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.”

Recruiting the Next Generation of Hoosier Educators

96631972The following is a guest blog by Indiana House Speaker Rep. Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

The single most important factor in student success is an outstanding teacher in the classroom. That’s why our schools need a strong hiring pool of high-quality teachers to ensure Hoosier students have the best chance of success.

To help attract and retain top talent, I authored a new law this year establishing the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship. This program, which received bipartisan support, is designed to incentivize our best and brightest high school graduates to pursue degrees in teaching and work in Indiana’s classrooms.

Beginning Nov. 1, both incoming and current college students studying education can apply for the scholarship, which awards $7,500 per year toward college costs to those who commit to teaching in Indiana’s public or private schools for five years after graduating.

The scholarship is available to 200 students statewide each year who either graduate in the top 20 percent of their class or earn a score in the top 20th percentile on the SAT or ACT. While in college, students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and complete at least 30 credit hours per year to continue receiving the grant. Graduates must obtain their teaching license and teach in Indiana for five consecutive years. The commission can make special exceptions for life’s unexpected circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Students interested in applying must be nominated by a teacher and submit their nomination form to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Students are encouraged to complete the nomination form before the application period opens.

I applaud the work of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and Commissioner Teresa Lubbers in implementing this new program and launching a promotional campaign to spread the word about this great opportunity. Students can visit for information and to submit an application before the Dec. 31 deadline. The commission is also expected to launch TV, radio and digital advertisements this month.

Indiana’s new scholarship program represents a bipartisan effort with input and broad-based support from lawmakers, teachers and education organizations, including the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of Indiana colleges and universities, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana Catholic Conference and Stand for Children.

This new program will help our schools attract and retain highly qualified teachers – especially for subjects like STEM and special education. Hoosier students hold the keys to Indiana’s future, and we will continue to work together to strengthen our commitment to students, teachers and schools.

Bill to Boost Teacher Pay Dies

96631972Due to significant misinformation from the teacher’s unions and lack of support in the Senate and Governor’s office, Chamber-supported SB 10 died in the House Thursday when it was not called for a vote.

Senate Bill 10 would have allowed school corporations to provide supplemental funding in excess of a teacher’s salary; this would have been extremely helpful in filling high-need positions.

The Indiana Chamber has always supported paying good teachers more. Being able to give administrators the flexibility to provide additional funding on top of salaries is an important step toward recruiting teachers in areas such as STEM subjects and special education. We believe this flexibility would have helped add another incentive to assist with Indiana’s teacher shortage.

The Senate killed a similar provision in HB 1004 last week and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) publicly asked House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) to follow suit. The Governor’s office also had tepid support for the bill. In the end, due to the significant concern that the bill might not be signed by the Governor, Bosma decided not to put his caucus through a difficult vote.

We are very disappointed that a pro-teacher, pro-superintendent flexibility bill was not able to pass the Legislature this session, but still thank Speaker Bosma for his overall assistance on HB 1004 and SB 10.

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 Scores Hoosier Legislators on 2013 Voting Records

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce handed out scores today to all 150 state legislators for their voting records on pro-economy, pro-jobs legislation during the 2013 General Assembly. The numbers, released in the organization’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis, also contain a two-year total for each legislator.

The 2013 scores range from 44% to 100%. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-District 88 of Indianapolis), who votes at his discretion and therefore was scored on fewer bills, was the lone perfect mark. The highest full-time voting record for 2013 was Rep. Ed Clere (R-District 72 of New Albany) at 97%. The top senator was Joe Zakas (R-District 11 of Granger) at 87%. Last year, there were 15 legislators with 100%.

The reason for the slightly lower vote scores overall is the type of public policies on the docket, observes Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“The issues in 2013 were more complex and less partisan in nature. Two examples involved the Common Core academic standards and the ratepayer protection for the Rockport synthetic natural gas plant. Both were highly complicated – containing various provisions – and had significant supporters and opponents in both parties. This could very well be a sign of things to come.”

All scores and the full report are available at the Indiana Chamber’s web site at

Brinegar also points out that the Senate scores, on average, were notably lower than in recent years. “That happened because the Senate watered down several crucial bills or simply refused to move other pro-jobs bills altogether.

“What’s more, the gap between the top (87%) and bottom (60%) scores in the Senate was closer this year, as Democrat scores increased overall while Republicans went down,” he notes.

“All in all, however, it was another successful session for Hoosier businesses and their workers. Legislators, for the most part, voted to grow jobs and move our state forward – and the results show it.”

A total of 19 legislators also received a star designation for their significant efforts on issues deemed of critical importance or their overall leadership. Among them: Speaker Bosma and first-term House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-District 9 of Michigan City) who together championed the Indiana Career Council legislation.

Says Brinegar of Pelath: “He brought a breath of fresh air to the House and it was noticeable. From our perspective, things were much more focused on policy issues than political issues.”

New this year in the vote descriptions is a 2025 icon next to those bills that directly reflect the goals contained in the Indiana Chamber’s long-term economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025.

