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This week let’s use a West Coast throwback (N.W.A.’s 1990 follow-up to Straight Outta Compton) to sum up the action on West Washington Street.  The long session can feel like a hundred-mile trek to pass a budget (and deal with hundreds of other bills) before late April.  The legislative schedule turns frenetic later, but the early weeks are about finding a groove and setting a steady pace – walking before we run.

So the last four days featured a lineup of state agencies and universities making their budget pitches to the House Ways & Means Committee, action on a few bills, but plenty of behind-the-scenes negotiating and vote-counting.

Here are more highlights from the week, as the committee schedule ramped up and lawmakers and lobbyists jostle for position before the marathon becomes a sprint.

TIF is a Powerful Tool
There’s always debate over the proper role – and proliferation – of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, drawn to capture revenues for project-specific reinvestment.  We believe TIF (used properly) is a powerful tool for catalytic investments in local economic development priorities.

SB83 gives local government the authority to use up to 15% of TIF revenues for ongoing infrastructure needs in the districts, protecting the viability of TIF projects by not allowing surrounding streets, sidewalks and other physical assets to fall behind.  It passed out of the Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee this week and heads to the full Senate.

The panel also passed SB255, which creates tax increment financing for certified Arts and Cultural Districts.  SB566, which creates housing TIF options for smaller communities, is also on the committee docket.

We believe underinvestment in local and regional infrastructure is a challenge in search of a more comprehensive solution, but support greater TIF flexibility.

Putting in Work(force)
Ways & Means took a break from budget hearings to pass  HB1002, which looks to strengthen career and technical education by collecting outcome data (via the Management Performance Hub), creating a career coaching grant program and leveraging the state skills enhancement fund to encourage partnerships between schools and businesses preparing Hoosiers for in-demand jobs.

HB1002 is part of a broader push to align K-12, post-secondary and workforce programs more efficiently around career readiness goals.  The same can be said for HB1005 (advancing the appointment of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) which became one of the first bills to pass the full House and head to the Senate Thursday; the bills helps give executive (gubernatorial) control – and accountability – over much of Indiana’s talent pipeline from kindergarten through incumbent workers.

In other education and workforce action:

  • HB1344, allowing reciprocal recognition of nursing licensing among states, passed unanimously out of committee;
  • SB420 – a tax credit for workforce education – was amended and passed out of Education & Career Development before being recommitted to the Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee;
  • SB338 expands eligibility for parents and guardians to enroll children in the Prekindergarten Pilot Program; it passed committee unanimously as amended;
  • SB438 (Teacher Licensing and Credentials) creates requirements to become a career specialist-certified teacher, consistent with national standards, to teach dual-credit classes – it passed unanimously (as amended) out of committee.

In an economy where talent is our most precious commodity, we need as many Hoosiers as possible working productively towards a stronger economy…recognizing that there are unique hurdles on the way back to the workforce for some.

For example,SB180 creates a Disabled Veteran Renter’s Deduction to help make housing more affordable for veterans with physical challenges returning to civilian life (it passed unanimously through committee).

SB210 (Driver’s License Suspension, Restriction, and Reinstatement) reduces fees and red tape for reinstatement of driving privileges, so high fees don’t unintentionally cost Hoosiers employment opportunities by limiting their mobility because of minor mistakes.  It was amended and recommitted to the Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee.

In authoringSB342 (Employment of Minors), Senator Chip Perfect sought to make it easier for young Hoosiers to find employment – and for employers to hire them – but the bill was held based on the need to refine its focus and avoids conflicts with other child labor laws.

Move the Crowd
We took advantage of the relatively calm legislative calendar this week to invite the new(ish) Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray to our Indy Chamber Executive Committee, for a positive and productive discussion of business priorities for the session.

Conversations with Senator Bray and other lawmakers are buoyed by developments like a recent poll from our friends at the Indiana Chamber that shows overwhelming public support for bias crimes protections and a cigarette tax increase.  These are challenging issues, and it’s critical to show the General Assembly that Hoosier employers and voters share a vision for a more inclusive, healthier Indiana.

We still need your help.  Hopefully you’ve already shown your support at Indiana Competes and Raise It for Health, but we need to get more supporters to do the same: Help us spread the word, mobilize a strong network, and move the crowd at the Statehouse (actually, 26 Senators and 51 Representatives would be fine, as long as they include a few key leaders and committee members – but let’s aim higher).

And for even more up-to-the-minute news on #INLegis, follow the Business Advocacy team on Twitter:

Mark Fisher – @FisherIndy
Tim Brown – @TimJBrownLaw
Taylor Hughes – @STaylorHughes

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