Lawmakers wrapped up their fourth week of the 2024 legislative session, pushing the majority of priority bills through with committee approval before deadlines tolled. As we approached the halfway point this week, debates grew long-winded and occasionally tense as differences of opinion rose to the surface. The General Assembly returns next week for a short week to close out the first half of session, with 3rd reading deadlines on Monday and Tuesday, for the House and Senate respectively.
While statehouse regulars were surprised that the subject of childcare access and affordability was assigned to the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, the Committee Chair Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) took the subject matter to heart and has become the unexpected champion of the issue, telling anyone who will listen that “childcare is an infrastructure issue.” And, this week, legislators on both sides of the Statehouse passed bills impacting the industry.
Charbonneau repeated the infrastructure line frequently as he ushered SB2 through the first half of the legislative process. SB2 is a comprehensive bill that addresses regulatory standards while maintaining health and safety standards. It allows for those under 21 to work in childcare, creates substitute instructor credentials, establishes microcenters, and provides data for future discussions. The bill passed the Senate 48-1 on Tuesday.
Another Senate Bill, SB147, has moved through the amendment process and awaits a vote next week by the full Senate. The bill provides a property tax exemption to for-profit and employer-based child care providers. After input from the business community, including E-REP, the bill was amended to enable multiple employers to come together to provide a single source provider that could qualify for the exemption. While we watch the potential impact to local funding, the current data shows that the property tax exemptions will be a small impact to the local government budgets, but should be helpful in improving access to quality care.
The House also moved a bill forward, HB1102, that attempts to provide some regulatory relief to childcare providers and increases the types of facilities that can accept voucher payments. Some of the provisions go farther than SB2 and raised concerns that the safety of the children might be somewhat at risk. This increased the opposition to the bill passing with a 75-21 vote.
And finally, Governor Holcomb’s office announced Monday that the Child Development Associate and other early childhood education programs have been added to the Workforce Ready Grant and Employer Training Grants. The “Next Level Jobs” programs allow Hoosiers to pursue training and certificates at little to no cost. It is hoped that this new grant will strengthen the childcare workforce and increase access to the much-needed care for working families.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the IN Legislature the past few years includes attempts to manage the City of Indianapolis. This year, that includes 2 main tactics. The first is SB52, which prevents until July 1, 2025, the further development of “dedicated lanes” for public transportation and passed the Senate 35-14 on Monday. The City has argued this will put a stop to the Blue Line currently in final planning stages and eligible for millions in federal funding. The 2nd issue comes from HB1199, which repeals the law the Legislature just passed last year allowing the City to establish an Economic Enhancement District in the “Mile Square” area. That bill passed the House 64-29 on Monday; along with HB1121 that instead allows the Indy City-County Council to pass an additional income tax with funds dedicated toward the Mile Square improvements. The City has opposed this effort, because it would put Indy’s tax at a higher rate than neighboring communities. These issues will continue to dominate headlines through the 2nd half of Session.
E-REP Legislation of Interest
Your updated Bill Track is attached with each bill marked as High, Medium, and Low Priority. We have removed “dead” bills this week, as any bill that has not survived a committee hearing will not be considered any longer. The contents of those dead bills could show up in an amendment somewhere else, but the bill number is dead for the Session. 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.
You’ll notice the Important Dates section is a little light this week due to no committee hearings next week during deadline week. Activity will be strong again starting Monday, February 12th.
Here are highlights from action this week on your bills:
- HB1093 will 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. The bill requires 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.
- Though Rep. Teshka’s bill to create a “regulatory sandbox” to encourage entrepreneurship, HB1165, passed the Government Affairs Committee 8-3 last week after being amended to address significant concerns, the bill is now dead. Because it had a fiscal impact, the bill was recommitted to the Ways & Means Committee for further consideration and did not receive a hearing there before the deadline this week.
- For over a decade, literacy rates – as well as retention rates – have declined in the Hoosier state, as schools softened their standards for holding students back and allowed for social promotion. SB1 attempts to address the literacy crisis in Indiana where one in five students fail to pass ILEARN. Sen Linda Roger’s (R-Granger) bill which requires assessments in K-2 and expands eligibility for summer school, provides that beginning in the 2024-25 school year, students will have three attempts to pass ILEARN, in 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and the summer after 3rd grade. Those who don’t pass will be eligible for summer school focused on literacy, and parents would be notified of their skill level, as well as any interventions needed. Students who fail to pass in third grade and do not receive a “common sense” exemption will repeat 3rd grade. “People say how you spend your money shows what is important to you. I believe that is true with our state budget. Almost half of our general fund goes to K-12 education. Being able to read is the foundation to education. Reading is one of the most fundamental things schools need to teach our children,” said Rogers, “SB1 puts us on a path so that all Hoosier children learn to read and Indiana has great educators in the state – and we believe they will rise to this goal.” The bill successfully passed from the Senate (36-13) and heads to the House for further consideration.
- While statehouse regulars were surprised that the subject of childcare access and affordability was assigned to the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, the Committee Chair Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) took the subject matter to heart and has become the unexpected champion of the issue, telling anyone who will listen that “childcare is an infrastructure issue.” He repeated that frequently as he ushered SB2 through the first half of the legislative process. SB2 is a comprehensive bill that addresses regulatory standards while maintaining health and safety standards. It allows for those under 21 to work in childcare, creates substitute instructor credentials, establishes microcenters, and provides data for future discussions. The bill passed the Senate 48-1 on Tuesday.
