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Legislative Updates Archive

At last count, the number of bills introduced so far in the 2017 session eclipsed eight hundred – proposals to recognize the red fox our state mammal, make it easier to hold parties in historic barns, to ensure that notaries are finally paid what they’re worth (apparently, $5)…and so many more.

Out of this impressive list, let’s look at how our priorities are doing, starting with House Bill 1001 – the budget.  (If you’re interested in our take on the state insect debate, it may have to wait until next week.)

 

Budget Highlights:

Two critical issues – pre-K and infrastructure – are covered below; other key investments included in the ‘first draft’ of HB1001 include:

  • $20M over the biennium for the Indiana Bioscience Research Institute (IBRI), part of Governor Holcomb’s billion dollar blueprint for entrepreneurship and high-growth ventures; the Indy Chamber strongly supports IBRIas a catalyst for continued life sciences growth and – as the anchor tenant of the 16 Tech innovation district – for region’s overall advanced industry economy;
  • In fact, we believe IBRI will position Indy as a global center of health discovery and development – the budget also devotes $5M annually to support direct flights to London out of Indianapolis International Airport, to help us be better connected to global business (and the UK as a dominant foreign investor in Indiana, along with Japan);
  • Supporting mobility closer to home, $44M per year for the Public Mass Transportation Fund – an increase that demonstrates growing awareness and acceptance of mass transit as a workforce and economic development issue;
  • Similarly, HB1001 dedicates $3M for the Hoosier State rail line; and finally –
  • Another $4M for the Regional Cities Initiative, recognizing the need to retain and attract talent to Indiana’s metropolitan areas – drivers of the statewide economy – by investing in quality of life efforts.

 

Pre-K: Show us the money.

Yeah, we know ‘Jerry Maguire’ came out in 1996 (the same year New Jersey, Tennessee, and Kansas legislators pushed the number of states with public pre-K programs to nearly 40).  Twenty years later, Indiana is overdue to join most other states in better-preparing our children to learn. 

 

Unfortunately, most discussion around pre-K has been cautious about statewide expansion.  Governor Holcomb and House education leaders (via HB1004) prefer to double the existing pilot before exploring a statewide expansion. 

 

We respect the thoughtful discussion of capacity issues (for teachers and high-quality programs) and fiscal impact, but we believe that a statewide program funded at $50M represents a responsible approach to an urgent issue:  Repeated studies have demonstrated the links among early learning investments, long-term educational achievement and adult employment and earnings – every session without action puts the success of another generation at risk.

 

 

 

Infrastructure: Building bridges…

There’s more progress to report on the infrastructure funding debate.  As we reported last week, the $800M House GOP plan (HB1002) best embodies the long-term, sustainable revenue plan to maintain our roads, highways and invest in other transportation assets. 

 

This approach got an important boost from Governor Holcomb; a few days ago, Senator David Long signaled a slight thaw in the Senate Republican’s previous unwillingness to consider increases in the gasoline tax.  The Senate Pro Tem indicated that the Senate wouldn’t “rule out any options” – a narrow but promising rhetorical bridge between the two majority caucuses. 

 

Other Issues:

Earlier, we mentioned the 16 Tech innovation district as an important piece of Indy’s ‘new economy infrastructure.’  HB1194 allows high-performing tech parks to capture $5M in state sales and income tax revenue every four years to reinvest in new business growth initiatives.

 

We’re also tracking bills creating a ‘Work Opportunity Tax Credit’ and supporting the merit-based selection of Marion County judges (HB1036); we continue to support the appointment of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (HB1005) as good policy (not a matter of partisan advantage).

 

We’ll continue to provide detail on other issues identified in our Legislative Agenda as additional bills are introduced and assigned to committee.

 

What’s Next?

The title of this update comes from the old ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ cartoon, where an animated bill sings “It’s a long, long wait, sitting in committee…”  That pretty much sums up the next couple of weeks at the General Assembly, as legislators work through a lengthy docket and get down to business on the budget.

 

Next week will also be shortened by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and presidential inauguration; the following week, hearings on infrastructure have been scheduled the morning of January 25th (HB1002), and on the Senate version of the pre-K plan that afternoon.    

 

Until then, watch for additional updates and consider joining us down the street from the Statehouse at the City-County Building, as councillors begin committee hearings on the Marion County Transit Plan (fully-funded at the proposed .25% income tax) – starting January 17th (Administration and Finance) and January 23rd (Metropolitan and Economic Development).  We hope to see you there!