Each legislative session seems to have a theme; 2024 seems to be all about education, and particularly, about finding solutions for the “literacy crisis.” Presenting the Senate GOP priorities, Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) said, “the most important thing we do this year is helping schools address our literacy rates.” It is all hands on deck to find a solution for Hoosier 3rd graders who can’t read.
First up is SB1, the bill Sen Linda Rogers (R-Granger) – joined by 30 co-authors – calls her “Every Child Learns to Read” bill. It requires IREAD testing in second grade (currently just in 3rd grade), and for those who do not pass, provides a full year of remediation, with summer school offered but not mandated, and three opportunities to take IREAD before the student would be retained in 3rd grade for failure to pass. In 2023, 13,840 Indiana 3rd graders did not pass IREAD. Of those, 5,503 received exemptions and 8,337 did not; of those without an exemption, 95% moved onto 4th grade and 412 were retained.
Education Chair Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) weighed in, “If we don’t retain them, and they get passed on, the danger is if a student can’t read, they’re going to not participate at all.” The testimony of Kymyona Burk, former director of the Mississippi Department of Education was a beacon of hope amidst the bad news. Mississippi ranked dead last by nearly every measure of student achievement in 2013, turned itself around and ranked 29th in 2019 and tied for the national average in fourth grade reading. Indiana lawmakers are hoping for what experts call “The Mississippi Miracle” to happen here and voted 9-4 in favor of the bill which now advances to Senate Appropriations.
SB6, the sister bill of SB1, charges the IDOE to build data to track students from grades 4 through 8 who moved on without passing IREAD beginning this school year. The bill received unanimous support in committee discussion and was held.
SB8, an agenda bill for the Governor and the Commission for Higher Education focusing on post secondary degree attainment and affordability, was presented by Sen Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg). Beginning in 2025, all high schools will be required to offer the IN College Core with secondary class credits reflected on their high school transcripts. The bill establishes the reverse transfer program for community college associate degrees and requires all institutions that offer baccalaureate programs to review their programs and by July 1, 2025 identify at least one baccalaureate program specifically structured to allow a student to graduate in 3 years. Committee testimony revealed low income high schools were less likely to offer College Core, which leads to lower college bound rates. The bill, which will ultimately move to Appropriations where there is a bottleneck of bills, was held for further consideration and potential amendments next week.
Also on the education track, the House passed the first of their “agenda” bills Thursday morning. HB1002 formally defines “antisemitism” and specifies that the public policy of the state is to provide educational opportunities free of religious discrimination. The bill passed Committee and the full House without any “nay” votes, while several visitors were removed from the House gallery for disrupting debate on the House floor while others chanted “Free Palestine” in the hall (completely permissible). The bill will now move to the Senate for their consideration.
Your updated Bill Track – all bills are filed and publicly available now – is attached with each bill marked as High, Medium, and Low Priority. There are likely other bills of interest, but we have left many off if they are unlikely to get further consideration. If they do begin to get traction, we will add them to your Track. As always, please let us know if you would like us to remove any bills, add any bills or change the priority coding of any bill.
Be sure to check out the Important Dates section at the end. Remember that Committee meetings only require 24 hours’ notice, so there will be several more hearings – likely on bills you’re interested in – next week, but they are not yet posted.
Here are highlights from action this week on your bills:
- Last year, the legislature created the Career Scholarship Account (CSA) program in HB1002 to support HS students as they pursue more work-based learning opportunities. This year, the bill’s author, Rep. Goodrich (R-Noblesville), is back with HB1001 expanding the use of the CSA’s to provide for greater hands-on training and to cover the costs of a driver’s license IF it is necessary to pursue the work-based learning. Democrats expressed concern that the funding is coming from the 21st Century Scholarship Fund vs. creating a separate funding stream to ensure adequate support for those going the traditional 4-year college route AND those pursuing apprenticeships and other hands-on training. The bill passed both the House Education and Ways and Means Committees on party-line votes and will be considered by the full House next week.
