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‘Don’t sweat the technique’ was the last studio album released by the legendary hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim – so it’s an appropriate old-school kick-off to the last session of Indiana’s legendary, longest-serving House Speaker, Brian Bosma, who’s been dropping legislative hits for more than three decades.

Speaking of techniques and tactics, a little about what to expect over the next three months: The General Assembly works on a two-year schedule – budget-writing (long) sessions in odd-numbered years, and short sessions like this year.

Short sessions are typically wrapped up around St. Patrick’s Day, but don’t associate them too much with ‘green:’ With the biennial budget wrapped up, bills passed in the short session aren’t supposed to have a major fiscal impact.  (This principle can be pretty elastic, depending on policy priorities and political pressures – for example, the push to do more on teacher pay.)

Despite all this, plenty can get done in a short session, and we plan on working up a sweat on an ambitious agenda.  Every day counts – here are some relevant deadlines to help you keep score:

Monday, October 21, 2019        Senators may begin filing bills for the 2018 Session
Tuesday, November 19, 2019    Organization Day (Representatives may begin filing bills)
Thursday, January 9, 2020         Deadline for filing Senate bills
Thursday, January 9, 2020         Deadline for filing House bills
Monday, January 13, 2020         Latest day session must reconvene
Monday, January 13, 2020         Filing of House vehicle bills
Thursday, January 16, 2020       Last day Senate bills may be assigned to Senate committees
Monday, February 3, 2020         Last day for 3rd reading of House bills in House
Tuesday, February 4, 2020         Last day for 3rd reading of Senate bills in Senate
Tuesday, March 3, 2020             Last day for 3rd reading of Senate bills in House
Tuesday, March 3, 2020             Last day for House adoption of conference committee reports
Tuesday, March 3, 2020             Last day for 3rd reading of House bills in the Senate
Tuesday, March 3, 2020             Last day for Senate adoption of conference committee reports
Saturday, March 14, 2020          Last day for adjournment of both houses

If you want to read more about the legislative rules, maybe you need new hobbies.  But here you go: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/rules/joint_rules/.  What else can we expect from the 2020 session?

Paid in Full:
Another classic Eric B & Rakim hip-hop track from 1987 – the year of Speaker Bosma’s first session – that sums up some of the key issues in what will be in last year in the General Assembly.

Focusing on public health – especially youth smoking and vaping – is a down payment on the full productive potential of our future workforce.  Discouraging today’s young Hoosiers from using tobacco helps position them for success.  Healthier kids are better-prepared to learn…but they also need good teachers.

And despite significant increases in K-12 funding over the 2020-21 biennium, teachers are still pushing to get ‘paid in full,’ competitive with their peers in other Midwestern states and commensurate with their contributions to our society and economy.  While Governor Holcomb and GOP lawmakers largely insist the issue is now in the hands of local school boards, educators and their advocates continue pushing to tap into the state surplus or reopen the state budget for more direct salary support.

Employment and earning potential start in the classroom.  For adult workers, competitive skills are still the key to getting paid – and there’s still work to be done connecting Indiana’s workforce development system with employers and the job market.

Speaking of connections, regional connectivity and collaboration is also expected to be a legislative focus this year, continuing summer study discussions about the powers of Regional Development Authorities and ongoing concerns about local revenue disparities putting essential services at risk in cities like Indianapolis.  (And let’s not forget a state road funding formula that leaves urban areas far short of ‘paid in full’ for their actual infrastructure needs.)

The payoff? A healthy state, healthy economy:
We’ve translated these priorities into our 2020 Legislative Agenda – “Healthy State. Healthy Economy.”  Check out all the details here, but to review some of the highlights:

Healthier Hoosiers – reducing tobacco use & investing in public health:
Indiana’s high smoking rate is a competitive hurdle, given the human toll of chronic illness and the economic consequences of lost productivity and elevated healthcare costs – we support:

  • Raising the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 to target the majority of smokers who pick up the habit as teenagers;
  • Speaking of which – yes, ‘T21’ is now a federal regulation, but with confusion swirling among retailers as the new rule was rolled out suddenly around Christmas, there’s still a need for clear state rules that conform to the national mandate;
  • Taxing vaping products (at parity with tobacco) that act as a gateway to smoking, along with –
  • A ban on flavored e-liquids for vaping, which tend to target younger users;
  • Raising state taxes on cigarettes to discourage smoking today, and use the revenues to start funding needed investments in health programs; and
  • Repealing preferential treatment for smokers in the workplace (the so-called “Smokers’ Bill of Rights”) which reinforces the negative impact of smoking on Indiana’s business climate;

A stronger workforce for a healthier economy:
Talent is job #1 for regional economic growth – in addition to taking aim at tobacco for a healthier workforce, we’re also drawing on our leadership of Indiana’s Business Leaders United (BLU) partnership to bring employers into the workforce development system and push a job-ready skills agenda:

  • Strengthening programs like Next Level Jobs, emphasizing consistent, transferable credit-bearing programs to help more Hoosiers earn meaningful credentials to advance their careers while minimizing bureaucratic hurdles;
  • Increasing Indiana’s Skills Enhancement Fund to assist companies addressing skills gaps (as policymakers refocus the broader workforce system towards an employer-driven model);
  • While helping Hoosiers upgrade their skills, also knocking down barriers to employees already contributing to our success – the Chamber has endorsed new regulations clarifying reasonable workplace accommodations for women during pregnancy, a position shared by Governor Holcomb to provide needed direction for employers while supporting infant and maternal health outcomes;
  • Continue to explore and support policies promoting Hoosiers entering (and re-entering) the workforce, being mindful of our growing demand for human capital (and Indiana’s labor force participation rate, lowest in the Midwest).

Healthy regions, working together:
The Indy Region continues to be the economic engine of the state – driving employment and population growth.  Looking statewide, Indiana’s gains in population and job creation have been (and will continue to be) dominated by its metropolitan areas.  But healthy regions need new tools to work together, and reforms to avoid being separated into fiscal ‘haves’ and ‘have nots:’

  • Empowering Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) to allow local governments to work together towards ‘transformative’ investments in economic development and quality of life;
  • Exploring local revenue reforms that add capacity and reduce fiscal disparities within regions, revisiting how local income tax revenues are distributed and pursuing new options like local sales taxes;
  • Reexamine policies that disadvantage Indiana’s growing communities and urbanized areas – e.g. aligning the state road funding formula with actual use and budget demands by incorporating factors like lane miles or vehicle miles traveled (versus linear road miles).

And much more:

  • Strengthen incentives and technical assistance for brownfield remediation, supporting private investment and redevelopment in often-challenged communities;
  • Restore funding to the Hoosier State Line, along with dedicated revenues for the Public Mass Transportation Fund and business incentives for encouraging mass transit use among employees;
  • Support increased levels of service to homeless populations;
  • Increase the panhandling enforcement proximity radius from 20 to 50 feet from all financial transactions (including parking meters); and
  • On the eve of the 2020 decennial Census, continue to advocate non-partisan redistricting reform.
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