Home Sweet Home

Let’s start this update by indulging in some hometown pride: Two weeks after Indianapolis drew rave reviews (again) as the host city for the College Football Championship Game, Realtor.com ranked the Indy metro among the top five hottest housing markets in the nation for 2022.

If you’re reading this, you likely share our commitment to making Indianapolis the best possible place to live, visit, work and invest. Good news is cause for celebration but not complacency, and motivation to do more…and there are some promising proposals in the General Assembly that could make a difference.

First, SB245 is designed to boost to future sports and convention bidding, creating a state-supported fund structure to assist communities pursuing major events (a head-start on the current process, which puts the onus on host committees and local governments to raise start-up costs). The proposed fund would be administered by the Indiana Sports Corporation, operate statewide (with at least 25 percent of its resources to be allocated outside Marion County) and receive appropriations through next year’s budget process; the bill passed Appropriations on Thursday.

Our hospitality industry brings billions of dollars into the regional economy, so we see this as a smart investment. Putting Indy in the spotlight for sports and tourism also helps attract new residents and business opportunities, which brings us back to housing.

A booming real estate market brings its own challenges: Strong demand and tight inventory have pushed home prices (and rents) up across the region. Diverse and affordable housing options convenient to employment centers is key for workforce connectivity and a healthy job market. Housing is an issue in many parts of the state, and the Senate is eyeing a few potential solutions:

  • We testified in favor of SB262 on Tuesday: It creates a state tax credit to spur financing of affordable and workforce housing options, helping make our housing market more inclusive and accessible (and bring potential workers closer to job opportunities)–the bill passed Tax & Fiscal Policy.
  • Several other bills, like SB184 (which streamlines approval for residential developments) and HB1306 (creating a statewide housing task force) are also sitting on committee dockets.
  • In a related matter, SB4 authorizes local workforce recruitment and retention programs; it  passed committee Tuesday and was cruising towards second reading at this writing–but without housing supply, new initiatives to lure talent can’t work to their full potential.

Taxing SZN:
On Thursday, HB1002 passed the full House to hit the Senate just as tax filing season starts on Monday (perfect timing). The GOP tax plan includes an individual income tax cut, business property tax relief in the form of a lower depreciation floor for equipment assessments and relaxed industrial sales tax rules, and the repeal of certain utility and sales taxes.

The House debate over the bill may look like preseason warm-ups compared to the Senate, where Republican leaders have taken a more skeptical attitude towards long-term tax policy enacted in a short session. As we’ve mentioned, we’re watching a couple of issues on this:

  • Balancing tax cuts with the revenue outlook beyond 2023, to protect state-level budget commitments like READI and priorities in infrastructure, education and workforce development; and
  • Protecting local communities and school district budgets (and referendum plans) from revenue losses as new equipment begins to depreciate without offsetting tax credits.

Committee crunch-time:
While some bills have already passed and flipped to the other chamber, plenty of others are still working through the process with just a few days of committee work left to get bills onto the floor before third reading deadlines at the end of January.

With a limited schedule and hundreds of bills waiting, expect casualties dropping faster than the ‘Red Light. Green Light.’ episode of Squid Games. There are at least a few bills we’re eager to see perish in death-by-deadline.

SB369 has been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, which isn’t scheduled to meet according to the most recent session calendar. As we reported last week, the bill targets the Blue Line along Washington Street, canceling millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and compromising the convenience and connectivity of the city-wide transit system. Transit advocates pushed back, and there seems to be less momentum for tying up the legislative process with attacks on local transit agencies.

Likewise, the backlash against SB167 seems to have stalled its progress for this session. As we’ve described, this bill would curb classroom discussion of “divisive concepts,” language which could be broadly interpreted to oppose diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

We’re with the educators and youth development experts who endorse these efforts to engage more students in learning and prepare them to work alongside colleagues from all backgrounds and walks of life, navigating the challenges of a global economy.

But while SB167 is non-controversial history for this year, a similar House measure (HB1134) has passed committee and remains eligible for second reading next week.

On another education priority, none of the handful of bills seeking to politicize school board elections have made it to the floor. There’s been no move to reschedule HB1182 (the most visible vehicle for adding political labels to school board ballots) since it was heard last week, so we’re watchful but hopeful on this front.

More highlights (and lowlights) of Week 3:
There was plenty more action on the calendar as the legislature started the homestretch towards halftime of the session. As Indiana hit an all-time high for COVID hospitalizations this week (with 80%+ of hospitalized patients unvaccinated against the virus), let’s start with the fight to protect workplaces and jobs:

  • Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, the House passed HB1001 through third reading, keeping broad “don’t ask” exemptions and weekly testing requirements that greatly limit the ability of employers to prioritize worker health and safety by requiring COVID vaccinations.
  • There were a couple of modest improvements to the bill (easing an unemployment benefit penalty for anti-vaccine employment actions and allowing companies to apply for COVID testing reimbursements), but HB1001 still poses an unnecessary threat to private business and public health.
  • This leaves the Senate and Governor Holcomb to offer pro-business backup: SB3, which eases Indiana out of the public health emergency without restricting the rights of employers to protect workplace health and safety, passed second reading on Thursday and picked up some key co-authors (hopefully a sign of momentum).

On other noteworthy bills:

  • We testified Thursday on HB1359, a bipartisan juvenile justice bill that was then passed onto the floor: It creates statewide oversight, planning and data collection authority focusing on the well-being of juveniles held by the Department of Corrections and their successful transition to pursue educational and vocational opportunities–young Hoosiers are most impacted over their lifetimes (and vulnerable to recidivism) from experience with the criminal justice system, and we applaud this bill’s emphasis on transitional services and supports.
  • HB1093 emphasizing early childhood education (a key Chamber priority) passed third reading on Tuesday and heads to the Senate.
  • SB223 allows the state venture capital tax credit to be claimed across two fiscal years, to encourage high-tech investment that isn’t curtailed or pushed off according to the vagaries of the calendar–it passed committee on Tuesday.
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