Aspire Announces Legislative Priorities for 2021
Johnson County, IN – Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance today announced its priorities for the 2021 Indiana legislature: expansion of broadband service, protection of employers from COVID-related liability, increase in tax on tobacco products and creation of Work Share alternative to traditional unemployment.
“Running a business is more challenging than ever,” observed Aspire President and CEO Christian Maslowski, “so it is critical Indiana offers the right tools and environment for business owners to grow and retain jobs. Aspire’s priorities for this coming session each directly relates to business operations: retaining talent, confidently running operations and lowering costs.”
These are the priority public policies and the rationale behind them:
Broadband – Aspire supports policies and increased funding opportunities to expand broadband in our community and throughout our state. There are significant areas in Johnson and adjacent counties that lack acceptable coverage. During this COVID-19 pandemic, our homes are now our businesses, schools, doctor’s offices and places of entertainment. In the 21st century, it is important that everyone has access to broadband to help our businesses grow and our communities thrive.
Employer Liability Protections – Aspire supports efforts to protect employers who have complied with local, state, and federal recommendations and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic from frivolous lawsuits. Businesses need assurance they can reopen and remain open without fear of unsubstantiated liability. Legislation that is targeted, temporary and timely will allow for such protections. The legislation would be focused solely on the COVID-19 pandemic and would be temporary, starting from the day the state of emergency was declared and in effect only for a short period of time. It is important that such legislation be retroactive to ensure appropriate protection.
Tobacco Cessation – Aspire supports an increase in the tax on tobacco and tobacco-related products, such as e-cigarettes. Healthcare costs are significant for Indiana businesses. Tobacco use is proven to cause health issues, as emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic, and can affect productivity. To help control these costs, increasing the age to purchase and taxing such products will help curb the urge to start and continue the habit. Aspire’s preference would be that these funds be targeted to healthcare or smoking cessation programs.
Work Share – Aspire supports creative alternative solutions to traditional unemployment, such as a Work Share program. Talent attraction, development and retention are top challenges for employers across our state under any circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in unemployment programs. To provide for swifter economic recovery, employers need a variety of 21st-century tools to recruit and retain 21st century talent. A Work Share program would allow employers to reduce employee hours in lieu of complete separation. This would enable affected workers to continue working, receive some level of W2 wages, maintain access to company-sponsored benefits, and also receive public unemployment benefits. This type of program benefits employers because they can retain talent in tough times, employees because they can retain a job and benefits, and the economy because it preserves economic output and requires less public expenditure.
About Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance
Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance’s mission is to drive economic development and business success in Johnson County and southern Indianapolis. As the local economic development organization for Johnson County, Aspire works to attract, retain, and expand businesses in the county. As a chamber, Aspire leads the area’s business community by advancing pro-growth policy, leveraging community development opportunities and providing comprehensive member services to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large corporations. For more information, please visit AspireJohnsonCounty.com.
Christian Maslowski, President and CEO
Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance