Tech Community Participation is Essential to Indiana’s Legislative Process
As daily news increasingly includes updates from this year’s legislative session at the Statehouse, we are reminded that laws are best created by the people they will impact. Those working in Indiana’s tech community have an obligation to actively participate in the legislative process and to ensure our voices are clearly heard on key legislation around education and entrepreneurship. Remaining aware and active in policy will ultimately enable us to fully embrace our potential to become a major “tech hub.”
Those fires were stoked in the spring of 2015, when a coalition of businesses lobbied against the controversial RFRA legislation. We banded together, and through a very concerted and orchestrated effort spoke out against the controversial “religious freedom” law, explaining our concerns from both a bottom line and moral viewpoint.
As a TechPoint board member, President of the Venture Club of Indiana and Chair of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, I frequently have the opportunity to engage with elected officials and know the importance and value of advocating on behalf of tech-related legislative issues. They cannot fix a problem they do not understand, and they cannot understand the weight of a decision if no one bothers to advocate for those impacted.
For example, it was due, in part, to the tech community’s outreach that Indiana’s leadership created the Next Level Fund that leverages a small portion of the state’s significant capital reserves to help seed the creation of a venture capital ecosystem.
Another timely example of legislation currently being debated is Senate Bill 257. The bill, which just passed the tax committee 10-0, would allow Indiana to become the fourth state in the country to explicitly exempt software as a service (SaaS) from taxation, thus giving us a competitive advantage in attracting technology companies seeking to grow or relocate to the state. We seized the opportunity to speak with officials from the Indiana Department of Revenue about the issue and to provide comparable situations from past attempts at legislation, express the economic development advantages to our state and the tech companies who do business here, and further illustrate the potential fallout if the tax code was not clarified.
While it would be arrogant to assume this was the first time they had been made aware of this information, being able to hear from passionate constituents ultimately helps re-affirm that their decisions are in the best interest of Hoosiers. Democracy requires active participation to reach its full potential. A government by the people for the people requires the people.
It all counts and helps, but, we can do more! If we truly want to help position Indiana as a tech hub, executives and business leaders have to continue to get involved and advocate for tech-friendly legislation and familiarize themselves with the legislative agenda in order to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem and catapult our state to the next level.
Here are a few ideas on how to get started, based on Governor Holcomb’s admonition, “If you don’t show up you’re not in the conversation.”
Get to Know Your Legislators
This page from the Indiana General Assembly website allows visitors to find their legislator based on their home address. The site will also identify what bills legislators have authored and you can begin to get a feeling for the issues they are seeking to tackle. You can also view committee and chamber meetings as well as House and Senate district maps.
Follow Bills Online
The Indiana General Assembly website allows constituents to follow a bill’s progress online. The content is easy to decipher and details a bill’s journey through the legislative process.
Attend Indiana Chamber Events
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is the largest, broad-based business advocacy group of its kind in America. A legislative action team of experts in the areas of economic development, small business and technology serves as the voice for pro-jobs, pro-economy public policies at the Statehouse and in Congress. The Chamber offers more than 50 conferences and seminars throughout the year, and top policymakers and business leaders from throughout the state will attend the annual legislative dinner which is being held on February 13.
Offer to Testify at Hearings
One of the best times to make your voice heard is during committee meetings. Figure out which committee oversees the bill, then watch the committee calendar which can be found on the homepage of the Indiana General Assembly website.
Read the Local News
Following reporters who cover the Statehouse is a great way to stay up-to-date on a legislative session. Local media outlets will often write preview articles highlighting key bills of the upcoming session such as this one from the Indianapolis Business Journal. In addition, the Statehouse File, written and edited by students from the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism, recaps all the days’ big stories.
Use your voice to let your legislators know what you’d like from them in order to promote and accelerate the growth of Indiana’s tech community.
About the Author
John McDonald is CEO of ClearObject, Entrepreneur Magazine’s most entrepreneurial company in Indiana. John is a TechPoint board member, president of the Venture Club of Indiana and chair of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at www.clearobject.com