We’re reporting today, because at this point all bills have either passed both houses or they have died…but just because a bill has died doesn’t mean the content from the bill can’t gain life in other bills during the conference committee process over the remaining days of Session. Statehouse regulars call this period “death watch” as everyone fights to keep track of what lives and dies throughout the many moving parts. If a bill passed the 2nd house without any amendments, it goes directly to the Governor’s office after a few signature stops. If a bill was amended in the 2nd house, the bill author will file either a Motion to Concur or Dissent with those amendments. A Motion to Concur requires a vote from the full body to accept the amendments. If the author dissents, a “Conference Committee” of four legislators from both houses are assigned to reconcile the differences and develop a Conference Committee Report that will be the final version of the legislation and must be approved by both houses.
We expect the Legislature to adjourn “Sine Die” (Latin for “without a day” to reconvene) sometime next week. Our next report will come then. In the meantime, you might check in on the Governor’s office “Bill Watch” page where you can track when a bill has arrived for his consideration and the deadline for his action.
One bill that has caused whiplash as it has moved through the process is HB1001. It left the House with controversial language re: employer COVID vaccine mandates along with legislation the Governor had requested to end the COVID emergency authorizations. Those Governor-requested pieces were temporarily removed from HB1001 as they were moving in SB3, which is now dead. So, the Senate had to put that language back in and they have cleaned up much of the vaccination language, though there are still some requirements that are not particularly employer-friendly. The bill now returns to the House where it is assumed to be greeted with a Motion to Concur after a recent interview with Speaker Todd Huston who was asked if HB1001 would pass before the March 4 expiration of Governor Holcomb’s current emergency order declaration and he responded, “You can count on it.” If he is hopeful, we are hopeful.
As you have likely heard, the “divisive concepts” education bill, HB1134, died this week when the Senate did not call the bill down to consider more than a dozen amendments that had been filed to consider. In a press briefing after the bill’s death, President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) noted “at the end of the day, this one was difficult to move for lots of different reasons. We had some members of our caucus who felt it went too far and was too much of a burden on education and just not good policy we wanted to move forward. And some members who felt like it didn’t go far enough.” The next day, the Senate did pass another high-profile bill, HB1041, the bill to ban transgender girls from participating in K-12 girls sports teams/leagues with a 32-18 vote. This bill was not amended while it was in the Senate, so it will move to the Governor’s desk within the next several days where he has signaled that he is likely to sign it.
More bill #’s have fallen off the list, though advocates for any of those bills will likely be looking for bills that are still alive that could become a new “home” for the language they are supporting.
These bills on your Bill Report are already on their way to the Governor’s desk include, either because they were not amended in the 2nd House or a Motion to Concur has been approved:
- SB157 Disposition of Real Property by INDOT
- SB245 Statewide Sports and Tourism Bid Fund
- HB1003 Nursing Programs and Licensing Programs
- HB1318 Childcare Provided by a School Corporation
- SB74 Preferences in Public Works and Public Purchasing
- SB166 Public Private Agreements
- SB264 Administrative Rules Review
- SB365 Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact
- HB1034 Tax Increment Financing
- HB1209 Carbon Sequestration Projects
- SB1 Automatic Tax Refund
- SB119 Taxation of Farm Land
- SB147 Underground Pumped Storage Hydropower
- SB251 Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
- SB271 Small Modular Nuclear Reactors
- SB272 Wastewater Infrastructure
- SB343 Agritourism
These bills on your report have already had a Motion to Concur filed, but it has not yet been approved:
- HB1221 Electric Vehicles and Electricity Pricing
- SB145 Property Tax Matters
- SB411 Commercial Solar and Wind Energy
- SB366 Higher Education Funding
- SB388 Foreign Gifts and Ownership of Land
Here are the highlights from the action this week on other bills (bills are listed as they are in the Report: numerically in order of High, Medium, Low priority):
- Sen Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) presented HB1002, “With this bill the automatic taxpayer language from SB1 was inserted. They cannot move forward with I-gaming without legislative approval. We added Sen Mike Gaskill (R-Pendleton) SB390’s food/beverage/innkeeper tax language, and reinserted language from last year’s budget to trigger for excess revenue to go to the pre-96 teacher retirement fund. The bill passed 49-1 with only Sen Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) in dissent of the measure.
- HB1226 passed the Senate 48-0 on Tuesday after being amended Monday to clean up the Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) language that had been inserted “on-the-fly” during last week’s Committee hearing. The remainder of the bill establishes a Marion County recycling pilot program and changes rules re: Hazardous Waste/Solid Waste permits and beneficial use/legitimate use permits and operations. All indications are that Rep. Speedy will file a Motion to Concur with the Senate-passed version of the bill, and we will likely see that action on Wednesday or Thursday.
