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Indiana Legislative Update – Deadlines Are Looming…

The sixth week of the 2023 legislative session has wrapped up.  Lawmakers have had a busy week, passing priority bills with bipartisan support such as HB1009 that builds on efforts to support women and children; HB1002 cleared House Ways and Means to create more flexibility for work-based learning; and HB1003 which provides employers with less than 50 employees who have adopted a health reimbursement arrangement in lieu of a traditional employer provided health insurance plan a state tax credit, and ironing out details with stakeholders of agenda bills.

Next week the Indiana House will be finishing up their work on the budget, HB1001, “building upon the success of where Indiana is right now,” said Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers), “We hope to build on our foundation with historic spending on K-12, roads and infrastructure, women and children, public health and READI grants and expanding school choice,” said Huston.

The Indiana budget agency reported monthly general fund collections, which overachieved again in January when “notably, better-than-expected collections from sales tax, individual income tax, interest, insurance, and miscellaneous revenues outweighed lower-than-expected collections from corporate taxes. This coincides with news that Hoosiers will not be required to pay federal tax on taxpayer refunds Indiana residents received due to excess state reserves in 2022.  

Hot button issues rose to the surface as we approached the halfway point.  The Hoosier state has been a holdout on cannabis reform, resistant to decriminalizing marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use. Still, Rep Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville), invited a hearing for HB1297 to decriminalize marijuana in the Courts and Criminal Code Committee where there was “a discussion, but no vote” on the measure, with stakeholders pointing to “buyers’ remorse in other states.”

This week over 100 faith leaders from across the state, “unified by our deep concern regarding bills introduced by the Indiana General Assembly that unfairly target the LGBTQ community- particularly transgender youth,” signed onto a letter urging lawmakers “to join us in this public commitment to equality, respect and justice for all by opposing the Slate of Hate.”  The ACLU claims legislators have put forward an onslaught of bills targeting LGBTQ Hoosiers, noting that even when these laws don’t pass, they affect trans people’s mental health and serve to shift public opinion — largely for the worse. Speaker Todd Huston said lawmakers were trying to find a balance between parental rights and protecting kids, “I don’t think it’s hate.  It’s a difference of opinion,” said Huston. 

A dustup between the Senate Appropriations and State Budget Chair, Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka) and Mishawaka Marian High School school has resulted in the anticipated demise of SB305, the controversial ESA bill which expands school CHOICE in Indiana. Mishler released a statement last Friday in what he called a “transparent record” of his dealings with the school after being informed the Dept of Education “had limited authority over voucher schools”.  Mishler vowed to not support “one additional dollar” on the voucher program until lawmakers enact policies to “protect kids from abusive behavior and treatment”.  Marian High School, a catholic voucher school the Senator’s son attends, received $2.78M in vouchers for the 2021-2022 academic year from the State of Indiana.  Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) responded to questions about the bill, saying he was “extremely disappointed” in Mishler’s letter, “He had a bad experience that he extrapolated to an entire program – our caucus is 100% committed to it,” said Huston.

Your updated bill report is attached; bills are listed numerically within High, Medium, and Low Priority rankings. If you believe we should change a ranking for any bill or make any other changes to your report, please let us know. Here are updates on action this week followed by a list of committee hearings or other upcoming events/deadlines that are on our radar. 

