Chamber Advocacy: Legislative Update and Action Items
As the Chamber continues to serve the business community with traditional services, we also strive to educate and advocate for business at the state and federal level. Each week Chamber President Kristin Craig and the Advocacy Committee will provide legislative updates. For more information or for questions about a specific bill, contact Kristin Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or (812) 232-2391.
Although the start to Indiana’s 2021 Legislative Session was a little slow, the pace has quickly changed and we are now following bills moving in about a hundred different directions at once. With the session scheduled to end no later than April 29, the next few weeks are certain to be full of even more activity. Subjects to be addressed will likely include the state’s budget, school reform and COVID-19 employer liability… along with a wide variety of other topics.
The Chamber is committed to be the eyes and ears for local business at the legislature, closely monitoring all legislation that could impact your business and will continue to provide weekly legislative updates throughout the session. Our Advocacy Committee and Board of Directors are committed to vetting these bills and helping you navigate the complexities of their impact.
To: Chamber Members
From: Kristin Craig, President
Date: February 19, 2021
Re: Legislative Update/Action Items
Chamber Members –
As part of our ongoing mission of Building Business, Building Community, the Chamber is constantly engaging with our state legislature as they work through the 2021 Legislative Session. The following is a list of bills and subjects we are closely monitoring and/or have taken action regarding:
Legislative Action Items:
ACTION ITEM: COVID-19 Civil Liability (Board approved support on 1/28/21)
Why are we taking action? The Chamber is closely monitoring all bills related to COVID-19 Employer Liability issues and strongly supports the legislature tackling this key business issue. The proposed bills will provide employer liability protections for all businesses across our state and in our region. Specifically we support SB1 and HB1002 which outline that employer liability protections are necessary to protect those employers who have followed health guidelines as they seek to resume normal operations. These protections are imperative for businesses to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.
What do the current bills include? The following is a brief summary of the current bill. This will be updated periodically with any changes.
- SB1 – CIVIL IMMUNITY RELATED TO COVID-19 (MESSMER M)
This bill was approved by both the Senate and House, and as of Thursday afternoon has been signed by Governor Holcomb.
Provides civil tort immunity for damages arising from COVID-19 on the premises owned or operated by a person, on any premises on which the person or an employee or agent of the person provided property or services to the individual, or during an activity managed, organized, or sponsored by the person, except for an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct (including fraud and intentionally tortious acts). Defines “COVID-19 protective product” and provides civil tort immunity for harm that results from the design, manufacture, labeling, sale, distribution, or donation of a COVID-19 protective product, except for an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct (including fraud and intentionally tortious acts). Prohibits class action suits.
- HB1002 – CIVIL IMMUNITY RELATED TO COVID-19 (TORR J)
This bill has passed out of the House and now is under the consideration of the Senate. Specifically, they will be working to address concerns of businesses and higher education.
Protects health care providers from professional discipline for certain acts or omissions arising from a disaster emergency unless the act or omission constitutes gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentional misrepresentation. Provides that a health care provider is not protected from professional discipline for actions that are outside the skills, education, and training of the health care provider, unless certain circumstances apply. Specifies that orders and recommendations issued by local, state, and federal government agencies and officials during a state disaster emergency do not create new causes of action or new legal duties. Specifies that the orders and recommendations are presumed irrelevant to the issue of the existence of a duty or breach of a duty. Specifies that the orders and recommendations are inadmissible at trial to establish that a new cause of action has been created or proof of a duty or a breach of a duty. Prohibits filing a class action lawsuit against a defendant in a civil action allowed by the statute. Specifies that a governmental entity or employee is not liable if a loss results from an act or omission arising from COVID-19 unless the act or omission constitutes gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentional misrepresentation. Provides that a person is not liable to a claimant for loss, damage, injury, or death arising from COVID-19 unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the person caused the loss, damage, injury, or death by an act or omission constituting gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentional misrepresentation. Provides immunity from civil liability to certain persons, entities, and facilities providing health care and other services for certain acts or omissions related to the provision of health care services and other services during a state disaster emergency.
