We Can Check These Education Matters Off the List (For Now)

For the last decade, the Chamber has strongly advocated to have a state-funded high quality pre-K program for children from low-income families. While we were successful in achieving a small pilot program for five counties a few years ago, we were able to significantly increase the state’s investment this legislative session. The Chamber helped to lead a strong coalition of community leaders, businesses, philanthropies and providers to achieve $44 million appropriated in the two-year budget (HB 1001) to expand the pilot. We can now increase the number of counties from the original five to up to 20, with a preference given to rural areas.

Separately, we successfully advocated for a lowering of the county match of dollars from a base of 10% down to 5%. In addition, we worked on offering up to 20% of the appropriated dollars to be used for capacity-building grants to allow for providers to grow more high-quality placements. This was a priority for both the House and Senate leadership, as well as Gov. Holcomb and the final bills passed with strong bipartisan votes of 82-16 and 31-19, respectively.

The Chamber also were able to pass a bill (SB 248) that would allow small school corporations situated in the same or adjoining counties to consolidate services if 20% of legal voters in both school districts petition the trustees of their respective school corporations. A small school consolidation grant that was originally included in this bill was moved into the budget to help offset costs. The Indiana Chamber has been supportive of this legislation in previous sessions and most recently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation has commissioned and is finalizing a study that shows the direct correlation between smaller school corporations and lower postsecondary attainment for students.

The Chamber has had a long-standing policy to support the opportunity to reduce administrative costs by merging or consolidating administrative services in smaller school districts, which we believe will in turn reduce the duplication of programs or services, increase cost efficiencies relating to the use of school facilities, plus reduce debt and provide for establishing other cost-cutting measures.

And we can now check off a legislative agenda item that the Chamber has been advocating for over 30 years to complete. House Bill 1005 will move the Superintendent of Public Instruction from an elected to appointed position. We had originally advocated for this bill with an effective date of 2021 (and therefore no election in 2020); however, the Senate version of the bill died by surprise on the Senate floor on third reading. That meant to consider the House version (which was virtually identical), the content had to be “substantially different” than the failed bill, per Senate rules.

Therefore, the Senate amended the bill to change the effective date to 2025 and include a residency requirement of two years and have certain educational experience. The Chamber did not support these changes as we felt that Indiana’s education leader should be the best person available and no other appointed state agency position has such required qualifications. However, it was decided by Senate leadership and counsel that the changes had to remain for the measure to proceed. So while we are extremely happy that we were able to get the position appointed, we are disappointed with the additional requirements. The Chamber will continue to advocate for these to be stripped from statute in subsequent sessions, although we feel that it will likely be a very difficult lift.

Work Share Continues to Get Cold Shoulder in Indiana

In December, the Chamber introduced the work share policy to the new chairman of the House Labor Committee, Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo). He made no commitment to hear a bill but indicated that he would keep an open mind.

A work sharing program would allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary economic downturns. Employers then could reduce hours without layoffs, enabling workers to keep their jobs, which hopefully could be returned to full-time status once economic circumstances improve. Also part of the equation: unemployment compensation to partially compensate workers for their lost hours.

After several discussions with the Indiana Manufacturers Association (IMA), the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Chamber, Rep. VanNatter decided to host a meeting with the three parties present. He later informed us that he was being told different things about the issue than what the Chamber was being told and wanted everyone in the room at the same time. Simply stated, the Chamber supports work share, but DWD and the IMA do not.

What Rep. VanNatter was able to do was get the IMA to admit in the Chamber’s presence that it was opposed to the bill. As a result, Rep. VanNatter didn’t feel that he could move forward with the two organizations in disagreement. In a subsequent discussion, he did say that he would like to study the issue (himself) this summer and then make up his own mind.

Over the course of the last five years, the bill has been heard twice but no vote has ever been taken. This is very frustrating for a measure that is a no-brainer and would garner bipartisan support – if it can ever make it to that point!

Budget Deal Reached in Congress – But Process Broken

The House and Senate passed a budget deal to secure federal funding until the end of September 2017 last week. The House passed the funding measure by a vote of 309 to 118 on Wednesday, and the Senate followed suit 79-18. It is important to note that the Indiana delegation was divided – and not by political party – on the $1.1 trillion spending proposal.

Republican House members Jim Banks (IN-03), Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09) and Todd Rokita (IN-04) voted against the measure, while both House Democrat members André Carson (IN-07) and Pete Visclosky (IN-01) voted yes with the rest of the Hoosier delegation.

Congressman Hollingsworth released the following statement after casting his vote against the continuing resolution. “The spending bill that was brought before the House of Representatives today failed, yet again, to address the conservative principles that Hoosiers and Americans demanded to see this past November. For this reason, I voted against the $1.1 trillion spending measure that neglected critical priorities such as our nation’s nearly $20 trillion debt.”

