Federal Front: Congressman Messer Launches American Worker Task Force

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06), chair of the Republican Policy Committee, announced the launch of the Task Force for the American Worker – an effort to examine challenges facing modern-day working Americans. The task force will hold a series of hearings to examine workforce issues, including stagnant wages and a slow economic recovery, manufacturing, higher education costs, the opioid abuse epidemic, health care, retirement security and trade. The task force will seek to find solutions that help address each of these challenges.

“For generations, the American dream has meant that every American who works hard can find success. But in recent years, frozen paychecks, a tough job market and rising living costs make the American Dream too often seem out of reach,” Messer said. “During the 2016 election, Republicans promised a renewed focus on addressing these challenges and improving the lives of everyday working people. This task force is about making those promises a reality.”

The task force’s first hearing will be held Tuesday, April 25, with the goal of helping set a policy agenda for the modern American worker. Among those asked to testify is LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo.

Also, this week started a two-week recess for the Senate and House of Representatives, which means most of our delegation is back in the state for the Easter and Passover holidays. Be on the lookout for them in your hometowns!

IBRG Election Report: The Power of Democracy and a Nation of Change

ibrgIndiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, scored a very successful general election; 57 of 59 IBRG-endorsed candidates facing opposition were victorious, including Republicans and Democrats. Twenty additional endorsed candidates did not face general election challenges.

Eleven new legislators won with IBRG endorsements. IBRG was significantly engaged in support of five top-target candidates in open seat races, as well as successfully defending six pro-economy incumbents seriously challenged with defeat.

In a stunning Indiana election, Republicans swept all statewide races by significant margins, led by a 20 percentage point victory by Donald Trump. Not only wasn’t the scale of these win margins predicted in polling, but once again the final outcome defied expectations just months – even weeks – ago of a coming “market correction” in the GOP’s state legislative super-majority seat counts.

In the General Assembly, Republicans seriously exceeded expectations again in a volatile election environment. In the House, Democrats were able to pick-off just one first-term incumbent Republican legislator in Lake County (after an unprecedented multi-race battle in northwest Indiana for weeks), with the result being a 70-30 GOP majority next year.

In the Senate, Republicans actually managed to expand their majority by another seat to a 41-9 majority. They did so by defending two very competitive open seat races in Indianapolis and by picking up an open seat in LaPorte, largely by default from Democrats.

Twelve new members were elected to the House and nine new members to the Senate. One additional Senate seat will become vacant with a resignation and be filled by a local caucus later this year. This turnover in new seats rivals the huge numbers out of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

It seems that every national election in recent times has been labeled “historic” (among many other adjectives) before and after the votes are cast. Without question, the 2016 elections fit that label, but it’s really more than that. A fundamental realignment of the American electorate is well underway, driven by major upheavals and demographic shifts in this nation.

Read the full report. The report includes election results, statistics, and information on key races and new legislators. It will be updated periodically as final tallies and additional analyses are added.

Cheer Earth Day, Not EPA’s Latest Moves

87741351Something to celebrate for Earth Day: Indiana’s air quality has not been as good as it is today in over 60 years! I remember the first Earth Day 45 years ago and for a decade served on the Indiana Earth Day board. I’ve witnessed step by step Indiana’s group effort to make the air cleaner and cleaner.

Today, more than 90% of Hoosiers live in areas that meet ALL air quality standards. In 2005, that number was only 61%. To monitor all the air quality and progress, Indiana operates and maintains more air quality monitoring sites than any other state in the Midwest on a per-person basis. We’re on top of it.

Indiana does have a few remaining air issues in pockets of the state, but those are being addressed. Whether that’s the lead level in Muncie, the ozone standard in LaPorte County or the one-hour sulfur dioxide standard in parts of five counties – all are making progress and should be remedied in a reasonable timeframe.

Still business and industry in Indiana and across the nation continue to be whipped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with regulations that are grossly unfair and frequently tightened on a whim. All the vast improvements go unnoticed and the goalposts keep moving further and further away. Ironically, as our ozone levels have declined, the incidence of childhood asthma has actually increased.

The impact of EPA’s pending controls is real and will cost every business and person that uses electricity. Yet there is no real environmental benefit that will be realized. Industry in the U.S. and Indiana has spent billions of dollars installing expensive pollution control equipment. The data clearly shows that our emissions have substantially decreased. In other words, we’ve pretty much squeezed everything out of the ozone orange.

Over the many years, Earth Day has helped bring attention to industry practices that needed scrutiny. That was a very good thing. But the EPA is taking its efforts too far. It’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and exhale. And you know what? We can do that outside today because the air is so much cleaner.

Work Share Plan Would Provide Options to Layoffs

House Bill 1338, authored by Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte), would create a new state work share program to allow unemployment insurance benefits to partially offset lost hours for employees on reduced hour schedules. It would also allow employees to continue employee benefits such as health care insurance that are unavailable if laid off.

Work share would allow you to keep employees on the job during a temporary slowdown, so that you can gear up quickly when business conditions improve. You wouldn’t have the expense of recruiting, hiring and training new employees. Also, you spare your employees the hardship of full unemployment.

Since work sharing is a cost-equivalent alternative to traditional unemployment benefits, the impact on the unemployment trust fund is neutral. However, federal grants provide money for Department of Workforce Development to set up administration of the plan and will reimburse the state for work-sharing benefits, making work sharing a net positive to the unemployment trust fund balance during the two years of the federal grant.

It would be a win-win for employers and employees, keeping people working, avoiding full unemployment benefit costs, and helping companies keep their skilled workers.

The work share program in House Bill 1338 is expected to receive a hearing shortly in the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Please take a moment right now to send a message to committee members urging them to support the work share program. It will only take a couple of minutes to send an email through the Indiana Chamber’s online grassroots action center.

BizVoice Making a Difference

Phil Mercier was included in the September/October 2011 BizVoice® article, "Free Agents," about older employees seeking to re-enter the workforce (part of our Workforce Wise series). After reading the article, Jeff Maki, owner of Models Plus in Kingsford Heights (LaPorte County), reached out to Mercier and ultimately hired him.

"Without that article, Phil and I would have never connected," Maki says. "Phil and I share some common vision on business. He has tremendous background. We are leveraging his expertise and experience to grow our business."

Mercier is about to complete his first month at Models Plus, which provides models, prototypes, custom displays, packaging and engineering for dental and orthopaedic implant manufacturers, as well as patient education tools for health care providers.

"My skills and experience have been put to good use helping (Maki) expand his business in the orthopaedic industry," Mercier explains. "(Maki) started in the dental business over 20 years ago and began applying his capabilities to companies in Warsaw over the past three years. I will be helping him with the company’s rapid expansion into orthopaedics."

What a BizVoice success story! If you’d like to join our over 12,000 readers, just visit the web site.

Third Parties Crashed

Third party candidates were hardly Perot-ic in the 2008 general election. Among them, independent Ralph Nader (though technically not in a party this year) garnered the most votes. Somewhat surprising to me, as former GOP Congressman and Libertarian candidate Bob Barr seemed to receive far more media coverage than any of the other candidates. Here are some noteworthy totals (with 97% of precincts reported):

Ralph Nader (Independent): 649,837

Bob Barr (Libertarian Party): 485,400

Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party): 173,202

Cynthia McKinney (Green Party): 141,333

Ron Paul: 19,285

Note: Paul, a Texas Congressman who lost to McCain in the GOP Primary, wasn’t actually running and was only on the ballot in a couple of states (I believe only Louisiana and Montana). Paul actually endorsed Baldwin (a LaPorte native, btw).