Ellis, Lawrance Bring Chamber Advocacy Team to Full Strength

lawrence ellisThe many programs and benefits of Indiana Chamber membership include the state’s deepest and most effective group of issue experts. That team welcomes two talented additions.

Mark Lawrance returns to the Chamber in the new position of vice president of engagement and innovation policy. That includes advocacy work in the areas of technology, economic development and infrastructure.

Greg Ellis begins his work May 31 as vice president of energy and environmental policy. His variety of public and private sector experiences, including serving as an administrative law judge for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission since 2010, will prove valuable in his work on behalf of Chamber members.

Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar leads an experienced lobbying team that also includes: Caryl Auslander, education, workforce development and federal relations; Mike Ripley, health care policy and employment law; and Bill Waltz, taxation, public finance and local government reform.

“The hard work that takes place in the summer and fall – Chamber policy meetings, interim legislative panels, individual meetings with lawmakers and more – leads to effective General Assembly sessions,” Brinegar says. “Chamber members will be well represented by these issue experts and the support team we have around them.”

2016 Legislative Returns on Indiana Chamber Investment

in chamberThe 2016 General Assembly saw the Chamber advocate for and achieve numerous public policy victories that will have a lasting positive impact on the state’s economy and the prosperity of its residents. Additionally, the Chamber defeated several measures that would have cost businesses over $200 million.

In total, the Chamber’s work yielded savings of $1.435 billion for Hoosier businesses OR $546 per employee. Specific savings are listed below by bill and subject matter, in total and per employee. Also noted is the indeterminable value of a vital policy area: education and workforce development; the majority of which cannot be quantified.

Business Savings:
$1.435 billion or $546 per employee

Civil Justice
– Reasonable and controlled increased medical malpractice limits (SEA 28):
$50 million; $19.02/employee
– Restrictions on legal practice known as “lawsuit lending”
(HEA 1127): $40 million; $15.21/employee

Economic Development and Infrastructure
– Supplemental distribution of local income tax for local infrastructure (SEA 67): $400 million; $152.13/employee
– Short-term road funding and allowance for additional Regional Cities initiative (HEA 1001): $300 million; $114.10/employee
– Defeated – Unreasonably high data breach fines (HB 1357): $10 million; $3.80/employee

Employment and Labor
– Prohibition against ordinances restricting employee scheduling (SEA 20): $75 million; $28.52/employee
– Defeated – Option for prevailing wage (SB 319 and SB 346): $50 million; $19.02/employee
– Defeated – Mandated paid leave policies (HB 1139 and HB 1328): $30 million; $11.41/employee
– Defeated – Mandated increases in minimum wage (HB 1265): $25 million; $9.51/employee
– Defeated – Loss of business license for employing unauthorized aliens (SB 285): $25 million; $9.51/employee
– Changes to unemployment insurance procedures (HEA 1334): $20 million; $7.61/employee

Energy and Environment
Long-term water infrastructure maintenance funding (SEA 257 and SEA 383)
$100 million; $38.03/employee
More efficient solid waste handling (SEA 256 and SEA 366) $20 million; $7.61/employee
Underground tank remediation fund (SEA 255) $10 million; $3.80/employee
Planning future water usage needs (SEA 347) $10 million; $3.80/employee

Health Care and Insurance
– Prescribing authority for telemedicine (HEA 1263): $80 million; $30.43/employee
– Codification of Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 (SEA 165) $70 million; $26.62/employee
– Defeated – Mandated health insurance coverages (SB 370) $25 million; $9.51/employee
– Defeated – Provisions for prescription drug requirements (HB 1390) $25 million; $9.51/employee

Taxation
– Repeal and replacement of commercial assessment mandates (HEA 1290)
$40 million; $15.21/employee
– Defeated – Egregious income tax reporting provisions (SB 323) $30 million; $11.41/employee

Total Savings for Indiana Business: $1.435 Billion
Total Savings Per Employee: $546

Your Return on Investment
10 employees = savings of $5,460
25 employees = savings of $13,650
50 employees = savings of $27,300
100 employees = savings of $54,600
200 employees = savings of $109,200
500 employees = savings of $273,000

Plus the Value of Education and Workforce Development Initiatives:
The Indiana Chamber also played a leading role in the development and passage of important education and workforce development legislation. While difficult to quantify the specific fiscal impact of these changes, we know from economic research, economic development professionals, site selection consultants and our own membership the importance of these matters to the cost of doing business. Thus, we note the important accomplishments in education and workforce development as a significant – albeit unquantifiable – return on investment.

