Welcome to the Indy Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Agenda, the product of an ongoing conversation with thousands of employers across our region about ways to elevate our economy and compete at a higher level.
Last year’s agenda focused on a safe reopening from COVID and an overdue emphasis on racial equity as part of a more inclusive community.
Since then, our economy has rebounded and tax revenues have surged into a blockbuster state budget, but many employers are still struggling on the front lines of the pandemic. Lawmakers came together to pass bipartisan police reform, but racial tensions still need to be addressed.
Finally, the decennial Census reported Indiana’s population growth continuing to slow, a stark demographic reminder of the ground we need to cover in quality of life and regional cooperation.
It’s time to rise above short-term distractions and controversies to focus on the future.
Focusing on the future means putting COVID behind us and supporting businesses that act to protect their employees and customers with common-sense vaccination requirements. It also means focusing on educating tomorrow’s workforce and ensuring that every student is supported and empowered to succeed.
Indiana is poised to spend $18 billion on K-12 education in the next two years. But new dollars won’t help students who are isolated or feel unseen in the classroom. And school boards must focus their deliberations on pro-student policies.
Quality schools prepare their students to succeed, but also help their communities compete for talent. The READI program is a bold investment toward attracting new Hoosiers ready to put their talents to work in our economy. Now is the time to maximize current READI resources and plan ahead to sustain regional collaboration and growth beyond the next budget cycle.
Our region is ready to rise – read on for the policy specifics driving our aspirations for the future.
Partner-in-Charge of Client Relations, Ice Miller
2022-2023 Chair – Board of Directors, Indy Chamber
President & CEO
As Indiana recovers from the worst of the COVID crisis, employers are tasked with protecting the health and safety of workers and customers alike. Well-vaccinated workplaces save lives, strengthen the job market and sustain consumer confidence while limiting healthcare costs.
Indiana prides itself on a pro-business, pro-growth regulatory environment that limits government intervention in matters properly left to the private sector. If federal vaccine mandates aren’t the answer, neither are state-imposed anti-vaccine mandates that threaten businesses and put more Hoosiers at risk:
The Indy Chamber supports non-partisan school board elections focused on substantive platforms relevant to public education. Changing the current ballot to identify candidates by party affiliation could shift electoral accountability away from parents to political parties.
The past year has seen national political controversies injected into local school board deliberations to an alarming degree, taking much-needed attention away from student achievement, recovering learning losses and making sure educational standards keep up with economic and employment trends.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. The business community has a practical, non-partisan interest in local schools: Are Hoosier graduates prepared for lifelong learning, to pursue college and career success and compete in a global, knowledge-driven marketplace?
Non-partisan school board elections allow spirited debates that emphasize education policy over political ideology or litmus tests.
Educational attainment is a crucial factor in economic inclusion, to rise above barriers to employment, upward mobility and full participation in the knowledge-driven economy. The Indy Chamber supports a more equitable funding structure for students living in poverty, having advocated for increased complexity aid to address challenges beyond the classroom. Within the current budget, continue efforts to close achievement gaps and educational disparities:
Resources and data-driven solutions are urgently needed to close the achievement gaps that limit the future opportunities of too many Indianapolis children. But for increased funding and new initiatives to make an impact, schools must be welcoming environments that challenge every student to succeed:
The Indy Chamber endorses these principles as part of a framework for a more inclusive community and economy, while acknowledging that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs should be developed and implemented by school boards and district leaders.
The Chamber has consistently supported educational options and innovation – charter schools, magnet programs, and other efforts to provide diverse learning experiences suited to diverse populations of students.
The same principle applies to local decisions on DEI initiatives. We oppose top-down, statewide mandates to restrict or prohibit local DEI programs to meet the needs of the students, families and communities served by school corporations across Indiana.
It is increasingly obvious that re-engaging those formerly involved with the criminal justice system in our community isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s a practical business and workforce necessity. The Indy Chamber has endorsed common-sense limits on employer hiring liability, investments in re-entry programs and a litany of legislative actions easing the practical and administrative hurdles to post-release employment and productive participation in our economy.
