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.”

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.

Two Work Together for One Big Year

OK, I tried this little history lesson below as a possible lead to my BizVoice magazine story on the 2011 Government Leaders of the Year. I was rightfully told that it didn’t work — at least for that purpose. After a second look, I quickly agreed.

But you get it here, with the primary purpose to get you to the full story about Brian Bosma and David Long — and the accomplishments they helped produce in this year’s Indiana General Assembly session.

There are reasons that 49 states (Nebraska being the exception) and many countries operate with bicameral governing bodies. Bicameral simply refers to two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate at the state and congressional levels.

While not delving too far into a history lesson, the Founding Fathers of our country established the House to represent the will of the people. This is exemplified by their smaller districts and two-year election cycle. The Senate, on the other hand, is viewed as much more deliberative, with its members representing larger geographic areas and serving six-year terms.

The two-chamber model provides a checks and balances to the governing system. But the House and Senate – and particularly their leadership – must work together. To do so is progress; to fail in that effort often results in gridlock.

The 2011 Indiana General Assembly session is largely regarded as a tremendous success. Leading the way were the two people at the top – House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

Check out the full story here and go online to view all the award winner videos.

Less Than 350 Days Until the Next Big Show

We like to say here at the Indiana Chamber that we have the biggest and best annual business celebration. Sure I’m a little biased, but I think that was proven to be the case again Thursday night.

Don’t take our word for it. The 1,400-plus attendees certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. Governor Mitch Daniels helped get the ball rolling and the night closed with keynote speaker Terry Bradshaw putting on an excellent show.

There were the three major awards, of course. Congratulations to Business Leader of the Year Jean Wojtowicz, Government Leaders Brian Bosma and David Long, and Community of the Year Kokomo. Check out their video profiles and stay tuned for photos, a video recap of the event and more in the coming days and weeks.

It’s about much more than just the awards. It’s business, community and political leaders coming together and celebrating what makes Indiana great.

It’s only 11 months and 12 days until the 23rd Annual Awards Dinner, which will feature Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the 40th anniversary of Watergate and the lessons learned that apply to today’s political world. Join us November 1, 2012 and see for yourself what a great event this is.

A Little Less Talk, a Lot More Action at Statehouse?

Tuesday morning at the Indiana Statehouse was a good time for catchy phrases. Whether the rest of the week will see substantive legislative action is yet to be seen.

House Speaker Pat Bauer has reconfirmed his plan to adjourn this session by the end of Thursday (10 days before the March 14 deadline date for such action). His closing words to House members (before calling for a recess until 2:30 today) as he urged them to work diligently on conference committees: "If you can make an agreement, so be it; if you can’t make an agreement, so be it."

Prior to that, House Minority Leader Brian Bosma said his caucus was not opposed to a Thursday ending as long as all the needed business was taken care of. He cited five priorities, led by a clean and clear delay in the unemployment insurance tax increase, that would thwart the "go home early" plan. His final comment: "It’s better to be a little slow and right than quick and wrong."

The Senate has not publicly weighed in today (it has a light calendar with a 1:30 beginning), although President Pro Tem David Long has previously stated there is nothing wrong with an early ending, but not before key issues are addressed.

The real work is taking place in conference committees and in negotiations among leadership. Stay tuned for the outcomes.

Bauer, Bosma, Long and Simpson Set the Stage

The 2010 legislative session might officially begin Tuesday with Organization Day. The discussion started today, however, at the Indiana Chamber’s Central Indiana Legislative Preview. The four caucus leaders had plenty to say during an hour-plus dialogue. Just a few of the highlights:

