Chamber Advocacy: Legislative Update and Action Items (March 25, 2021)

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 kcraig@terrehautechamber.com or (812) 232-2391. 

 

To: Chamber Members

From: Kristin Craig, President

Date: March 24, 2021

Re: State 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)

    CHAMBER NOTES: This bill was approved by both the Senate and House, and has been signed by Governor Holcomb and applies retroactively to 3/1/2020. It will remain in effect until 12/31/2024.

    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)

    CHAMBER NOTES: This bill has passed out of the House and now is under the consideration of the Senate. It was heard in the Senate this week and is likely to have language added to reflect concerns expressed from 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 March 19 featuring Senator Jon Ford, Representative Bob Heaton and Representative Tonya Pfaff. 

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)

    CHAMBER NOTES: This bill has passed out of the House and will now be carried by Senator Jon Ford as it moves forward in the Senate. It has been heard once by a Senate committee and an amendment to reflect the concerns of steel companies and drivers has been added. We are hopeful to see additional movement on this bill in the next week.

    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. For more information on the safety of overweight loads, click here for a one-sheeter.

    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.
  • HB1004 – SMALL BUSINESS RESTART GRANT PROGRAM (LINDAUER S)

    CHAMBER NOTES: This bill has passed out of the House and Senate, but has been sent back to the House for review of additional amendments. We anticipate the process being quick. In conjunction with federal funding, this will provide many more opportunities for small businesses recovery.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Came out of the Senate – lots of misinformation out there, not going to drain wetlands. Focused on isolated wetlands on private property.

House – will be an amendment from IDEM, deals with isolated instances

Pfaff – From a process standpoint, how we can fix the senate bill, amendments could change the entire bill. Heard monday at 8:30

 

  • HB1309: PREGNANCY ACCOMMODATION (ENGLEMAN K)

    CHAMBER NOTES: This bill has passed out of the House and will now be carried by Senator Ron Alting man as it moves forward in the Senate.

    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.

    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.

 

  • 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.
  • SB336 – Business personal property tax exemption

    CHAMBER NOTES: We are closely following this bill in regards to the implications for economic development, specifically recruiting businesses to the state, as well as reduced revenue for local municipalities.

    This bill has passed the Senate and now is in the House where it has been assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means.

    Business personal property tax exemption. Provides that the business personal property exemption from taxation is based on the assessed value of the business personal property instead of the acquisition cost. Specifies the procedures for claiming the exemption.

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 memberinfo@terrehautechamber.com.