“We do the Legislative Vote Analysis to keep Hoosier employers and citizens informed about what’s going on at the Indiana Statehouse and how their legislators are voting on issues vital to Indiana’s economic future. This report makes it clear which legislators support pro-job growth and pro-business issues, and which legislators do not,” Brinegar explains.

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

Bills used in the report were selected based on their significant impact to the state’s economic climate and workforce. Lawmakers are notified of the Indiana Chamber position and reasoning on these bills 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 29th year the Indiana Chamber has measured state legislators’ voting performance on bills that reflect the organization’s public policy positions.

Brinegar on Today’s Right-to-Work Announcement by Statehouse Leaders

Comments from Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar on the announcement today by House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long that right-to-work legislation will take priority in the 2012 session:

“Passing a right-to-work law is the single most important action our lawmakers can take to put more Hoosiers back to work. Currently, we have more than 200,000 people unemployed in Indiana and many more at risk as employers deal with a still unstable economy. A right-to-work law would open the door to attracting new and expanding companies and the numerous jobs they bring.

“Site selection experts from across the country will tell anyone who will listen that between one third and nearly half of the companies that hire them to find a good location won’t even consider non right-to-work states for their business growth and expansion plans. So Indiana is automatically out of the running in far too many instances.

“Other Midwestern states such a Michigan and Kentucky are now looking at passing right-to-work to gain a dramatic competitive advantage for jobs. We cannot afford to fall behind the competition.

“Right-to-work is about creating jobs, economic growth and fairness. Arguments to the contrary are smoke and mirrors. Right-to-work laws do not prohibit labor unions or collective bargaining, but simply protect workers from being forced to join or pay dues and fees to a labor union.  Workers would still have the right to join or support a labor union, only now it would be his or her decision to make. That’s simply fair.

“Case in point, right-to-work legislation was passed more than 15 years ago for Hoosier teachers. It certainly didn’t destroy their unions or collective bargaining rights, and it didn’t result in lower wages for teachers.

“Going forward, the Indiana Chamber will work to help citizens and lawmakers realize that a vote for right-to-work is a vote for job creation and worker freedom. A person shouldn’t have to be forced to join a union in order to get or keep a job. Today was an important step and I applaud legislative leadership for displaying determination with this issue.”

The Circus Continues: What the House Standoff Means

What a circus! And next week is shaping up to possibly be more of the same for Indiana’s House of Representatives. That’s a real shame because the House Democratic walkout jeopardizes a number of key bills that the Indiana Chamber believes would be extremely beneficial to Hoosiers. In fact, the Chamber has actively supported all 11 bills House Minority Leader Pat Bauer is demanding be defeated.

Among them, of course, is the right-to-work legislation that would give workers the choice of whether or not to join a union. There is overwhelming evidence that passing right-to-work this session would be the single biggest action to stimulate Indiana’s economy and bring more jobs to the state. Any policy that can do both of those things over the long term and has the support of seven out of every 10 voters deserves full consideration. Nonetheless, while disappointed, we respect the decision by House Speaker Brian Bosma to steer right-to-work to a study committee where legislators can continue the discussion this summer.

Right-to-work, though, was only one of the labor measures singled out by Bauer, while a collection of important education reform bills were also cited as reasons for the standoff. These education policies would: improve student outcomes and prepare students for the workforce; give parents of low-income students, in particular, more options for getting a quality education for their children; and allow more local managerial control in our schools.

These targeted bills – and nearly 50 in total – have been caught in the political crossfire and are now in limbo. On Thursday, the House Rules Committee voted to extend the deadline for bills to pass out of the House to next Friday (March 4). For the Rules Committee action to go into effect, the House must be able to vote on it – and a quorum of 67 members is needed for that.

The question is whether the House Democrats will reappear next week. It is certainly the Chamber’s hope that legislators return to work and put the best interest of all their constituents first. If they object to certain bills, they should show up, speak their mind and can vote against them. That’s how the process works. Then when election time comes, make their case to the voters. Activity coming to a screeching halt is not acceptable and is a disservice to all Hoosiers.

Quotables from House Dems’ Road Trip

A nice article here from Eric Bradner of the Evansville Courier & Press on the Democratic border blitz yesterday. I’ll just defer to the article, which has some attention-getting quotes:

The 37 missing Democrats were holed up together Tuesday night at a hotel in Urbana, Ill., and would not say when they will return to Indiana.

“I don’t know when we’ll come back,” said Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville. “We’ve been pushed with our backs against the wall, and it’s time for them to listen to us.”

After Democrats sent back a list of 11 bills to which they object, though, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, did not sound interested in listening.

“This is the most ludicrous political stunt I have ever seen,” he said. “Let them stay in Illinois. They’ll fit right in. Maybe they can vote for a couple of tax increases while they’re over there.”

Democrats left the Statehouse as hundreds of labor union members rallied for the second straight day. They held signs, chanted and marched around the House and Senate chambers.

Drawing most of their ire was a measure that proponents call “right to work.” It would allow workers to opt out of paying union dues – a move, protesters said, that would undermine those unions’ funding and negotiating power.