- The Senate voted 48-0 to pass HB1306 and establish a housing task force to review issues related to housing and housing shortages in Indiana. The task force will work over the interim and must report their findings no later than November 1st.
- “SB361 modernizes economic development theory and tools in Indiana,” began Ways and Means Chairman Tim “Doc” Brown (R-Crawfordsville). Rep Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) disagreed, “This is not the silver bullet everyone thinks it is. It gives the IEDC a blank check. We are making this up as we go along. This is not the Hoosier way of doing things and it is the latest form of repackaging a slew of new tax cuts and not new ideas,” claimed Porter. The bill passed 69-27 and Senator Mishler (R-Bremen) has dissented on the changes in the House sending the bill to Conference Committee.
- SB382 is the annual update bill from the Dept of Revenue, but in addition to the more mundane aspects of the bill, retiring House Ways and Means Chairman Tim “Doc” Brown (R-Crawfordsville), noted that ”The thing that was controversial is the augmentation of our GIS system in the state to have one vendor for the whole state.” This GIS provision and the taxation on vaping cartridges from 25% to 15% before the tax is even implemented later this summer are likely the source of the votes against the bill when it passed the House 59-38 on Monday.
- The Senate unanimously passed HB1093 with several education components, including changes to the Early Learning Advisory Council (vital for continued strong PreK programs) and the elimination of “letter grades” for K-12 schools for the 2021-22 school year as educators, students, and families continue to deal with learning loss from COVID disruptions.
- “Let’s do the right thing for our workers who are getting hurt on the job,” said Sen Rodney Pol (D-Chesterton). At a time when we have inflation of 17.5% for everyday costs, Sen Pol hoped to amend HB1153 to “do what is right by our workers. I appreciate 3%. Any increase is better than zero,” conceded Sen Pol seeking a larger increase than the 3% currently offered in HB1153. The bill that increases benefits for injuries and disablements by 3% each year for four years passed unanimously 44-0.
- “We have discussed this over many years,” said bill author Rep Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), “HB1209 provides a framework around all future underground storage of carbon dioxide projects in Indiana. This does not apply to the carbon sequestration pilot project,” said Soliday. “We tried to address concerns about the idea of individuals losing property rights or not having a right to stop the project if they do not wish to sell,” he continued. “The State of Indiana is taking a small step here that will benefit all of us.” Senators were divided on the issue with Sen Blake Doriot (R-Goshen) calling the bill “sound science” and Sen Rick Niemeyer (R-Hammond) and Sen Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) sharing property rights concerns, with Freeman adding, “I’m just a dumb lawyer, but I did a google search on the science of this and it brought me to the US Geological Society page and the first article was about invisible C02 gas killing trees in Mammoth Mountain, California. Sen Andy Zay (R-Huntington) advocated a wait-and-see approach before advancing this bill until more information is gleaned from the pilot program. Despite funding in the bill of 8 cents per ton paid into a trust fund that accumulates over time included in the bill, Sen Jack Sandlin’s (R-Indianapolis) concern was language that left the State of Indiana bearing responsibility after projects were complete. Senate sponsor Sen Susan Glick (R-LaGrange) scolded Sen Freeman, “The Mammoth Mountain claim was volcanic activity, not a well. Don’t quote ‘the google’ to me if you’re going to quote science. Do we have to miss out on opportunity? We are using the best possible information we have available at this time.” The bill passed the Senate 28-20 with votes for and against the bill by lawmakers of both parties. Earlier today, the House voted to concur with the Senate amendments sending the bill to the Governor.
- Having been assailed by nine amendments, all having failed, including an amendment by Sen Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) that resulted in a long-winded debate about what the qualification of “good moral character” of school bus drivers might look like and IndyGo, HB1251 passed second reading on Monday and ultimately passed the Senate 34-14. The bill requires DOE to do an assessment pilot in several grades to develop standards and skills to increase reading and numeracy in K-12 schools. The bill also allows for adjunct teachers and establishes rules for their use.
- SB82 was presented by a contrite Education Chair Rep Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) after starting his remarks with a mea culpa for comments he made in committee last week. “I want to begin by sending an apology for any hurtful comments I might have said – I did say – last week in education committee,” Behning said. He then shared several data points in support of the FAFSA bill, such as Hoosiers lost out on $61M in funding in 2021 and the unfortunate 18% decrease Indiana has seen in completed FAFSA’s – mostly in our High Schools with lower socioeconomic status. Representatives Klinker and Smith rallied in support of the FAFSA bill. “Sen Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) has been working on this bill for at least 3-4 years. We have dollars not being spent for our students,” said Rep Sheila Klinker (D-Lafayette). Rep Smith (D-Gary) went even further stating the application should be mandatory. “I’d rather have God and not need him than not have him and need him. It’s the same with this FAFSA,” said Smith. The bill passed 89-5.
