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By now, everyone knows that what separates your workaday popstar from global music royalty is dropping a surprise album on your unsuspecting listeners. This week, the IGA looked to take their place in that rarefied air by dropping a slew of surprise records that would make even Kendrick Lamar say “DAMN.” Read on to see which singles the Indy Chamber team thinks you should give a listen.

The Long and Winding Road

We were thrilled to see among the piles of bills filed this week HB 1636 Representative Bob Behning’s proposal to address the infrastructure maintenance burden faced by the state’s fastest growing metro areas. The bill reads like a list of greatest hits:

  • Allocate a percentage of fuel tax increase to be distributed based on vehicle miles traveled (a big switch from the “lane miles” calculation to distribute funding to the most used roads).
  • Spend down the Crossroads 2000 debt and dedicate future funds to projects in urban areas.
  • Create a TIF-like structure to capture Local Income Tax dollars for local roads in Marion County.
  • Amend the maximum grant amount from the local road bridge matching account.
  • Make a trade where instituting a Marion County wheel tax increase would mean all Marion County vehicle registration fees to stay in the county to be spent on roads.
  • Allow INDOT to reacquire and maintain state highways within Marion County (as they do in nearly every other Hoosier community).
  • Distribute MVH account funds based on population of a consolidated city.

Cue all the songs about finding love at last. HB 1636 addresses a challenge for which the time really has come—not to mention that the text of the bill bears a striking similarity to the ideas laid out in the Indy Chamber’s “Fund Indiana’s Roads” legislative priority brief. Getting the funding right to maintain our infrastructure is an essential step towards accelerated economic competitiveness as a region—the next step is making investments in transformational projects like the Inner Loop redesign, which promises to catapult Indy to a new tier of global talent destinations.

Schoolhouse Rock

Legislators were singing a bunch of new tunes on education this week as they filed a stack of bills as tall as the old Tower Records. Of special interest to the Indy Region will be HB 1607, which would require county auditors to distribute a portion of the revenue from school referenda to charter schools in the referendum district. The discussion around sharing referendum resources with charters has been relevant at the local level with the imminent IPS referenda.  The Indy Chamber team and volunteer leadership have been closely studying the proposed referenda and plan to issue a position in the coming weeks.

The Hits Keep Coming

Like Depeche Mode, Senator Eddie Melton wants Indiana high schools to adopt a “Policy of Truth”. His bill, SB 427, would require every high school level U.S. History course to include enhanced study of the Holocaust, Black History, and the progress the United States has made toward racial equality and integration. The Indy Chamber team believes teaching the truth to Hoosier students is a priority, as is making sure they understand the history of their nation and are able to engage with diverse perspectives. Most importantly, Indiana’s workforce needs critical thinkers prepared to be innovative problem solvers in a global economy, and bills like Senator Melton’s will help us get there.

Free Your Mind (and your pocketbook)

Like a good Kpop song that spawns a dozen copycats, a spate of bills echoing Governor Holcomb’s proposal to eliminate textbook fees dropped this week. SB395HB 1123HB 1203, and HB 1255 all promise relief from textbook fees—but some members of House Ways & Means have questions. Would all students around the state (including those in homeschool and private school) get their textbooks covered? Expect to see the discussion continue.

Life is a Highway

Two Senate bills filed this week want to get Indiana’s youngest residents headed in the right direction. Senator Kyle Walker’s SB 307 declares Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K program is no longer a pilot and raises income eligibility to 138% of the federal poverty level to give more Hoosier families access to high-quality early ed. SB 368 proposes a cost-sharing approach to fund quality early childhood care and education. Affordable care now will bring more Hoosier parents back into a workforce historically short on workers, and researchers have repeatedly and consistently shown high-quality pre-K programs to be among the smartest investments states can make in the future health of its workforce and, consequently, its economy. These two tunes will be near the top of our playlist in the weeks to come.

