Legislative Update: The Knives Out Edition

The action this week at the Statehouse—and there was a lot of it—had us thinking about double-edged swords. To see which IGA bills we think should make the cut—or need a cut, read on…

 

Dicing, mincing, julienne, and chiffonade

Whichever of the classic techniques you choose, these bills need some precise trimming:

HB 1499 - While we certainly understand the importance of affordability for attracting and retaining residents—as well as the call to provide relief to taxpayers grappling with rising property tax bills—we have some pointed concerns about the impact of 1499 on local units of government.

If enacted, the bill could create a significant loss of local annual revenue—to the tune of $50-60M in Marion County alone. That impact could affect schools and core public services in particular. Housing affordability—both for homeowners and renters—is critical to the competitiveness of the Indy Region, but at the same time local units need sufficient revenue to maintain roads, provide for public safety, and educate students—we’d urge lawmakers to find a better balance between these two imperatives.

(For your consideration, language in HB1409 frees up tens of millions of local income tax dollars each year by lowering the threshold of reserve requirements. Perhaps those concepts could offer a way forward as discussions continue.)

While we’ve got school funding on your radar, keep in mind there are ongoing conversations on local funding in communities around the state. The flurry of significant changes proposed to school funding across several House bills makes it hard to ascertain how much is due to which schools. We would hope to see a more cohesive, accessible direction for tax reforms and school funding that provides clarity as to the resources schools are due, rather than a “cut a little here, add a little there” approach.

HB 1085 is another bill we’d like to see on the chopping block. While the bill’s aim is ostensibly to support schools by including them in TIF conversations and processes, it does so at the expense of local governments’ ability to compete on economic development proposals. Hurting a local unit’s competitiveness won’t be good for schools or the communities they serve in the long run.

HB 1001. The House budget incudes increases for school systems through the base rate and complexity index over the biennium, but the increases don’t beat the rate of inflation we’ve consistently seen over the last two years. Like dinner at Benihana, it seems like a lot of knives flashing and tapping to get to the same dinner we’ve been having for a while now. As we near the session’s halfway point, we hope to resume a thoughtful discussion in the second half that brings, among other things, more meaningful increases to complexity funds which serve the most vulnerable students around the state.

All that said, the House budget does include some tools to add to our knife drawer:

Significant investments in economic development priorities, focused on Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and Indiana Sports Corp. IEDC looks likely to come away from this session with $500M allocated for READI in fiscal year 2023, a $500M deal-closing fund to compete for a historically high potential investment in advanced manufacturing reshoring, and a $150M site acquisition revolving loan fund, while the Sports Corp Bid Fund is targeted to receive $10M to help attract new and ever larger sporting events to the state. No knives here, only spoons.

Speaking of sports, everyone’s favorite rivals IU and Purdue got some favorable treatment in the House budget, specifically investments aimed at expanding their footprints in downtown Indy. IU Indy would receive around $120M for startup costs related to the transition and expansion of IUPUI, and Purdue would receive approximately $40M to solidify its downtown presence. If you read IBJ’s excellent Downtown Indy issue last week—and you should—you know that expanding our flagship universities downtown and attaining R1 research status is a generationally impactful move for the competitiveness of the capital city and the state as a whole.

 

That’s not a knife—this is a knife

Bipartisanship makes us as cheerful as Crocodile Dundee, and there are some good examples as we reach halftime. Here’s a rundown of bills that got bipartisan support in their own chamber:

  • HB 1321 Looking out for the folks in uniform, Representative Victoria Garcia Wilburn’s bill requiring annual in-service training that addresses the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers and firefighters.
  • HB 1219 establishes a PFAS biomonitoring pilot program for firefighters, looking at the presence of PFAS (long-lasting, harmful chemicals that are ingredients in flame-retardant foams and other products) in the bloodstreams—an issue championed by Representative Maureen Bauer. A recent CDC review linked these “forever chemicals” to cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease. We were glad to see bipartisan agreement to protect firefighters from additional harm on an already-dangerous job.
  • HB 1365 Representative Mitch Gore’s push to outlaw conversion kits that turn handguns into automatic weapons. We’re glad to see bipartisan consensus on a technical bill that makes a real-world impact on public safety.
  • Representative Carolyn Jackson likewise secured support for HB 1138, requiring lead testing of water in a childcare or preschool facility and necessary steps to remediate if lead is found.
  • Senator Shelli Yoder’s bill supporting long-acting reversible contraceptives, SB 252, also won backing this week, as did Senator Andrea Hunley’s Vision Zero bill to establish a task force charged with studying and recommending strategies for getting the state to zero traffic fatalities.
  • If there were an award for persistence, the Indy Chamber BA team would give it to Senator Jean Leising for standing by a good and important idea for Hoosier students’ postsecondary success. SB 167, makes FAFSA completion a requirement for high school graduation for most Hoosier students, with an opt-out for those not interested. The measure was passed by the Senate this week and deserves fast approval in the House.

 

On a serious note

Several concerning bills currently moving through the General Assembly seem targeted directly at vulnerable Hoosiers, especially members of the LGBTQ+ community and youth. Some of these bills address medical treatment, others classroom instruction—but all focus on issues that divide us.

Given all the work and funding legislators have put, and are putting, into increasing Indiana’s competitiveness (robust, strategic investments in IEDC, for example) these bills are likely to cut our competitiveness and economic viability at a time when we need to double down. The implications for regional perceptions as a state that welcomes people of all backgrounds are significant.

This brings us, to this week’s budget amendment regarding the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. We agree with Speaker Huston that “the way the amendment was presented yesterday was ‘extraordinarily disappointing.’”

Opportunities often arise out of challenges, and with all the challenges the Hoosier state is facing right now comes a significant opportunity to unite Hoosiers around issues we all recognize as essential to moving Indiana forward, such as:

  • Improving education in our state to allow all students to access opportunities,
  • Investing in public health to support the well-being of all our state’s residents, and
  • Ensuring that people of all backgrounds feel welcome, included, and invited to grow and prosper in Indiana.

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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Real-Time Updates 

To keep track of our efforts in real-time, follow @IndyChamber@staylorhughes, and @Adam_Burtner on Twitter throughout the session and look for #indychamberadvocacy on social media to see what our team is up to. 

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