INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers passed some solid pro-business legislation in this year’s General Assembly session, but also missed some opportunities, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said.
That’s reflected in this year’s legislative priority scores released by the chamber, which saw the four-county area’s five local legislators earn solid B-level grades.
“The 2021 legislative session was strong for business recovery and several long-sought polices became reality. That’s remarkable in the face of the pandemic and the necessary modifications to procedure,” Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said in the 2021 report. “Yet, there still were missed opportunities that could have made this General Assembly session even greater.”
The chamber’s annual rankings are tied to its Indiana Vision 2025 long-term economic development plan, which sets goals based on four main drivers including outstanding talent, attractive business climate, superior infrastructure and dynamic and creative culture.
This year, the chamber scored legislators on 47 different bills and amendments. The tale of 2021 was that no one got everything they wanted — no legislator scored a perfect voting record this season based on chamber priorities — but likewise most legislators finished with scores of 50% or higher.
For 2021, priority legislation for the chamber included enhanced legal liability protections for businesses related to COVID-19; boosting investment in broadband technology especially to rural areas; requiring all high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; raising cigarette taxes to discourage smoking and vaping; supporting work share programs; and supporting an attractive tax climate.
With Republicans controlling a supermajority in both houses, the GOP caucus didn’t hit all the points the chamber sought, with a few big misses on priority legislation.
Brinegar pointed to the failure to hike tobacco taxes, failure to pass the FAFSA requirement and passing on establishing work share programs as the three biggest misses this past session.
Locally, state lawmakers hit most of the high points for the chamber, with the five local legislators falling into the 80th percentile.
Rep. Denny Zent, R-Angola, scored the highest this year with an 89%, followed by Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City and Rep. Ben Smaltz, both with 86% scores.
Local senators scored a little lower, with Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, getting an 83% grade and Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, scoring an 80%.
Higher scores were hard to come by — only 14 of 100 members of the House received scores at 90% or above — while only one of the 50 senators hit 90%.
The lowest scores this year were 46%, going to Democratic Sens. J.D. Ford and Shelli Yoder, a Shipshewana native who represents the Bloomington area.