the breakdown:

While most (53.2%) plan to buy candy for the sweet holiday, spending a total of $1.7 billion, one in five (21.1%) plans to buy jewelry for a total of $4.8 billion, the highest amount seen since NRF began tracking spending on Valentine’s gifts in 2010.

Additionally 37.8% will buy flowers, spending a total of $2.1 billion, and more than one-third (35.1%) will spend on plans for a special night out, including movies and restaurants, totaling $3.6 billion. Celebrants will also spend nearly $2 billion on clothing and $1.5 billion on the gift that keeps on giving: gift cards.

It turns out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovebirds. Although 91% of those surveyed plan to indulge their significant others/spouses with gifts, 58.7% will dish out an average of $26.26 on other family members and $6.30 on children’s classmates/teachers.

Delectable chocolates, sweet gestures and a hearty economic impact – you’ve got to love it.

Legislative Testimony: Sunday Alcohol Sales

BThe Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter testified today in support of Sunday liquor sales, but opposition to the amended House Bill 1624 by Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte).

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce supports the retail sale of alcoholic beverages for carryout on Sunday – for ALL classes of licensed retailers. We believe this would improve Indiana’s business climate and be a big win for consumers who want to see this modest and common sense change to existing law. A law that has remained on the books for far too long. A debate, in our estimation, that has gone on for far too long – and we are not alone in this opinion. Polling shows a growing majority of Hoosiers want this change.

You have the power – and the responsibility – to bring this change about by passing Sunday sales. However, to do so, you must craft a compromise between the liquor stores who have fought this change year after year after year, and other retailers, “big box” or otherwise, who have sought this change for just as long.

We supported the introduced version of HB 1624 and still do. We were encouraged when we heard rumors about a “compromise” on this issue; indeed one media outlet reported that a “compromise” had been reached. We began to rejoice.

But, then we saw the chairman’s amendment and we knew that no such compromise had been reached. Indeed, we were not invited to a negotiation. A negotiation between two liquor stores or their lobbyists is not a compromise.

To have a true compromise, you have to have two sides agree on something. Yet, the two sides on this issue agree on nothing. In fact, their roles have reversed since the introduction of the amendment with liquor stores now quoted in the media as supporting it and historical supporters of Sunday sales opposing it.

Why this sudden role reversal? Sometimes to ask a question is to answer it. So, with all due respect, the amendment under consideration today falls short of being a good faith effort at a workable compromise. It is objectively one-sided with all of the burdens placed on one class of alcohol retailer to their competitive disadvantage. And, that class is every single retailer that is NOT a package liquor store.

Under the amendment, liquor stores change nothing about their business model except they can now open on Sunday, if they choose. Their competitors? They have new, unacceptable regulations placed upon their stores, their personnel, and most importantly their customers.

Anyone with any familiarity with the Sunday sales issue had to know that this amendment would be unacceptable. The cost of retrofitting retail stores alone will run to at least $50-$60 million by conservative estimates and will affect all non-liquor store retailers large or small, big box or mom-and-pop. Some may be unable to comply with the provisions of this amendment at all.

Retrofitting is only the beginning of the economic costs represented by this amendment. Consumers will not stand for turning back the clock some 40-50 years and moving distilled spirits back “behind the counter”; that model of retailing can be seen at the Hook’s Museum and that is rightly where it belongs – in a museum.

Today’s consumers will revolt at being forced by you, elected members of the Indiana General Assembly, to go to “Tony with the name tag” at a separate counter or checkout lane, to then ask for a specific type of alcohol, a specific brand of alcohol and a specific bottle size.

To what end, one may ask, are lawmakers putting me through this when all I want is a little rum to mix with my lime and Coke? And, this new, government-imposed restriction will hassle consumers not just on Sunday, but every single day of the week.

Consumers will be needlessly inconvenienced and they will rebel. Just a couple of years ago they wanted your heads on pikes for carding them if they looked under the age of 40! Remember that? Passed in one session, repealed the next. Total run time: less than a year.

Do you think they will accept the serial inconveniences in this amendment? No, they will not. There will be a backlash, deservedly so, and it won’t be aimed at the businesses selling alcohol.

This is not the commonsense reform that Hoosiers are asking for. It is concierge legislating for the liquor store lobby. No one here is fooled by this so-called “compromise”, and here’s the trick box you’ve placed yourselves in by trying to place advocates of Sunday sales in a similar box:

With talk of a “compromise,” the public now EXPECTS you to deliver on Sunday sales. They’ve been reading about it for months now and, suddenly, a (so-called) compromise is here! The public doesn’t do nuance and they could care less about the machinations inside this building or the welfare of lobbyists, liquor store owners or this or that grocery store chain.

