The Indiana Chamber wants the state Legislature to take the next steps in skilling up the workforce and fast track a water plan for the state.
These priorities were among those announced today at our annual Legislative Preview in Indianapolis, where General Assembly leaders also took part in a panel discussion looking ahead to the 2019 session. The event was sponsored by Ice Miller.
“We’ve had years of employers telling us that leaving jobs unfilled and finding qualified workers are among their biggest challenges – and it’s only becoming a more pressing issue,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.
“Many good efforts have been tried by the state, education institutions and businesses, but it’s not having enough of an impact,” he offers. “It’s prudent that the state evaluates its existing programs. We have to pinpoint what will most help retrain workers for the current job market and how best to get the word out. There’s no magic answer, but we must achieve better results.”
On a related note, the Indiana Chamber will have two workforce-related announcements of its own next week (November 29): annual employer workforce survey findings and the formation of the Institute for Workforce Excellence.
The Chamber has also been “intently focused” on the state’s water supply for years, including a comprehensive 2014 study. Brinegar says a recent report by the Indiana Finance Authority underscores both the urgency and massive investment that has to happen sooner rather than later.
“Water has obvious health and safety implications, plus it’s such an economic necessity for business operations. A focus on regional resources, proper planning and funding are essential. The state has done its homework and has good data, so now it’s time to act.”
The Chamber also stressed the need to decrease the smoking rate of Hoosiers – through a $2 per pack cigarette tax hike and increasing the smoking age to 21 – and for the state to pass a bias crimes law. Both were previously announced last week.
“Smoking is costing employers and the state more than $6 billion annually in lost productivity and health care. Research has shown that significantly increasing what a pack of cigarettes costs and upping the legal age to smoke do yield positive results,” Brinegar states.
Separately, “having a meaningful bias crimes statute in Indiana is not only the right thing to do, it is also important to helping our employers recruit and retain talented employees. Indiana is a welcoming place and we need to enact every policy possible to convey that message to those outside our state.
“The Indiana Chamber will be pushing for as broadly defined a law as possible, yet recognizing that the overriding goal is for a bill to pass and Indiana to take itself off the very short list of states (five) that do not have one.”
Additionally, the organization wants to see intensified efforts to get broadband into more rural communities and the effective date moved up for making the state superintendent an appointed position. Recent law has the Governor appointing a superintendent in 2025, but with Superintendent Jennifer McCormick having announced she’s not seeking re-election, the Chamber says there is no need to wait beyond her current term.
In 2018, the General Assembly passed legislation to require K-12 schools to offer computer science by the 2021-22 school year. Building on that, the Chamber wants to make a career-technical education credit, such as a computer science course, a high school diploma requirement beginning with the class of 2023.
The one item on the priority list where the Chamber is going on defense relates to medical marijuana; the group is opposed to that in addition to recreational use.
“The effects of marijuana on job performance and employers are very real. You can have decreased complex motor skills, trouble with attention span, loss of short-term memory and problems thinking properly,” Brinegar emphasizes.
“The FDA has not approved marijuana for valid medical purpose. We believe the longer Indiana waits on legislation, the more useful clinical data will be available to make sure that the state gets this right.”
Brinegar also points out that of the 31 states that legalized medical marijuana, eight quickly opted to also approve it for recreational use.
A full look at the Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities:
- Additional workforce development funding to expand on the initial efforts of the Next Level initiatives
- Further evaluation of the state’s various education and workforce programs, with prioritization on training for the current job market
- Significant investment in Indiana’s water infrastructure and prudent planning for future needs
- Decreasing the state’s smoking rate through raising the cigarette tax and the legal age limit for smoking and purchasing cigarettes
- Adopting a meaningful bias crimes statute, with the overriding goal being to remove Indiana from the short list of states without one
- Requiring the completion of at least one career-technical education credit as a high school diploma requirement beginning with the class of 2023
- Maintaining and enhancing our attractive tax climate, with particular attention on reducing government reliance on business personal property tax and thus lessening the burden to businesses
- Oppose the legalization of medical marijuana (as well as recreational)
- Increased investment/efforts to deploy broadband in rural parts of the state
- Transparency in asbestos trust claims so it’s known if a claimant has already been awarded money from a trust before a monetary judgement for the same health issue is made against the business
- Moving up the effective date for making the state superintendent of public instruction an appointed position to 2021
A detailed rundown of the Chamber’s 2019 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.