More Than Just Policy Advocacy

The advocacy efforts of the Indiana Chamber are not limited to the state level or laws passed by the Indiana General Assembly or Congress. In early 2017, members provided input into the most onerous federal rules and regulations that were impacting their businesses.

At the end of 2017, we reported significant progress in a number of areas. In case you missed it, here is that review (https://www.indianachamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/RegulatoryPrioritiesforTrumpAdminDONE.pdf) of actions taken by the President, federal agencies or the courts.

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy gives an additional example:

It concerned the application of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act to movie theaters. After receiving input from theater operators, the Department of Justice reduced the amount of closed captioning and descriptive equipment that theaters are required to purchase. The change resulted in small business savings of $66 million between the proposed and final rule.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) was enacted to address the disproportionate burden of regulation on small businesses. The Office of Advocacy reports that efforts to promote federal agency compliance with RFA resulted in $913.4 million in regulatory cost savings for small entities in fiscal year 2017.

#BizVoiceExtra: BSU and the President’s Office

Sitting down and having discussions with business, government and community leaders is a part of this communications/BizVoice editor gig that is truly enjoyable. And conversations with university presidents or chancellors are always intriguing. Most, as expected, are excellent communicators. Some (no, I’m not going to name names) give you the impression the talk might be at a higher level than the actions to follow.

I enjoyed a recent sit-down with Geoff Mearns, the 18th president of my alma mater – Ball State. The focus was to be on university-community engagement. It shifted a bit to K-12 when legislation currently making its way through the Indiana General Assembly would place Ball State in the role of managing the troubled Muncie Community Schools. (Read more on both here).

Mearns is impressive – not just in our talk but in the views of many in Muncie and beyond. A trial lawyer for 15-plus years, he says the most important skill (in that job and his current one) is listening. He’s doing just that and taking the initial steps to move BSU in the right direction as it prepares to look beyond the 2018 celebration of its 100th anniversary.

Although Terry King served in an interim role for nearly a year and a half, Ball State is coming off the still mysterious departure of Paul Ferguson. Yes, these situations when a relationship at such a high level does not work out are tricky, but as a journalism graduate of the school, it was extremely disappointing to see the lack of transparency/communication when Ferguson was suddenly gone in January 2016. In fact, he had been in our Indiana Chamber offices less than two weeks earlier for a BizVoice roundtable.

On the positive side, Beverley Pitts was a longtime BSU administrator who served as interim president for a portion of 2004 before Jo Ann Gora began a decade-long tenure. Pitts went on to the same role at the University of Indianapolis from 2005-2012. Here is a conversation we shared upon her retirement. Her journalism background – and those strong communication abilities – may have played a part in my admiration of her leadership.

A note on another BSU president. John Worthen moved into that spot in 1984 (the year I graduated) and served until 2000 (bringing some much-needed stability). And then he stayed in Muncie. The basketball/volleyball home is now Worthen Arena and I’m told the former president is frequently on hand to cheer on the Cardinals.

Poll: Legislators Could Have Done Better

Those who voted in our most recent blog poll were not overly impressed with the work of the Indiana General Assembly in 2013. The grades and the percentage of votes received:

  • C: 29%
  • D: 29%
  • B: 23%
  • A: 16%
  • F: 3%

We conducted a roundtable for our BizVoice magazine earlier this week. Giving their views on the session were Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, two House legislators (Democrat Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne and Republican Jerry Torr of Carmel) and Evansville Statehouse reporter Eric Bradner. You'll be able to check out their analysis in the July-August issue.

Our new question, top right of this page, seeks your opinion on federal health care reform as implementation moves closer.

Poll Question: It’s Grading Time

We asked a few weeks ago for your opinion about Gov. Pence's income tax cut proposal and where state legislators would end up in their budget. A 5% cut divided between 2015 (3%) and 2017 (additional 2%) was not one of the options.

I guess that would fall under what was choice D (other), which received 3% of the vote. The other choices were:

  • Full 10% cut as proposed by Pence: 43%
  • 3% cut per the bill passed by the Senate: 27%
  • No tax cut, which was part of the House bill: 27%

Lawmakers have termed the overall budget as the largest tax cut ($1 billion) in the state's history. The Indiana Chamber's upcoming legislative analysis will have more details, but that does include an immediate elimination of the state inheritance tax (in fact, it makes the elimination retroactive to January 1, 2013) instead of the nine-year phase-out that was passed in 2012.

The budget, as always, was a high-profile issue but just one of the topics that garnered attention. Again, more Chamber review is on the way but our new poll question asks for your overall grade of the 2013 General Assembly. Cast your vote at the top right of this page.

Your View: More Choice in K-12 Schools

Education is once again among the dominant Indiana General Assembly topics. Our recent poll question asked your top priority among the following (all five options received between 11% and 30% of the vote):

  • Expand voucher opportunites (30%)
  • Increase overall funding (22%)
  • Leave Common Core standards alone (15%)
  • Preschool funding for students in need (22%)
  • Other (11%). Specifics focused on increasing accountability, restoring traditional public schools and ensuring high levels of learning for all students

A large number of K-12 education bills remain in play at the Statehouse, not to mention proposals on higher education and workforce development. It's promising to see the attention devoted to such important issues. We hope the end results match the intentions.

Check out the new poll question (top right) regarding potential enhancements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

We’re Still Legislatively Speaking

The 2012 Indiana General Assembly session concluded on March 9. We’re wrapping up the post-session analysis over the next few weeks. Here’s the lineup of current and upcoming communications:

  • Take our blog poll (top right of this page) and give your grade on the lawmakers’ efforts
  • Members can look for the Chamber’s Final Legislative Report later this week, offering a full session recap of key priorities for Indiana companies and their employees as well as a scorecard of bill outcomes
  • Our April 6 Policy Issue Conference Call (members only). We’ll not only talk about the final week of the session, but shift gears to a busy primary election season. Sign up to listen in or ask questions of Chamber policy and political experts

Still to come after that are a session recap in the May-June BizVoice magazine, the annual Legislative Vote Analysis publication that grades legislators on their votes and a return on investment that calculates Chamber member savings from the positive policies passed and the costly measures that were defeated.

Legislature 2011: Tallying Up the Victories

The recently concluded Indiana General Assembly session was, in non-technical terms, a really, really, really good one for Chamber members, their employees and all Hoosiers. Chamber President Kevin Brinegar calls it maybe the best overall in his 19 years with the organization.

We told you earlier about a May 13 Policy Call for members that will include House Speaker Brian Bosma and Chamber issue experts. Members can also look for the Final Legislative Report on May 10. In this one, we let our issue experts unleash that creativity that has been building up over the last four months. They’ll give the big picture on what happened, why it happened, who you should be thanking and more.

We’re also in the process of setting up in-person review briefings in communities around the state. Brinegar and the Chamber team will come to your town, provide the overview and answer your questions. We’ll keep you posted as they develop.

The Speaker is Coming, the Speaker is Coming!

What does all this legislative activity (all indications are lawmakers will complete their work on time today) mean for companies, employees and citizens throughout the state? The Indiana Chamber will have some answers during its May 13 Policy Issue Conference Call for members.

Providing some of the analysis will be none other than House Speaker Brian Bosma, who weathered the five-week Demcorat walkout and has helped orchestrate what will go down as one of the most successful General Assembly sessions in quite some time.

Chamber members, you don’t want to miss this one. Sign up today!

Time Equals Results for Students

Reforms come in various shapes and sizes. For example:

  • Health care reform dominated the headlines in 2009 and early this year. No one is quite sure what we ended up with, although many in business are convinced it’s going to cost a lot of money and more and more John/Jane Q. Publics are not happy with what they’re learning about the government intrusion into their medical doings.
  • Local government reform in Indiana has stalled the last few years because a:) some Hoosiers like the way the system was set up in 1851; b:) politics is taking precedence over policy (imagine that!); c:) the people who prefer the status quo have spoken louder, or at least more effectively, than the proponents for change; or d:) some combination of all of the above.

Today. however, we’re talking education reform and it’s an area in which the overall results are sometimes mixed. (But then almost any reform is an improvement over a status quo that fails far too many young people). But the focus is spending more time on task; in Massachusetts, the official name is a rather straightforward Expanded Learning Time. And ELT is working.

The U.S. trails most other industrialized nations in school days. So Massachusetts has added 300 hours per year in select schools. Included among the results:

  • ELT schools gaining in test results at double the state average in English language arts and math; and at five times the state average in science
  • Broadened opportunities for students, including enrichment programming in a variety of subjects
  • Increased student demand. One Boston middle school went from underenrolled to a waiting list in three years
  • Higher teacher satisfaction
  • Stronger community partnerships

No, you can’t just keep the doors open longer. No one said it is easy. But it does seem to be one of the more common sense reforms that could yield positive results for students of all abilities. Yet, in the Indiana General Assembly, time is spent each session fighting off legislation that would actually shorten the school year.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that Indiana’s local government structure and school day calendar (to meet the needs of students who had to help out on the family farm) were set up around the same time. Both are in need of a serious update. We’ve got to start somewhere — for schools, that might be with more, not less, learning opportunities.

Read Massachusetts’ More Time for Learning: Promising Practices and Lessons Learned.

No “Boom Baby!” or Dunking Dutchman, but Brinegar Will Offer Many Assists

Indiana Chamber members and others are invited to Lunch with Brinegar at Conseco Fieldhouse at 11:30 a.m., June 9, 2010.  Chamber President Kevin Brinegar will provide an update on membership benefits and current legislative issues facing Hoosier businesses. The Chamber played some killer defense for business in the 2010 Indiana General Assembly, and Kevin will update you on the session’s outcome.

The event is a great opportunity to network with other Chamber members from central Indiana. Kevin might even show off his mad dunking skills.

The lunch is free for members and $19 for non-members. To RSVP, contact Tom James at [email protected] or (317) 264-3793.

We hope to see you at Conseco Fieldhouse.