Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Forum – Virtual Wrap-Up
March 20, 2020
Note: Due to concerns related to the COVID-19 epidemic, the Chamber has cancelled all in-person events, including our scheduled wrap-up session with our state legislators. In lieu of the event, we have worked with our Advocacy Partner, RJL Solutions to provide an overview of the session, as well as speak with our legislators individually to provide their thoughts on specific questions.
After what felt like ages, the legislative session ended March 11, 2020. Although it was a short session, there were many contentious pieces of legislation that were debated throughout the two-and-a-half-month span. A majority of the conversation surrounded the state’s healthcare costs.
Specifically, legislators worked to improve healthcare transparency in pricing and the mitigation of surprise medical bills for Hoosiers. An all-payer claims database bill did pass, which sets up a database of all healthcare payer claims and allows consumers to get an idea of how much they will have to pay for a procedure.
Education topics also played a large role in the legislative session as the General Assembly passed bills regarding holding schools harmless for ILEARN scores, decoupling teacher evaluations from test scores and taking away the mandated externship hours for teachers.
Indiana also passed a bill that would make the legal age to smoke and vape 21, in alignment with the federal law that passed last year. The legislation that was sent to the Governor also increased fines on retailers who sell to those underage. Specifically, the bill doubles the fines. It will now be $400 for the first infraction, and up to $2,000 if a retailer is caught three or more times in one year.
Towards the end of the session, there was a last-minute change to a bill that allows charter schools to use property tax dollars through referendum funding measures. This language was added to a larger tax bill that resulted in a split vote in the Senate and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch had to break the tie. This language does not require property tax dollars be used for charter schools but does allow for
school boards to decide whether to share the referendum money with a nearby charter school. The language allows for local control.
As members of the business community, a bill that may be of particular interest dealt with panhandling. Specifically, the language makes it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of any ATM, bank, business or restaurant, public monument or place where any “financial transaction” occurs.
The definition of financial transaction includes any exchange of money that is received by a business, parking meter, parking garage, public transportation authority facility, pay station or restaurant.
In other important news, Representative Todd Huston became the newest Speaker of the House, as Representative
Brian Bosma, the longest serving Speaker in the state’s history, stepped down.
State Legislators – Q&A:
Q. What do you think is most important for Chamber members to know about this session?
What would you say were some of the most impactful bills for businesses and our community?
A. Rep. Alan Morrison: A lot of what we did with healthcare will impact employers. I do not think we did enough to address the rising cost of healthcare and how we can affect it. Even though healthcare policy is primarily set on a national scale, and we can only effect 15-20%
of the cost, I still do not think we did enough. I don’t think what we did will have a huge positive or negative impact on employers and we will have to continue to work on this issue going into next year.
A. Sen. Jon Ford: HB 1065 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1065) is an important bill for Chamber members to look at. It dealt with various tax matters impacting businesses and the state. In addition, we continued to work on the Governor’s Workforce
Development Cabinet and legislation that helps educate people for the workforce needs today. We also had a bill that restructured the IEDC to make it a leaner, faster-acting agency that will focus on defense development and support business in our state.
A. Rep. Tonya Pfaff: Probably the most important bill we passed this session pertaining to the Chamber would
be the distracted driving bill. This was a priority bill for the Governor and prohibits the use of a handheld
device while driving, unless using hands-free technology. This bill will promote safety and change how we commute to work, starting July 1, 2020.
A. Rep. Bob Heaton: Healthcare was the focus of legislation this session. There was some specific language in regard to hospitals and insurance companies, in terms of billing codes, which we did address. However, I anticipate this issue reemerging during the budget session and I look forward to continuing that conversation. We were also able to pass SB 1
(http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/senate/1) which dealt with raising the smoking and
vaping age to 21 to adhere to federal law. This is an important bill for our businesses in the
state. It is almost important to note that HB 1007 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1007) was passed early on this session. The bill pays cash for university and college projects, totaling about $291 million and buying down our debts. This bill saves taxpayers $137 million over 20 years. Additionally, education was another major focus. We passed an important bill that held the teachers harmless from ILEARN scores from the last school year. Finally, we also passed a bill that would allow members of Farm Bureau access to medical insurance.
Q. What do you think Chamber members should be looking for moving into next session? What’s the future look like?
A. Rep. Alan Morrison: Everything happening right now with COVID-19 and the economy will impact what happens next session. There will be more discussion around lowering healthcare costs and how we can continue to make sure Hoosiers have adequate healthcare
available to them. I also anticipate that we will work on workforce development issues, especially with industries changing. We need to focus on how to re-train workers so that they can get back into the workforce. What is happening now will throw a wrinkle into it and we
will have some major economic issues that we will have to face. A lot of what will happen to the market will happen on its own, but there are some unknowns as to what will happen next and how we have to react.
