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Indiana Legislative Update – March: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb (fingers crossed!)

Markets, regulators and Main Street are nervous after Silicon Valley Bank  and Signature Bank collapsed last week, the second and third largest bank failures in U.S. history. This week began with an announcement that Credit Suisse, a major international banking institution, had also failed, “Given recent extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, the announced merger with UBS represents the best available outcome,” said Credit Suisse Chair Lehmann. Within hours, the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of England, Swiss National Bank, Bank of Canada and Bank of Japan announced coordinated action to boost liquidity in US dollar swap arrangements. On Wednesday the Fed hiked its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point. Will inflation, higher interest rates, and bank collapse headlines impact the Indiana budget? We’ll know in a few weeks.

Back home (again) in Indiana, lawmakers wrapped up another week of session with Republicans, typically staunch advocates for parental rights, finding themselves in the position of defending SB480 which bans gender transition procedures for minors and the use of hormones or puberty blockers by the end of 2023. Democrat Rep Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) proposed four amendments to soften the bill, the final amendment subjecting the State to potential litigation should a minor be removed from treatment and commit suicide.  Rep Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis) rallied his colleagues, “We all know what a difficult and unpleasant topic this is. Is Robin Shackleford the only one who cares about this? The silence is deafening!” exclaimed Delaney, “If our judgment is wrong, we as a state should pay,” said Delaney. Rep Joanna King (R-Middlebury), House sponsor of the controversial bill, remained resolute, “It is critical we offer help to these children, but the help currently being given is not helpful. Why should the state be culpable for unproven irreversible treatments that are causing harm to minors?” SB480, which will return for final vote in the House next week, and HB1608, which bans “human sexuality” discussion in K-3rd grade classrooms and emerged from Senate Education Committee 9-4, drew a vocal crowd to the statehouse this week. 

As we inch our way closer to the end of session, we celebrate (some of the) bills that have made their way through the arduous legislative process and to the Governor’s desk for signature.  You can watch the progress of your bills of interest at the following link:  Governor Holcomb:  2023 Bill Watch.  Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Please find your updated bill report; bills are listed numerically within High, Medium and Low Priority rankings. And below, you’ll find updates on your bills that had action this week and a list of relevant committee hearings scheduled at this time – reminder that these only require a 24ish-hour notice, so the schedule changes frequently. 