- HB1093 is presented as a bill that would ensure state language regarding the employment of minors mirrors federal language. It has raised eyebrows as it allows greater employment for those as young as 14 and confirms that young people from the Amish & Mennonite communities who often stop traditional schooling at 8th grade can begin working. A few small businesses spoke in support of the bill and the AFL CIO opposed it as they support the state having stricter child labor laws than the federal government. The bill was amended in committee to require the submission of a statement from a parent to an employer verifying the child has been excused from compulsory education in order to be exempt from hourly work restrictions.
- As amended in Committee, HB1102 is meant to increase accessibility and affordability of childcare through regulation changes that will increase the number of hours per day and days per year that a childcare worker can work. It also creates a new category of “registered childcare providers” that would be a step down from “licensed childcare providers” in addition to barring any local governments from “zoning providers out of existence.” Most stakeholders see these changes as positive steps to increase access while still protecting the health and safety of children. Because the amendments were provided late to many members of the Committee, the Chair held the bill until the next meeting, hoping to answer any questions and ultimately get unanimous support.
- Pointing out a need for balancing economic development efforts between established corporations and younger firms manufacturing a new product, Rep. Teshka has introduced HB1165 to create a “regulatory sandbox” where the IEDC could work with firms to potentially waive some regulations as they startup and create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee heard from a variety of stakeholders with support and also some concerns over the details. Ultimately, the bill was held until next week with the author expressing a desire to work on amendments to address some of those concerns.
- Senator Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) introduced the childcare bill (SB2) by once again remarking that he has come to see childcare as infrastructure – just as important as roads, sewer, water, etc. The amended bill (1) moves forward the timeline for regulatory assessment and recommendations for improvement; (2) increases the childcare employment pool by lowering the age requirement from 21 to 18 (and to 16 with special provisions), providing subsidy programs, and allowing “substitute teachers;” (3) creating 3 microcenters as a trial program; and (4) using data to drive future decisions. The bill received strong support from stakeholders, including E-REP, as we joined with other local Chambers of Commerce to speak in favor of the bill. It passed 11-0 out of Public Health Committee and must be recommitted for another hearing in Senate Appropriations that will hopefully happen next week.
- SB3 is this year’s attempt to further reduce healthcare costs by putting strict limits on insurance companies’ prior authorization (PA) requirements. The IN Chamber and Manufacturers Association were the main opponents of the bill in committee, worried that it would actually increase employer costs as utilization of services increases. Health care providers and the Hoosiers for Affordable Healthcare (normally on the same side as employers) spoke in favor of the bill noting the increased costs from administering PA and from delays in receiving care. The bill passed 10-0 and was recommitted to Appropriations for a 2nd hearing.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SJR19 on Wednesday. The Joint Resolution authored by Sen. Messmer (R-Jasper) proposes to add House and Senate members as voting members to various boards, commissions and committees as an attempt to make these boards, etc. “more responsive to the legislature.” No members of the public spoke about the Resolution, but some members of the Committee expressed concerns about interference with the separation of Administrative and Legislative powers. The Resolution passed the Committee on a party line 8-3 vote and moves to the full Senate.
- HB1003 would dissolve the Office of Environmental Adjudication (OEA) and transfer cases to the Office of Administrative Law Proceedings (OALP). As amended, concerns of many in the business community and the Indiana Bar Association with maintaining environmental expertise have been addressed. Bill passed as amended January 17.
- Secretary Jenner testified before House Education committee, setting forth details of Rep. Behning’s (R-Indianapolis) HB1243 that includes a computer science requirement for high school graduation. Currently 91% of Indiana schools offer a computer science class, but only 7% of students enroll in the classes, “It is important that our students are ready with these skills,” said Jenner. Still, skepticism persisted that there was even a need for such a class, “It shocks me to suggest that students need any more time learning the benefits of computers – it absolutely shocks me. I go into the supermarket and see two year olds with ipads in their hands. I have a feeling what we’re doing is taking something that’s happening organically and requiring it of people who are already doing it,” claimed Rep Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis).
- HB 1399 deals with Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS), which are nearly ubiquitous in our waste streams. These chemicals have been used for many years in manufacturing and other applications. Regulation of PFAS chemicals varies by state as we await clear direction from federal regulators. The bill codifies a definition of PFAS and directs the Environmental Rules Board to use the definition in future rulemakings. The bill originated with the American Chemistry Council and has been generally supported by the business community.
- SB4 emerged as a result of the efforts of the Government Reform Task Force. It requires the State Budget Agency to prepare a report of all funds not utilized in the past two fiscal years. The report will be presented in the fall prior to each session for review by the General Assembly, with LSA providing oversight. Sen Chris Garten (R-Charlestown) estimates the State could recoup approximately $40M in its first review cycle, with unused state funds returned to the General Fund, “If we have money sitting in some ignored fund going unused, we are not being the best possible stewards of Hoosiers’ tax dollars,” Garten said.
- SB15 from Evansville Senator Jim Tomes would require the IN Dept. of Labor to work with the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs to create posters outlining benefits and services available to veterans that would be required for display by business with at least 50 employees. The Committee passed the bill 7-0 sending it on to the full Senate for consideration.
- Under current law, cities in a Riverfront Redevelopment District are able to obtain additional alcoholic beverage permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. To “level the playing field,” Senator Holdman filed SB20 to allow towns and municipalities of any size to take advantage of this opportunity. The Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee approved the bill 12-0 on Tuesday.
- SB58 narrowly defines what a “specialty market” is and defines eligibility for a market with an existing retailer’s alcohol permit to increase their carryout business above the current 40% limit of the market’s overall business. The bill passed the Public Policy Committee 8-0 and was recommitted to the Tax & Fiscal Committee for further consideration.
- SB61 would allow communities to create Tourism Improvement Districts that would establish a funding mechanism from entities within the district to support tourism related amenities and activities in the district. E-REP provided a letter of support for the idea to the Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee in advance of their hearing on Tuesday where they heard from other supporters (and no opponents), and ultimately held the bill for potential future consideration.
- Senator Brown (R-Fort Wayne) introduced SB133 with a goal to make the process for certification of minority-owned businesses more simple by combining some municipal certifications with state certifications. At the beginning of the committee hearing, the bill was amended to only collect data and increase reporting and transparency. The original bill met strong opposition from many minority business owners in Indianapolis, which led to the amendment. After lengthy presentations from the public, the Committee held the bill for further consideration. It’s unclear whether it will be brought back for a vote.
- Sen Liz Brown’s (R-Ft Wayne) SB148, the Dept of Workforce Development bill, sailed 9-0 through Senate Pensions Committee on Wednesday. The bill, which hopes to “provide good clean data” and help DWD to evaluate the effectiveness of programs, revamps the current collection of workforce data collection, requiring employers to provide an employee’s current standardized classification code and starting compensation on an employee’s withholding allowance certificate, requires certain state providers to provide information to the management performance hub, and that information be made available to the DWD and Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.
- SB155 attempts to provide potential compensation for the loss of business value resulting from a condemnation action. Typically, owners are compensated for loss of real property. SB 155 defines a “going concern” that includes intangibles such as goodwill and reputation for dependability. Local government opposes the bill citing limitations of federal law and the potential for increased cost.
- The Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee approved SB190 on Tuesday with a 8-0 vote. The bill is part of Governor Holcomb’s agenda and will update state disaster relief efforts by allowing the state fund (funded by taxes on fireworks sales) by decoupling from federal relief, increasing the amount awarded, and allowing some funds to be used for mitigation, not just relief.
- Indiana has 11 historical sites, including Angel Mounds in Evansville. Legislators are concerned with the care being given to the sites currently by the Indiana State Museum. SB 209 establishes a Historic Sites Division within the Department of Natural Resources transferring control of the sites and the funding used to support. The bill passed easily out of committee and was recommitted to the Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy.
- One bill to come out of the Interim Government Reform Task Force is SB297, which will require state agencies to perform a cost/benefit analysis for any rules and add legislative oversight to any that are estimated to cost a million dollars or more. The bill passed committee 9-2.
- HB1277 updates and aligns IN statute with federal language for the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. The bill had support from a broad range of stakeholders in Committee and sailed through 11-0. Next stop is the House floor.
- Tuesday, January 23
- House Local Government
- HB1329 Local Government Matters (Pressel)
- Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy
- House Government & Regulatory Reform
- House Local Government
- Wednesday, January 24
- Tuesday, January 30: EREP Day at the Statehouse
- Monday, February 5: Deadline for House Bills to pass the House
- Tuesday, February 6: Deadline for Senate Bills to pass the Senate