The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

March 25, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: Proposed bills reward and punish business

In my limited experience, I have found that if I want someone to do something, I have a much better chance of it happening if I incentivize the action. Conversely, I have also found that one of the most effective ways of preventing someone from doing something is to penalize the action if it is done. I realize that none of this falls under the category of revolutionary thinking and I had better not submit my treatise to the creative thinking prize committee unless I want to be laughed out of the running.

What else I realize is that there are over 1,200 bills before the Indiana General Assembly this year despite it appearing as if we seem to hear about the same handful over and over again. While there can be a lot of repetition between Senate and House proposals, the topics of the individual bills can flag what is being rewarded and what is being punished by the Legislature. For example, while we can’t hear enough about gambling changes that are wanted, there only about 1 percent of the bills in the pool that have anything to do with that topic (and this includes those specifically addressing gaming, horse racing, casinos and the lottery).

As a baseline, 1 percent works well with a large number of topics falling near that range of proposed bills. There are, for example, only 13 bills that mention business and this generous number even includes those that want to increase the per diem for legislators when working “on business,” suggested credits to “businesses” for hiring those who have been on unemployment for 26 weeks, penalties for not using minority and women owned “businesses,” and so on.

Those proposals truly favoring business within the state as a whole (not specifically singling out casinos, hunting farms, etc.) or giving Indiana an advantage over any other state are hard to find. In fact, one bill that was hidden in the mix and rarely discussed outside of the Legislature, HB 1394, is now being reworded to lessen its value with every rewrite. It originally was written to include a definition on some of the protection afforded limited liability companies, which could indeed give Indiana a differentiation of note since each state treats LLCs differently. As it is currently reworded, though, it addresses the ability of creditors to seek payment in a particular way — charging — but no longer addresses the broader issue.

With six proposed bills on one topic, nine on another, three on yet another, and so on, the question begs asking: what are the majority of proposals about? Over 11 percent of the proposed Senate and House bills deal primarily with the issue of tax in one form or another. To an observer, the priority is not on bringing global business to the state, nor is it on fostering entrepreneurship, growing startups into big businesses, or anything of that sort; the priority is on making sure those that even mention a nexus pay the state for the privilege of being here. Sadly, the whole reward/penalty logic from the first paragraph carries over to businesses as well and there is something wrong with this picture.

Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on technology and an Anderson resident. His column appears Tuesdays.

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