House Bill 1444 (Taxation of Electronic Cigarettes), authored by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The Chamber went on record in testimony supporting taxing e-liquids on par with tobacco products. No vote was taken and at least one amendment is expected next week on this bill, which is still viewed as a work in progress. The general consensus in the Legislature is there should be a tax, but the question is how to do it. The Chamber believes the best option would be to tax at the retail level.

Senate Bill 99 (Wage Assignments for Clothing and Tools), authored by Sen. Phi Boots (R-Crawfordsville), passed the full House unanimously this week 94-0. The bill now returns to the Senate, where it is eligible for concurrence next week. This Chamber-backed measure provides, among other things, that a wage assignment may be made for the rental of uniform shirts, pants and job-related clothing. It also states that a wage assignment may be made for the purchase of equipment or tools necessary to fulfill the duties of employment.

House Bill 1341 (Occupational Safety and Health), authored by Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne), passed the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee 8-2 on Wednesday. The bill attempts to address negligent events by an employer that led to a worker’s tragic death in Allen County. It says that an employer who knowingly violates any standard, rule or order that involves an employee fatality shall be assessed a civil penalty of not less than $9,472 for each violation and may be assessed a civil penalty of up to $132,598. A committee amendment simply fine-tuned the bill with language from the Department of Labor (the violation amounts remain the same), which was enough for the Indiana Manufacturers Association to join the Chamber in full support of the effort.

Substance misuse in the workplace continues to be a concern for many employers. A law passed last session is intended to help employers with the proper guidelines employers should follow in the event an employee fails a drug screening. However, the Indiana Chamber and Wellness Council of Indiana have since determined that the law will not have the full-scale impact intended by the bill’s author, Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem). At issue: While any employer can participate and follow the guidelines, which are coming out May 1, only those who adhere to the guidelines AND do not have an employee assistance program for the employee(s) would receive the civil immunity protection for a negligent hiring.

The Chamber took this concern to Rep. Davisson, who welcomed the opportunity to strengthen his original bill. This week, he committed to amending one of his 2019 bills to include language that removes the employee assistance program criteria, thus opening things up so essentially all companies following the guidelines also will have legal protection for an alleged negligent hiring. The way the law was written excluded nearly 80% of employers from getting the full protections.

Resource: Mike Ripley at (317) 264-6883 or email: mripley@indianachamber.com