Similarly, Congressman Banks added: “This legislation fails to properly address our $20 trillion national debt and reduce the size and scope of the federal government. As work immediately begins on next year’s spending bills, I am hopeful that Congress will follow the regular budget order and work with the Trump Administration to cut spending and change the Washington status quo.”

Despite passage of this funding measure, negotiations will begin again soon to pass a budget starting October 1 – with many of the same arguments on spending to be rehashed. But this has become all too familiar. Congress has regularly failed to meet the deadlines required by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 under both Republican and Democrat control. In fact, the last annual federal budget approved by the U.S. Senate was on April 29, 2009. The federal government has operated by enacting these series of continuing resolutions – short-term measures that keep the government running and spending money at previously adopted rates.

The Indiana Chamber believes this is a gross dereliction of duty, as the federal government has spent trillions since the last adopted budget, further adding to the debt.

What the Indiana Chamber would like to see is Congress move from a yearly (or semi-yearly) mad dash to a biennial budget system. This would take much of the politics out of the budget process and would encourage efficiency in the management, stability and predictability of federal funding, especially for Indiana. A biennial budget would also enhance congressional oversight of government operations and encourage better policy planning. Biennial budgets should occur during non-election years to promote bipartisanship (or at least lessen partisan tensions) in the budgetary process. We can dream!

ChamberCare Business Resources Provides Long-Term Solution for Your Groups

In March, we shared information about ChamberCare Solutions, an enhancement to the partnership between the Indiana Chamber and Anthem. Now we’d like to tell you more about ChamberCare Business Resources, part of ChamberCare Solutions.

What is it?
ChamberCare Business Resources is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that allows Indiana Chamber members with 2+ employees to outsource human resource tasks like worker’s compensation, payroll and tax filing, employee benefit programs, compliance, and more. Using a PEO frees up time and resources so small businesses can focus on the well-being and direction of their company. ChamberCare Business Resources is administered by Human Capital Concepts (HCC), a leader in innovative technology and administrative solutions.

In addition, ChamberCare Business Resources offers affordable health benefits along with comprehensive human resources (HR) services that can help you keep your workforce healthy and save time and money. As a member of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, you can choose a high-quality, affordable health plan from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem), with a wide range of options designed especially for small to medium-sized companies.

Why use ChamberCare Business Resources?
According to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), businesses that utilize a PEO grow 7% to 9% faster, enjoy 23% to 32% lower employee turnover and are over 50% less likely to go out of business.

Another benefit for Indiana Chamber members is access to high-quality, affordable health plan from Anthem, with a wide range of options designed especially for small to medium-sized companies. Through the PEO, Anthem pools membership so it can offer lower premiums on the same great head-to-toe coverage members expect from Anthem including medical, dental, vision, life and disability. As trusted organizations and pillars of the community, Anthem brings 73 years of experience coupled with the Chamber’s 95 years of service and HCC’s 125 years of combined staff experience offering a long term solution for your clients.

For more infomation about Anthem plans and benefits, check out our ChamberCare Business Resources Product Guide.

Need help finding the right solution for your clients?
Contact Indiana Chamber Director of Membership, Brock Hesler, at (317) 264-7539 or bhesler@indianachamber.com.

After Session: A Look at What Passed and What Didn’t

Now that the legislative session has concluded, learn the final status of key bills monitored and advocated for/opposed by the Indiana Chamber in 2017 (links are PDFs):

2017 passed bills

2017 defeated bills

Talking Technology at Connect & Collaborate Sessions

“Today, every company is a technology company. We know technology is evolving quickly and not just in current businesses, but those that are looking to make their mark in Indiana,” says Brock Hesler, Indiana Chamber director of membership.

“If you don’t evolve, you could be left behind and your business growth might be hindered.”

The Indiana Chamber is once again hosting the Connect & Collaborate series as a thank you to its members and investors. The 2017 focus is technology – how it is permeating Hoosier businesses, and how companies can learn and adapt to new and improved ways of getting things done. Presented by AT&T, the series begins in May and concludes in August.

Consider these examples from the world of agriculture. What if technology could provide an answer to how much moisture is in a stalk of corn or a field of beans? What if farmers could drive tractors from a remote location or control an entire farm from a keyboard?

These scenarios sound futuristic, but are starting to become reality around Indiana. It’s not just the agriculture industry that is heavily impacted by new technologies: advanced manufacturing, logistics and others are already changing dramatically – as are the workforce skills required to staff these industries.

Attendees can hear an update on the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council, and a local business/community leader from each of the 12 Connect & Collaborate locations will comment on how that area or region is utilizing technology. A panel discussion will also allow for audience questions.

