As the clock ticks down to “halftime” of the 2023 IGA session, let’s look at our first-half stats on the Indy Chamber’s legislative priorities and make some second-half predictions:
Moving into the endzone as halftime approaches are SB 1, SB 4, and HB 1449. SB 1, authored by Senator Mike Crider, has been passed to the Senate floor. Nothing so far has impeded SB 1’s march down the field or impinged upon its potential to be a game-changer for Hoosiers’ mental and behavioral health. As we noted last week, a comprehensive and properly resourced statewide mental health crisis response system of the kind proposed by SB 1 is critical to the well-being of Indiana’s workforce and, by extension, its overall competitiveness. Look for SB 1 to cross the goal line in the second half; we’ll be cheering loudly when it does.
With similar field position, SB 4 also appears likely to score a touchdown in IGA’s second half. When it does, SB 4 will make good on Governor Holcomb’s commitment to making transformational investments in Indiana's public health infrastructure. We were particularly pleased to see SB 4 amended last week to add maternal and child healthcare to the list of core health department services Indiana will fund at the local level. SB 4’s cheer squad to date has included virtually every workforce development and employment organization in the state, including the Indy Chamber. Given the bill’s unanimous passage out of committee, is it too soon to start choreographing a touchdown dance?
Perhaps we should pose that question to Representative and Leader of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, Earl Harris. HB 1449, Harris’ plan to create an automatic enrollment mechanism for the 21st Century Scholars program, appears to have moved into scoring position. This idea is one Harris and others—including the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy team—have been behind for quite a while, and getting it downfield has felt like a game of inches. If supporters move into stack formation, HB 1449 should cross the goal line by the end of this session, notching a huge win for Indiana’s youth and the future of the state’s workforce.
Flag on the play?
One potential hurdle for the 21st Century Scholars effort: SB 435, Senator Eddie Melton’s bill requiring the Indiana Commission on Higher Education and Indiana Department of Education to identify income-eligible students for automatic enrollment was heard and held by the Senate Education Committee. Call it holding or maybe delay of game—but we’re hopeful this one gets moving again soon.
In Field Goal Range
Adam Vinatieri once declared, “This is a hard enough sport when you're giving 100 percent. If you're giving anything less than that, it'll swallow you up.” He was talking about football, of course, but he could just as easily have been talking about legislating. If the GOAT taught us anything, though, it’s that you can win an awful lot of games just by getting into field goal range—which is where a couple of bills reflecting Indy Chamber priorities find themselves near the end of IGA’s first half.
The latest bill to reach that phantom red line on the field is SB 186, a proposal from Senator Kyle Walker to create a tax credit for employer-provided childcare up to 50% of the employer’s qualified childcare expenditures per year. While not a panacea, measures like SB 186 move the ball towards expanding access to and affordability of high-quality early education and childcare, which the Indy Chamber has identified as a priority. Not only does accessible childcare offer the immediate benefit of boosting parental labor force participation, high-quality pre-K programs have repeatedly been shown to be one of the smartest investments states can make in terms of long-term, positive outcomes for youth.
Along those same lines, the Indy Chamber team has offered support for legislation advancing the science of reading, which also moved into field goal range this week. Senate bills 443 and 402 both move the conversation forward on requiring adoption of local curriculum, elementary teacher certification, and state board standards to speed adoption of science of reading instruction. While we have no desire to debate the finer points of pedagogy like old-timers rehashing The Immaculate Reception, we’re solidly in favor of anything that improves outcomes for Hoosier students.
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts….Can’t Lose?
Even the best players occasionally need a halftime pep-talk, and the same goes for a few bills the Indy Chamber is pulling for. Number one on that list is SB 135, which is still waiting for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee like Rudy waiting to be called off the Notre Dame bench. SB 135 would make undocumented Indiana students eligible for in-state tuition rates provided they apply (or have applied) for legal immigration status. There is a great deal of momentum around this bill among community stakeholders, and the Indy Chamber team will continue to advocate for the Senate to act on SB 135.
Another Indy Chamber priority bill that could use a pep-talk is SB 283, which would allow the combined populations of Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport, and Speedway to be counted with the Marion County population when the state distributes funds from the motor vehicle highway (MVH) account. If these four micro-municipalities were merged into one, their combined population would make them Indiana’s third-largest city, yet their status as “excluded cities” has meant that, to date, all 190,000 combined residents are excluded from the population figures used to determine Indy’s MVH funding. The illogic of the situation is obvious, and the remedy is simple. SB 283 has been passed by the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and currently awaits a vote by the full Senate, where it will need all the support it can get before it goes to the House and into the end zone.
With about a week and a half before committee reports are due, we are at a key moment in session to get priorities over the hump. This week will undoubtedly see some high-octane hearings and public input. We urge attention to the issues highlighted in the Indy Chamber’s legislative agenda to move the state forward—and restraint from getting into divisive issues that damage the state’s reputation for hospitality and inclusion.
Join Us at the Next Pastries & Politics
Join the Indy Chamber Advocacy team on as we discuss the state of play just after the halftime of the General Assembly’s 2023 budget session at our next Pastries & Politics event, presented by First Financial Bank.
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