Legislative Update: Change the Game

Rapper and part-time NBA team owner Jay-Z helps us title this week’s update, as a high-profile hearing on SB7 generated plenty of attention.  The bill would change the game for Indy’s sports and hospitality sector, expanding our convention capacity while keeping the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse – and kicking in some critical support for the future of pro soccer in Indianapolis too.

Of course, more hotel rooms and modernized venues can help make Indy a more welcoming place to visit.  But these investments can’t be optimized if our legal system sends a different message.

We’re still looking for a game-changer in the fight for substantive action against bias crimes.  The remnants of SB12 have been assigned to the Courts & Criminal Code Committee and await a hearing, though lawmakers have heard plenty – from the business community, Hoosiers of all backgrounds, local officials and national civil rights leaders – about the need for specifics to make a meaningful bill.

Economic (Re)Development Remix
We’ve been clear that in today’s talent-driven economy, SB12 is an economic development bill.  In the realm of more traditional economic incentives and programs, SB563 is a package of important updates and additions to our arsenal for attracting new jobs and investment.

We covered the fundamentals of SB563 a couple of weeks ago and support the bill.  Along with our partners are the Indiana Economic Development Association, we’re seeking a few minor tweaks to make it even more effective:

  • Allow the new redevelopment tax credit – which we strongly endorse – to apply to larger projects by allowing the IEDC to enlarge redevelopment sites to accommodate investments that push beyond the boundaries of the originally-eligible property;
  • Remove the ‘sliding scale’ provisions that tie bigger credits to sites that are part of a regional redevelopment plan – while we support regional cooperation, we don’t want to add red tape to the deployment of these incentives; and
  • Grant accelerated eligibility to sites that would also qualify for federal New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) or Opportunity Zone consideration, helping leverage as much public-private capital as possible to highly-challenged areas of our state;
  • Prioritize brownfield redevelopment and allow brownfields to automatically qualify for the RDTC (Redevelopment Tax Credit).

The bill was heard and held in Ways & Means this week, so we look forward to discussing these changes further with key legislators.

You down with CIB?
Yes, as noted before, we support strengthening the financial position of the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board to allow needed investments in Banker’s Life, the Convention Center, and our other sports and hospitality assets (and ensuring our supply of downtown hotel rooms anticipates growing demand).

We testified in favor of SB7, which allows extension of the county ticket tax and tax increment financing from the downtown sports development district for the CIB to fund these priorities, including potential financing of a permanent stadium for the Indy Eleven, if the franchise is able to join Major League Soccer as an expansion team.  Like SB563, it was heard and held in Ways & Means on Wednesday.

Marching On…
In other action this week:

  • SB191 (Historic Preservation and Rehabilitation Grants) is already history in the House – the bill adding nonprofits to the list of entities able to receive historic property designation and funding passed third reading unanimously and heads back to the Senate for concurrence;
  • SB4 (Water and Wastewater Utilities Runoff) dealing with regional watershed planning and safety, also caught a strong current – it also passed third reading unanimously and returns to the Senate;
  • HB1005 amends the date on which the office of the state superintendent of public instruction is abolished (to 2021) – as we’ve come to expect, there’s inevitable pushback to any modest government reform, and amid renewed debate over qualifications for this administrative role the bill moved forward on a very narrow 5-3 vote of the Education Committee;
  • The committee had no such hesitation on HB1009, which provides funding for a teacher residency program, to help prepare future teachers by working with today’s effective educators in the classroom – it passed the Education Committee unanimously;
  • There was more discussion of HB1002 (Career and Technical Education Matters), a broader workforce education bill that was held for committee action: It aims to engage the employers in career-focused education programs, expand dual-credit opportunities and allow Workforce Ready grants to be used at any post-secondary institution (these funds – boosted in the budget as the basis for the ‘Next Level Jobs’ program – are currently only applied to tuition to Ivy Tech and Vincennes).

In many ways, advocacy is about relationships – at the Statehouse, with our members and across Indiana, giving us the ability to mobilize support and negotiate in good faith over issues of importance to the future of the Indy Region and the state.

That’s why it was heartening to see the great turnout this week for our Pancakes & Politics event, and to see so many local Chambers of Commerce from every corner of Indiana at the annual Chamber Day at the Statehouse on Tuesday.  We certainly have strength in numbers, and in our collective commitment to issues like bias crimes.

Working together, we’re making a difference and envisioning a brighter future for our state (take some inspiration from this great video by our friends at Imagine Indiana).  So stay involved with the Indy Chamber, sign up for Indiana Competes, and keep supporting our partners in progress – even when the going gets tough, our relationships make us tougher to ignore. (And if you don’t know – now you know!" - Notorious)

And for even more up-to-the-minute news on #INLegis, follow the Business Advocacy team on Twitter:

Mark Fisher - @FisherIndy
Tim Brown - @TimJBrownLaw
Taylor Hughes - @STaylorHughes

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