P2 Provides Resources for Employers, Employees on Legislative Info

State legislators are back to work and, believe it or not, they want and need to hear from employers and other constituents on important issues.

The Indiana Prosperity Project (“P2”) provides employers and employees alike with useful information on issues, elected officials, candidates and the legislation impacting the prosperity of Indiana. When Indiana citizens are informed about important issues impacting economic growth and job creation, our families, our communities and our state benefit.

P2 provides easy-to-use, web-based tools that allow you to communicate quickly and easily with your legislator on important issues, including:

• Find the state and federal legislators who represent you
• Get urgent issue “call-to-action” notices
• Send an email and/or a letter to your legislator
• Profiles and contact information for lawmakers
• Connect on Facebook and Twitter

The Indiana Chamber utilizes P2 as its grassroots communication center on key issues for members, employees of member companies, and the general public.  It is free to use and we are always looking for feedback. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at rmcnicholas@indianachamber.com or call (317) 264-7513.

You can also follow us Twitter and Facebook.

Election Reforms on Committee Agenda

The focus on local government reform efforts in 2010 has been and will continue to be on townships. If you’ve missed that debate thus far, check out some amendments that unfortunately didn’t pass here and practical points on the need for change from Rep. Ed DeLaney here. You can even have your say on the Indiana Prosperity Project web site.

But another reform bill is to be heard today in the Senate Elections Committee. SB 241 contains some common sense provisions that should be adopted. Among them:

  • Move city elections to even-numbered years (it costs a lot of money to conduct elections; why separate votes on municipal candidates from others)
  • Place the names of city candidates before those running for township offices (who should not be on the ballot anyway)
  • Give counties the option of electing a single county chief executive in place of the board of county commissioners(similar to how presidents, governors and mayors serve countries, states and cities). In addition, the county council would become the legislative and fiscal body
  • Prevents employees who work in a political subdivision (city, county) from serving on the legislative body that governs that subdivision. In other words, stop people from having a say in deciding their own raises and other issues that directly impact their job. This is a growing problem in a number of areas

These would be good first steps toward a government that operates more effectively and efficiently. 

Township Bill a Small Step in Right Direction

It’s no surprise that local government reform, with a focus on townships, will be pushed for during the Indiana General Assembly session — with the Indiana Chamber leading the way. An unexpected entrant into the battle, however, is HB 1181 from Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis). It will be heard in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee this morning.

Crawford’s bill calls for a township-by-township referendum on whether trustees and advisory boards should be retained. In other words, should townships continue to exist? Presumably if the voters would say yes, it’s inefficient business as usual. If they say no, township duties would be sent to the county level (which is what should take place throughout the state).

The problem with the Crawford approach is the likely result that a county would end up with an unworkable combination of some townships remaining and others having their duties carried out by the county. The best route would be for the legislators to stand up and eliminate all the trustees and advisory boards. 

The Chamber’s Mark Lawrance will testify today that the fact that local government reform is being heard in the committee is appreciated. The elimination of most township assessors in 2008 greatly improved that process; the same can be done to improve the effectiveness and reduce the administrative costs of delivering poor relief services. If legislators do decide to go the referendum route, the votes should at least be conducted on a county-by-county basis.

Legislation in the Senate, SB 240, would not include referendums. It would eliminate advisory boards, shift township legislative fiscal and legislative responsibilities to the county council and includes anti-nepotism language to help stop the rampant employment of relatives at the township level. That bill is expected to be heard on Wednesday.

The Indiana Prosperity Project web site allows you to learn more and contact your legislators directly to ask for their support in making better use of your tax dollars and moving township services to the county level.

Help Stop This Health Care Train Wreck

There is no question that health care reform is needed. Is the answer the legislation that is scheduled to be voted on Saturday by the U.S. House of Representatives? Absolutely not.

If you disagree and support the mandates, fees and costs that will add $1.2 trillion (that’s "t" as in trillion) in debt, stop reading. If you don’t think those items should be part of the solution, let your congressional representative know today. The Indiana Prosperity Project has the details.

Why not H.R. 3962? The victims would include small business and their employees (both those who would lose their jobs as well as the ones remaining), insurers, health care providers, manufacturers of medical devices and more. Can we really deliver another devastating blow to companies that are still trying to recover from the recession?

Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote to Indiana’s delegation, saying, "The current House bill is the worst version yet, with truly awful consequences for Indiana." The Wall Street Journal calls the legislation "the worst bill ever."

If this is bad, what is good? Here’s a partial roadmap that should be followed:

The Indiana Chamber believes that, with a few simple reforms and changes in incentives for providers, that market forces will succeed in introducing more competition to the marketplace and ultimately driving down costs.  The Chamber supports an approach where widely accepted reforms are passed first, instead of the "all or none" approach that attempts to force passage of controversial legislation (such as a public option).  If, as President Obama has asserted, 80 percent of reform can be agreed upon, then it is these incremental, common-sense measures that should be pursued. 