A. Sen. Jon Ford: Next session, members of the Chamber should continue their efforts to grow our economic development opportunities and promote workforce development. Healthcare and healthcare infrastructure will continue to be a huge topic of conversation as we go into
the next session.
A. Rep. Tonya Pfaff: As I look ahead to next session, I am looking forward to working with my local colleagues and the Terre Haute Chamber in developing a community approach to spur more economic growth in community and region. When you have a plan, it is much easier to
sell that plan to lawmakers at the Statehouse. Some of these ideas could involve the airport or defense development. Regionally, I would like to see a regional plan that Jon, Alan, Bob and I can push to get more economic diversity on this side of the state.
A. Rep. Bob Heaton: With it being a budget year, there are a lot of things on the table. It is hard to say what
could happen. I do know that teacher compensation will likely be brought up next year. I would like to note that last year we voted to give public education $763 million and it is still my belief that the money should be divvied up at the request of the local school
Q. What would you say about this session, overall? How did you feel about how things ended?
A. Rep. Alan Morrison: For a short session, we tackled some pretty important issues with different aspects of healthcare in terms of transparency and surprise billing. However, it is still a work in progress. These issues will come back next year as we go into a budget
session. I am fairly pleased with what we tried in terms of our energy bill, HB 1414 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1414). The state has an energy taskforce that was set up last year, designed to formulate a plan for what direction Indiana heads in
terms of energy production in the future. HB 1414 gives the taskforce time to deliberate and formulate some recommendations. The bill also addressed how to help dislocated coal miners because of the job loss from the energy transition. I was definitely happy with that.
Overall, it was a successful short session, but we did T-Up a lot of issues to be dealt next session. In terms of education, I think we delivered. Teachers came to the Statehouse on Red for Ed Day with three or four bullet points they wanted the legislature to address. As a
legislature, we did a lot of what they asked. Specifically, we decoupled teacher evaluations from student test scores and held schools harmless for the ILEARN test from the 2019 school year. With the $763 million we added to the school funding formula last year, we are
funding public education and striving to continue to improve it. However, there were calls for us to increase teacher pay with our state’s surplus, but what people do not realize was that the money was spent five times over this session, between the two Chambers. Teachers
have asked for us to use our surplus to increase teacher pay, however our current state of affairs is a 100% justifiable reason as to why we do not use our surplus for one-time expenditures. As revenues to the state decrease, we now have our surplus to fall back on.
The economy will slow down and it will hurt us economically, but we will be in better shape because of how we have managed our money over the years.
A. Sen. Jon Ford: I think it was a good session. A lot of legislation passed to help communities grow and thrive. In addition, some of the public safety bills that we passed to support our public safety officials will go a long way in our community and throughout the state. I would
also say we deliberated on a lot of heavy topics. That dialogue becomes important as we head into a long session. I had the opportunity to talk to many constituents during this session that will allow me to refocus moving into next year.
A. Rep. Bob Heaton: I think it ended okay. I think the House passed 89 bills and the Senate passed 78.
Some people thought it was a boring session, but maybe a short session should be boring, since we are
not dealing with the budget. }
Q. Which bills were you, personally, able to get all the way through? What are you most excited about?
A. Rep. Alan Morrison: I authored a bill that would allow cities with a population 3,500 or less to move their elections to even numbered years because it helps increase voter turnout for municipal elections in small cities. The bill also helps cities save money from having to put on separate municipal elections, which delivered for low voter turnout. This way, cities can use their savings for some other need, such as infrastructure improvement. I am also proud to have helped pass HB 1414. The only reason that bill survived was because of the language added that helps dislocated coal miners ensure they get the job training they need to be able to re-enter the workforce. I am happy to have introduced this amendment to the bill. When we got down to the end of session, the bill had further support, as four additional people voted for it.
A. Sen. Jon Ford: I am most excited about some the healthcare bills we passed that will allow for transparency of bills to patients as well as the all payer claims database that will help businesses get an understanding of their true health costs, which helps workers receive
better healthcare in the long term.
A. Rep. Tonya Pfaff: I had a bill this session that dealt with students with disabilities and it passed and has been sent to the Governor for signature. The bill affords people with disabilities an opportunity to get additional training or additional education opportunities so
that they can enter the workforce. So, you could say this is a workforce development bill. Before our current state of affairs, we had one million unfilled jobs in the state. This is a population that wants to work but, with ever-changing diploma requirements, it has been
hard for them to find a job. This bill gives them that change.
A. Rep. Bob Heaton: I dealt with two bills and in both cases, they were technical corrections bills. HB 1049 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1049) was a bill that I had that dealt with securities matters. I worked with the Commissioner of the Securities Division in the Secretary of State’s office to craft this bill and tighten up measures. It passed out of
the House unanimously and the Senate tweaked it a little bit. I also had HB 1082 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1082) that dealt with some smaller issues for the Commission on Higher Education.
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