IMPORTANT NOTES: Business impact calculations are based on fiscal impact estimates of the Legislative Services Agency, independent studies, other available data and research materials, and Indiana Chamber analysis. Business impact per employee is calculated by using the estimated number of employed workers statewide in March 2016 (2,629,300).

Chamber Welcomes New College and Career Director; Auslander Adds Federal Duties

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has a new director of college and career readiness initiatives. Shelley Huffman previously worked for the Indiana State Budget Agency, Office of the Governor, under two administrations and was responsible for the funding oversight for the Indiana Department of Education.

Huffman is also a former business development strategist for Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis and served as a governor’s fellow to the Commission for Higher Education before joining the private sector. She brings a background in project management and fiscal and strategic planning in both education and business.

Huffman will be in charge of the Indiana Chamber’s college and career readiness initiatives and related workforce strategies, with the goal being to “assist employers in engaging, educating and elevating their workforce,” says Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “That’s one of the most critical tasks facing our state. We welcome Shelley and look forward to her helping us continue to make strides on that front.”

The Indiana Chamber has been a steady and visible leader in this area with its programs, advocacy efforts and reports – highlighted by the Indiana Vision 2025 long-range economic development plan that puts a premium focus on the workforce.

A Fishers resident, Huffman earned her MBA from Butler University and bachelor’s degrees in business and political science from Ball State University.

Businesses and others interested in more information about the Indiana Chamber’s workforce programs can contact Huffman at (317) 264-7548 or at shuffman@indianachamber.com.


CarylAuslander-smallSeparately, the Indiana Chamber has announced that Caryl Auslander, the vice president of education and workforce development, also will now be handing the organization’s federal affairs and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

A Hoosier native, Auslander spent significant time in the nation’s capital before returning to Indiana, including three years on the staff of then U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and several years as a federal lobbyist. More recently, Auslander led federal advocacy projects for the Indianapolis-based firm, The Corydon Group.

“Caryl already has strong relationships with many members of Indiana’s delegation and a real passion for this work,” offers Brinegar. “In this role, she will serve as the staff liaison for the Indiana Chamber’s Congressional Affairs Committee and work with Indiana’s congressional delegation on key issues that impact Indiana businesses and their employees.”

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has a new director of college and career readiness initiatives. Shelley Huffman previously worked for the Indiana State Budget Agency, Office of the Governor, under two administrations and was responsible for the funding oversight for the Indiana Department of Education.

Huffman is also a former business development strategist for Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis and served as a governor’s fellow to the Commission for Higher Education before joining the private sector. She brings a background in project management and fiscal and strategic planning in both education and business.

Huffman will be in charge of the Indiana Chamber’s college and career readiness initiatives and related workforce strategies, with the goal being to “assist employers in engaging, educating and elevating their workforce,” says Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “That’s one of the most critical tasks facing our state. We welcome Shelley and look forward to her helping us continue to make strides on that front.”

The Indiana Chamber has been a steady and visible leader in this area with its programs, advocacy efforts and reports – highlighted by the Indiana Vision 2025 long-range economic development plan that puts a premium focus on the workforce.

A Fishers resident, Huffman earned her MBA from Butler University and bachelor’s degrees in business and political science from Ball State University.

