With IU Health’s Murphy chairing the region’s largest business group, legislative priorities focus on “Healthy State. Healthy Economy.”
(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) The Indy Chamber held its annual membership meeting today, electing new leadership and endorsing its 2020 legislative agenda for the Indiana General Assembly. Dennis Murphy (IU Health) will chair the Chamber’s board of directors next year, serving with Vice-Chair Melissa Proffitt (Ice Miller), Treasurer John Hirschman (Browning Investments), and Secretary Jim Birge (Faegre Baker Daniels).
As IU Health’s Murphy takes the helm, the legislative agenda of the region’s largest business organization is coincidentally titled “Healthy State. Healthy Economy.,” with key priorities including an increase in the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and higher taxes on tobacco and vaping products to curb use and generate revenues for public health programs.
“Winston Churchill once said, ‘Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any nation can have,’” Murphy said of the policy spotlight on health issues. “I believe the logic extends to our state – a healthier workforce leads to a stronger, more productive economy.
“Indiana’s high smoking rate has become a competitive issue that demands action, to encourage today’s smokers to quit and discourage teenagers from picking up the habit,” he added.
In addition to raising the tobacco purchase age and increasing cigarette taxes – with tax parity for vape e-liquids – the Chamber is emphasizing employer-driven workforce development and regionalism as critical business climate issues.
“Talent is a top priority for businesses of all sizes and industry sectors across our region and state,” noted Chamber Chief Policy Officer Mark Fisher. “We’re leading Indiana’s partnership in the new Business Leaders United (BLU) Network, a national effort focused on connecting employers and policymakers to help our workforce system keep up with the demands of our job market, and that’s added to our agenda.”
The Chamber’s workforce priorities include 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 to completing their studies. The Chamber has also endorsed new regulations supporting reasonable workplace accommodations for women during pregnancy, a position shared by Governor Holcomb.
“We have to emphasize workforce development and participation,” Fisher said. “Like Governor Holcomb, we support aggressive programs to help Hoosiers upgrade their skills and common-sense rules to keep valued employees on the job – like making it easier for women to keep contributing professionally as they grow their families.”
The 2020 agenda also emphasizes regionalism, empowering Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) to allow local governments to work together towards ‘transformative’ investments in economic development and quality of life, with local revenue reforms that add capacity and reduce fiscal disparities within regions.
“Just like a healthy workforce helps businesses succeed, healthy regions are the building blocks of a thriving state,” Fisher said. “We don’t have 92 county economies – people and employers are drawn to vibrant regions. But we need a system that supports shared success instead of creating winners and losers across political boundaries.”
The regional agenda includes exploring new revenue options (e.g. local sales taxes) as well as how state and local revenues are distributed according to population and employment patterns to help local governments fund basic services as well as collaborate on more ambitious projects through the RDA structure.
“Today we elected officers and a Board of Directors that represent a broad cross-section of our community – they hire, invest and do business across our region,” Fisher finished. “Our governance and revenue structure should reflect the realities of regionalism and economic development.”
Other specific recommendations of the Indy Chamber’s “Healthy State. Healthy Economy.” agenda include:
- A ban on flavored e-liquids for vaping, which tend to target younger users;
- 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;
- Support Hoosiers entering (and re-entering) the workforce through the creation of state tax incentive mirroring the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit focused on ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed;
- Increase the state Skills Enhancement Fund to assist companies addressing skills gaps (as policymakers refocus the broader workforce development system towards an employer-driven model);
- 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;
- Align the state road funding formula with actual use and budget demands by incorporating lane miles (versus linear road miles);
- 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.
The full 2020 Legislative Agenda can be viewed here.
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.