Get Real

To say a word on the list of introduced bills targeting gender identity issues—devolving into culture war issues won’t help Indiana accelerate growth or meet the current moment. What they almost certainly will do is bog us down in debates that drain precious time that could be spent on issues that affect millions of Hoosiers.

Doctor, Doctor, [don’t] gimme the news

Lawmakers have made no secret of their concern over the cost Hoosiers are paying for health care, and they dropped an entire catalog of new bills proposing new regulations for providers, payers, pharma, and others adjacent to the healthcare industry. As an example, HB 1271 would require nonprofit hospitals and insurers to post and provide certain information 45 days before a public forum. Discussion among legislators went long enough that industry reps didn’t get an opportunity to weigh in—so testimony will continue next week. HB 1445HB 1583HB 1597, and HB 1610 all look to address issues of cost in one way or another. The Indy Chamber wants an approach to healthcare outcomes and costs that centers on comprehensive solutions that reduce healthcare costs for employers and individuals—we’re hopeful the discussion can foster collaboration to solve for these challenges.

Indy Region’s own, Rep. Greg Steuerwald (Avon) has offered HB 1006 as a thoughtful solution to ensuring individuals struggling with mental illness and addiction receive treatment in hospitals and clinics instead of jails. We are optimistic that this approach will have application to a potential low-barrier shelter in Indianapolis—a priority of the Indy Chamber after studying San Antonio’s Haven for Hope model during our 2019 leadership exchange trip.

Play that techno music

Speaking of bills “ripped from the pages” of the Indy Chamber legislative priorities booklet, look at SB 271 from  Senator Buchanan and then compare it to page 19 of our own composition. The bill creates flexibility for Indiana’s certified tech parks (important tools to invest in R&D and tech-enabled job creation around the state), increasing the limits on deposits from $100K to $500K. Senator Buchanan represents the LEAP district in Lebanon, so his interest in the topic is clear, but we’re sure there’ll be applause from every corner of the state where tech parks are popping up.

Take another listen…

To the playlist from last week. Here are some updates on proposals that got a lot of play in last week’s Indy Chamber update:

HB 1002: This bill seeks to create “career scholarship accounts” for Indiana high school students seeking internships in the private sector. In addition to giving them academic credit for their work, HB 1002 would allocate state funding to cover internship costs. Lots of questions remain to be answered, like: does the funding go to the student or the employer? Does it subsidize wages, or cover the cost of training? How much does a program like this cost at scale?  Who helps students, parents, employers, and educators navigate the program? Props to legislators who are bringing stakeholders to the table to work these questions out.

Another policy change included in HB 1002 would allow 21st Century Scholars to access those scholarship funds for work-based learning. The Indy Chamber continues to support the idea of an educational system that is responsive to the market and in which there’s alignment from pre-K through postsecondary education. Workplace credentials are vitally important in the current economy, but Indiana also needs young people with two- and four-year degrees to compete for jobs of the future.

We believe in a “both/and” approach that produces a workforce with a solid mix of degrees and credentials and creates collaboration between industry certification and higher education.

Finally, SB 305 makes a significant change to the Education Savings Account program currently reserved for families of Indiana’s special education students. The proposal would expand the Education Savings Account program to all Hoosier families, though the bill’s authors say they have no intentions of increasing the allocation beyond its current $10 million line item. Stay tuned for more.

New music Monday

Here are the releases Indy Chamber will be tracking next week:

  • SB 368: The Senate Family committee will hear this bill proposing an early education pilot program.
  • HB 1081: The House Local Government committee will hold a hearing on this proposal to amend the threshold for residential TIFS.
  • The Senate Tax & Fiscal committee will hear HB 1081’s companion bill, SB 300, and SB 325, which propose changes to the homestead deduction.
  • HB 1005: The House Government Regulations committee will hear this bill which proposes priority infrastructure for housing in small Indiana communities. While there’s no doubt that small towns are in equally desperate need of infrastructure support as Indiana’s big cities, we believe these funds would be better used supporting both rural areas and areas of high employment.

MEET THE INDY CHAMBER ADVOCACY TEAM

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