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Indiana Legislative Update – A Flurry of Activity

Although much of Indiana spent part of the week under a winter storm warning including the rare phenomenon called “thundersnow,” lawmakers continued their duties mostly unimpeded with committee work creating a flurry of activity. It’s a budget year, so legislators are determining how to spend taxpayer dollars for the next two years. Addressing education, housing and the workforce shortage in Indiana are also issues high on legislators’ list of priorities. 

Indiana was in the national news this week as classified documents were found in former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indianapolis home. This discovery comes on the heels of similar findings at residences of both President Trump and Biden. Investigations and finger-pointing by both sides will no doubt continue, which is unfortunate – because this is an issue we all agree on: Leaders are meant to keep state secrets, just not at home. 

Another former Indiana Governor drew media attention this week when Mitch Daniels visited Washington D.C. as part of his consideration of a run for the US senate seat being vacated by Mike Braun who has announced a run for Governor. “I’m not the least bit worried, honestly, about losing an election,” said Daniels, “I’m worried about winning it and regretting it for six years.” Daniels is expected to announce his intentions either way on Monday.

Your updated bill report is attached. We will continue to follow the action – culling some bills from your list and adding others from week to week. If there are any that you would like us to add or delete from your bill list, please do not hesitate to let us know! For those bills that had action this week, you’ll see details below. 

At the end are dates for committee hearings for your bills that have been posted at this time. Please note hearings only require 24-hour-notice, so the schedule is ever-changing and not all committees have posted their schedule yet.