Businesses and others interested in more information about the Indiana Chamber’s workforce programs can contact Huffman at (317) 264-7548 or at shuffman@indianachamber.com.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber has announced that Caryl Auslander, the vice president of education and workforce development, also will now be handing the organization’s federal affairs and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

A Hoosier native, Auslander spent significant time in the nation’s capital before returning to Indiana, including three years on the staff of then U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and several years as a federal lobbyist. More recently, Auslander led federal advocacy projects for the Indianapolis-based firm, The Corydon Group.

“Caryl already has strong relationships with many members of Indiana’s delegation and a real passion for this work,” offers Brinegar. “In this role, she will serve as the staff liaison for the Indiana Chamber’s Congressional Affairs Committee and work with Indiana’s congressional delegation on key issues that impact Indiana businesses and their employees.”

Brinegar: We Commend INDOT on I-69 Route

i69The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced today that the preferred route for Interstate 69 section 6 between Martinsville and Indianapolis is the State Road 37 corridor. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and Hoosier Voices for I-69 Chairman Kevin Brinegar offers his comments:

“We support INDOT’s decision that the State Road 37 corridor is the best alternative for completing the I-69 extension and it will be the best investment for Hoosiers. The corridor requires far less new construction than the alternatives, impacts the fewest homeowners and has the most consensus among all interested parties.

“We commend INDOT on the thorough selection process and the analysis used to come to this decision.

“While we’ve made much progress on the I-69 extension – most recently with the opening of Section 4 in Greene and Monroe counties in December – there is still much to be done from the Bloomington area up to Indianapolis. The state must remain committed to funding this important project and seeing it through to completion.

“In the not-too-distant future, I-69 will run continuously from Evansville to Fort Wayne and beyond. That will provide many more Hoosiers with better road access, leading to reduced travel time. And that also is very attractive for businesses, making Indiana an even more viable hub for companies and new jobs.”

Chamber-Supported Clean Power Amicus Brief Filed in D.C.

36886821The Indiana Chamber joined 166 other state and local business associations from 40 different states in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. last Tuesday. Circuit explaining the devastating economic impact posed by the EPA’s carbon regulations.

The lawsuit, which will be considered by a federal appeals court this summer, involves EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” rules, which aim to reconfigure state electricity systems. It is expected to be a landmark case that could shape Indiana’s energy and economic
future.

In issuing these regulations, the EPA purports to have discovered the authority to regulate how states generate, transmit and use electricity, without any authority from Congress to do so.The coalition’s brief outlines major legal and economic concerns with the rule, arguing that EPA has trampled on the rights of states to determine their own energy mix and implement environmental standards in a manner tailed to their own circumstances.

The availability of affordable electricity is a key feature of keeping America competitive in a global economy.The brief explains that EPA’s challenged rule will pose significant harm to regional and local communities, particularly in economically challenged rural areas.

Affordable, reliable energy provides our members a critical advantage in today’s intensely competitive economy. If the courts uphold EPA’s rule, that advantage could be lost and American consumers will be left footing the bill, leading to adverse ripple effects throughout the economy, which will threaten individual businesses, countless jobs and entire communities.

By prematurely and unnecessarily forcing power plants to close, EPA’s regulation will result in higher costs for electricity and all the goods and services that depend on it, which means less money remaining for health care, food, education and other critical needs.

The Indiana Chamber’s brief echoes the call from nearly 160 challengers that have filed suit against EPA, including 27 states, and a host of business, labor and consumer groups.

A decision in the case is likely to be issued by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit later this year. From there, the challenge is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court, which has ordered EPA to halt all implementation and enforcement actions on the rule until it has the opportunity to consider the case.

Hylant: Maximizing Its Chamber Investment

Orr_Shannon2How do you share your company culture with a crowd of 1,200 in a fun, festive atmosphere?

It’s one of the perks that comes with sponsoring the Best Places to Work in Indiana Awards Dinner and program.

“It’s an environment unlike any other,” declares Hylant office manager Shannon Orr. “This was the second year we were the partner sponsor for the event. To be able to celebrate with clients and those on the list – that’s huge for us.”

A bit of background about the Best Places to Work in Indiana program: Honorees are announced each February, with rankings unveiled at the May awards dinner. Winners are recognized in four categories – small, medium, large and major – and selected based on employer reports and anonymous employee surveys.