  • One of the House GOP priority bills, HB1002, will “redesign High School” with an emphasis on increasing the exposure for HS students to work-based learning options and career opportunities. After passing out of House Education Committee earlier this month, the Ways & Means Committee heard the bill on Wednesday and made several changes to alleviate some of the concerns, though clearly not all. The W&M Committee voted 15-7 to pass the bill to the House floor where there are likely a few more changes before the bill gets to the Senate. 
  • HB1003, another agenda bill, emerged from House Insurance committee 9-4 this week. The bill provides employers with less than 50 employees who have adopted a health reimbursement arrangement in lieu of a traditional employer provided health insurance plan a state tax credit. Due to the fiscal impact of the bill it will have to stop in Ways & Means Committee for further consideration next week.
  • HB1160, which passed out of Family and Children 12-0 and Ways and Means Committee 24-0, requires FSSA and DWD, in consultation with Erksine Green Training Institute, to establish a workforce training pilot program. “It is an excellent pilot program that helps underemployed and unemployed get back to work and provides wonderful wraparound services to address childcare or other obstacles to employment,” said Rep Carolyn Jackson (D- Hammond).  The popular bill passed the House 92-0 and moves to the Senate.
  • Two bills that would increase the number of HS graduates able to take advantage of the 21st Century Scholar program have taken steps forward. HB1449 passed the House 92-1 to send it to the Senate; while SB435 passed out of Senate Education Committee 12-0 and will have to go to the Appropriations Committee before reaching the Senate floor. The scholarship provides significant need-based financial aid for students who achieve goals established regarding attendance, grades, involvement, etc. and “with 10 times return on investment in increased state and local tax,” reported Rep Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis).  “This is one of the most important bills of this session,” said Rep Vernon Smith (D-Gary), “Our greatest natural resource in this state is our people.  We need to invest in our people.”
  • SB1 passed unanimously in the Senate this week with emotional testimony by Sen Michael Crider (R-Greenfield) dedicating the bill to a friend who committed suicide. The bill helps clinics become “certified community behavioral clinics” which qualifies these facilities for federal funding opportunities and establishes a 988 suicide and crisis hotline.
  • Noting that it’s been more than 20 years since the last comprehensive review of state and local taxes under Gov. O’Bannon, Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) introduced SB3 to his Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee members to establish the State & Local Tax Review Task Force of legislators, state budget leaders, and a university economist to meet over the next 2 years. The Task Force will review all state debt, the various revenue sources at the state and local level, methods for eliminating the state’s income tax, and the overall financial position of the state to make recommendations before December 31, 2024. The bill passed Committee 13-0 and looks to have a smooth sail through the rest of the process. 
  • SB4 is the result of the Public Health Commission’s work over the last 12+ months to review how public health services are delivered across the state and how increased investment from the state could improve those services and ultimately improve Hoosier health. The increased funds can support new or increased work on issues such as tobacco cessation, trauma injury prevention, maternal health, free health screenings, and the opportunities for schools to keep in stock certain medications. As amended by both the Senate Public Health Committee (passed 12-0) and the Appropriations Committee (passed 14-0), the bill will establish a fund in the biennial budget: local communities will develop a plan to address certain health issues and apply to the state department of health. If the state department approves the plan, the plan then goes to the state budget committee where legislators and budget leaders will have to review and approve the plan to release the funds to the local community. This step of approval by the budget committee is meant to address concerns raised by some citizens and local government leaders about a state “takeover” of health decisions. The bill now moves to the full Senate for further consideration. 
  • In SB155 The Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) seeks to amend Indiana Code to allow the Environmental Pollution Control Board (Board) to have the authority to amend air permitting fees “on a time frame and in an amount” the Board determines necessary to maintain the Title V Air Permitting Program. The program must be funded entirely by fees collected from permit holders and includes a base permit cost plus a charge based on emissions. As emissions decrease over time, funding for the program subsides. This, in addition to natural cost increases, puts pressure on IDEM to seek more funding from permittees. In 2019, the Legislature amended the permit fee statute to allow for increases with limits (once in five years/no more than 10%). Air fees need to be increased greater than the 2019 limits to maintain the solvency of the program. The Senate Environmental Committee amended the bill Monday to allow the base fee to increase to $6,100 starting in 2024 and to keep the guardrails limiting the frequency and amount of future increases passed in 2019 in place. SB 155 was recommitted to the committee on appropriations.
  • HB1081, which aligns with SB300, removes the threshold conditions that apply to a county or municipality for establishing a residential housing development program and a tax increment allocation area for the program.  In spite of the measure creating concern for its impact on schools, the bill passed out of Local Govt Committee 8-3 and was recommitted to Ways and Means for further consideration. 