We recognize that the stakes for successful transitions from the juvenile justice system are even higher. The Chamber is eager to work with state and local policymakers, education and justice officials to advocate juvenile justice reforms focused on successful outcomes:
State revenues grew through COVID, but the local tax base is limited by structural challenges and state-level policies, especially the larger cities and metropolitan regions that anchor Indiana’s economy. While federal aid eases pandemic-related budget pressures, the Indy Chamber continues to champion local government and revenue reforms that support longer-term regional growth:
Beyond these timely issues, the Indy Chamber will continue to pursue policies aimed at other elements of a more competitive and inclusive economic climate – also on our ‘Ready to Rise’ agenda.
Back to Work: As Hoosiers return to work, employers continue to face a disrupted job market and often severe hiring challenges:
Tax Increment Financing: Maximize the ability of local government units to respond to redevelopment and economic development opportunities through utilization of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts:
Local Incentives: Secure and maintain flexibility of local incentives for economic and community development efforts to encourage new growth and redevelopment of existing resources
Certified Tech Parks: Increase the Certified Technology Park (CTP) tax capture allowance from the current $5 million cap to allow high performing CTPs to increase public-private investment in the CTP and surrounding areas
State Incentives: Maintain Indiana’s economic competitiveness through the preservation and responsible use of existing state tax incentives, placing emphasis on skills enhancement and workforce training to attract investment from diverse industry sectors (e.g. strengthening the state Skills Enhancement Fund to assist companies in addressing 21st Century skills gaps).
Entrepreneurship and Innovation Investments: Support policies that can improve the State’s capital environment, nurture innovation, and advance racial equity by:
Advanced Telecommunications: Support efforts by telecommunications providers to transition their networks from old legacy technology to an advanced all-IP, all-mobile, 5G supportive, all-cloud infrastructure
Housing: Advance equity, public health outcomes, and economic growth by supporting public and private strategies to expand and maintain the supply of affordable housing options
Brownfields: Accelerate community reinvestment and accessible employment opportunities in and around brownfield sites, driving economic development and maximizing property values by:
Stellar Communities: Support continued investment and rural communities and small towns across Indiana by strengthening and expanding the Indiana Stellar Communities program, emphasizing increased technical assistance and capacity-building towards brownfield remediation and redevelopment
Shovel-Ready Redevelopment: Support shovel ready community redevelopment efforts through the creation of a statewide grant program to fund the demolition of blighted commercial properties
Revitalization Grants and Revolving Loan Fund: Allow local governments the ability to make grants and loans to private enterprise for the creation of jobs or otherwise stimulate economic activity
Food Access & Insecurity: Support innovative efforts to increase access to healthy food options and strategies to improve food security to support the health of Indiana residents and workforce – for example, the ‘healthy food initiative’ funded in the FY2022-23 budget supporting a community-driven public-private partnership with the Cook Group to open a new grocery store on the northeast side of Indianapolis.
