Legislative Updates Archive
As committee votes and third readings proceed at a breakneck pace, there are clearer signs of how this session will play out, and some key issues heading into the 2017 budget year. With transportation seeing lots of action at the Statehouse and the City-County Building, let’s say that some policy priorities have hit detours, while others are still very much under construction.
While there were no official votes on key infrastructure bills this week, there’s heavy lifting going on behind closed doors as negotiations are underway among House and Senate leadership on the best way to pay for road-building and other infrastructure needs. (The latest wrinkle is Speaker Bosma’s implied trade-off for moving increased Regional Cities funds in exchange for a compromise that more closely resembles HB 1001.
Again, the Indy Chamber endorses the approach outlined in HB 1001 – sustainable revenue enhancements (indexing and increasing the state gasoline tax, along withcigarette taxes) to make long-term investments. Our central location is a competitive advantage only if combined with the certainty of a well-funded, intermodal transportation system – a piecemeal approach to budgeting won’t get the job done.
After years of planning, lobbying and public education, we’re picking up the pace on mass transit. The action on this issue has shifted down Washington Street to the City-County Building, and the outcome will impact transportation, economic development and talent attraction in Indiana’s biggest region for decades to come.
IndyGo has released a detailed transit plan for Marion County (based on the regional Indy Connect strategy) and recently earned a huge vote of confidence from the Federal Transit Administration with a $75M grant to begin building the first rapid transit route in that plan, the Red Line. Support is growing on the Indianapolis City-County Council for putting a transit referendum on the November ballot.
Now is the time to take action – contact your City-County Councillors and urge them to give voters a voice on expanding and modernizing mass transit this year.
Contact your Indy Chamber advocacyteam to find out where your Councillor stands and how to reach and make our case to them – giving the public the chance to accept a modest tax increase (less than $10 a month for most families) in exchange for transit’s potential for connecting people with jobs, appealing to educated young workers, and attracting new neighborhood development to serve the growing population it attracts.
After fixing politically-pressing ISTEP and accountability issues, lawmakers have taken a more leisurely approach to a host of other issues. SB 93 (Various Education Matters) is the massive Senate vehicle for all things education: Still being amended and moving towards a vote as this is written, it provides protocols for charter school record-keeping in the event of closure, provides ISTEP deadlines, school bus safety measures and assigns various topics to a summer study committee. SB 334 (Choice Scholarships) continues the debate over school vouchers and their expansion.
HB 1004 (interestingly scheduled for hearing in Senate Pensions & Labor) provides more flexibility and an easier transition for teachers moving into Indiana. It also allows for teachers to have an option on a defined contribution retirement plan instead of a defined benefit plan – a concept the Indy Chamber supports. It passed committee 7-4 and heads to the Senate floor.
The Senate Education Committee sent HB 1005 (Career Pathways)to the Senate floor on an 8-2 vote as amended, promising supplemental pay for teachers who take on more administrative and mentoring roles. It’s joined by HB 1395, which deletes the rescoring provision of ISTEP, mandates results reporting by July 1, and allows the Governor to make the appointments to the committee on student success.
HB 1394 deals with innovation network schools, garnering uniformly positive committee testimony (including the Indy Chamber) for providing more flexibility and local school turnaround options prior to state intervention.
Just when you thought some issues were gone for this session, we see action that foreshadows the debates to come: LGBT rights were briefly on the docket in the House when an amendment was offered on SB 20. While it was defeated, representatives got the chance to be on record on anti-discrimination –see how they voted.
In a similar vein, we’ve received word that the House will likely not take up bias crimes legislation or allow it to be amended into another bill, but we are encouraged by progress on this issue in the Senate and expect to revisit the subject.
Broader tax issues (like combined reporting and a sales tax on services) have also been put off until the budget session, but will be studied in the summer months.
Proceed with Caution
We urge similar caution on several ill-considered moves to limit local economic development tools like tax increment financing (TIF). SB 308 contains language that could politicize abatements in TIF districts, reset the Indianapolis airport TIF and create unnecessary hurdles for redevelopment (important for the soon-to-be vacant Carrier site).
HB 1180 was amended to prohibit local governments from requiring some form of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) for tax exempt organizations locating in a TIF district. This could endanger the success of the 16 Tech downtown innovation district, disallowing planned PILOT support of city infrastructure bonds by the non-profit Indiana Bioscience Research Institute.
Stayed tuned for more on these and other issues as we enter the General Assembly’s “rush hour” and spring deadlines for action on the Indianapolis transit referendum.
You can also be a part of the conversation on Twitter @IndyChamber (use #InvestINtransit and #IndyCouncil to support the Indianapolis transit referendum), and make your voice heard by joining Team317 and becoming a social media advocate for the Indy Chamber’s public policy agenda.