Three amendments were recently offered to SB 309 and approved during last week’s hearing – two by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion) and one by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville). One amendment clarified who qualified as an applicant for a CPCN, one for the study of self-generation by schools and one changes the deadline of installation to receive the 30-year grandfathered rate to December 31, 2017.
The Indiana Chamber testified in support of the bill and tried to clarify some of the confusion over net metering (no one is trying to kill the solar industry). We also expressed some of the concerns that some members have over co-generation (that they would like more flexibility). We emphasized that we do not want the bill to fail because it is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all concerns our members have expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs and building a statewide energy plan. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s competitive edge when looking at energy costs that have risen over the past decade.
On March 22, the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee heard nearly a day of testimony on this bill in a full House chamber from many groups and individuals, both in support and against the bill. No vote will be taken until Wednesday.
During the second hearing last week, language was added to reframe how the MPH will be built out. Included is how data can be accessed that could make state government and agencies more transparent, how legislative services could use information from MPH for data-driven policy and various operational aspects of the MPH for information input and output. The Chamber will continue to work with Rep. Ober and the administration to ensure the MPH is as useful as possible for the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as offers strong external uses for stakeholders outside of government.
Heard by the Government and Regulatory Reform Committee; amended and passed 8-0, and now headed to the full House.
The 2016 legislative session marked the first time in the last several years that the work share policy made it to the hearing stage, despite having strong bipartisan support. Still, the Chamber knew in advance of the hearing that Rep. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville), chair of the committee, was probably not going to take a vote on the bill. Our plan was to give it our best shot and hope that the chairman would change his mind.
The bill’s author, Rep. Ober, testified that work share is a win-win for employers and employees, and he laid the groundwork for why the bill is important for both. Employers in an economic downturn retain skilled workers who receive partial unemployment compensation instead of being laid off. That means employers then do not have to rehire employees (and retrain) when the economy picks back up. Employees also retain their jobs and their employer sponsored benefits while drawing a prorated unemployment compensation benefit. Additionally, Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis), a co-author on the bill, testified of her long-time support for the issue.
The Chamber presented study findings, released just this month; the research was conducted as a joint request by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Indiana Chamber. Noted economist Michael Hicks from Ball State University, the author of the study, was unable to be present for the hearing. The most important point made by the study was the impact on the economy. During the peak of national unemployment in 2010, Indiana having a work share program would have translated into $500,000 less in month to month income volatility and approximately 10,500 employees would have kept their jobs.
The Chamber would like to thank members Tom Easterday of Subaru Indiana Automotive and Mark Gramelspacher of Evergreen Global Advisors for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come testify before the committee in favor of work share. Their points to the committee were right on the mark. Easterday noted that Indiana is the most manufacturing intensive state in the U.S. Additionally, he talked about the state’s shortage of skilled workers and why retaining skilled workers during an economic downturn is so vital to manufacturing in Indiana – and a work share program can help accomplish that.
Gramelspacher testified, “There is a better way to run the unemployment program and that is work share. It creates a win-win from a lose-lose. This is a rare opportunity for the legislative body. Work share allows employers to maintain the employment relationship with known individuals and people that employers have already recruited, interviewed, tested, trained and invested in.”
The Indiana Institute for Working Families and AFL-CIO testified in favor of the bill as well.
The Indiana Manufacturers Association (IMA) testified that previously it was not supportive of work share, but because of the Chamber’s recent study it recognized the benefits and now supported the concept. However, the IMA then proceeded to express various concerns for implementing the actual program.
Prior to the hearing, the DWD representative acquiesced that the Chamber had been able to remove most of the agency’s arguments in opposition to the bill. In testimony, however, DWD opposed even moving the bill out of committee for further debate. That was a curious strategy, given the discussion before the hearing and the fact that the agency partnered with the Chamber on the study.
The Indiana Chamber brought forth two viable options to pay for the minimal cost to set up a state work share program and maintain it annually.
Nonetheless, the committee chairman followed DWD’s lead and announced at the close of the hearing that no vote was being taken then or essentially anytime this session.
Once again, here is why work share would be extremely beneficial for the state: