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Indiana Legislative Update – A Storm(y) Week

Lawmakers began the week with a moment of silence as members stood together in solidarity, honoring Hoosiers who “lost their loved ones and their homes” when more than 15 tornadoes, including an EF3 tornado, traversed the state over the weekend. In other kinds of “Stormy” news, former President Trump made history on Tuesday when he appeared in a Manhattan court pleading not guilty to 34 felony charges filed against him related to the falsification of business records in a scheme to conceal hush money payments made to a former mistress. Trump is the first sitting or former president to face criminal charges.  

This week we acknowledge 55 years since assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., widely recognized as the most prominent face of the American Civil Rights before his assassination, April 4, 1968. The “apostle of non-violence” was shot and killed as he stood on the 2nd floor balcony of a motel in Memphis where he had traveled to show support for a sanitation workers strike. His iconic words are as timely today as they were half a century ago: “Power, at its best, is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice, at its best, is love correcting everything that stands against love.” 

As we enter the final weeks of session, bills are steadily making their way to the Governor’s desk for signature. One bill that has attracted considerable attention is SB480, which bans gender-affirming care for minors in Indiana. The Governor issued a statement: “Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not a minor. There has and will continue to be debate within the medical community about the best ways to provide physical and mental health care for adolescents who are struggling with their own gender identity, and it is important to recognize those struggles are real. With all that in mind, I have decided to sign SB480 into law.” The ACLU responded, “It’s a devastating day for our trans community in Indiana,” and within hours of the Governor’s signature, a 47-page lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of four transgender minors and their families. Attorney General Todd Rokita was sighted at a Republican fish fry and quipped, “It’s the quickest we’ve ever been sued,” said Rokita.  You can follow the progress of bills in the coming weeks at Governor Watchlist 2023; bills on your report that started the journey to the Governor this week include:

  • SB155 Air Pollution Control
  • SB167 FAFSA
  • SB176 Small Modular Nuclear Reactors
  • SB390 Commercial Solar and Wind Energy Ready Communities
  • SB33 Solar Panel and Wind Power Equipment Disposal Study

Your bill report is attached with bills listed numerically within High, Medium and Low Priority rankings. We have highlighted some bills that had action this week and included a list of upcoming committee hearings, as scheduled at the time of this report – next week is the deadline for bills to clear committee in the 2nd legislative house as we quickly approach the session end.

  • The original language of HB1002, the House priority bill that hoped to “reinvent high school” and better prepare students for the workforce, was further eroded this week, removed the fiscal and access to 21st century scholars funding, eliminates the one-on-one meetings with intermediaries, and backs off the emergency rulemaking piece for the new diploma, “The career advising piece is the big part of what our footprint will be on 1002.  The “incredibly innovative” bill said to still be a “work in progress,” emerged from Senate Education committee 8-5 and was recommitted to Appropriations Committee for further consideration next week.
  • HB1004 emerged from the Senate Health & Provider Services Committee “watered down” from the original bill by removing the health reimbursement arrangements and eliminating physician practice ownership tax credits, the health care cost oversight board and the site of service language. The measure continues to penalize hospitals that fail to report patient revenues annually, and will fine hospitals that exceed the 260% of Medicare benchmark beginning in 2026.  The Indiana Hospital Association issued a statement calling the unprecedented price caps “wrong for Indiana.”  The bill narrowly passed the Committee 6-5 and has been reassigned to Appropriations. 
  • HB1005 establishes the Residential Housing Infrastructure Assistance Program to be administered by the Indiana Finance Authority. Local units of government will be able to apply for loans from the fund to develop residential infrastructure. Designed to help smaller communities, 70% of the funds are required to be used in communities of less than 50,000 people. The Senate passed the bill 32 – 16, returning the bill to the House for concurrence or further amendment during conference committee.
  • SB1 establishes the toll free 9-8-8 suicide hotline and mobile crisis response, and aims to provide Hoosiers in crisis, “someone to call, someone to come, and a safe place to go.”  Said to be the direct result of the Governor’s Behavioral Health Commission and findings of the Commission’s final Sept 2022 report, testimony on the bill left many in House Public Health committee “ugly crying” as we witnessed the incredibly raw testimony of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, committee members, and family members share their very personal stories of family struggle and loss due to mental health and addiction. “With this bill, when people are on their knees, we want to be sure someone will get down on their knees with them,” said bill co-sponsor Ann Vermilion (R-Marion). “Ultimately this is about the human cost,” said Sen Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), “No one on this panel has to think very hard to think of someone who has lost their life or been deeply impacted by the challenge of mental illness.” The bill passed out of committee 12-0 and was recommitted to Ways & Means, “I will be swinging as high as I can to get the appropriate funding,” said Crider.
  • After hearing considerable testimony on SB4 last month, the House Public Health Committee took up the comprehensive public health bill again and adopted a significant amendment that defined “core public services” (vital statistics, vector control, community-led initiatives) to assure that some services are provided across the state and gives local officials more control over additional “initiatives” they choose to pursue in their communities. The bill also uses the distinction to define how state vs. local funding should be used. The bill passed the Committee 11-1 (local Rep Matt Hostettler was the lone “no” vote) and must next go to Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday before facing the full House. The bill sponsor Rep.Brad Barrett (R-Richmond) acknowledged that he anticipated more changes before the bill ultimately passes the House and even more during the final negotiations of Conference Committee.
  • SB271 will allow Certified Technology Parks (CTP’s), such as Innovation Pointe in downtown Evansville, to retain $250,000 of the income taxes generated in the district (up from $100,000 in current law) for continued support of entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities. The House passed the bill 96-0 on Tuesday and the Senate has filed a Motion to Concur with the changes made in the House. That vote is expected early next week. E-REP has been a lead advocate of the bill, which will be a significant boost to funding programs at Innovation Pointe (Evansville’s CTP). 
  • Rep Ethan Manning (R-Logansport) presented HB1008, the “ESG” bill to the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee, which immediately adopted a significant amendment, which  incorporates SB292 and was said to make the bill “a lot simpler, but stronger with more flexibility,” according to Manning. He added “ESG is highly subjective, so it is important we define it, which we have done here,” said Manning. Questions continue to plague the bill, with Sen Greg Walker (R-Columbus) questioning whether State Treasurer Dan Elliot was more qualified than the INPRS board; Elliot maintained, “I have uniquely trained people to look at these investments and give us answers very quickly.” A sharp exchange took place after Indiana Chamber VP Greg Ellis described the bill as “anti-free market” and “picking winners and losers.”  Rep Manning responded calling that a “deliberate misreading” of the bill. INPRS, who indicated the introduced bill would damage pensioners by $6.7B over the next decade, was present to now report “zero fiscal.” While some stakeholders still voiced concerns that the bill was “still not at the right place” despite the consideration of 21 amendments, HB1008 passed out of committee 7-3.
  • While originally drafted to establish a civilian cyber corps to assist local governments, etc., now that HB1266 has passed the House & Senate it only establishes an advisory board who will set the parameters and create the corps to ultimately do this work with the potential to be fully established with a budgetary allocation in the 2025 budget. The bill passed the Senate 48-0 on Tuesday and the House author has Dissented from the Senate Amendments to create a Conference Committee (CC). Speculation is that they would like to use the CC to take advantage of – what is hoped to be – an optimistic budget forecast to actually establish the corps this year.
  • SB20 started as a bill to allow local communities to designate outdoor refreshment areas that would enhance entertainment options with a sense of a “street party” atmosphere. The bill has passed the Senate in the past, but has died in the House. This year, the House passed a similar bill, HB1349, and on Tuesday, the House Public Policy Committee amended SB20 to become a comprehensive alcohol and hemp bill hardly recognizable from the original bill. The Committee passed the bill 12-1 and on Thursday during 2nd Reading, House Democrats used the 2nd reading of the bill as an opportunity to debate the legalization of marijuana. Meanwhile, the Senate Public Policy took testimony on HB1349 Wednesday, but did not vote on the bill. They still could do so next week. 
  • SB7 was presented Thursday morning to the House Employment Committee as a “patient-centric bill” to “allow more physicians to stay in the communities they love” by banning new non-compete contracts as of July 1, 2023. The bill, which Rep Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) claimed aligned with “a major initiative of the Biden administration,” received exhaustive testimony and was amended to apply only to noncompete agreements for primary care physicians. Rep Ethan Manning characterized the non-competes as “the classic David and Goliath struggle – a big corporate entity holding physicians and patients hostage, with SB7 as the stone” and the amended language “now a wiffle ball.” Many stakeholders argued the bill was “going too far” interfering in private contracts and would create “a bidding war for a limited resource,” promising an increase in healthcare costs for Hoosiers.  Committee members were sharply divided about the bill and the measure failed 6-6. House rules allow for the bill to be reconsidered by the Committee if it is amended and it is already scheduled for another hearing, amendments, and a vote on Tuesday 4/11.
  • SB46  attempts to provide residential property tax relief while assessed values climb by allowing a county council to designate some or all of the county where homeowners could receive a property tax credit capped at 2%. As it passed the House Tuesday with a 96-1 vote, it also includes language from HB1051 establishing “neighborhood enhancement districts” designed to benefit long-term owner occupants of homesteads. The Senate has filed a Motion to Concur with the House amendments and will likely vote on that Motion next week. 
  • 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 providing a significant benefit for college students and military personnel/families. The House Public Health Committee made a minor amendment resolving some code conflicts before passing the bill on Tuesday with an 11-0 vote. The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week. 
  • Tank owners seek to use SB246 to expand the Excess Liability Trust Fund (ELTF) statute to cover tanks that are above ground as the next logical step after successfully remediating underground tanks. The bill also includes tanks at airports and the funding of initial site characterization changes for the release of petroleum and was amended in the House Environmental Committee to include language from HB1072 dealing with aviation fuel fees collected and disbursed through ELTF. House Ways and Means Committee amendments added significantly to the airport related use of funds with listings of activities and equipment intended to be covered before the bill goes before the full House next week. 
  • An effort to save the City of Evansville Water Department up to $40M in pollution control costs, SB473 will establish permit requirements ensuring there is no more mercury in the water that returns to the river than what was present in the water withdrawn from the river. The measure passed the House 95-2 and Senator Becker has filed a Motion to Concur with the minor amendment adopted in the House that made the bill effective upon passage. The Concurrence vote should occur next week to send the bill to the Governor. 
  • HB1382 will encourage public-private partnerships to support robotics programs in K-12 schools with a goal of increasing the number of students pursuing STEM fields. While in the Senate, the bill was amended to use “may” instead of “shall” as a way to eliminate the automatic fiscal impact. It passed the Senate 45-3 and the House author has Dissented from the Senate Amendments likely hoping to use an optimistic budget forecast to ensure quicker funding of the program.
  • The Ways & Means Committee amended SB344 on Wednesday afternoon to focus the language on expanding the membership of the NE IN Strategic Development Commission and placing in statute the work they are expected to do as a result of a study conducted over the last year, which is similar to the Talent EVV plan. Their delegation is attempting to get an annual appropriation of $15M in the budget to conduct this work, while E-REP is advocating that any funding applied to this sort of community development should be accessible to any region with a comprehensive plan. The bill passed committee 23-0 and goes before the full House next week. 
  • SB326 started as a bill focused on the South Bend Professional Sports & Convention Development Area (PSCDA). During the Ways & Means Committee hearing, local Rep. Tim O’Brien added language allowing other PSCDAs – including the one in Evansville – to increase the amount of revenue captured to no more than $10 (up from $5 in current law) per resident to support local sporting activities. The bill passed the Committee 12-0 and goes before the full House next week.
  • During the Ways & Means hearing for SB419 Wednesday afternoon, the Committee amended the broad-ranging tax bill to include a provision allowing the IEDC to use up to $10M of their annual budget allocation for historic preservation tax credits. At least 2 buildings in Evansville could be targets for this sort of credit as developers consider updates to the Hulman Building and the old Central HS Gym. The tax credit could be a final piece of the puzzle to help those redevelopment efforts move forward. The bill passed the Committee 23-0 and heads to the full House for consideration.

Important Dates:

  • Monday, April 10
    • House Education, 8:30 a.m.
      • SB380 Various Education Matters (Raatz)
  • Tuesday, April 11
    • Deadline for Senate Bills to pass out of House Committees
    • House Ways & Means, 8:30 a.m.
      • SB1 Behavioral Health Matters (Crider)
      • SB4 Public Health Commission (Charbonneau)
    • Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy, 9:00 a.m.
      • HB1499 Property Tax Matters (Thompson)
    • House Employment, Labor & Pensions, 10:30 a.m.
      • SB7 Physician Noncompete Agreements (Busch)
  • Thursday, April 13: Deadline for House Bills to pass out of Senate Committees
  • Tuesday, April 18: Deadline for Senate Bills to pass the House
  • Wednesday, April 19: Deadline for House Bills to pass the Senate
  • Saturday, April 29: Deadline for the Legislature to adjourn Sine Die

*Committee hearings only require a 24(ish) hour notice, so this schedule is updated frequently and is therefore not comprehensive of all the activity we anticipate next week.