- In an uncommon move, SB3, one of the Senate GOP’s “agenda bills” died in the Appropriations Committee this week after it did not get a hearing. The bill put strict limits on insurance companies’ prior authorization (PA) requirements as an attempt to address healthcare costs and had previously passed the Senate Public Health Committee on a 10-0 vote despite testimony from some insurance providers that it would actually increase costs. The language could be revived in an amendment later in the Session, but that appears unlikely.
- SB6, a companion bill to SB1, tracks older students in our educational system, and requires the IDOE to develop a method to identify, and provide guidance to schools to provide support for students who were promoted from grades 4 through 8 despite not passing IREAD and are at-risk of not being proficient in reading. Sen Jeff Raatz’s (R-Richmond) bill to address the literacy crisis in the Hoosier state received bipartisan support and passed out of the Senate 49-0.
- Another Senate Bill, SB147, has moved through the amendment process and awaits a vote next week by the full Senate. The bill provides a property tax exemption to for-profit and employer-based child care providers. After input from the business community, including E-REP, the bill was amended to enable multiple employers to come together to provide a single source provider that could qualify for the exemption. While we watch the potential impact to local funding, the current data shows that the property tax exemptions will be a small impact to the overall local government budgets, but should be helpful in improving access to quality care.
- A follow-up bill to 2023’s SB1, Senator Mike Crider (R-Greenfield) has moved SB233 this year to clean up some of the language regarding Community Mental Health Center recognition and Indiana’s efforts to be consistent with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic model and receive funding through the established pilot programs. There was some community discussion about the need for psychiatric service requirements and an admitted need to work around limitations in the workforce. Ultimately the bill passed Committee 13-0 and goes to the full Senate.
- Senator Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) presented SJR19 for a final Senate vote on Thursday saying “our Founders never anticipated the power of unelected bureaucrats.” The Joint Resolution gives House and Senate members currently serving on statewide boards and commissions the power to vote vs. the current advisory role. Legislators hope the voting power will “give the people we represent a more effective voice when dealing with these executive functions” and make them “more responsive to the legislature.” The Resolution passed the Senate 49-0 and moves to the House. It must pass the House this year and then again pass the Senate and the House in 2025 or 2026 before appearing on the statewide ballot as a constitutional amendment.
- HB1183 emerged from the House Ag Committee unanimously under the wire to meet the deadline for House bills to pass out of committee this week. The bill, authored by Rep Culp (R-Collegeville) prohibits the adversarial purchase or leasing of Indiana farmland by individuals, business entities, LLC, or private or public government agencies from the countries of Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela are prohibited. This includes the purchase or lease of water, mineral or riparian rights as well, effective July 1. It grandfathers all past transactions. “This is not just an ag issue,” said Rep Culp, “This is a food security issue. A food security issue can quickly become a national security issue.” The bill passed 95-0.
- An attempt to help “specialty markets” increase their sales, SB58 allows those markets with existing retailer’s (alcohol) permits to increase their carryout business above the current 40% limit of the market’s overall business. The Senate passed the bill with a 42-7 vote on Tuesday.
- Senate Tax & Fiscal took up SB61 for the 2nd hearing on Tuesday and amended the bill to enable communities to establish Tourism Improvement Districts (TID) if 65% of the businesses in the district and 65% of the owners’ assessed real property value support it. It also excludes Marion County (Indy) from being able to create a TID, which created some concern from the Indy-area legislators who pointed out that HB1199 is moving through the legislature eliminating Indy’s ability to do something similar. The ensuing committee conversation indicated that Senate leaders want to keep the bill moving forward as is (excluding Indy) in order to be able to negotiate during the final weeks of session on these sorts of taxing districts and the final decisions related to downtown Indianapolis. The bill passed Committee 12-0 and will be considered by the full Senate next week.
- Sen Liz Brown (R-Ft Wayne) presented SB132 in Senate Appropriations committee, a bill to “make sure dentists receive the payments they deserve,” said Brown. The bill, amended in committee to provide “cleanup language for health facility administrator licensing for risk-based managed care, the new FSSA program for nursing home assisted living providers, provides 180 days for onboarding and a temporary financial assistance plan to provide gap funding during the managed care rollout. The bill emerged from committee 13-1 and moves to the Senate floor for full consideration.
- SB148 author Sen Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) says she hopes the bill will “provide good clean data” to help DWD evaluate the effectiveness of programs through requiring employers to provide an employee’s current standardized classification code and starting compensation on an employee’s withholding allowance certificate. The info will go to the state’s management performance hub, and made available to the DWD and Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.
- SB 206 is the IDEM agency bill for this year. The introduced version contained language on easements and restrictive covenants and created a cause of action to gain access to property in need of remediation where an owner resisted. These two items were too much of a load on the bill and were stripped out in committee this week. The remaining content of the bill deals with email communication by the agency and enhancements to the permitting of biomass gasification facilities.
- SB264 creates an exemption for religious communities (eg: the Amish) from worker’s compensation participation requirements similar to the exemptions they have for programs such as Social Security. The bill establishes the process an employee must pursue to be exempt. In committee, immunity from civil liability for an employer of those with valid exceptions was added, with the exception of negligence and types of misconduct. The bill has advanced to the House for consideration.
- While several bills were filed this session to rein in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) after the creation of the LEAP district in Boone County and the water and other utility issues related to it, the only bill really gaining traction is SB295. The bill adds two legislators as non-voting members to the IEDC Board and requires at least 30-days’ notice prior to the purchase of more than 100 acres in a community. The Senate passed the bill 44-5 on Thursday sending it to the House for consideration.
- Monday, February 5: Deadline for House Bills to pass the House
- Tuesday, February 6: Deadline for Senate Bills to pass the Senate