  • HB1006 was “tweaked” this week to specifically include the use of medications in treatment plans, “The intent of the amendment is the same as the intent of the bill,” said Rep Steurerwald (R-Avon). That is, to specify that a court can order an individual to receive treatment (including medication) and streamlines the process to “get people the mental health services they need.”  Stakeholders were overwhelmingly in support of the bill, which addresses what they see as a persistent challenge in Indiana where there are “still too many people in jail when they could be making productive steps in treatment.” Those opposed voiced concerns the bill is “egregiously unconstitutional” with the Indiana Disability Rights (IDR) and NAMI of Indiana citing potential due process violation concerns, “We need a judge to sign off on treatments, not just a doctor.”  Rep Liz Brown (R-Ft Wayne) felt the language of the bill continued to be overly broad. “The intent of the bill is to prevent them from going to jail. That is the alternative here,” said Rep Steuerwald, “We are trying to keep them out of jail. I prefer treatment over jail.” The bill passed out of committee 7-1 and was recommitted to Appropriations. However, in an interview Thursday, Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) indicated upcoming changes to the bill in the works to clarify language regarding those with intellectual disabilities, “Rep Steuerwald is working through the process,” said Huston.
  • E-REP remains interested in and supportive of language in HB1591 – a comprehensive education bill – specific to enhancing the community’s work to support early learning education via the On My Way PreK program. The program-related language in this bill is partnered with budget allocations in HB1001 to continue to increase the number of children given access to quality early childcare/learning programs. The Senate Education Committee passed the bill with an 11-2 vote on Wednesday after several amendments, including some minor changes to the language we are interested in. One of the amendments makes 4 year olds eligible for school choice scholarships (vouchers), which could increase access for many children, but also pushes the bill into the brewing fight over school vouchers and required the bill to be recommitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration. 
  • SB271 will allow Certified Technology Parks (CTP’s), such as Innovation Pointe in downtown Evansville, to retain more of the income taxes generated in the district. The increased amount of income taxes retained will be used to continue supporting entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities to help start and grow businesses. The Ways & Means Committee heard the bill this week and E-REP lobbyist Sally Rideout shared Innovation Pointe’s success story with legislators in support of the bill. The Committee did not take a vote on the bill at this meeting; will continue to push for a successful vote in future meetings. 
  • While originally drafted to establish a civilian cyber corps to assist local governments, etc., HB1266 was amended while in the House to only establish an advisory board who would set the parameters and create the corps that would ultimately do this work and hopefully be fully established with a budgetary allocation in the 2025 budget. About half of the US states have adopted a corps that would ultimately consist of IT experts who would help protect local units of government. The bill passed the Senate Veterans Affairs and the Military Committee 8-0 on Tuesday. 
  • The Senate Tax Committee heard HB1290 this week and learned the value the bill would have in both increasing the workforce participation rate and reducing poverty through increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 12% (currently at 10%) and would “recouple” the IN code with the federal code to change some of the eligibility allowances. The EITC has been shown to reduce the poverty rate by 2.2% in Indiana and increased workforce participation by single mothers by 7%. Rep Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville) is incredibly passionate about the bill noting “we need workers and this will help.” At this point, the Committee is hearing many bills that have a fiscal impact and holding them until they decide which ones, if any, they will move forward near the end of Session based on the state’s fiscal forecast.
  • HB1451 is a Department of Workforce Development bill designed to reduce overall costs of administering the Unemployment Insurance program and make some changes, including allowing individuals to keep more earnings when they are working part-time and also earning unemployment insurance benefits. The bill passed the Senate 42 – 0 and was not amended in the Senate, so it will go straight to the Governor for his consideration.
  • The meat of SB9 is to provide an increased review and permission process by the IN Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to slow down the closure of base-load power plants. In the House, language broadly termed as “deferred accounting” was added in response to a recent Court of Appeals decision regarding accounting and recovery through the IURC rate process. In an effort to ensure this legislation went “on the books” before any appeals were filed, the Senate voted to concur with the changes 29-12 on Monday and by the end of the day Tuesday, the bill had been signed by the Governor.  
  • SB46 is one of several attempts to provide property tax relief while assessed values climb. The bill would allow a county council to create a property tax credit for some or all of the county by designating an area where residential property owners could qualify for capped property tax increases at no more than 2%. The bill is likely a particular help to older/historic homes and neighborhoods. The Ways & Means Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, but did not take action planning to consider the bill and any potential amendments at a later meeting.
  • After many years of trying, SB167 – the bill hoping to increase the number of students/families that complete the Financial Aid for Student Assistance (FAFSA) – has finally passed the House with an 84-9 vote. Similar bills have passed the Senate for the past several years, but never passed the House. This is good news for Hoosier students and can only help our state’s college-going rate. The bill was amended while in the House, so the author, Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenberg) will need to file and pass a Concurrence motion or ask for a conference committee to be formed.
  • SB390 will create the commercial solar and wind energy ready communities development center within the IN Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to establish standards and develop a plan for incentives for local communities that meet those standards to be certified as “ready” for commercial solar and wind development. The proponents hope to leverage federal dollars in these efforts towards decarbonization. The bill passed, unamended, out of committee unanimously.
  • A key result of the four-year 21st Century Energy Taskforce, is HB 1007 – a bill to codify what House Utility Chair Ed Soliday refers to as the “Five Pillars” (reliability, affordability, resilience, stability and environmental sustainability). The bill passed the Senate on Monday 48-0 and because it was amended in the Senate, it will need either a Concurrence vote or will be sent to Conference Committee. 
  • SB33 directs IDEM and the IURC to conduct a joint study concerning the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels and wind power equipment. The bill was amended in the House Utilities Committee to add collaboration by IDEM with IURC and align the due date with other reports they are required to submit. The bill passed to the House floor unanimously on Tuesday and cleared 2nd reading on Thursday without further amendment. It will be ready for 3rd Reading next week.
  • On Monday, the House passed SB298, a bill that could be considered a unicorn due to its popularity with utilities, rate payers, and environmental groups. The bill “cleans up” the statute governing infrastructure improvement charges for water and wastewater utilities. Because the bill was not amended during its time in House, it will head directly to the Governor for his consideration.

Important Dates:

  • Monday, March 27
    • Senate Family & Children Services, 10:00 a.m.
      • HB1160 Workforce Training Pilot Program (Clere)
  • Wednesday, March 29
    • Senate Public Policy, 2:30 p.m.
      • HB1217 Various Alcohol Matters (Manning)
  • Thursday, March 30
    • Senate Commerce & Technology, 10:00 a.m.
      • HB1132 Land Use Task Force (Culp)

*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.