Still looking for more information? Check out our Advocacy Forum from February 12 featuring Senator Mark Messmer, Senator Jon Ford and Representative Tonya Pfaff. The primary discussion was around COVID-19 Employer Liability and why it is so important to the health of our economy.
Additional Legislative Items:
The following are bills we are monitoring on behalf of the business community that could have a significant impact on our community:
- HB1190 – OVERWEIGHT TRUCK PERMITS (PRESSEL J)
Removes the list of commodities and the specific weight limitations for certain commodities from the definition of “overweight divisible load”. Provides that the Indiana department of transportation (department) may issue an overweight permit for transporting overweight vehicles and loads carrying resources on certain highways in the state highway system. Provides that for annual permits issued for an applicant whose total equivalent single axle load calculation that is equal to or less than 2.40 equivalent single axle load credit, the department shall issue the permit annually for a fee of $350. Provides that not more than 118,950 trip permits may be issued annually for applicants with a total equivalent single axle load calculation of more than 2.40 equivalent single axle load credit. Provides a 30% increase to the cost of trip permits. Provides that if the number of permits issued comes close to the set limits, the department may give preference to those applicants that have obtained prior permits before January 1, 2021, for overweight divisible loads, not to exceed the number of permits previously issued to that applicant. Provides that the department may temporarily increase the number of overweight divisible load permits issued by order of the commissioner in response to an emergency or changes in market conditions. Provides that the department may limit the number of overweight divisible load permits issued to an individual applicant. Requires the department to adopt rules due to lack of transportation options for certain resources, supply chain interruptions, or supply dock backlogs. Provides that the department shall issue a report to the legislative council and the interim study committee on roads and transportation regarding the fee structure of overweight divisible load permits, and regarding the impact of overweight divisible loads on roads and highways by July 1, 2023. Provides that a local authority may apply for grant permits for transporting overweight divisible loads on local streets under the control of the local authority. Makes conforming changes.
CHAMBER NOTES: As the home of several large manufacturing facilities, we are particularly interested in the impact this bill could have on economic development in West Central Indiana. Several of our member manufacturers, including representatives from brick and steel, have voiced their support of this legislation and the positive impact it could have on their industry.
- HB1004 – SMALL BUSINESS RESTART GRANT PROGRAM (LINDAUER S)
Small business restart grant program. Establishes the Hoosier hospitality small business restart grant program (program) to provide grants to eligible entities to accelerate economic recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Establishes the small business restart grant fund (fund). Provides that the Indiana economic development corporation (corporation) administers the program and fund. Provides criteria for grants. Allows the corporation to award grants from the fund. Makes an appropriation.
CHAMBER NOTES: This program will provide an excellent funding opportunity for tourism-related businesses in our area that have been impacted by the pandemic. Given Terre Haute’s considerable investments in tourism-related activities, we are following this bill closely and look forward to seeing it benefit businesses in our community. Now that it has passed the House, we look forward to hearing the discussion in the Senate.
- SB389: REPEALS STATE REGULATED WETLANDS LAW (GARDEN, MESSMER, ROGERS)
Repeals the law requiring a permit from the department of environmental management for wetland activity in a state regulated wetland. Makes corresponding changes to eliminate references to that law. States that the repeal of that law is not intended to affect: (1) the regulation in Indiana under the federal Clean Water Act of the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States; or (2) the authorization of the state of Indiana to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program. Provides that the repeal of that law extinguishes any judicial or administrative proceeding concerning an alleged violation of IC 13-18-22, an administrative rule concerning IC 13-18-22, or the terms of a permit issued under IC 13-18-22.
CHAMBER NOTES: Given our proximity to the Wabash River, as well as other natural wetlands, we will be following this bill closely as it could have implications for long-term plans involving these areas, including businesses who regularly interact with wetland areas.
- HB1309: PREGNANCY ACCOMMODATION (ENGLEMAN K)
Allows an employee to request an accommodation for the employee’s pregnancy. Requires an employer to respond to an employee’s request for an accommodation within a reasonable time frame. Provides that a request for accommodation does not require an employer to provide an accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy, or impose a duty or obligation upon the employer to provide an accommodation or an exception to the employer’s policies unless existing federal or state laws require that an accommodation must be made. Prohibits an employer from disciplining, terminating, or retaliating against an employee because the employee has requested or used an accommodation for the employee’s pregnancy.
