Under bright chandeliers at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce met to present its key legislative issues for the 2022 session.
The new session will be introduced Tuesday with legislative previews in both the House and Senate. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is the largest, most active business advocacy group in Indiana. The majority of its work is lobbying at the Indiana Statehouse.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce opposes government mandates preventing businesses from making their own decisions about vaccination requirements for employees. It believes that employers are qualified to make their own decisions for their workplaces—whether that be mandating or not mandating the vaccine.
Todd Huston, speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, agrees that businesses should be able to make decisions regarding vaccine mandates yet cautioned business leaders Monday.
“I think employers need to be cautious in how they honor religious exemptions, medical exemptions and such,” he said. “We’re going to continue to look at that language to make sure that all things are considered.”
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said he will not support any efforts to stop the federal government’s efforts with the vaccine mandate.
“Employers have a responsibility not just to their employees but to the entire community in my mind,” he said. “There’s an objective outlook from this. We have to get into controlling this pandemic that we’re going through.”
The Chamber of Commerce wants to increase incentives for attracting workers to Indiana, especially those who work remotely.
“If you’re already here, it might be a lot easier to figure out how we’re going to keep you here,” she said.
Huston feels that Indiana businesses should be doing more to attract young people to the state.
“As an old man talking to my kids, I understand the advantages of what you can see in those types of places (other states). I think our companies in Indiana with large footprints have got to engage better,” he said.
The Chamber believes that the lack of affordable, high-quality child care across Indiana is negatively impacting efforts to attract and retain workers.
Austin said she believes that the expense and lack of access to child care is a major contributor to the worker shortage, especially with women.
“It actually is more expensive to care for an infant than it is for a year of tuition at a four-year public institution,” she said. “We’ve got to help get women back into the workforce. They have dropped out because of the child care shortage.”
Huston acknowledges that this is a complicated issue.
“That’s been a huge challenge, and it’s had an impact on people getting back to work,” he said.