Early voting for the primary election begins next Tuesday, April 5th!
If you have not registered to vote, there is still time to do so with voter registration ending on April 4th. Follow this link to register to vote, check your voter status, or update your registration information on the Indiana Voter Portal website. Hard copies can be found here with instructions on where to return applications. Remember to have your Indiana driver's license or state ID handy, so that all of the same information matches when you go to vote.
Below are the following dates and times for early voting at Monroe County's Elections Operations site,
302 S Walnut St, Bloomington, IN 47401. On May 3rd, the official primary election day, voters are able to go to their assigned polling sites from 6:00 am - 6:00 pm, these sites can be found on the same website used above.
If you need any other additional information on primary elections, go to the Monroe County Government Election Central website here.
Mayor John Hamilton issued his “New Revenue Package” memo that outlines two revenue streams to meet the administration’s current spending priorities. 1) increase to the Monroe County Local Income Tax (LIT) rate and the issuance of two $5 million general obligations (G.O.) bonds for a five-year duration for capital improvements. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts I could not get the specified LIT increase. Based on the almost $17 million spending investments outlined in the memo it would most likely constitute a full 1 percent increase to 1.8450. Indiana State law has that the income tax encompass all of Monroe County. Ellettsville and the county council would weigh in as well but since the bulk of the population resides in Bloomington, it has the majority of the votes. The revenue returns would be somewhere around $17 million in new revenue annually.
To get a larger picture of our local taxes click HERE. Below is the time frame:
The Mayor’s argument besides the needs is that the community has a capacity for the increase:
General Obligation Bond Projects:
To get further detail, Mayor Hamilton has put up a website with Frequently Asked Questions, Video Address, and a Feedback opportunity.
Taking over the highly visible advocacy wing of the Chamber, I am fully aware of the important accomplishments of my esteemed predecessors. The advocacy division will continue to be a presence at city and county meetings. Our elected officials will know we are paying attention, listening, and in the public sphere to promote business interests. The lack of local journalism oversight only heightens our role.
It is also imperative to educate, gently nudge those elected officials on how the business environment runs beyond, zoning, signage, and parking issues. Quality of life issues plays a crucial role. Labor has more mobility than it has any lifetime. We will need to promote more housing, apartments, condominiums, single-family homes, and yes even student housing. The abundance of options will only have a positive effect on all those searching for places to live.
On a similar level, we will provide those officials with cover on tough and unpopular decisions. Let those in power know they are doing an excellent job. The Chamber’s role to do right by the community. We saw this in full on the homeless in the seminary square controversy. It was not a popular position to take but it was a necessary one.
Next, one matter is clear, we speak for business but oftentimes businesses cannot speak in one voice. The greater good may not be self-evident. On these occasions, we must be content to stay on the sidelines. Conversely, the Chamber must use its limited capital even on the less-heralded issues. This includes transparency, sound, efficient government. An example of this is the recent Novak report from the Mayor’s Office that attempts to streamline the forty-nine city boards and commissions.
At the State level, we have been using that limited capital wisely. We cannot combat every misguided bill that enters those storied halls. What we can do is galvanize against legislation that puts our community at an economic disadvantage such as HB1002. Finally, I want to encourage dialog with members on issues important to them.
As things are quickly wrapping up in the statehouse, only a few bills remain for final revisions before making their way to Governor Holcomb. Throughout this short legislative session, the Chamber has been watching several bills that have the potential to affect its business members with special attention on:
HB 1001: In the wake of the Omicron variant, legislators at the beginning of the short session considered the effectiveness of vaccine mandates and the role of private employers. This bill received a great deal of attention from those outside the statehouse for its loose exemption guidelines that were approved by the House mid-January. Recognizing the implications of this, the Senate amended this provision to mimic federal regulations regarding religious or medical exemptions in mid-February. Under this new law, private employers are not allowed to enforce a vaccine mandate without providing opportunities for employees to apply for exemption. Firing employees who apply for exemption could result in businesses paying for unemployment. New versions of the bill also take away the burden of COVID testing costs from the employer and places it on the employee or state to cover.
HB 1002: In its original form, HB 1002 confronted various tax matters with a major point of discussion being the removal of the 30% floor for Indiana’s Business Personal Property Tax. House Representatives approved this bill at the end of January before sending it over to the Senate where it was gutted by worried officials in early March. Now, House and Senate legislators need to work together to resolve any issues posed by opposing chambers. Important add-ons to this bill are amendments that prevent the Indiana Lottery from using online platforms and set sunset provisions for the Food & Beverage Tax (with an explicit exception for Monroe County and other areas).
