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2022 Legislative Priorities

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2022 Priority Issues

VACCINATIONS

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 endorses the rights of businesses to set most terms of employment and customer conduct, consistent with federal, state and local anti-discrimination protections.
  • The Chamber therefore supports the authority of employers to require COVID-19 vaccines and other basic public health precautions as conditions of employment and/or patronage.
  • The General Assembly acted appropriately in 2021 to extend COVID-related civil liability protections for private and institutional employers; the Chamber calls for the consistent protection of businesses choosing to enforce vaccine requirements as a reasonable step to reduce the ongoing threat of the pandemic.

NON-PARTISAN SCHOOL BOARDS

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.

EDUCATION ACHIEVEMENT GAP

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:

  • Explore ways to increase college enrollment and persistence, starting with a requirement that every Hoosier high school student completes the FAFSA.
  • Study the challenge of disengagement among lower-income and students of color in the 21st Century Scholars program before renewing funding in the next biennium.
  • Identify solutions to the persistent digital divide that has been further exposed by remote learning through the pandemic, recognizing that broadband access and affordability spans the rural-urban divide.

SUPPORT DEI CURRICULUM

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:

  • All students deserve to see themselves reflected in their scholastic lessons, cultivating a sense of self-worth and belonging that supports educational progress.
  • The classroom should allow for honest and open discussion of systemic bias, the historic and ongoing realities of racism and other forms of discrimination, and the ways these issues impact our daily lives.
  • Integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into a challenging academic curriculum gives every student a broader perspective and stronger foundation to pursue their full potential.

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.

JUVENILE JUSTICE

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:

  • Juvenile offenses shouldn’t stall educational progress – participation in education and vocational training programs must be prioritized and supported by adequate resources.
  • Mental health and other social services should also be available to juvenile offenders, addressing underlying conditions and environmental challenges that may have contributed to their involvement in the justice system.
  • Focus on data-driven best practices to break cycles of involvement in the criminal justice system early in life, supporting juveniles on a path towards education and career pursuits that reduce the risk of recidivism for these vulnerable young Hoosiers.

REGIONAL COOPERATION & LOCAL STABILITY

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:

  • Provide fiscal flexibility for local governments to shift revenues (e.g. between operating and capital expenditures) to meet local budget conditions and public needs, and to ‘work smarter’ with available funds – for example, tapping into unspent township surpluses for local infrastructure priorities and encouraging efficiency through government consolidation;
  • Carefully examine the fiscal impact of state-imposed reductions or exemptions in local taxes, evaluating revenue losses, the resulting effects on local services and quality of life (including school budgets) and shifts in tax burden; explore revenue-sharing or replacement mechanisms to avoid straining local budgets at a time of historic state surpluses;
  • Recognizing the pressure of property tax controls are felt most in urban and faster-growing communities, consider adjustments to the maximum levy growth quotient and controlled project limits to allow local governments to capitalize on assessed value growth and economic development success;
  • As regions begin to deploy READI grants to enhance quality of life and community vitality, legislative efforts to strengthen regional development authorities and other models of intergovernmental cooperation and funding should continue to sustain the momentum.

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.

Legislative Priorities Index

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