The Chamber supports reform that seeks: to foster and preserve efficient private insurance markets; to realign economic incentives from fee-for-service to outcome-based compensation for providers; to enhance the use of medical information technology; and to standardize insurance procedures, as well as introduce more competition between private insurers (e.g., selling health insurance across state lines).  Decisions on treatment and coverage levels should be made cooperatively among patients, providers and insurers. Insurer scrutiny should ensure provider pricing transparency, best practices and the use of evidence-based medicine. Additionally, any real reform of the U.S. health care system must acknowledge and address abusive lawsuits and the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance.

The first step is to stop a very bad piece of legislation from emerging from the U.S. House. You can make a difference.

There’s Nothing ‘Free’ in This ‘Choice’

Uninvited guests called on the Chamber this morning – both outside and inside the building. Why? Desperation to preserve union viability through passage of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

A handful of picketers came together on a downtown street corner for a short time, while the Chamber was conducting its EFCA seminar (for members and customers) in its conference center. The protesters were Central Indiana representatives of Jobs With Justice, a national effort focused on workers’ rights. The piece of paper they were distributing to passers-by claimed that EFCA will not eliminate so-called “secret ballot” elections and that it would “increase penalties for companies who instill fear in employees by harassing and intimidating them against the union.” Those two points are so laughable that they are not even worth addressing, but the picketers did have the right to express their opinions.
Inside the Chamber office, two members of the local AFL-CIO maneuvered their way into a portion of the actual seminar before they were asked to leave. They had not registered or paid the fee to attend. They were not eligible to participate – that has been clearly communicated this time and through many years of offering union-related programs. They did not have the right to “invade” an educational conference.
The seminar informed representatives of Indiana companies about EFCA and steps they should take if they did not:
  • want to be victim to a “card check” organizing campaign without any prior notice;
  • want their workers to be subject to coercion through card check instead of maintaining the fundamental right to a secret ballot; and
  • want to have independent government arbitrators decide how their business operates (if a union is put in place and no agreement is reached within a short time frame on an initial contract).

EFCA is bad for employers and employees. The only beneficiaries are union leaders.

Why has private sector employee involvement in unions declined to less than 8% nationwide? Because employers have provided open and effective communication, listened to their employees and created an atmosphere of trust. When those factors are not in place, employees may pursue union representation. The rules are in place for that to happen. Trying to artificially boost union numbers by taking away worker rights and the ability of employers and employees to negotiate contracts would be a disastrous move in the wrong direction.
The Indiana Prosperity Project has the details and offers you the ability to communicate your opposition to EFCA to your representatives in Washington.
The Indiana Chamber will host another EFCA seminar with Barnes & Thornburg in late August, featuring the most recent information. E-mail customerservice@indianachamber.com to be added to the list to receive future information about this program. 

Seeking Prosperity for All

The Indiana Chamber is in business to help create a stronger state business climate. Eight issue experts work each day, and many nights, toward that goal during the General Assembly session.

They, and all of us, need your help. Legislators want to hear from you. If local government reform, for example, is not enacted, one reason given will be that more opponents than supporters spoke up. That should not be the case.

It’s easy. The Indiana Prosperity Project web site has quick updates on critical issues and ways for you to contact your legislators. New topics are featured each week. Bookmark the page and take a few minutes to be involved.

We will thank you in advance.

Election Day is Just 17 Days Away!

That’s right, Election Day is just 17 days away from today.  I know, you have just grabbed your calendar and it tells you that it is only September 19 and that it is 46 days until November 4.  Well, you are right, but, so am I. 

We no longer live in an election world where the first Tuesday in November that follows a Monday is Election Day.  Now, Tuesday, November 4 is simply the last day we can call “Election Day.”  So what is 17 days from now? It happens to be October 6, which is the first day that a voter can vote via absentee ballot. This is the first of many Election Days. 

With the ability to vote absentee ballot, at a vote center, satellite voting, at the county clerk’s office or at a traditional polling place on Election Day, voters have a much longer period of time to vote than just 12 hours on one day. This is having a greater impact each election with the outcome of the election. Any campaign that does not recognize Election Day is just 17 days away is taking a giant risk with the their Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts.

My suggestion for voters: Take advantage of your options by voting early and avoid what will be long lines in many polling locations on November 4. The Indiana Prosperity Project has details regarding early voting procedures.

Election Prosperity for All

Raymond J. Keating is a highly respected economist with the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His article, “Entrepreneurs and Election Year Activism,” makes some very good points with one important omission.

His submissions are right on target.
Politics and public policy matter a great deal to businesses and their future success. The business community absolutely must be involved in the political process and be actively engaged with their elected officials, particularly those elected officials close to home like your state senators and representatives. Does anyone think for one second that labor and teacher unions are not involved? If a business owner and his or her employees are not engaged in the process, then the decisions affecting them will be left to those who are involved.
Quite possibly the best option for engaging your employees was not mentioned – educating and providing your workforce with information on business issues that affect your company, candidates running for office and the electoral process in a non-partisan manner. This works AND employees want this information. Tell them why an issue is important to the company they work for, and their job, and they will usually put the pieces together.
We know that the number one trusted source of political information for employees is their employer. Using a resource like the Indiana Prosperity Project  (a joint program of the Indiana Chamber and Indiana Manufacturers Association) accomplishes this. Provide employees with non-partisan information on issues and candidates – and everyone wins.