We all know that Indiana is “A State that Works.” Even our legislators embody the Hoosier work ethic – lawmaking is a second job for most. But the budget session is a full-time challenge, and it’s been another fast-paced week at the Statehouse; let’s review, and spotlight several plans to help us work smarter, too. During this legislative session, make sure you are using Voter Voice, a tool to help you follow legislation important to you.
Investing in a Smarter Workforce
OK, substitute “skills” for “smarts” – we’re not necessarily talking about IQ, but helping Hoosiers compete for better jobs…and helping employers grow by filling ‘high-demand’ openings.
That’s why we’re watching HB1008, becoming the vehicle for workforce development initiatives in the Ways & Means Committee. The bill creates tax credits for companies investing in worker training (and may merge with similar credits proposed in HB1322). It aligns career and technical education programs under the Department of Workforce Development, and may be amended to give DWD oversight authority for federal workforce funds (now disbursed among DWD, the Commission for Higher Education, Ivy Tech and others). The current bill also funds a comprehensive workforce plan through the Governor’s Office.
To maintain Indy’s economic momentum, we need more Hoosiers with college degrees, technical certificates and vocational training – especially in STEM. We support a more strategic, streamlined approach, and continue to monitor discussion and amendment around HB1008.
A Smart Start – Early Learning
In the ‘knowledge economy,’ learning is a life-long endeavor, making pre-K a critical investment with a long-term payoff. HB1002 passed the House 61-34; the $20M pilot expansion attracted bipartisan support, but new voucher language lost Democratic votes (and likely cost a few Republicans too). We continue to support a $50M statewide program as the next step towards accessible, affordable early learning for all.
An IEDC that Works
SB507 passed the Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee this week – we support this bill, which gives more flexibility to the IEDC’s governance, simplifies the process for metros seeking support through the Regional Cities Initiative, and shifts small business and entrepreneurship programs to the IEDC.
This consolidation will help implementation of Governor Holcomb’s $1B innovation and entrepreneurship plan. The Indy Chamber already connects business attraction, retention, and Entrepreneur Services: 80% of regional job creation is from existing and start-up companies (and major relocation projects are increasingly scarce), so targeting resources to “homegrown” enterprise is smart economic development.
In the same spirit of integration, HB1601 authorizes the IEDC to oversee and create success metrics for Certified Technology Parks – an important part of Indiana’s ‘innovation infrastructure.’ Speaking of which:
Taking the High Road on Infrastructure
HB1002 made a pit stop in Ways & Means, passing 14-9. As the GOP bill moves along, House Democrats released a competing proposal (and gas stations will be plastering their pumps with anti-tax ads – just don’t use your cell phone to call lawmakers as you fill up.)
Continuing the theme, we still think HB1002 is the smart long-term plan for funding infrastructure because it details specific, predictable sources of revenue instead of relying on spending cuts or phasing out tax cuts.
A Smarter Approach to Governing
It’s worth calling out three bills that make state and local government work better: We detailed HB1470 last week– the “open data” bill advances transparency and allows our brightest tech minds to help solve public sector challenges. It passed the Government & Regulatory Reform Committee this week.
Two other bills have sparked controversy over common-sense reforms. The Indy Chamber believes in accountability and efficiency; policy making positions should be elected, while administrative roles should be filled by appointed professionals. Some areas – like the judiciary – should be above politics altogether.
That’s why we support SB179, an appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction (as we have since 2004), and HB1036, for the merit-based selection of Marion County judges.
ISTEP & TIF: A Two-Question Pop Quiz
1. What’s going to replace I-STEP? Answer: We’re not quite sure, but passed the Education Committee 10-2. The bill creates the ILEARN, which aspires to be Indiana-based, affordable, and shorter – but it’s a work in progress, so the amended bill extends I-STEP for another two years.
2. What happens when a bill gets a tied committee vote? (That’s what happened to SB186, the Marion County [airport] TIF bill: 6-6 in Appropriations.) Answer: It fails – but can be rescheduled by the author. We’ll see if it makes a comeback, or if the TIF is TKO’ed for this session.
Building the Budget
The state budget continues to evolve – as it will until the final hectic days of the session. HB1001 was heard in Ways & Means this week; we’ve outlined the key issues in previous updates, and we’ll give a more detailed look at how the state’s two-year spending plan is coming together next week.
And Building a Smarter City
Finally, a national nod to Indianapolis: Indy has won the ‘Readiness Challenge’ from the Smart Cities Council for 16 Tech and the Red Line rapid transit route. We join Austin, Miami and Orlando in earning this recognition, which comes with in-kind services and technical support for high-tech programs.
The Indy Chamber has been a strong advocate for both projects, along with the Regional Cities Initiative to create more quality of life investment opportunities. Major metros dominate the U.S. economy because they bring people together to collaborate and innovate – this reality is top-of-mind in our policy agenda:
- Growing cities have to be open, inclusive and respectful of all of their citizens; the Indy Chamber supports and testified in favor of bias crimes legislation (SB439) this week;
- Livable cities attract talent – and the business opportunities that follow – so amenities matter; HB1174 creates a task force around planning and paying for a state trail network to support healthy lifestyles and appeal to young workers (it passed Roads & Transportation 14-0).
Of course, mass transit is essential urban infrastructure to attract and connect people and employers, and the fiscal finish line for the Marion County Transit Plan is in sight. The next hearing on Proposal 3 (Metropolitan Economic Development Committee) is coming up Monday (2/13) at 5:30, followed by the Rules Committee on 2/21, and a final vote expected on the 27th. Go to Transit Drives Indy to get a full schedule and keep following @Transit4Indy for updates.