CHAMBER NOTES: While the session began with a variety of pregnancy accommodation bills, this is the only one that seems to be moving forward at the moment. We are following this bill as it would certainly have implications for all local employers and employees. This bill has now passed the House and will be under consideration by the Senate.
- HB1381 – COMMERCIAL WIND AND SOLAR STANDARDS AND SITING (SOLIDAY E)
Establishes default standards concerning the following with respect to developments to install or locate wind power devices in local units: (1) Setback requirements. (2) Height restrictions. (3) Shadow flicker limitations. (4) Signal interference. (5) Sound level limitations. (6) Project decommissioning. Provides that a permit authority for a local unit may not restrict, or impose conditions or limitations on, the construction, installation, siting, modification, operation, or decommissioning of wind power devices in the unit unless the unit first adopts a wind power regulation. Provides that a permit authority may not impose standards that: (1) concern wind power devices in the unit; and (2) are more restrictive than the default standards. Specifies that a unit may do the following: (1) Adopt and enforce a wind power regulation that includes standards that are less restrictive than the default wind power standards set forth in the bill. (2) Waive or make less restrictive any standard set forth in: (A) the bill’s default wind power standards; or (B) a wind power regulation adopted by the unit; with respect to any one wind power device, subject to the consent of each owner of property on which, or adjacent to where, the particular wind power device will be located. Establishes procedures for the permitting or approval process for the siting of wind power devices in a local unit. Sets forth various elements of the required procedures. Specifies that the bill’s default standards and permitting procedures for wind power devices do not: (1) apply to proposals, requests, or applications that: (A) concern wind power devices; (B) are submitted to a unit before July 1, 2021; and (C) are pending as of July 1, 2021; (2) affect the construction, installation, siting, modification, operation, or decommissioning of a wind power device in a unit that has approved such an activity before July 1, 2021; or (3) affect any: (A) economic development agreement; or (B) other agreement; entered before July 1, 2021, with respect to one or more wind power devices in one or more units. Establishes default standards concerning the following with respect to projects to install or locate commercial solar energy systems (CSE systems) in a unit: (1) Setback requirements. (2) Height restrictions. (3) Ground cover. (4) Fencing. (5) Cables. (6) Glare. (7) Signal interference. (8) Sound level limitations. (9) Project decommissioning. Provides that a permit authority for a local unit may not restrict, or impose conditions or limitations on, the construction, installation, siting, modification, operation, or decommissioning of CSE systems in the unit unless the unit first adopts a commercial solar regulation. Provides that a permit authority may not impose standards that: (1) concern CSE systems in the unit; and (2) are more restrictive than the default standards. Specifies that a unit may do the following: (1) Adopt and enforce a commercial solar regulation that includes standards that are less restrictive than the default CSE system standards set forth in the bill. (2) Waive or make less restrictive any standard set forth in: (A) the bill’s default CSE system standards; or (B) a commercial solar regulation adopted by the unit; with respect to any one CSE system, subject to the consent of each owner of property on which, or adjacent to where, the particular CSE system will be located. Establishes procedures for the permitting or approval process for the siting of CSE systems in a local unit. Sets forth various elements of the required procedures. Specifies that the bill’s default standards and permitting procedures for CSE systems do not: (1) apply to proposals, requests, or applications that: (A) concern CSE systems; (B) are submitted to a unit before July 1, 2021; and (C) are pending as of July 1, 2021; (2) affect the construction, installation, siting, modification, operation, or decommissioning of a CSE system in a unit that has approved such an activity before July 1, 2021; or (3) affect any: (A) economic development agreement; or (B) other agreement; entered before July 1, 2021, with respect to one or more CSE systems in one or more units. Makes conforming amendments to Indiana’s home rule statute.
How can I learn more? Once a month, the Chamber hosts a members-only Advocacy Forum and Q&A session with our local legislators. Registration required at terrehautechamber.com/events. In addition, we will provide weekly legislative updates on this and all other bills we are watching via our weekly newsletter. If you do not receive the newsletter, email us at email@example.com.