They also objected to several other labor-related measures and to most of Daniels’ education reforms – especially one that would limit the scope of teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

Democrats cited those bills as well, saying they want them killed for the rest of the session, or else they might not return. And Nancy Guyott, the Indiana State AFL-CIO president, said the union protesters approve of Democrats’ tactics.

Late Tuesday night, Bosma learned that Democrats had left the state, and was handed the list of bills from House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, at the same time.

“Maybe voters need to go over there, drag them back here and get them to do their jobs,” Bosma said. “They need to get their butts back here.”

Or, he said, there is another option.

“They should step down. I mean it. If they’re not willing to do their work here and they’re leaving the state, they should vacate the office and let replacements who are willing to come here and do the people’s business be selected,” Bosma said.

Dalton: HD19 GOP Primary has Intrigue for Northwest Indiana Voters

Steve Dalton’s popular blog Northwest Indiana Politics is read by many politicos statewide.

House District 19: The Republican primary pits former Mayor of Crown Point Dan Klein against Fran Katz, chief operating officer of the American Society of Agronomy.  

Republicans believe this seat to be particularly vulnerable to a pick-up in that first-term incumbent Shelli VanDenburgh is a Democrat in a marginally Republican district — by a small margin. In a year where one House race may determine control of redistricting, and some of those races may be determined yet again by just hundreds of votes — or less, this race has been targeted by HRCC as a key priority. During 2009, there was quite a bit of effort expended to recruit former military hero Luke Abbott to run for this office, and initially he did announce intentions to run. Early in 2010, word leaked out that his work schedule would preclude him from running and HRCC began to search to find another suitable candidate. 

Here’s where there is a bit of controversy: Instead of working closely with the new GOP chair from Lake County, Kim Krull, HRCC jumped quickly to put out former Mayor Klein’s name and freeze everyone else out. Fran Katz then, with the support of chairman Krull, filed to run as well. Chairman Krull says she will work with the winner to replace Vandenburgh, but that she was not in the loop and didn’t know that Klein was being recruited. There have been words of frustration from both camps over the apparent faux pas, but at this point there’s a primary and everyone’s working to win.

Former Mayor Klein is handicapped by his dramatic loss in the Republican primary in 2007 to the director of the Crown Point Chamber of Commerce (the Republican went on to lose the mayor’s office to Democrats in that year). There have also been persistent issues surrounding an investigation into a loan made to Plasmatronics, an economic development opportunity, while he was mayor. The discussion boards and blog comments have been littered with accusations that to date have not been anything more than that. But all handicaps and gossip mills aside, Klein has name recognition as a former mayor and current director of Habitat for Humanity. He also has the support of potential Speaker Bosma and the finance commitments that may be necessary to knock off an incumbent Democrat. Rumors that this run is merely a stepping stone to another run for mayor are probably whisper campaigns to stir up resentment only. 

Katz appears to bring a wealth of experience in sciences and research, and a lifetime of working to combat arbitrary ceilings and barriers. She does not have the name recognition that Klein holds, but she has the tacit support of the Lake County GOP organization and those in Crown Point who remember Mayor Klein less than fondly.   

I would predict a Klein win, though a smaller margin than expected by any of the internal polling, based on name recognition voting. A big turnout favors Klein; a weak turnout in heavy rain probably gives Katz a chance.  

U.S. House District One: I can keep this short and sweet. Rob Pastore has run the most aggressive campaign, and has captured the most attention among Republican candidates. I would expect him to win the primary. I would also expect that, barring major corruption charges, Pete Visclosky will win re-election. This is the safest seat in Indiana for Democrats.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of respect for our guest bloggers, we will not be allowing anonymous comments on their blogs this week. Additionally, the Indiana Chamber does not necessarily share the opinions of our guest bloggers.

It’s Conference Committee Time — Again

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Crawford tells the House that work begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on the budget conference committee, that those involved should be prepared to work each day through Sunday, possibly "morning, noon and evening" in the attempt to have a compromise ready by next Monday.

Those words came after, on a voice vote, the House dissented on the Senate budget that was passed earlier in the afternoon. But even that involved a few theatrics.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma urged opposition to the dissent motion, saying, "It’s time to end the per-diem, end the travel, end the hotel expenses; end the misery for taxpayers, for employees wondering if the state will shut down. It’s time for all that to end."

Democrat Russ Stilwell countered that he wasn’t going to rely on "blind faith" in going along with a Senate proposal that passed three hours earlier. Plenty of shouts from the floor even prompted Speaker Pat Bauer to call for a little decorum.

Crawford and Jeff Espich are the House conferees. Advisors on the Dem side are Goodin, Pelath, Avery and Welch; for the Republicans, Turner, Thompson and Borror. On the Senate side, Luke Kenley and John Broden are the conferees; offering their guidance will be Republicans Hershman, Dillon, Lubbers and Senate Pro Tem Long; Tallian, Hume and Skinner for the Dems.

The clock is ticking. Seven days and counting.