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This week was about survival for plenty of legislative proposals as third reading deadlines marked halftime for the session. Now it’s time to head into the homestretch of this short session, planning a second-half strategy to push key elements of our agenda across the finish line – enjoying strong momentum on some bills like HB1006, (enforcing federal action to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco), protecting more modest progress on others (the Central Indiana-focused SB350, advancing regional cooperation and development) and regrouping on priorities like SB342, pregnancy accommodations).

Plenty of bills did get past third reading deadlines this week and will make it to the second half of the legislative gauntlet – some highlights:

  • While much of the legislative debate on healthcare this year has focused on cost and pricing transparency, we’ve pushed for a more holistic approach to health policy – tobacco reform, obviously, but also bills like SB273, which passed third reading: It creates the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission and assigns it a study of the state’s behavioral and mental health services system;
  • HB1112 also earned a unanimous third reading vote, offering more flexibility to count eligible wage increases under the state’s Skill Enhancement Fund and incentivize workforce investments by growing employers;
  • SB123 made it to the House – it creates a workforce housing tax credit to incentivize the development of affordable housing under the oversight of the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority.
  • Economic infrastructure and incentives aren’t affective without strong workforce policies: HB1419 couldn’t quite muster unanimity (92-1) despite broad consensus behind expanding the Governor’s workforce cabinet and better alignment with state education and workforce agencies, as recommended by interim study committee;
  • Lawmakers have been eager to hold schools harmless for falling ILEARN scores (sending SB2 to the Governor’s desk this week after a fast track through both chambers);
  • Another pro-economic development measure passed this week: SB264 allows additional tax increment growth capture to support certified technology parks;

…But you can’t predict the weather

Short sessions are known for the Festivus that can occur; without a Christmas tree budget it can be difficult to tie-up debate issues that are left hanging. A number of bills failed to make it beyond the half-point due to process or lack of support:

  • HB1331 ticket (sales) transferability which would have limited exclusive ticket issuing methods was met with broad opposition from local venues and teams including the Pacers and Colts;
  • SB369 Regional Transit Expansion (unrelated to Indianapolis) encountered opposition from Senators Freeman and Young;
  • SB409(Employment of Minors) attracted concern about the reduced restrictions as it would have extended hours that can be worked by minors during traditional summer months;
  • SB436 which would have granted authority to the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor in certain crimes failed to move forward. Conclusion: the attorney general is not a prosecutor;
  • SB46 urged the legislative council to assign the study of storm water fees to a Summer committee ultimately didn’t move forward;
  • HB1060 (regulation of building materials) did not move forward. Yes, housing costs should be studied but as we mentioned in the wins, SB123 made it to the House and creates a workforce housing tax credit to incentivize the development of affordable housing under the oversight of the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority.

Welcome to the Palindrome

The beginning of this week was marked by an event that hasn’t happened in 909 years, 02/02/2020. Safe to say session will be over prior to the next one, but in similar P.E. style, we have observed some the interesting bills that have stayed alive during the process which many have characterized as a Terrordome.

  • SB262 offering film and media production incentives has moved forward after a few years of failing to gain traction, the proponents of the bill have focused on building a sustained workforce and not just one-off developments. Not unrelated to the Indy Chamber’s mission with Music Cities Strategy;
  • SB3, a high-profile measure to curtail ‘surprise medical billing’ (requiring ‘good faith estimates’ five days in advance from out-of-network providers), also cruised through third reading with unanimous support;
  • SB273 establishes the Indiana behavioral health commission;
  • SB244 (teacher supplemental pay) establishes additional circumstances for which a school corp. may provide supplemental payments to teachers in excess of their specified salary;
  • SB391 (property matters) Requires a local health officer to have information establishing probable cause of a public health law or rule violation before a court may issue certain orders concerning the property, this limits the city’s ability to tackle abandon homes.

We were also disappointed this week that the Senate amended SB342 to remove the substance of the bill – common-sense workplace accommodations for pregnant workers – in favor of an interim study committee on the issue amid concerns about potential impacts on business (insert eyeroll here).

On behalf of thousands of Indiana employers, we join Governor Holcomb (who has aggressively safeguarded the state’s economic climate) in embracing the original as a business-friendly bill. It offered clarity to companies on what to expect when employees are expecting (rules around unpaid leave, scheduling flexibility and other job modifications) while thoughtfully balancing the impact on the bottom line.

Speaking of the bottom line, it’s simple: Labor is the largest cost (reduced training costs) – and talent the top priority – for most businesses.  Keeping mothers-to-be on the job (workforce participation) and productive with pro-worker (valued employee), pro-family guidelines is common sense…and 27 other states have enacted similar laws without suffering economic fallout for doing what’s right (yes, we’re behind Kentucky and 26 others already when it comes to this issue). 21 of these states provide examples of “reasonable accommodations” within their statutes to assist businesses in knowing what accommodations have held up in past disputes, thus providing clarity.

But we already know Indiana’s grade on infant mortality (43rd worst) – failing – and we can’t afford to put a hold on the prenatal health of working mothers while legislators do more homework (IN ranks 41st worst preventable hospitalizations).  We’ll be pushing to restore meaningful provisions to SB342 in the House.

The next few weeks will be crucial, and we’ll need your help – so keep an eye on your inbox.

 

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