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EDITORIAL: Workforce issues top IBJ’s agenda for Legislature

January 5, 2018

With lawmakers back in town for their 2018 session, we thought it time to weigh in on some key issues facing Indiana. We’ve advocated for a few of these positions before and we’ll get into others in more depth as the session marches on. But here’s our synopsis:

Workforce development: There might be no system in state government as difficult to understand as Indiana’s workforce development system. Dozens of agencies, commissions and programs spend more than $1 billion in state and federal money to help Hoosiers train for and then locate jobs. It’s a maze even state leaders struggle to navigate. But a plan from Gov. Eric Holcomb appears unlikely to provide the simplification so many say is needed. We urge lawmakers to look past fiefdoms and the status quo and think about what will help workers, employers and the Indiana economy overall.

Workshare: Much as we’d like to avoid it, there’s no doubt another recession is in our future. When it comes, we’d like Indiana to have a workshare program in place that will let firms cut employee hours (rather than laying them off) and have the state’s unemployment fund temporarily supplement their reduced wages. Just do it.

Sexual harassment: Kudos to The Indianapolis Star for shining a light on a ridiculous Indiana law that requires a victim and a company to agree in writing to have a sexual harassment claim decided in court. Although claims for most companies can be brought to federal court instead, that’s not true for cases involving companies with fewer than 15 employees. Victims obviously deserve their day in court. Change the law.

Redistricting: Fair elections underpin our democracy, and yet far too many legislative districts across the country have been packed with a big majority of voters from one party or the other, meaning the only real contests take place in the primaries. As a result, most voters are stripped of any real choice. In Indiana, there has been bipartisan support for years to do something about the political way we draw district lines, but there’s still no system in place to ensure the maps are fair. It’s time.

Software tax: Central Indiana is emerging as a tech powerhouse, and the state should do all it can to encourage the growth. That means eliminating the sales tax on software that’s sold as a service rather than as a physical product, like a CD. Interpretations of Indiana’s sales tax law, which generally applies only to products and not services, have been muddy when it comes to software. So we support Gov. Eric Holcomb’s push to make it simple: no tax.

Smoking: We said here recently that raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21 is a no-brainer. But we also think it’s silly to have a smokers’ bill of rights that provides employment protection to smokers. We come down on the side of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce on this one: Get rid of it.

Sunday sales: We weren’t sure this even needed to be said: Permit alcohol sales on Sunday. Period.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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