Staff Report

November 20, 2023

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce identified child care and career readiness as top priorities for the upcoming legislative session during a panel discussion Monday featuring caucus leaders from both parties.

“Enhancing our talent pipeline remains a critical focus,” said Indiana Chamber President and CEO-elect Vanessa Green Sinders. “We look forward to working with lawmakers, employers and learning institutions across the state to continue momentum on workforce development and keeping Hoosiers gainfully employed.”

The Chamber hopes to strengthen career-connected learning expectations and opportunities for Indiana students and build on last session’s House Enrolled Act 1002, which among other things established a career scholarship account program.

“Indiana has a talent and quality worker shortage that is leaving too many positions unfilled and negatively affects attempts to lure companies to relocate to the state,” said Jason Bearce, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development.

Panelists also discussed a need to enhance early child-care access and quality.

“We made a start at addressing this issue last session, but everyone realizes more needs to be done. The lack of affordable, high-quality child care across Indiana is impacting Hoosier families and businesses all over the state. It’s certainly one of the outside factors most negatively impacting attracting and retaining workers,” Bearce said.

Health and health-care matters continue to resonate with Indiana Chamber members, including increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to medical providers.

“Reimbursement rates are too low and that results in a shift to commercial payers making up for the losses providers incur on Medicaid patients,” said Ashton Eller, Indiana Chamber vice president of health-care policy and employment law.

The Indiana Chamber again is asking legislators to tackle the state’s smoking rate—the eighth highest in the nation, it said—by increasing the cigarette tax by $2 per pack.

The cigarette tax has not been raised since 2007, and Eller says “increasing it by $2 per pack would reduce the number of smokers in Indiana by about 100,000 and generate over $370 million in new revenue in the first year.”

That amount, he states, “would provide ample revenue to help fund increasing Medicaid obligations,” adding the tax increase would also “keep an estimated 24,500 youngsters from becoming adults who smoke or vape and help 50,000 adults quit smoking—and save nearly 20,000 lives.”

To spur economic development, the Indiana Chamber supports administrative and legislative changes at the state and local levels to minority, women and veteran business enterprise (XBE) policies and practices to make certification, recertification and bidding activities efficient.

And the organization’s push for driving privilege cards for undocumented residents continues in 2024. The Indiana Chamber’s vice president of economic development and technology, Adam H. Berry, said the cards will improve public safety and increase the number of insured drivers.

“Undocumented residents of Indiana who hold driving cards will feel a greater sense of security and responsibility when driving and/or interacting with authorities,” he said.

Tort reform to help businesses avoid frivolous lawsuits and increasing the threshold for the business personal property tax exemption are also on the Chamber’s wish list for the 2024 session.

Lawmakers return to the Indiana Statehouse for Organization Day on Tuesday. is the news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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