The free series – with either breakfast or lunch included (depending on the time of day) – enables companies to hear directly from Indiana Chamber representatives and learn more about membership resources available to them. Several new locations are included in 2017.

“This is a way to thank our members for their investment and support,” Hesler adds, “while also providing information that we think can help them succeed at an even higher level.”

Dates and cities for the Connect & Collaborate series:

May 9, Indianapolis
May 11, Lafayette
May 30, Bloomington and Columbus
June 6, Huntingburg and Evansville
June 8, Muncie and Richmond
June 13, Terre Haute
June 20, South Bend
June 22, Fort Wayne
August 16, Scottsburg

For complete details on locations and to register, go online or call Nick at (317) 264-6885.

Chamber Membership Team is Working for You

The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”

Whether you belong to the Chamber because of advocacy, savings or visibility, we’re always looking for ways to enhance your investment and add to the strength of

Brock Hesler, Membership Director

the organization. With that in mind, the Chamber added three regionally-based member development positions.

Two of the reps – Monica Chamberlain and Keeley Stingel

cover northeast Indiana and the southern half of the state, respectively.

“Being a customer service organization, we’re always laser focused on providing the best value we can to our current members, while at the same time communicating to potential members the ways we can partner with them,” says membership director Brock Hesler.

“Monica and Keeley understand where businesses are coming from because they live within and are part of those communities. And they can better communicate to them the solutions the Chamber can provide through membership.”

Lin Jones recently stepped into a member development role covering central Indiana, specifically Marion County and the Interstate 65 corridor going toward northwest Indiana.

Hesler offers a challenge to members.

“You – our current members – are an extension to our membership team. You utilize our services, and see the value day in and day out. Talk to your sphere of influence. Take a few moments to send me an email (at bhesler@indianachamber.com) with the names of two companies that could benefit from membership.”

We appreciate your investment.

Compton Shines at 2017 Legislative Dinner

Ann Compton, a 40-year veteran of ABC News and the White House press corps, relayed her experiences and thoughts on President Trump and the media at the 2017 Indiana Chamber Legislative Dinner last night at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.

In addition to her many amusing anecdotes about past presidents and thoughts on President Trump, she also relived the tragic day of September 11, 2001. She was traveling with President George W. Bush on Air Force One as all involved struggled to grasp the magnitude of what had happened.

We were also grateful to be joined by Gov. Eric Holcomb, who offered thoughtful and humorous remarks following his first few months on the job. See photos of the evening below:

WOTUS Executive Order Highlights Recent Federal Activity

  • On February 28, the White House announced that President Trump signed an executive order directing the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps of Engineers) to review the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and restore the rule of law. Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) praised this action that would ensure the rule promotes economic growth and minimizes regulatory uncertainty: “I hear repeatedly from my constituents that the main thing holding back small business owners and farmers is over regulation. The WOTUS rule is an example of Washington overreach that is affecting businesses, utilities, manufacturers, farmers and land owners across northeast Indiana. I’m pleased to see President Trump make the review and revision of this rule a priority.” As a reminder, the Indiana Chamber mentioned WOTUS as a burdensome regulation in its list of regulations we sought repeal of in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and sent to the delegation.
  • The White House sent its initial budget guidance to federal agencies this week, outlining a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding reductions to most non-security agencies. An Office of Management and Budget official told reporters that the Trump administration will propose a 10% increase in defense spending and funding bumps for national security-related efforts. But that will mean cuts to domestic programs as well as foreign aid.
  • Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats – President Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence – faced questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee as phase one of his confirmation process.
  • Hoosier Seema Verma moved another step forward in her confirmation as the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-12 in support of her nomination, which now goes before the full Senate.
  • Senator Todd Young recently introduced the Investing in Student Success Act of 2017 as an out-of-the-box method of financing higher education. According to the Washington Examiner, “…the funding would not come from the federal government, but private companies who sign ‘income-sharing agreements’ with students. As the name implies, the investor finances the student’s tuition, in exchange for a percentage of the individual’s income for a set number of years after graduation.” According to Sen. Young, “Big picture here: There’s currently $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt held by the federal government, and 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with loans weren’t making payments as of Jan. 1. There’s certainly a need for some sort of way to finance your college education that does not place the risk on taxpayers.”
  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) invited former Indiana Chamber board member and current Indiana Economic Development Corporation President Elaine Bedel to be her guest at President Trump’s speech this week to the joint session of Congress.
  • I recently visited D.C. and met with the offices of congressional representatives Banks, Brooks, Bucshon, Hollingsworth and Messer. We discussed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, regulatory reform and our D.C. Fly-in event in September. Look for more in-depth information on my visits in next week’s report.