  • HB1005 passed unanimously out of the House Govt and Regulatory Reform Committee Tuesday establishing the Residential Housing Infrastructure Assistance Program, “We are creating a tool for our communities to provide vital infrastructure for housing as they see fit in their communities, especially workforce housing,” said Rep Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). There was considerable discussion about 70% of monies in the revolving fund being reserved for rural communities with populations of less than 50,000. “This is not a revitalization bill. This is a housing bill,” said Miller. Stakeholders spoke in support of the bill which comes as Indiana struggles to provide the housing necessary to attract and retain employees in the Hoosier state. The bill is recommitted to House Ways and Means to discuss funding.
  • HB1006 was presented to committee members in House Courts and Criminal Code, “The intent of this bill is to keep as many people as possible who are suffering from mental illness from ever going to jail,” said Rep Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon). The bill hopes to create a process to divert persons to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, bypassing our overcrowded jails. Violent offenders or those with prior convictions for violent offenses who are eligible for treatment may only receive treatment at DMHA or DOC facilities, while non-violent offenders are potentially eligible for release under terms of bail for mental health treatment. “The intent is to get people in need of treatment the help they need. This does not affect the prosecution of the case,” stressed Steurwald. Rep Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) praised the bill, but expressed funding concerns, “Our sheriffs report 70% of those they deal with have a mental health or substance abuse disorder, or both. We always have lofty goals,” lamented Pierce, “but rarely do our fiscal people.” Steurwald closed, “This is a person-centered approach to allow our friends and neighbors to receive the appropriate care that they need. This is a brand new way of doing things.” The bill passed 12-1
  • Authored by House Utility Chair Ed Soliday, HB 1007 codifies the “Five Pillars” (reliability, affordability, resilience, stability and environmental sustainability) as part of the work product from the four-year 21st Century Taskforce studying energy in general. The bill also provides for a study to be conducted by the IURC on Performance Based Ratemaking with a report due back to the general assembly by 2025. The bill was amended slightly in committee to remove what could have been interpreted as implementation language instead ensuring the legislature will have to make the final determination. The bill passed out of Committee 13-0 and will be eligible for 3rd reading in the House early next week.
  • Recognizing the significant need to grow Indiana’s housing stock, Legislators spent the summer studying the many issues impacting housing developments and made recommendations for legislative changes. One recommendation was to increase the flexibility for using Residential Tax Increment Finance (TIF) zones to help finance the development of infrastructure necessary for housing. Separate House and Senate Committees each considered bills to do that on Tuesday. Both HB1081 and SB300 had supporters expressing the need for infrastructure growth and opponents expressing concerns about the impact to local government and school funding; SB300 passed out of Committee 10-2 while the House held HB1081 for further consideration.
  • Rep Ed Clere (R-New Albany) presented HB1160, the Workforce Training and TANF bill. One component of the bill is to increase TANF eligibility for the first time since 1988. The second is the requirement that the Commission of Higher Ed establish an education and career support services pilot program. “We need every Hoosier to find success,” said Clere, “TANF is a key social safety program. With HB1160 we are increasing the income eligibility threshold and at the same time with the education updates not eroding the State’s commitment to helping people stay on the path toward self-sufficiency.” The bill passed 12-0.
  • HB1179 streamlines professional licensing and attempts to apply components passed in SEA5 from 2022 to occupations and professions outside of healthcare. The bill allows for the professional licensing board to conduct meetings remotely, addresses reinstatement of retired, inactive or expired licenses, and adds non-health professions to the professions that an out-of-state applicant may use to apply for license under the general reciprocity law. The bill was held for further consideration.
  • The House on Monday voted 97-1 to extend the Government Reform Task Force for an additional year (it was just established last year) through HB1200. The Task Force is ten legislators responsible for reviewing state agencies to identify regulations, rules, and practices that might be altered to reduce the burden on citizens and businesses across the state. Senator Garten (R-Charlestown) will sponsor the bill in the Senate.
  • An effort to assist reduce poverty in working families, HB1290 would increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Individuals/families that are eligible for the federal EITC, would see their IN tax credit increase from 10% of their federal credit to 11% and would “recouple” the IN code with the federal code currently in effect. The bill was amended before passing the Ways & Means Committee 22-0. The amendment will trigger an updated fiscal review from the Legislative Services Agency, which will allow for more informed conversation with the full House.
  • HB1349 would allow communities to establish Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA’s) where patrons under certain circumstances would be allowed to leave a bar/restaurant to enjoy the outdoors or walk to another establishment in the DORA while carrying an alcoholic beverage. Similar bills have passed the Senate in recent years, but have not had luck getting out of Committee in the House. This one passed Committee 12-0 and is similar to SB20, scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Public Policy Committee next Wednesday.
  • Heard in House Ways and Means Committee on January 25, HB 1430 would increase the exemption amount from $80,000 to $250,000 for business personal property tax (BPPT). Author Peggy Mayfield argues that the current amount creates a hardship on small businesses because they have to hire a professional (CPA) to calculate the amount. Many small businesses fall below the $80,000 amount. Some Committee members are concerned about the shift/loss in revenue at the local level which will have to be made up in some way. Others noted the increased growth in assessed valuation would be worth it. 
    The 30% floor for depreciation of BPPT was discussed even though not a part of the bill. For large industrial tax payers, the depreciation floor is the brass ring. Unfortunately, the cost of replacement revenue is very high. The discussion of the bill led to a fairly deep discussion of local government finance in general, including the impact of tax increment financing (TIF) districts. Bill held for further consideration.
  • Senate Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka) entertained testimony regarding SB1, promising to return with an amendment next week. Lt Governor Suzanne Crouch spoke from the heart about the impact of mental illness and addiction in her life, “I was raised by a mother who suffered from depression. My sister, Nancy, died by suicide in her early 20’s. We just buried my brother Larry in November. He was an alcoholic. Our daughter, Courtney, is 12 years sober and bipolar. Every Hoosier that inherits genes that predispose them to these conditions deserves an opportunity to be successful in life, and that’s what Senate Bill 1 will do,” said Crouch. The bill, which establishes the 9-8-8 crisis hotline, will no doubt be a lifeline for the 1 in 5 Hoosiers suffering from mental illness or addiction. Stakeholders weighed in for over an hour on the impact of the mental health crisis in the Hoosier State.
  • Currently five states have codified standards for the protection of consumer data. SB 5 would require certain businesses to receive and address requests from consumers regarding data the company holds on the person. Consumers may seek to amend incorrect information and in some cases have it removed. The program and its administration will be overseen by the office of Indiana Attorney General. SB 5 was heard and amended in the Senate Commerce and Technology Committee on Thursday. Amendments included definitions, a right for the company to comply and repair the information along with a specific limitation pertaining to licensed casino operations (that it will not interfere with facial recognition camera/software).
  • As further proof that the “easy and popular” bills move first and fast, one of the first bills to pass the Senate is SB33, directing IDEM and the IURC to conduct a joint study concerning the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels and wind power equipment. The bill passed 50-0 and will create findings to be reported back to the Legislative Council no later than November 1, 2023. The bill moves to the House where House Utilities Chair, Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) will be the sponsor.
  • A unanimous vote by the full Senate sends SB37 to the House. The bill seeks to sunset most Food & Beverage (F&B) taxes and bring increased transparency from the local governments that collect the taxes. Similar bills have run into problems in the House in past years where Rep. JD Prescott (R-Union City) will sponsor the bill and see if he can be more successful.
  • SB81 addresses the needs and funding for disabled Hoosiers “who want to live life as independently as possible,” said Sen Michael Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores). SB81 provides that if the county commissioners authorize the furnishing of financial assistance to a community intellectual and developmental disability center (CIDD), the county council is required to appropriate an amount of money from the county’s general fund that is not less than the amount that would be collected from an annual rate of $0.01 on each $100 of taxable property within the county to provide the financial assistance to the CIDD. Under current law this is a “may” rather than a “shall” provision. Committee members expressed concern before ultimately voting unanimously to pass the bill 10-0. It is recommitted to Tax and Fiscal.
  • SB160 would add Indiana to the 17 other states that have adopted the Professional Counselors Licensure Compact increasing the ability for providers and patients to cross state lines for counseling services, esp. via telehealth. College students and military personnel/families are expected to be the main beneficiaries of being able to maintain a relationship with their counselor regardless of where they may move to. Sixteen other states are currently considering legislation meaning that more than 30 states could be part of the compact later this year. The bill passed 11-0.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee heard SB174 on Thursday, which would create a 25% tax credits for investments greater than $5000 in a qualified historic structure. The investor would have to spend the money and make the improvements before receiving a credit. E-REP supports the bill as we believe the tax credit could be the financial difference needed for investors to improve the Hulman Building and the Central Gymnasium into productive use vs. continued deterioration until demolition is the only viable option. Committee members seemed very supportive and we are working to have the bill brought back for a vote in a future meeting.
  • Heard in Senate Utilities on Thursday, SB176 authored by Sen. Eric Koch (R – Bedford) changes the statutory definition of the rated electric generating capacity from 350 megawatts to 470 megawatts for purposes of the definition of “small modular nuclear reactor.” In 2022, the legislature adopted language that would allow for the early stages of small modular nuclear reactors. At the time, 350 megawatts was seen as sufficient. This change would allow for units to be developed up to 470 megawatts. Committee members noted that this change is helpful to Indianapolis-based Rolls Royce; it is also likely valuable to Posey County’s Babcock & Wilcox.
  • Several bills are being considered in both the House and the Senate regarding where the state’s public retirement system (INPRS) dollars are invested. HB1008 (from Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Logansport) and SB292 (author Sen Travis Holdman, R-Markle) take slightly different approaches to ensuring the INPRS retirement board will prioritize “return on investment” for its 500,000 members, ensuring the funds are not invested based on environmental or other social issues – the bills are designed to protect coal companies, gun manufacturers, immigration contractors, etc. Supporters include leaders from the businesses that work in the protected areas while opponents include banks, the IN Chamber of Commerce and others with concerns about the move away from “free markets.” The Senate Pensions & Labor Committee passed the bill 8-2 and it will now need to be considered by the Appropriations Committee. The House Financial Institutions Committee held HB1008 for further consideration. Worth noting, SB268 is also moving forward and would require INPRS to divest of more than $1B invested in China. “China is engaged in warfare with every Hoosier vested in these funds,” said bill author Sen Chris Garten (R-Charlestown).
  • The Senate passed SB303 with a 50-0 vote on Tuesday hoping to give increased privacy protection to nonprofit organizations and their donors by ensuring a public agency can not compel an organization to reveal its donors nor publicly release any information it has about the donors. Representative Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) will sponsor the bill in the House where he introduced a similar bill, HB1212, that was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
  • SB326 raises the cap on the amount of taxes that can be collected and retained within the South Bend Professional Sports & Convention Development Area from $2.5M to $5M annually with the increased funds focused for spending on the stadium where the South Bend Cubs play. The bill passed the Appropriations Committee 13-0 and has moved to the full Senate. We will continue to track the bill, but as long as it remains focused only on South Bend, we will remove it from your bill list going forward. 
  • SB340 was presented by Sen Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) as a bill that puts books in the hands of all children from birth to age 5 in Indiana. “Literacy is the foundation of all learning,” said Becker. Stakeholders cited alarming statistics: high school dropouts are 5 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetime and 2/3rd of students who cannot read at proficiency by the end of 4th grade will spend time in jail or on welfare. In fact, the State of Ohio is basing the number of prison beds on 4th grade reading scores. Senators Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) and Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) were added as co-authors of the bill that received nothing but praise, “Who can be against something Dolly Parton does, right?”
  • SB344 started as a bill allocating $30M to the NE IN Strategic Development Commission to work toward goals similar to those we are pursuing through the Talent EVV plan. E-REP spoke to the Committee and expressed that if the state is investing in this sort of work, we ask that they consider investing in regions doing the work regardless of the type of local government/commission the region is using to manage their efforts. In Committee, the bill passed 12-0 after it was amended to remove the $30M allocation. We’ll continue to watch the bill as it moves through Session.
  • Senator Holdman introduced SB346 to establish the IN Heritage Commerce District program through the office of community and rural affairs (OCRA) for municipalities with less than 50,000 people to support redevelopment. The bill as proposed would allocate $500,000 to the program that would require a 1:1 match from the local community/developer.  This could be a valuable program for the smaller communities within E-REP. The committee chair held the bill after hearing testimony on Thursday; it’s hopeful it will be brought back again for further conversation and a move out of the committee at some point.
  • The Senate Family & Children’s Committee started a thorough discussion of SB368 Monday morning that will continue in another meeting. The bill would create a pilot program in NE IN where an employee, their employer, and the state would each pay ⅓ of the costs for quality childcare for new employees who are returning to the workforce. At this point, legislators and advocates for the bill have more questions than answers and we’re actively engaged in the conversations providing resources and discussing ways to include SW IN and other areas of the state in the pilot.

Important Dates:

  • Monday, January 30
    • Senate Elections Committee, 9:00 a.m.
      • SB188 School Corporation Governing Bodies (Sandlin)
    • Senate Environmental Affairs Committee, 10:00 a.m.
      • SB246 Excess Liability Trust Fund (Niemeyer)
  • Tuesday, January 31
    • House Public Health Committee, 8:30 a.m.
      • HB1004 Health Care Matters (Schaibley)
    • Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee, 9:00 a.m.
      • SB2 Taxation of Pass Through Entities (Baldwin)
      • SB46 County Option Circuit Breaker Tax Credit (Sandlin)
      • SB349 Overlapping Allocation Areas (Baldwin)
      • SB388 Food & Beverage Taxes (Holdman)
    • House Government & Regulatory Reform Committee, 10:30 am.
      • HB1179 Professional Licensing (Clere)
      • HB1317 Interstate Compacts (Miller)
  • Wednesday, February 1
    • House Insurance Committee 8:30 a.m.
    • Senate Health & Provider Services, 9:00 a.m.
      • SB4 Public Health Commission (Charbonneau)
    • Senate Pensions & Labor Committee, 10:00 a.m.
      • SB347 Work Sharing Unemployment Benefits Program (Bassler)
    • Senate Public Policy Committee, 1:30 p.m.
      • SB20 Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (Brown)
      • SB264 Cigarette Tax Revenue Stamp Allowance (Ford)