Today, the Indy Chamber is holding our (virtual) annual membership meeting – it’s almost time to turn the page on 2020 (finally), and we’re ready to hit the New Year running. Members will elect next year’s board of directors and officers, and the board will endorse an ambitious legislative agenda focused on getting Hoosiers safely back to work while investing in a more resilient, inclusive post-COVID economy.
To offer continuity as we move past this turbulent time, this year’s officers have agreed to stand for another term: Dennis Murphy of IU Health will continue to serve as Chair, joined by Vice-Chair Melissa Proffitt (Ice Miller), Treasurer John Hirschman (Browning Investments), and Secretary Jim Birge (Faegre Drinker).
Along with these familiar faces, the 2021 legislative agenda continues our focus on some key issues – raising the state cigarette tax, expanding pre-K and employer-driven workforce programs, to name a few – while acknowledging the challenges that have emerged this year.
These new areas include liability protections for employers following COVID health and safety guidelines. COVID also adds fresh urgency to an item that’s been on our list and overdue for action: Increasing the state cigarette tax to invest in the health of Hoosiers and reduce smoking rates and related levels of respiratory and heart disease (ailments that are also exploited by the coronavirus, but have taken a toll on our economy’s productivity for decades).
Public health outcomes also reflect racial disparities, as systemic bias shortens lifespans as it limits economic mobility. Next year’s agenda continues our emphasis on economic inclusion, with a more deliberate focus on racial equity.
To this end, we elevate criminal justice reform and policies aimed at rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities it serves to make Indianapolis a safer place to live, work and do business. We endorse civilian oversight, body cameras and anti-bias training for police, along with bail reform and sentencing of multiple felony offenders to state facilities instead of county jails.
Talent continues to take center stage among our legislative blueprint for a stronger, more inclusive economy as well: For adult workers, we’ll push to continue programs like ‘Next Level Jobs’ preparing Hoosiers for in-demand occupations, adding an emphasis on workers displaced by the pandemic.
At the other end of the talent pipeline, access to pre-K and a school funding formula that supports diverse learning options and the challenges of urban districts like IPS will be tough battles in a difficult budget climate – but battles too important to lose.
The full Legislative Agenda will be published online after formal action by the board, so stay tuned.