If you’re still experiencing a case of the Monday blahs, take heart. Monday was “National Bubble Wrap Day”, so grab yourself a wad of the ubiquitous packing material and pop along as we catch you up on last week’s Statehouse action:
Anyone who wandered into the Statehouse this past Thursday could be forgiven for thinking someone had declared it “Indiana Pacers Day” given the amount of blue and gold folks were wearing. No, it was the Indiana Department of Health team and the Governor’s Public Health Commission celebrating “Public Health Day” with lawmakers and members of public health coalitions from around the state.
As we’ve noted before, increasing the competitiveness of Indiana and the Indy Region by bringing state investment in public health up to national averages is a top Indy Chamber priority. Governor Eric Holcomb has led the way calling for support in his budget package, and Chairman Ed Charbonneau is putting the team on his back. His SB 4 will be heard in the Senate Health and Provider Services committee this week to advance the Public Health Commission proposal. For specific investments in mental health, Senator Mike Crider’s SB 1 got the spotlight in a hearing on January 25. The bill garnered support from many corners—including ours—for its promise to reestablish Indiana’s Behavioral Health Commission, create Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), and strengthen Indiana’s mental health crisis response system—a critical need for the Hoosier workforce and to advance communities' racial equity.
Also focused on mental health, was HB 1006—passed out of committee last week. The bill could work well with the kind of low-barrier shelter leaders that the Indy Region have been discussing for some time. It’s critically important to ensure that people in crisis get access to treatment programs and are diverted from jails.
The “cost of care” discussion will continue to be a hot topic this week, with hearings coming on HB1004 and other bills. Increasing the state’s investment in public health services is a vital first step to address health outcomes and costs, prioritize prevention, and reduce the need to utilize high-cost emergency services.
We believe our state’s costs for healthcare must be competitive with national averages, but it’s also critical to avoid the precedent of heavy-handed government interventions in pricing. To advance the health of all Hoosiers, healthcare policy should prioritize comprehensive solutions that achieve competitive prices and the highest quality care.
Although Tax Day is officially still some months off, “National Toothache Day” is right around the corner (not sure which we’d rather have). Indiana lawmakers are looking at a number of bills designed to mitigate tax burdens and ramp up economic development across the state.
On this point, we’d like to appreciate Senator Travis Holdman for the approach he laid out in the Indianapolis Business Journal last week on his proposal to comprehensively study state and local tax structures. Though SB 3 has yet to be scheduled for a hearing, we wholeheartedly support Senator Holdman’s call for careful planning before tax cutting. Tax cuts are good, but we’d rather Indiana have a competitive tax climate and the most livable communities in the country—and we think that’s attainable. This is one the Chamber team will be tracking closely, and we look forward to a spirited discussion on how to move the state’s development forward.
Continuing in the economic development vein, SB 300 from Senator Linda Rogers moves proposals from the Housing Taskforce that met over the last year. The bill aims to beat the state’s housing supply crunch by removing threshold barriers that had limited the usefulness of residential TIF, particularly in urban and fast-growing metro areas. It also puts the county fiscal body (for instance the Indianapolis City-County Council) in charge of approving these programs in their communities. Increasing the supply of housing is critical to maintaining affordable housing, so this bill gets a big thumbs up from us.
Last week also saw some lawmakers foray into the national discussion of “ESG” investments in the form of HB 1008. With a gentle reminder that one need not swing at every pitch, the Indy Chamber team agrees that financial returns on investments are the priority, but HB 1008 as written could in some instances prohibit financial institutions from being the best possible custodian of investor funds.
With “Read Across America Day” coming up on March 2, it’s time now to look at the ‘Science of Reading’ and other education developments at the Statehouse last week. Representative Jake Teshka’s HB 1558 which passed the House Education Committee looks to assist school corporations in implementing best-practice reading instruction, which promises to significantly improve IREAD scores and proficiency across the state. We testified in support of this bill and are looking forward to continuing our support as it heads to Ways & Means.
SB 368 was heard and held last week, setting up a pilot, cost-sharing program for high-quality, affordable childcare programs. If this idea—a good one, in our estimation—moves forward, the Indy Chamber would like to see a similar appropriation request but a competitive RFP structure to allow a pilot from the most prepared communities in the state to begin road-testing this concept.
Finally, SB 305, the Indiana Scholarship ESA program, was amended last week to match the income requirements of the Choice Scholarship program and mandate that 50% of funds expended be spent on special education students. While Indiana does seem firmly on the path toward a “universal voucher” system, the income requirements are an important element of addressing concerns around the as-yet-untold costs associated with instituting universal school choice.
While we anxiously wait for “National Tater Tot Day” to arrive on February 2, here’s what we’ll be watching for at the Statehouse this week:
Keep your eyes on our social feeds to track the Business Advocacy team this week!
To keep track of our efforts in real-time, follow @IndyChamber, @staylorhughes, and @Adam_Burtner on Twitter throughout the session (or until Twitter goes down in flames, whichever comes first) and look for #indychamberadvocacy on social media to see what our team is up to.