All they want is to be able to conveniently buy alcohol on Sunday like residents of other states do. It is not an unreasonable expectation. But, this is an unreasonable amendment that places unreasonable burdens on consumers.

With that, I’ll conclude the Indiana Chamber’s support of Sunday sales but opposition to the bill as amended.

Gov. Pence Still Blocking Job-Saving Work Share Plan

For the third year in a row, the Pence administration has refused to support the creation of an innovative, cost-neutral program to reduce job layoffs and loss of benefits – a vital issue for Hoosier workers and their families.

Obtaining approval for the implementation of a work share program for Indiana is one of the Indiana Chamber’s top priorities for the 2015 legislative session. It’s that important.

Work share would allow a company to reduce the hours of a group of employees to avoid a full layoff of some of those employees. Employers retain a skilled workforce; employees are compensated for their reduced working hours, receive partial unemployment compensation to help offset the reduction in hours and retain their benefits.

It’s voluntary. It saves jobs – nearly 500,000 in 21 states over the past five years. It doesn’t increase unemployment trust fund costs. It is an important economic development tool as it enables companies to retain skilled workers and allows the employees to remain at work enhancing their skills and experience.

Hopefully, the need for such a program will be minimal. However, business cycles and economic downturns are a reality. When they do happen, work share will be a very important tool for Indiana to have in place.

It made so much sense that Governor Pence actually voted for work share legislation when he was a member of Congress. In a position today as Governor to actually do something about it, he’s refusing to move forward.

Call Governor Pence’s office at (317) 232-4567 and send him a brief email message from our web site. Ask Governor Pence to reconsider his decision and to support work share. It will only take a moment to make the call and send the message, but it’s very important.

For more information:
• Tom Easterday, executive vice president of Suburu of Indiana Automotive and chairman of the board of the Indiana Chamber, explains more about work share in the video below.

Chamber Supports Regional Cities Initiative, I-69 Route in Southern Marion County

HB 1403 establishes the Indiana Regional City Fund to provide grants and loans to regional development authorities. Provides that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation administers the fund. Provides that a city or town that is eligible to become a second-class city may become a member of a regional development authority.

The Indiana Chamber testified in support of HB 1403, joining many others. The Indiana Chamber endorses regionalism and place-making economic development strategies that this legislation seeks to enable. Both have proven effective and both are in line with the Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan. How to fund the state portion of the regional cities initiative remains an open question and one which the Indiana Chamber is prepared to work with legislative leaders to find an answer.

The bill was heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday. No vote taken; eligible for further committee action.

Furthermore, see the article on the Regional Cities Initiative in the January/February edition of BizVoice magazine.


HB 1036 removes the requirement that the General Assembly enact a statute authorizing the construction of I-69 in Perry Township (Marion County) before I-69 may be constructed in Perry Township.

The Indiana Chamber, along with many others, testified in support of HB 1036; no party testified in opposition to the bill. There is no valid reason that the current prohibition for I-69 in Perry Township, Marion County should exist in law. The Chamber’s position: The current prohibition should be repealed; all potential routes for the final section of I-69 should be objectively studied by the appropriate agencies of both the federal and state governments; and the route with the least environmental and best economic impact for the state should be chosen upon the merits, not upon any political clout or other considerations.

This bill was heard in the House Roads and Transportation Committee on Wednesday. No vote taken; eligible for further committee action.

78% of Hoosier Manufacturers Predict Growth in the Next Two Years

An excerpt from a report released by Katz Sapper & Miller

Just four years ago, many Hoosier manufacturers were nearly swamped by the challenges presented by the financial crisis and the resulting Great Recession.

Recovery ensued for many in 2011 and 2012, but most could not help but wonder if the improvement was simply a return to a pre-crisis normalcy or the beginning of a renaissance in manufacturing, powered by energy-cost advantages and onshoring. The 2014 Indiana Manufacturing Survey results provide more clues.

All things considered, Indiana manufacturers have experienced steady improvement, with the percentage describing their financial position as “challenged” dropping to 17%, down from 21% in both the 2013 and 2012 surveys and down from a whopping 47% in the 2011 survey. Not so coincidentally, 47% of Indiana manufacturers now describe their financial performance as “healthy,” up from 34% in 2013 and back in line with the improvement observed in 2012, when 44% responded as such (versus only 21% in 2011).