SB 361: In an attempt to revitalize the state’s economy, SB 361 gives increased authority to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to establish Innovation Development Districts (IDD) and distribute $300M in tax credits with an additional $300M appropriated for a special fund to be used for innovation. Upon receiving this bill from the Senate, House Representatives made changes to how money raised from taxes in these districts is reinvested back to local communities as opposed to a state-wide fund. Included in this bill is another provision that is the least talked about, but perhaps the most exciting. As a way to attract film production in the Hoosier state, tax incentives will be offered to companies in the film industry for shooting in Indiana.
To follow any last-minute changes, head over to the Indiana General Assemby's website here.
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton spent most of his 30 minute "state of the city" celebrating his first six years of office. The last portion was dedicated to three key initiatives, highlighted by a need for new revenue. The new revenue would come in the form of a countywide income tax increase. The proposal was vague on what that increase would constitute. Most likely, this would be a half of a percent to 1.8450. Based on Indiana State law, the income tax would encompass all of Monroe County. Ellettsville and the county council would weigh in as well but with since the majority of the population resides in Bloomington, it has the majority of the votes. The annual revenue returns would be somewhere around $10 million in new revenue annually.
Mayor Hamilton was also vague on details of where the new revenue would be earmarked. When he first floated this proposal in 2020, it was part of his climate action plan. It failed to pass the city council by a 4-5 vote. When speaking about investments, the Mayor lead with the need to pay for police salary increase that the council passed last year. He then went into the need to address the damage done to police and fire facilities from last June's flood. From there he listed investments in current facilities and parks, followed by IT infrastructure.
The other means Mayor Hamilton pointed out to generate new income was issuing bonds. He resurrected his 2022 budget request for the issuance $10 million in bonds. The plan is to have the council approve $10 millions in bonds every five years. The idea when first floated last October had half would go through the general fund and the other through parks to undertake his climate initiative.
The City Council unanimously approved to move forward in the first part to designate the Catalent expansion as a revitalization area. Final approval of the tax abatement in exchange for $350 million in investment and 1,000 new jobs will be on March 2nd after a public hearing. Bloomington is competing with Louisville, Madison, and Kansas City. $10 million of this investment will be to develop real property. The Real property would be abated at a rate of 50 percent a year for 10 years, while the larger portion is the personal property, which is 90 percent for 20 years. The impact of the abatement on TIF revenue would not be significant as it is calculated on real property but not personal. The Impact on COB revenue would not be significant. Local taxes are collected is based on the City’s budget. The abatement does not reduce total revenue on a dollar-for-dollar basis, but rather spreads that loss to the other taxpayers. Where the issue comes is how close we are to the state-restricted CAPS which puts a levy on the amount a tax can go up. According to the the City’s Alex Crowley does not believe it will be an issue. The main reservation from the Council was housing, where are these people going to live? Currently, half of Catalent’s 3,212 workforce lives outside the county which Monroe County reaps no financial benefit from.
Get involved, contact your City Council representative to voice your opinion.
The Indiana General Assembly is set to meet in a special session on Monday, Nov. 29 to consider a bill that would restrict businesses' ability to require the COVID-19 vaccine for employees. It would also require businesses to administer weekly testing for all unvaccinated employees. Click here to view the draft legislation.
The legislation is in response to a federal mandate that would require businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines for all employees. To give feedback to state legislators representing parts of Monroe County, find their contact information in the Chamber's Elected Officials Directory.
The City of Bloomington will offer free street parking downtown and in city garages from Thursday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 28 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday and to support downtown businesses. Parking will be free on the following days throughout the holiday season:
At its Nov. 15 meeting, the Bloomington Plan Commission approved the next step in the Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County's Osage Place development. The approval related to 5.34 acres for 30 residential houses and three common areas. The site is located at 650 W. Guy Avenue and is part of a larger 12.5-acre project there.
Construction has already begun and the first houses are expected to be completed by early 2022.
Watch the Plan Commission discussion on CATS here. Read the proposal from the meeting packet here.
The City of Bloomington has signed a letter of intent with Meridiam to build and operate a citywide broadband network for residents, including areas anticipated to be annexed into the city. A final agreement is expected to be inked by Dec. 31, with construction starting in 2022.
According to a press release, the international company plans to invest more than $40 million in digital infrastructure in the coming years.
Read the city's press release here.