Elements Financial’s Lisa Schlehuber will chair Indy’s largest business group as it pushes progress on bias crimes, redevelopment tools, cigarette taxes & more
INDIANAPOLIS, December 12, 2018: The Indy Chamber held its annual membership meeting today, electing its 2019 volunteer leadership and approving an ambitious legislative agenda for next year’s budget-writing session of the Indiana General Assembly. Lisa Schlehuber (Elements Financial) will chair the Chamber in 2019, serving with Vice-Chair Dennis Murphy (IU Health), Treasurer Melissa Proffitt (Ice Miller) and Secretary Jim Birge (Faegre Baker Daniels), with a Board of Directors representing a broad cross-section of regional employers.
Chamber members also endorsed legislative priorities including increased investment in early childhood education, added criminal penalties for bias crimes, new redevelopment incentives and regional economic development tools, and increasing cigarette taxes to boost workforce productivity and public health spending.
“The Indy Chamber represents thousands of businesses that are invested in our region and proud to call Indianapolis home,” said Schlehuber. “That’s why we endorse action against bias crimes, to welcome more people and employers to our community. And it means we continue to push for more affordable, accessible pre-K, so more kids grow up prepared to take advantage of the economic opportunities we’re pursuing today.”
The Indy Chamber’s top issues for the 2019 Indiana General Assembly include:
- Early Childhood Education: Invest in Indiana’s future workforce by making high-quality preschool accessible and affordable to low-and-moderate income families through ‘On My Way Pre-K’ in at least 40 counties, while protecting funding levels in currently participating communities; align pre-K budgets and policies to the ultimate goal of all Hoosier children entering kindergarten – at age five – ready to learn and succeed.
- Bias Crimes: Add criminal penalties for offenses motivated by individual characteristics, including race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity; embrace a diverse workforce and strengthen Indiana’s business climate and quality of life by protecting Hoosiers from bias crimes.
- Healthy Workforce: Raise the state cigarette tax – now the lowest among surrounding states – by $2-per-pack to encourage Hoosiers to quit smoking, reduce the burden of high health costs and low productivity on Indiana employers, and generate new revenues to address public health issues like opioid abuse.
- Interlocal/Regional Investments: Pursue policies that encourage local governments to work together on shared projects, make regional investments in economic priorities, and create a fiscal framework to fund essential services like public safety and infrastructure.
- Redevelopment Incentives: Encourage brownfield redevelopment by expanding staff support, technical assistance and grant programs, and creating a targeted tax incentive to make underutilized properties more appealing sites for new employment and investment on the active tax rolls.
“The Indy Chamber is the voice of Central Indiana’s business community at the Statehouse,” said President & CEO Michael Huber. “Today, our members confirmed the policies we believe will pay off in a stronger, more inclusive economy, and elected a team of their peers to lead the Chamber forward – in advocacy, entrepreneur services, economic development and our many other important programs and partnerships.”
The Indy Chamber is already leading the way on several high-profile priorities, collaborating with other business, community and social service organizations. Last month, the Chamber relaunched Indiana Competes, the private sector-led campaign for equality and anti-discrimination laws, to mobilize a statewide network of employers, individuals and like-minded groups to advocate for bias crimes legislation.
The Chamber is also an active partner in the ‘Raise It for Health’ coalition, focused on a $2-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax while raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
“As a healthcare organization, we grapple with the devastating human consequences of smoking every day,” said Dennis Murphy, President and CEO of IU Health. “As an employer and active Indy Chamber member, we also recognize the health and economic costs of Indiana’s high smoking rate – lung cancer, infant mortality, and cardiovascular disease are just a few. It’s critical that private sector and public health leaders unite on this important issue.”
The Indy Chamber also leads regional and Marion County economic development through its Indy Partnership and Develop Indy affiliates. In helping attract new business and encourage expansion among existing companies, the Chamber has identified productive reuse of ‘brownfields’ – sites with environmental issues, often from former industrial operations – as a key goal, and will advocate for a new redevelopment tax credit.
“There are well over a thousand brownfield sites across Indiana, in rural and urban areas alike,” noted Melissa Proffitt, who chairs the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee along with her service as an Executive Committee officer. “This means more than a thousand opportunities to rebuild our tax base, if we can accelerate the regulatory process and incentivize new investment and employment.”
The Indy Chamber also backs the need for sustainable revenue streams for the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, to expand the footprint of the Indiana Convention Center and connected hotel projects and fund improvements to other sports facilities.
According to Chief Policy Officer Mark Fisher, planning ahead for the longer-term needs of Indy’s hospitality sector fits the theme of the Chamber agenda – “foundational investments” for Indiana and its largest region.
“This spring, we hope to be able to congratulate Governor Holcomb and the General Assembly on a two-year budget that thinks twenty years ahead,” Fisher said. “The actions lawmakers take on issues like workforce development, bias crimes and redevelopment incentives will influence our economic competitiveness for years to come, and investments in K-12 and Pre-K will build our talent pipeline even further into the future.”
While weighing in on budget priorities, the Chamber also continues the push for state and local government to ‘work smarter’ in spending tax dollars – streamlining elective offices with administrative duties (including an appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction by 2020), using open data for efficiency and transparency, giving local governments greater ‘home rule’ flexibility and ability to work cooperatively and invest regionally. Read the full Legislative Agenda – “Strong Foundations. High Aspirations.” – at IndyChamber.com.
About The Indy Chamber:
The Indy Chamber is the voice of progress and improvement for the Indianapolis region’s business community. With membership of nearly 2,000 businesses in the Indianapolis region, the Indy Chamber is leading the effort to strengthen the business climate, improve the state of education, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the region’s workforce. For more information, visit IndyChamber.com.