By Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO

* PDF version available for printing *

As you read this 2019 Final Legislative Report, you will find a myriad of substantive victories recorded by the Indiana Chamber’s advocacy team in every key issue area but one. Despite continued public and private pressure, legislators again ignored common sense smoking reforms despite evidence of a crisis (more on that later).

In the truly satisfying category, we saw multi-year efforts make it across the finish line with the transferability of the Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit, more high-speed broadband access for rural areas, “On My Way” pre-K expansion to all 92 counties and a hate crimes sentencing statute.

Workforce development was also appropriately top of mind, with several notable achievements this session.

Among them: Doubling the state’s investment in the Next Level Jobs training grants for employers to retrain their employees and expanding the Employer Aid Readiness Network (EARN) Indiana program to high school students in addition to college. EARN Indiana provides financial assistance to employers who provide paid internships for qualified Hoosier students.

On the tax front, the “double income tax” is eliminated for Indiana companies that sell services to out-of-state customers, and the business personal property tax exemption threshold is now twice as much – at $40,000 in machinery and equipment. Meanwhile, more companies can take advantage of the Hoosier Business Investment Tax Credit. Previously, the credit was only in effect when purchasing new manufacturing equipment.

An ongoing long-term push for the Chamber centers on water resources, which matter to every Hoosier –and for some companies is integral to the very nature of the business. The Water Infrastructure Assistance Fund and program – with $20 million appropriated annually – will promote sustainability of water resources and attempt to keep costs as low as possible.

As with every legislative session, the Chamber team was also forced to play defense against anti-business, anti-jobs legislation. Some of the policies we helped defeat: legalizing medicinal marijuana, raising the state minimum wage to $15, multiple health care mandates on small employers and a worker’s compensation increase.

We celebrate all of these legislative victories and the many more outlined in this report because they will further the goals of our Indiana Vision 2025 plan and enhance Indiana’s position as the best state in the Midwest to do business and one of the very best in the entire country.

While State’s Smoking and Vaping Crisis Grows, Legislators Do Nothing

But we also need to loudly cry foul for what didn’t happen. We believed a positive outcome on the tobacco/nicotine front was possible – based on talks before session – but it ended up being only another smokescreen. No raising the legal smoking age to 21 or increasing the cigarette tax. Still what may have been the most head-scratching and maddening development was the lack of true commitment to address the state’s vaping epidemic at our middle and high schools, which is only going to get worse until something is done. I encourage you to read the details of how this played out in the health care write-up.

Looking ahead to 2020, we will be back even more focused and forceful on the need for smoking reforms – both for the health of Indiana’s young people and residents, and to assist businesses with high health care costs, absenteeism and lost productivity. We will be challenging Gov. Holcomb and legislative leaders to do the right thing on smoking and vaping; the failure to act can’t continue.

Resource: Kevin Brinegar at (317) 264-6882 or email: [email protected]