- “This is a course correction for an agency that I feel has moved away from the legislative intent around some organizations with disabilities and we are trying to correct that,” said Sen Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg). HB1242 requires the department of administration to determine the technological upgrades and other expenditures required to collect and compile information regarding purchases made by state agencies from minority business enterprises, nonprofit agencies for individuals with disabilities, veteran and women owned small businesses and creates a process for nonprofits previously enrolled in Ability Indiana to exit the program. The bill passed 48-0.
- “HB1245 addresses issues identified by the wastewater task force,” began Sen Eric Koch (R-Bedford), “it provides parity, provides that a local ordinance or health department may not impose requirements more stringent than those of the department, enables the use of new technology, improves turnaround time for permits, changes the shot clock for homeowners who file for an exemption from sewer districts, and I am proud to say is the product of bipartisan input.” The bill passed 39-9 and a motion to dissent was filed on 3/2.
- “SB356 has three principal concepts: alternative certification program, the issue of supplemental pay for schoolteachers, and matters related to “transformation zones,” recited Rep Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis). Minority members were vocal in their displeasure with the bill. “We are fracturing public education,” said Rep Vernon Smith (R-Gary) “We should be investing in our people rather than these experiments. We will all pay for this in the end. This is a terrible bill, and I know it will pass, but it should be defeated,” said Smith. Rep Terri Austin (D-Anderson) agreed, “Thank heavens we are not training attorneys this way. We do have a shortage, but this is not how we certify teachers. This is the way you make teachers feel devalued and think their professional aspirations don’t matter,” she exclaimed. The bill passed 64-32.
- “This is a three-headed bill,” began Rep Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis), “I don’t find the bill very welcoming, but Rep Dvorak (D-South Bend) put a third leg on the stool, and it has to do with our friends in Ukraine and that is wonderful in my view. I may vote for this one because of the one leg.” SB388 deals with foreign gifts and investments in post-secondary education, imposing a requirement that if a university receives a gift in the amount of $50K or more (lower than the federal reporting threshold of $250,000) a report is generated that goes to the higher education commission and the Attorney General can investigate. While lawmakers on both sides of the issue were not a fan of the land-owning exemptions included in the bill, the author felt the language, “put us in a better position than we are today.” The “third leg” was amended into the bill last week to prohibit business entities organized under the laws of the Russian Federation from holding and conveying real property located within Indiana. “The Russian Federation is a kleptocracy that launders its money through real estate transactions all over the world,” said Dvorak. “Our message today is that Indiana will not be a safe haven for ill-gotten Russian funds, nor for its oligarchs trying to find financial shelter in the wake of Putin’s unconscionable invasion of Ukraine.” The bill passed unanimously 96-0.
- COVID cases continue to plummet in Indiana, though positive rates and cases remain higher in SW IN than in most other parts of the state.
- Statewide hospitalizations are below 800 – the fewest since July 30th. Fewer than 140 Hoosiers are in the ICU with COVID and the state now has more than 450 open ICU beds.
- Statewide, 56.6% of Hoosiers aged 5+ are fully vaccinated (2 or more doses of Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J). The 4-county SW IN region has 169,819 (59.4%) of 285,818 residents aged 5+ fully vaccinated. If you want to get vaccinated or boosted, you can make an appointment online.
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed and want to get tested, find a test site here: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): COVID-19 Testing Information
- Indiana has had more than 1,682,222 positive cases of COVID-19; 65,697 of these are “reinfections since 9/1/21.”
- Only four of Indiana’s 92 counties remain rated red (high risk spread), though 2 of them are Gibson and Warrick Counties. The rest of SW IN is rated orange (moderate spread) and 3 counties have moved to blue (low community spread). (These weekly ratings will be updated later today)
- The 7-day positivity rate as of 2/22 (lags by 7 days to include late-arriving test results) for all test results is 6% (down from 7.7% last Friday). SW IN Positivity rates are: Gibson 13.9%, Posey 11.9%, Vanderburgh 9.7% and Warrick 10.5%.
- The state reported 37 new deaths on Tuesday 3/2 (35 of those from the last 5 days). At this time 21,990 Hoosiers have died from COVID – more than the total population of nearby Spencer County. If you include presumptive deaths (clinically diagnosed as COVID by a physician, but no COVID-19 positive test), the total is 22,880.
IMPORTANT DATES (all times Eastern):
- Monday, March 14: Legislature must adjourn the 2022 Session
- Thursday, April 14: EREP AM Connect with the Post Session Legislative Wrap Up