Hylant, one of the largest privately-held insurance brokerage firms in the United States, was among the 100 companies that made the 2015 Best Places to Work in Indiana list. It ranked No. 3 in the large employer category.

Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Hylant has offices in six states. Indiana locations include Bloomington, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

“Rolling out the red carpet” for team members and clients through training programs – particularly those that focus on human resources and wellness – is another way Hylant partners with the Chamber.

“It’s a great opportunity to invite clients and prospects to participate in something they’re interested in,” Orr emphasizes, “and to have meaningful, thought-provoking conversations on topics that matter to them.”

VIDEO: See Why Brandt Hershman was Named 2015 Government Leader of the Year

One of State Senator Brandt Hershman’s first jobs was in the White House. But thankfully he eventually moved back to Indiana, and is now considered a jack of all trades on the Senate leadership team. He “sweats the details,” and has helped make Indiana a fiscally responsible and business-friendly state. That’s why the Indiana Chamber named him the 2015 Government Leader of the Year.

Colorado Court Decision May Impact Indiana’s ‘Lawsuit Lending’ Battle

10044552As the 2016 legislative session nears, an interesting development occurred in Colorado over an issue that the Indiana Chamber has been working on for the last several years. This week, the Colorado Supreme Court determined that the practice of litigation finance, or more commonly referred to as “lawsuit lending”, was determined to be a loan and subject to Colorado’s Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC).

Lawsuit lending is the practice of advancing money to a plaintiff/someone involved in an accident in anticipation of winning a lawsuit in court. If the plaintiff is awarded a settlement, the advance must be repaid at considerably high interest rates. If the plaintiff loses the suit, there is no obligation to repay the loan.

Proponents of the industry have claimed that the advance is not a loan because there is no recourse if the suit is lost. Opponents (including the Indiana Chamber) believe that this process interjects a third party into the civil justice system and prolongs the settlement process.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision puts lower interest rate limits on the advance of these loans. Two companies doing business in Colorado stopped operating in 2010 after the state office that regulates Colorado’s UCCC determined that the state law applies to their businesses. After the two companies filed suit to overturn the regulatory opinion, the state attorney general’s office countersued. The companies were accused of unlicensed lending and charging “exorbitant” interest rates to plaintiffs.

In conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court wrote: “We hold that litigation finance companies that agree to advance money to tort plaintiffs in exchange for future litigation proceeds are making ‘loans’ subject to Colorado’s UCCC even if the plaintiffs do not have an obligation to repay any deficiency if the litigation proceeds are ultimately less than the amount due. These transactions create a debt or an obligation to repay that grows with the passage of time. We agree with the court of appeals that these transactions are ‘loans’
under the code…”

Attempts to regulate the practice have been unsuccessful in Indiana. Hoosier proponents of the practice have indicated that subjecting finance companies to the UCCC in Indiana or subjecting them to an interest rate of less than 45% will put them out of business, so there has not been language that could bring about a compromise. The Indiana House of Representatives has passed a bill for several years that the Chamber has supported. However, the Senate has sided with the lenders and stifled the Chamber’s attempts to forward our position.

Still, the Colorado Supreme Court decision might be a game-changer in Indiana. It would not be surprising to see legislation introduced that will mirror what happened in Colorado. Last session, a similar measure was inserted as an amendment into a bill that came over from the House. The language was removed on the Senate floor before a vote was taken. Legislation this session that would be tied to Indiana’s UCCC should be assigned to the House Financial Institutions Committee, where it will find support.

Likewise, any bill tied to the UCCC should be sent to the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions, chaired by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), where it would most likely find support. However, the issue historically has not been tied to the UCCC and has been assigned to the Civil Law Committee, where Sen. Joe Zakas (R-Granger) is chair. Senator Zakas has not been supportive of the Chamber’s lawsuit lending position.

The Chamber anticipates further debate on this issue as the new legislative session unfolds.

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 www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

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