Legislative Updates Archive
When the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was signed on March 26, an immediate firestorm of criticism touched off from a wide variety of business interests in Indianapolis, across the state, and throughout the nation. The Indy Chamber strongly opposed RFRA (SB 101) in both committee hearings as a needlessly divisive issue that would threaten our reputation as a welcoming community.
As the fallout became apparent, we had trouble quantifying the magnitude of the potential economic impact from lost conventions and jettisoned business deals. At the beginning of last week, the consensus of the business community was that there must be a fix to spell the economic hit Indianapolis and the entire state was facing.
Business leaders from Eli Lilly and Company, Cummins, Salesforce and many others were steadfast in their message that there must be a fix to the law. SB 50, which was already in conference committee, was amended to include antidiscrimination safeguards for RFRA. This was essential to making sure locally enacted Human Rights Ordinances (HRO’s), including in Indianapolis, were protected for employment, housing and public accommodation.
The RFRA fight (outside of the importance of Civil Rights) highlights the need for businesses to attract great talent to our state and especially the Indianapolis Region. The Regional Cities Initiative is an important measure to encourage cross-county cooperation in Greater Indianapolis to attract the talent we need. Right now the Senate budget is continuing to fund Regional Cities at $20 million, which is about one fifth of the requested funding for the Indiana Economic Development Commission to run to program. We will continue to find ways in conference committee to increase this needed investment.
Next week will start to see the session go into the home stretch. Tuesday is second reading deadline, Wednesday is third reading deadline and Thursday is the start of conference committees. The budget will be the top issue of discussion as both houses will work out their differences for funding the state for the next two years. Although we hearit every year, we hear that legislators will actually try to wrap up early this year. We’ll believe it when we see it.