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MAKE EM’ CLAP TO THIS

Governor Holcomb delivered his third State of the State on Tuesday evening, touching on plenty of issues consistent with our Chamber legislative agenda – education and workforce (of course), physical and information infrastructure, non-stop flights and ex-offender re-entry, among others.

But our anticipation was ‘Next Level’ when the Governor made the case for strong, specific bias crimes legislation mirroring the state’s personnel policy.  His remarks earned a standing ovation, though we noticed some lawmakers found their seats a little faster than others and the enthusiasm of applause varied.

Governor Holcomb is standing tall on this important issue, but needs help turning this prime-time ovation into a positive policy outcome.

We’re mobilizing the private sector push through Indiana Competes, but we need a bigger team: Even if you’ve already signed up, please take a few minutes and spread the word with your colleagues and other contacts.  We have to show the General Assembly that employers, civic leaders, and growing majorities of their constituents are eager to proclaim that Indiana is open for business and talent, embracing those who want to be part of our community and contribute to our economy.

(Since last week, another bill – SB75 – with enumerated characteristics and data-reporting requirements has been introduced and assigned to the Senate Rules Committee.  A first step towards protecting Hoosiers from bias crimes is breaking good bills like this and SB12 out of this procedural prison.)

Hospitality, Hoops and Hotels
Of course, progress on bias crimes adds to the welcoming environment that supports Indy’s $5 billion-plus hospitality industry…and it’s been a big week for developments aimed at attracting visitors and maintaining the vitality of our city.

SB7 would expand the downtown Professional Sports Development Area and raise the limits on revenues the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board could collect from it, helping support the CIB’s operations, investments in the Indiana Convention Center and related hotel projects, and upgrades to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse (if a long-term deal can be reached with the Pacers to stay in Indianapolis).

At the state level, HB1115 would spin the state tourism department into a quasi-government agency – think about an IEDC aimed at visitors instead of employers – to more aggressively market Indiana, an effort we hope will be coordinated with Visit Indy and regional strategies for talent attraction and retention.

You Must Learn
The classic track from Boogie Down Productions is also a competitive priority for Indiana – from K-12 students to incumbent workers, learning the right skills leads to economic success.

Governor Holcomb pulled a schoolhouse surprise in the State of the State, unveiling a new plan to free up local money for teacher pay by using part of Indiana’s budget surplus to advance payments to teacher pension liabilities.

The Governor’s leadership on education funding highlights why the buck should stop on this important issue with the state’s top elected official – why we support HB1005 (appointment of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) which passed its first committee hurdle this week.

The Ways and Means Committee also started discussion of HB1002, which creates a career coaching grant program and allows the state skills enhancement funds to be used to support cooperation between schools and businesses to advance job readiness.  Hearings will continue next week.

We testified on behalf of SB436, helping address the chronic shortage of nurses by recognizing nursing licenses across more state lines (the House version of this proposal, HB1344, will be heard next Wednesday).  Nursing remains a top ‘Hoosier Hot Job’ across much of Indiana.

If You Build It (or incentivize it…)
We have to invest in human capital.  But we also need “regular” capital investment in basic infrastructure and quality of life projects that appeal to people.  (Fun fact – local capital budgets as a share of total spending have shrunk by a third in the last twenty years.)

We support local funding options and flexibility, and so are keeping an eye on bills like SB83 (using more TIF revenue for infrastructure), assigned to the Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee this week, and HB1111 (PILOTs in communities with large numbers of government-owned properties off the tax rolls) in Ways & Means.

HB1177 requires township governments to develop capital improvement plans and prohibits them from collecting additional property taxes if they have reserves of 150 percent of their annual budget. It is our hope this will encourage partnerships between the townships and other local units on infrastructure improvements. The bill was held in committee to take a more comprehensive look, but we expect it to easily pass the house. (Another fun fact – this bill has the support of both the Indiana Township Association and the Indy Chamber, a first in recent history of our organizations.)

We’ve also emphasized state-level redevelopment incentives for underutilized properties with environmental issues (brownfields) or other challenges, opening new frontiers for population and business growth. HB1194 and SB601 both create a redevelopment incentive for this purpose, as does SB563 – which also includes other tax credit tweaks to support high-growth business and certain capital purchases favored by the Governor and IEDC.  All three measures await committee hearings (Ways & Means and Tax & Fiscal Policy, respectively).

Save the date! 
Indy Chamber Legislative Breakfast at the Statehouse
February 11 from 7:30-9am

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