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Several members of the Indy Chamber team traveled to Denver this week with a delegation of business executives, elected officials and civic leaders for our annual Leadership Exchange trip.  Like Indianapolis, Denver is the state capitol, the heart of Colorado’s largest region and economy.

Denver is also a winner in the competition for talent as an economic catalyst.  Colorado is among the top states gaining residents from domestic migration; Denver’s population growth since 2010 approaches 20%.

There are plenty of reasons for Denver’s success.  Being nestled in the Rockies helps – but a fair-minded, inclusive culture and justice system matter more than great skiing when it comes to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce.  And that’s a legal mountain Indiana still needs to climb.

Battling Bias Crimes

Unlike Colorado and 44 other states (plus Washington DC), Indiana has no bias crime law.  Protecting all Hoosiers from crimes motivated by hate is simply the right thing to do, but it’s also backed up by a compelling business case: Employers won’t invest and expand in places that don’t welcome their workforce, especially in industries where competitiveness relies on recruiting tech, engineering and science skills.

That’s why the Indy Chamber and a growing private sector coalition from around the region and across the state – other chambers of commerce, economic development and industry organizations, hospitality groups and others – are pushing for the passage of bias crimes legislation during the 2019 session.

Despite widespread support from the public, lawmakers killed the most promising bias crimes bill without a floor vote during the last legislative session – influenced by ideological talking points instead of testimony from business and civic leaders, and heartfelt stories from victims of despicable acts of intolerance.

Next year can be different.  Governor Holcomb has taken a stand in favor of bias crimes legislation…and unfortunately, reports from across the state show the need to crack down on offenses inspired by bigotry.

The fight continues next week:  Next Friday (October 10th at 10:00AM, in Room 130 of the Statehouse) the Interim Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code will hold a hearing on bias crimes and likely make a policy report to the General Assembly.

Committee members need to hear loud-and-clear that hate isn’t a Hoosier value, that continued inaction on bias crimes is bad for business – and wrong for Indiana. 

Your Indy Chamber advocacy team will be there to testify on behalf of the business community along with other partners.  Here’s what else you can do to help:

  • Find your legislators – representing your residence and/or your business – and cross-reference the members of the study committee here.
  • Urge these legislators to support a clear and unambiguous bias crimes bill, so Indiana law offers fair treatment for victims of hate crimes and deserved punishment for those who commit them; remind your representatives that this is a matter of conscience and an economic development priority.
  • For more details on bias crimes, our preferred policy solution, and other ways to influence the public debate, contact Director of Policy & Legislative Affairs Tim Brown (tbrown@indychamber.com, 317-464-2284).
  • Finally, keep an eye on future stakeholder e-mails – we’ll recap Friday’s hearing, keep you updated on our advocacy efforts and provide more options for our members to get involved in this important issue.

Partners in Progress

Creating an inclusive culture means standing against hate crimes.  But fostering a more inclusive economy also means investing in great schools and gifted teachers – education blazes a path to the middle class out of poverty as it builds tomorrow’s workforce.

That’s why we’ve been deeply engaged with the Indianapolis Public Schools: The Chamber has endorsed pro-reform IPS board candidates and its revised operating and capital referenda.  But as you know, our support for the operating referendum wasn’t a fait accompli: It took months of hard work and frank debate over an operational assessment that identified hundreds of millions of dollars in efficiency options.

The resulting $220 million operating plan balances the budget by cutting costs and focusing spending on classroom instruction; every penny in new referendum revenue goes to teacher and principal pay raises, to help IPS compete for talent with suburban districts.  It costs the average IPS homeowner less than $5 a month, to give the district fiscal stability and protect the academic reforms of the last five years.

Just last week, we finalized a Memorandum of Understanding with the Board of Commissioners to support the implementation of the assessment, extending our partnership past Election Day to ensure that recommendations become reality, driving cost savings and salary increases.

We’ve committed up to $1.5M over three years to add new staff capacity (a Chief of Transformation and Enterprise Development Director to lead efficiency efforts) and consulting resources, along with participation in advisory committees to oversee implementation projects and overall progress.  Read more here.

We hope this agreement with Superintendent Ferebee and the Board gives voters confidence in the rationale for added revenue.  And because IPS also needs leadership on education and fiscal issues to translate a successful referendum into results, we’re strongly supporting incumbent board members Mary Ann Sullivan (at-large) and Dorene Hoops (District 5), and Evan Hawkins for the open District 3 seat.  Stay tuned for updates on the referenda and school board campaigns as we enter the final push towards November 6th.

The ABCs on ECE: Get schooled at the Early Learning Summit

We’ve touched on how bias crime legislation supports a broad and diverse workforce that feels welcome in Indiana.  And our partnership with IPS aims at helping the state’s largest school district prepare its students to become skilled and productive members of this workforce.  But even earlier, quality preschool programs are critical for children entering the K-12 system ready to learn.  That’s why accessible and affordable pre-K is another legislative priority for the Indy Chamber, a “seed investment” in homegrown talent.

As we work with partners across the state (special shout-out to our friends at the United Way of Central Indiana for their work on this issue) to develop a legislative proposal and strategy for expanding the ‘On My Way Pre-K’ program during the upcoming budget session, we’d like to invite you to get involved and informed by attending the upcoming Indiana Early Learning Summit – October 16th, from 11:00AM-3:00PM at Ivy Tech’s Indianapolis campus.

The Summit brings together business, policy, and civic leaders across the state to understand the business case for investment in early childhood, focusing on the return on investment high-quality early learning experiences yield for the workforce and economic development.

The impact of pre-K on children is clear and backed up by a growing body of research.  But by providing stable childcare for lower-income parents, these programs help entire families by increasing employment and adult education opportunities.

You’ll hear much more on these issues, the performance of the ‘On My Way’ pilot programs so far, and the path towards statewide implementation and funding at the Summit in just a couple of weeks.  Learn more here and register to join us.