These new results confirm the trend we noted in last year’s report: Indiana manufacturing has made significant financial and operational improvements while rebounding from the recession. Raw materials, work-in-process and finished-goods inventories are under control; suppliers and accounts receivables are being paid on a timely basis; and a host of operational performance measures, from customer satisfaction to product quality, have noticeably improved. Indeed, Indiana manufacturing is on a path that could see it grow in terms of employment and economic output to levels not seen in more than a decade.

Also view this corresponding infographic.

Your Chance to Weigh in on Indiana’s Future

RMaking Indiana as successful as it can be is the goal of the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan. The Indiana University Public Policy Institute has an initiative working toward the same outcome in Thriving Communities, Thriving State.

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to serve as a “commissioner” on one of the three working groups. Former Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis and former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randy Shepard are the co-chairs.

Upcoming public input sessions will take place across the state. The goal: encourage discussions among government, nonprofit and private sector leaders about issues that are or will be critical to Indiana’s future — to provide policy options for action.

The sessions (the first one took place in Gary on February 5) are all from 2:00-4:00 p.m.:

  • February 10: Evansville, University of Southern Indiana
  • February 17: Indianapolis, Urban League
  • February 26: Columbus, Irwin Conference Center
  • March 3: Fort Wayne, Indiana University-Purdue University

Additional information is available from Debbie Wyeth at dwyeth@iupui.edu.

AT&T Indiana: Maximizing Its Investment Through Advocacy

attBill Soards is passionate – and proactive – about enhancing the state’s business climate.

The AT&T Indiana president is a member of the Chamber’s board of directors and serves on the Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG) Policy Committee. IBRG is the Chamber’s non-partisan political action program.

“Without a doubt, the Indiana Chamber is the premier voice for the business community in Indiana,” he declares. “Every year, when elected leaders in our state start thinking about establishing an agenda (for the General Assembly session), the Chamber’s agenda (reflected in its legislative priorities) becomes a central focus of where the state should move.

“The Chamber allows business leaders to network, share ideas and concerns, and work together to help improve the business climate in Indiana. It boldly sets a vision for the state that’s future focused.”

The value of AT&T Indiana’s investment hit home when Soards accompanied Chamber president Kevin Brinegar and membership director Brock Hesler to a meeting with a prospective member.

“I wondered what I would talk about,” he recalls, “and through the course of that meeting, I found myself advocating for Chamber membership and realizing just how critical the membership was to my own company.”

AT&T has been an Indiana Chamber since 1922. If your company is also interested in membership, send us a note and we’ll be in touch about how we can benefit you via advocacy and other benefits.

State Superintendent Needs to be Appointed, On Same Page with Governor

It’s about good public policy. It’s about what’s best for students and teachers.

For nearly 30 years, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has supported having the state superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position. We did this when Republicans and Democrats controlled the governor’s office. And we have been far from alone.

In years past, the state Democratic and Republican parties have included it in their platforms. And in 2004, both Gov. Joe Kernan and challenger Mitch Daniels had it among their campaign proposals.

It may be surprising to some, but the Indiana State Teachers Association used to support having an appointed superintendent. However, the group changed its tune once its 2012 endorsed candidate, Glenda Ritz, was elected.

The Indiana Chamber has remained consistent with its position and believes politics should be put aside.

Having an appointed superintendent came oh so close to happening in the late 1980s during Gov. Robert Orr’s administration – passing the House and falling only one vote short in the Senate. Since then it’s mainly been a parade of governors and superintendents not on the same page on major education policy (regardless of which party held either office). That situation doesn’t serve the state, students, parents or teachers well.

Our governor campaigns on education issues and sets an education agenda. In order to be held accountable for that, he needs to be able to appoint the superintendent of his choosing. That way, we can be assured there is alignment with respect to education policy. Hoosiers can then hold the governor truly responsible for education and factor that into his performance assessment come election time.

Appointing a superintendent also means the person chosen comes from a broader pool of qualified candidates. And the selection should then be based on the person’s education and leadership merits, not political backing.

Many have known for a long time that the current system isn’t conducive to getting things done. That’s only been exacerbated the last two years with the divergent philosophical opinions of Gov. Mike Pence and Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Too often this has resulted in the State Board of Education at a crossroads, if not a standstill. That’s entirely unacceptable.

What’s more, the superintendent, as head of the state Department of Education, should be treated like every other agency leader. We don’t elect the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, commissioner of the Department of Revenue and so forth. All of those officials are appointed at the discretion of the governor. The Department of Education should be the same.

Indiana is already behind the times – and more than 35 other states – in acknowledging that an appointed superintendent serves citizens best. Our preference would be that realization happen sooner rather than later. We recognize the political sensitivities and pressures currently in play – though we don’t agree with bowing to them – and want to see serious discussion and action taken on the issue this legislative session.