  • Plenty of debate and disagreement over the property tax caps. House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) tried to insert some ABCs into the 1-2-3 argument, with his main point being that assessment problems still need to be fixed. Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) warned of constitutional challenges (lawsuits) if the caps are not passed. Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) offered that "we really don’t know if 1-2-3 are the right numbers" and said there should be no exemptions for any counties
  • State budget: House Minority Leader Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says there are two priorities for his caucus — no new taxes and no additional spending. Long: "Any bill that has spending in it is more than likely dead on arrival."
  • Party lines were clearly at play on federal health care reform, with Long "scared to death about what they’re talking about in Washington," while Simpson is "all for a national health insurance plan that insures more people." Bauer arrived in time to add that a fortune could be made and debt problems resolved if a 25% premium charge was placed on every advertisement both for and against health care reform
  • Local government reform: Simpson says exemptions for certain counties or areas have no place in such legislation; Long sees much duplication in township services in urban areas, but not necessarily in rural places; and Bauer gave arguments on both sides of the question before asserting that reform "must take place in steps and some steps will be taken this session."
  • Support of delay in unemployment insurance tax increase on employers: Bosma said "yes" to delay or even permanently postpone; Bauer adds that modifying those increases should take place in conjunction with a jobs program; and Simpson notes her caucus will "undoubtedly support a delay" but also believes that reforms in the hearings and appeals processes should be part of the equation
  • Education reform was addressed with Long contending that while some say Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is a bull in a china shop, "I say we need a bull in a china shop. He needs to continue to push the envelope." Simpson says Democrats are more open to these discussions due to the efforts of President Obama. Bauer wants the focus more on students, expecially those struggling in inner cities, than teachers. Bosma sees the coming decade as one of "examination and action" on education, but that will not be the case in the 2010 General Assembly session

Bottom line: Excellent discussion; there will be plenty of issues in play during the short two-month session; and no one really knows what the outcomes will be.

Conference Committee 101

The budget bill will be in conference committee the next few days – perhaps even through Sunday. Lawmakers will officially return at 9:30 this morning, although most negotiations and compromises take place well out of the public view.

A few basic things to keep in mind about a conference committee:

The makeup is two members (“conferees”) each from the House and Senate as well as “advisors” – all appointed by House Speaker Pat Bauer and Senate Pro Tem David Long. These conferees and advisors may be removed at any time by the respective House and Senate leaders (generally only done if the appointee is threatening to go against the party line).

The conference committee process is less structured than the regular committee process. Conference committees may meet within one (Senate rule) or two (House rule) hours after notice of the meeting is posted (on the bulletin boards outside the respective Senate and House chambers) and are open to the public “whenever feasible.” No further posting is required if additional meetings are necessary, and it is within the chair’s discretion to be forthcoming about time and place of any additional meetings.

A bill may pass out of a conference committee only with unanimous consent of the conferees. This is called the conference report. If it passes out of the conference committee, both chambers vote on the final version.

Senate to Play Waiting Game

The special legislative session in the Senate Thursday lasted about 20 minutes. The 50-member Senate (with 46 present) convened, as required, passed a resolution to overturn the existing law that one chamber cannot be in recess for more than three consecutive days during a special session without the approval of the other chamber and said (in my words) "House, send us a budget bill."

In the words of Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne), "We don’t know when a bill will come over from the House. But I would keep your calendars locked up from the middle of next week until the end of June."

So much for a quick and easy process here (already evidenced by the antics of the past few weeks). There are two budget plans — the governor’s and the House Democrats — and a big difference on how schools are going to be funded. Let the drama begin.

Township Bill Boosted, Passed by Senate

In a real victory for reforming Indiana’s township government, the Indiana Chamber and allies worked vigorously to improve SB 512 and successfully passed that revised version. As introduced, SB 512 eliminated townships (which is preferred), but to get the bill passed from the Senate Local Government Committee it was greatly watered down.

The day before the final vote before the full Senate, two favorable amendments were added and one bad amendment was defeated. As the amended bill was up for the final vote, the prospects for victory were not good. During the past few weeks, many township officials and their lobbyists (paid for with taxpayers’ dollars) were at the Statehouse in force to apply pressure on their legislators to oppose the bill. With the Daniels’ administration’s team and members of the Chamber-led coalition, we successfully swayed at least five votes to get to the final tally of 28-22 to pass the bill. 

The Chamber wishes to thank Sen. Lawson for her hard work and leadership on getting this bill passed. Senator David Long (R-Fort Wayne) provided leadership of the Republican caucus, where all of the supporting votes came from. We know there are several Democrat senators who would have supported this bill, but were unfortunately not permitted to vote that way.

Indiana Chamber board members and other citizens who contacted legislators to help swing several crucial votes played a critical role in the outcome. Senate Bill 512 is one of the keystone local government efficiency bills from the Kernan-Shepard Commission recommendations. We will work diligently to keep it moving in the House and bring it to a successful conclusion at the end of the session.