  • Rep Robert Cherry (R-Greenfield)’s controversial HB1085 targeting TIFs underwent significant changes in House Ways and Means Committee early this week and then a few more changes on second reading Thursday. Economic developers have considerable concerns about the viability of TIF as a development tool if the bill were to pass in current form. While it is expected the bill will pass the House next week, we also expect more changes in the Senate if the bill gets any traction in that body.
  • Rep Shane Lindauer’s (R-Jasper) HB1106 provides a tax credit for a taxpayer that enters into an agreement with the IEDC for a qualified investment for development of property located on reclaimed coal mining land. The bill, which hopes to get the IEDC to give a second look to some of the more underserved, rural communities, passed out of the House 94-0.
  • HB1179 streamlines professional licensing and attempts to apply components passed in 2022 to occupations and professions outside of healthcare. The bill passed the House 86-7 on Thursday and moves to the Senate.
  • HB1382 creates a competitive grant process for schools working in a public-private partnership to receive funding to support their robotics programs. The goal is to promote robotics programs in K-12 schools and increase the number of students pursuing STEM fields. The bill passed the House Tuesday with a 91-0 vote.
  • HB1499 was called to the House floor for second reading by Rep Jeff Thompson (R-Lizton) with no amendments proposed to the complex property tax bill, which appeared to surprise lawmakers. The measure provides multiple remedies to temporarily drop tax bills, including through a short-term property tax cap and an increase in state income tax deductions. It would also curb how much local units can raise their tax levies in 2024 and 2025. The property tax relief has drawn criticism from schools and concern by local units of government.
  • SB298 amends the statute governing infrastructure improvement charges for water and wastewater utilities. Rarely seen in legislative battles, the utilities, rate payers and Citizens Action Coalition all supported the bill in committee. SB 298 passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and has been sent to the House for further consideration.
  • Senator Zay offers SB320 requiring an assessment of brownfields in all counties to be done by the Public Policy Institute at Indiana University. The original bill would have earmarked READI grant funds to pay for the study, which gave us great concern. Thankfully, it was amended in committee on Monday to remove the READI grant portion. A cost to the county for the assessment remains in the bill. The bill was held in committee for further consideration.
  • HB1132 creates a land use task force to look at growth trends in Indiana with a goal of fostering smart growth and better planning of development. The bill passed the House 96-0 on Tuesday and will await action in the Senate later this Session.
  • Specific to the City of Evansville, SB473 could save the city up to $40 million in pollution control costs. Current law requires dischargers to the river contribute no “net” increase in pollutants. At issue here is the removal of mercury already present in the water withdrawn from the river. In essence, the bill would codify the variance process currently available. The bill was voted out of committee on Tuesday with a commitment from the bill’s author to continue working on the bill with IDEM. 
  • The controversial Sen Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) SB12 stumbled all the way to passage out of Senate Judiciary Committee 7-4 this week with Sen Liz Brown (R-Ft Wayne) at the helm. The hearing began with a Chairman’s amendment the bill author “had never seen” and midway through the hour-long testimony the Chair proposed an amendment to restore SB12 as introduced, having mistakenly stricken the majority of the bill in the chairman’s amendment, much to the dismay of committee members bitterly objecting to amendments made “on the fly”. In the end, testimony boiled down to opponents of the bill expressing concern that SB12 is “setting up a process to send librarians to jail” and complaints that, “It appears opponents of the bill have no trust in school boards” (they aren’t wrong). Sen Rodney Pol (D-Chesterton), who likened the bill to “treating dandruff with decapitation” now requires libraries to provide a list of books for review by parents, successfully removed the defense for school libraries with regard to materials harmful to minors, with colleges, museums, and public libraries retaining their defense. “It’s not gonna fix everything, but at least it will take away the argument as a defense that it’s educational,” Tomes said. The bill now moves to the Senate floor with an expectation of second reading amendments.

Important Dates:

    Monday, February 20
    – House Education Committee, 8:00 a.m.
    HB1591 Education Matters (Behning)
    – Senate Environmental Affairs Committee, 9:00 a.m.
    SB247 Carbon Sequestration (Niemeyer)
    SB320 Environmental Waste Inventory & Grant Program (Zay)
    – House Ways & Means Committee, 10:00 a.m.
    HB1001 State Budget (Thompson)
    – House Agriculture & Rural Development, 10:30 a.m.
    HB1097 Healthy Food Incubator Program (Shackelford)
    – House Public Health Committee, 10:30 a.m.
    HB1004 Health Care Matters (Schaibley)

    Tuesday, February 21
    **Deadline for House bills to pass out of Committee
    – House Ways & Means Committee 8:30 a.m.
    HB1008 Pension Investments (Manning)
    – Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy, 8:30 a.m.
    SB261 Economic Development Districts (Buchanan)
    SB417 Various Tax Matters (Baldwin)
    SB419 State Tax Matters (Holdman)

    Thursday, February 23
    **Deadline for Senate bills to pass out of Committee

    Tuesday, March 14
    – E-REP Day at the Statehouse, Indianapolis

    *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.