Empower and enable innovative and proven food distribution models, alternative payment processes, and data collection on food access and insecurity
Reinforce and enhance Indiana’s brand as a welcoming and diverse state by:
Local Roads and Streets: Ensure adequate funding for local roads and streets based on actual use and commercial impact by:
Hoosier State Line: Reinstate state support to continue operations and enhance service of the Hoosier State Line to better facilitate connectivity and economic opportunity between Indianapolis, Northwest Indiana, and Chicago
Complete Streets: Pursue state transportation policies that encourage transportation planners and engineers to plan, design, operate and maintain the state’s road and street infrastructure that facilitates public use, physical activity, and support public health
Greenways: Support sustainable funding and equitable allocations of resources under the Next Level Trails grant program to ensure long-term funding of trail projects
Mass Transit: Maintain funding for the Public Mass Transportation Fund (PMTF) to account for post-pandemic increases in participation and demand of transit agencies throughout the state
Shared & Personal Mobility: Capitalize on rapid advances in personal mobility and transportation by making new mobility options safe and accessible for Hoosiers, and positioning Indiana as a center of innovation for mobility solutions:
Water: Support the creation of a statewide coordinating body to ensure sustained economic opportunity through responsible management of water resources, as well as:
Energy Efficiency: Secure state incentives for business and local government investments in energy-efficient commercial and industrial rehabilitation and fleet management
Local Government Finance:
Veterans in the Workforce: Increase employment opportunities for returning veterans by eliminating duplicative requirements and expedite processes for military-trained personnel to obtain the equivalent civilian license
Support ongoing efforts to recruit military personnel to the state to meet the workforce needs of regional employers
Re-entry from the Criminal Justice System: Support policies that promote reintegrating those formerly involved in the criminal justice system back into the workforce as productive contributors to our economy by:
Social Determinants of Health: Increase strategic investments in public health, prevention, and social determinants to support talent-based economic development. Continue data collection efforts by the state on social determinants of health and unmet needs of government benefit recipients
Reverse Credit: Support permitting specific course credit to be transferable and reciprocal between Indiana’s accredited two-year schools and other state-supported colleges and universities to encourage post-secondary certification and degree attainment statewide
21st Century Scholars: Enhance outreach and wraparound services and evaluate sustainable funding mechanisms for programs, such as the 21st Century Scholars program, in order to increase access to and completion rates at two- and four-year colleges and universities for those with financial need
Teacher Training: Work with school system leaders to require and fund all teachers in the state of Indiana to complete cultural competency and implicit bias training, without creating additional burdens or unfunded mandates
Achievement Gap & Disciplinary Policies: Support comprehensive, ongoing review of racial achievement gap and disciplinary policies resulting in inequitable outcomes
Early Childhood Education: Ensure children entering primary (K-12) education are academically, socially and emotionally prepared for success through high-quality, publicly-funded Pre-K programs; increased public investments should focus on those in financial need and support statewide access, while protecting funding and service levels in high-demand, high-capacity ‘pilot’ counties. Further, enact mandatory, fully-funded, full-day kindergarten by age 5 to create a consistent, quality early education pathway
School Safety & Mental Health: Allow public school funding for school resource officers and school safety referenda funding to be used to hire mental health program staff
STEM: Support dedicated funding and policies to deploy high-quality classroom science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula and STEM-focused professional development for the educators. Specifically, emphasize access to computer science and engineering courses at the K-12 level to prepare graduates for college and career opportunities in high-demand STEM fields
Explore the creation of incentives to retain recent STEM-degreed individuals committed to remaining in-state for five years, with an emphasis on those graduates who enter the teaching profession.
High school Career Counselors:
Required FAFSA Completion: Support matriculation to post-secondary educational institutions by making FAFSA completion or affirmative opt-out a requirement of high school graduation
Autonomy: Provide school districts flexibility to pay teachers based on high need and specialized subject matter areas. Empower local education officials to make administrative and structural decisions affecting individual school performance, including the option to extend school hours, merit pay options, providing voluntary alternative retirement benefits options such as defined contribution plans for new teachers
Operational Efficiency & Facilities: Support school corporations’ operational efficiency efforts by creating a 5-year, renewable exemption to the “Dollar Law” for school corporations that meet the following criteria:
Charter Authority: Expand the authority of the Mayor of Indianapolis to charter Pre-K educational institutions and require local public hearings for the re-chartering of schools attempting to switch charter authorizers after a charter has been revoked
Financial Literacy: Promote financial literacy education through existing k-12 curriculum requirements and encourage the DOE to develop sample curriculum for local schools to implement
Education and workforce investments are maximized through a population that is healthy and productive on the job, ready to put their skills to use. The Indy Chamber supports a comprehensive approach to increase the health, resiliency, and productivity of Indiana’s current and future workforce.
Support strategic criminal justice reform to enhance public safety, maximize rehabilitation, and minimize jail overcrowding, recidivism, and local fiscal impact: