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.

Member Benefit: The 2011 Legislature and Your Business

Chamber members, this one is for you. A one-hour Policy Issue Conference Call on Friday (9:30 a.m. EST) will feature a preview of the 2011 Indiana General Assembly session.

There are two dozen new legislators as a result of the November election and previous retirements, etc. Republicans picked up 12 seats in the House to take control of that chamber and extended their already large majority in the Senate. Education and local government reform, fixing the broken unemployment compensation system and drawing new political maps are among the priorities. And there’s that pesky two-year state budget thing during extremely tight financial times.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar will offer his analysis and answer your questions. It’s going to be a big session with a major impact on companies and their employees. Find out how — and what you might be able to do to assist in the process.

Sign up today and listen in/participate on Friday.

Bennett: No Slowing Down on Education Reforms

If you haven’t heard Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett talk about education, you’re at a disadvantage. Reading the words here, in a newspaper story or on a web site do little justice to the passion he brings to what is not only his current job, but his mission to improve opportunities for all Indiana students.

Bennett spoke to Chamber members earlier today in our monthly Policy Issue Conference Call. (The next round is June 4 at 9:30 a.m. EDT, the topic is infrastructure and the guest is INDOT Commissioner Michael Reed. Registration details will be available here soon). Bennett, by the way, will receive an honorary degree and speak at Marian University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday.

Just a few of his key points from Friday’s discussion:

  • Bennett says you generally need "either a legislative framework to make bold reforms or union buy-in. And we don’t have either." While that may have kept the state from being a contender for federal Race to the Top funding, the implementation of the reforms will move forward under the Department of Education’s Fast Forward program
  • Annual teacher and principal evaluations are a necessity, with student growth data being part of that process
  • A barrier that needs removed are some collective bargaining laws that keep the lowest-performing teachers in the classroom simply because they have been there the longest
  • Bennett sees many opportunities for municipal and school partnerships to maximize services that are offered
  • The General Assembly has given the State Board of Education broad authority to establish a third grade reading proficiency program. He is hoping for board approval by the end of the summer
  • Looking ahead, Bennett says work will continue on the student growth model, grading of schools (on a letter grade scale, as approved earlier this week), evaluations of teachers and schools, teacher tenure, additional options for children and more. "Indiana students can’t wait for us to act," he closed, emphasizing the need to move forward quickly and effectively


Lubbers to Talk Education With Chamber Members

Who has been among the most influential lawmakers on K-12 education issues over the past 17 years? Who will be guiding the state’s crucial higher education efforts? The answer to both is Teresa Lubbers, former state senator and current Commissioner of Higher Education.

Lubbers will address education issues at all levels in the August 21 Policy Issue Conference Call with Indiana Chamber members. The free hourlong event (9:30-10:30 EDT) will feature commentary from Lubbers and Chamber education expert Derek Redelman, along with your questions.

Longtime chair of the Senate Education Committee, Lubbers has been at the forefront of various education initiatives since first being elected in 1992. Her legislative duty closed with the end of the special session, which featured major K-12 successes as part of the budget bill.

Lubbers, the 1998 Chamber Government Leader of the Year, assumed the Commission for Higher Education role after longtime leader Stan Jones departed for a new position in Washington. Working with both public and independent colleges and universities, the Commission coordinates planning and budgeting for higher education in the state. Its Reaching Higher blueprint (read a 2008 BizVoice story here) is focused on new and revised initiatives.

Chamber members, register today for the August 21 call.

Paying for the Road(s) to Success

Stimulus. Cap and trade. Health care reform. All have been/are vying for attention — and dollars — in Washington. But what about transportation funding? You know, paying for the highways, bridges and infrastructure that help keep our country moving.

The Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter was one of more than 100 association and business leaders to converge on Washington yesterday to deliver the "Transportation is Your Business" message to lawmakers. The SAFETEA-LU (you have to love those Washington acronyms) authorizing legislation expires on September 30. Delays on a new funding plan are normal, but the U.S. Chamber (organizer of this event) and the business community don’t want those in the nation’s capital to overlook these vital resources.

Among the major challenges is the fact that the traditional funding source for transportation projects, the federal gasoline tax, is generally regarded as nowhere near adequate to meet future needs. More public-private partnerships (see Major Moves here in Indiana) are touted as one of the solutions, but protectionist attitudes have put a damper on these projects. Washington, states, locals and more must begin to realize and accept that additional foreign investment is a good thing.

Transportation investment helps drive the economy (creating jobs in construction, engineering and more) and cost-effective and efficient services are essential for companies and their employees. If we can’t move products and people, we’re basically out of business.

A recent report noted that President Obama and some congressional leaders favor an 18-month extension of the current law before tackling a new agreement. If that time was spent developing new and innovative strategies to meet current and future needs, MAYBE it would be a good idea. Deadlines in Washington, however, like at the state level, often mean the work doesn’t get done until that drop dead time approaches (or passes). Carter reports from Washington that the 18-month extension is likely to become a reality.

Transportation investment is a big issue. Companies, large and small, and their employees can’t really afford for it to be put on the back burner.

You can join Carter, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and Indiana business leaders on September 23-24 for the annual D.C. Fly-in. On a more immediate front, Carter and Chamber health care expert Mike Ripley will discuss the fast track efforts on health care reform during Friday’s Policy Issue Conference Call for members.

Call, Listen, Learn and Comment on Federal Topics

So you want to know how what is taking place in Washington these days is going to impact your company here in Indiana? 

Good idea. Do you have a couple of days? How about a full week in our nation’s capital? After several years in which most of Washington simply seemed to be looking toward the beginning of a new administration, the Obama team, as expected, has hit the ground running. Regulatory agencies, Congress and the White House are all operating at full steam ahead.

Since the days or week options aren’t realistic, how about a one-hour Policy Issue Conference Call (formerly known as the First Friday Conference Call) for Indiana Chamber members. Our monthly (and sometimes more frequently) Friday updates goes federal for the first time on April 10 (9:30-10:30 a.m. Eastern).

I get to do my funny (at least some family members think so) opening comments, then turn the program over to Cameron Carter, the Chamber’s federal relations guru. Cam will talk Employee Free Choice Act, proposed health care reforms, runaway spending and more. There will be plenty of time for your questions and comments.

If your company does not belong to the Indiana Chamber, join today. Learn more.