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Indiana Legislative Update – Hip-Deep in Conflict and Controversy (not just former President Trump)

The week is ending with a bang when news rang out that a Manhattan grand jury had indicted Donald Trump. The sealed felony indictment, believed to be related to hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 but with specific charges unclear at this time, will require the former President to appear in person at an arraignment next week. Trump issued a statement (that will blow your hair back) in the wake of the news, calling the indictment “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.” 

We began the week with Governor Holcomb directing flags fly at half-staff after another mass shooting Monday; this time at a private Christian school in Nashville, TN. Law enforcement officials initially named Audrey Elizabeth Hale as the shooter, later discovering the former student identified as Aiden, a transgender man, who had legally obtained firearms in the “permitless carry” state and left a manifesto prior to killing three adult staff members and three young children. President Biden was quick to address the tragedy, “It’s sick, heartbreaking and a family’s worst nightmare,” calling for lawmakers to pass an assault weapons ban

The second half of the legislative session began with an eerie quiet, and in a blink we found ourselves in the midst of the jumble of controversy – bans on library books, bans on “ESG” investing, and bans on gender reassignment surgery for minors…and for inmates in Indiana prisons, HB1569. We even have bans on bans of the sale of dogs to retailers by “puppy mills” – with SB134 retroactively nullifying local ordinances, like the one recently passed in Indianapolis. 

We witnessed an amendment to allow the City of Indianapolis to declare itself a distressed asset. We watched Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales, who called the 2020 election a “scam,” request $6.4M to fund a statewide cybersecurity system called FireEye. And in the midst of everything, Indianapolis is preparing for the upcoming April 14 NRA convention. Did we mention Trump and Pence are confirmed speakers at the event?

With everyone taking a “side hustle” these days, the part-time positions in the General Assembly might be seen as the ultimate side hustle for some lawmakers. In recent weeks, we’ve heard pointed remarks questioning who will benefit from passage of certain pieces of legislation with questions of conflict of interest. Rep Doug Miller (R-Elkhart), a homebuilder, authored HB1005, a bill that subsidizes new housing starts in the state; and was the House sponsor for SB414 that strips wetland protections. Fellow lawmakers wondered whether Gaylor Electric CEO/State Rep Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville) would benefit from his HB1002, but lawmakers working on bills that involve or could benefit their industries is not an ethical violation. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) who provides consulting services to a firm set to benefit from the record infusion of funding for school vouchers in the state budget responded, “We have specific ethics rules,” said Huston, “We know our members are careful to adhere to those, but it’s a citizen legislature. We need people to bring their expertise and we’ve got a lot of people with a lot of different experiences. I’m glad they’re leading on legislation that relates to those experiences.”

A year after a strongly worded warning for hospitals and insurers to cut health care costs, signed by Legislative leaders Todd Huston (R-Fishers) and Rod Bray (R-Bray), Republicans started this legislative session with the best of intentions. When HB1004 was originally released, lawmakers looked serious about addressing what many believe are bloated healthcare costs, with threats of actual fines for hospitals who failed to rein in charges for services that exceed 260% of federal medicare reimbursement rates. Lawmakers seem to have lost that resolve and the bill is floundering as some claim that requirements for the Department of Insurance to provide the General Assembly calculations to inform future legislation are “setting the DOI up for failure”. The first version might have made an immediate difference, the current bill kicks the can down the road. 

A fresh batch of bills arrived at the Governor’s desk for signature this week after making the ceremonial stops for signature along the way. Upon final passage by the General Assembly, bills must be signed by Speaker of the House Todd Huston (R-Fishers) and President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) before being sent to the Office of the Lt. Governor and finally to the Office of the Governor. From that time, he is permitted seven days for review; and may choose to sign the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing, at which time on the eighth day the bill automatically becomes law. You can follow the progress of any bills of interest at: Governor Holcomb: 2023 Bill Watch

Your bill report is attached with bills listed numerically within High, Medium and Low Priority rankings. We have highlighted some bills that had action this week and included a list of upcoming committee hearings, as scheduled at the time of this report. Please keep in mind that hearings only require 24 hours notice, so the official schedule changes frequently.

  • Senate Education Chair Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) called Rep Church Goodrich’s (R-Noblesville) HB1002 “an incredible, forward-thinking bill” and a “game changer not only for the student, but for the entire state.” The bill, “born of 35 meetings and counting”, said Goodrich, “aims to ensure all students are prepared for all that lies ahead beyond high school and provides additional pathways for future Hoosier generations.” HB1002 expands work based learning, apprenticeship, and internship experiences. It requires the State Board of Education to examine flexible options for diplomas and creates an innovative career scholarship account for sophomore to senior students to explore hands-on learning experience while earning credentials and skills to prepare them for the workforce.  Committee members continue to flesh out the logistics of this bill: safety issues, the implication of undocumented students’ involvement in the program, discussing whether funds can be reserved by region, voicing concerns that a delay in implementation across some parts of the state may disadvantage student opportunity in that region. Sen Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) even questioned whether the funds would be better spent on more career counselors in the schools, “I am trying to work through this. In parts of my district, they are doing this without the employers receiving additional funds. This is a great concept, but with 698 students for every one counselor, maybe let’s work within the structures we have in place and fill in the gaps?” Sen Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) agreed, “Sen Leising nailed it,” said Yoder, “We are dead last in providing services of this type in the United States.”  The bill was held for further consideration and likely amendments next week
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee heard HB1005 on Thursday and started the hearing by amending the Residential TIF provisions from SB300 into the bill reducing the eligible length of a TIF from 25 to 20 years. The underlying portions of the bill to establish the Residential Housing Infrastructure Assistance Program using a revolving loan fund administered by the IN Finance Authority remains in the bill. Both the Assistance Program and the TIF were recommendations of the Housing Task Force convened last summer to increase the availability of residential housing across the state. After hearing from several speakers mostly supporting the bill, the Committee voted 10-1 to pass the bill onto the full Senate for consideration.
  • The Senate Family & Children Committee amended HB1160 to focus the proposed pilot program for those with developmental disabilities (eliminating the pilot for TANF recipients) using the Erksine Green Training Institute (EGTI) to establish a strong training program with a focus on manufacturing that can be rolled out across the state. Legislators praised the strong work of the EGTI and the ability of the program to lift families out of poverty and increase the available workforce. After discussion, the amendment, and acknowledging that the bill still needs some further work, the Committee passed the bill 8-0.
  • SB155 has cleared another hurdle this week, passing the House by a vote of 76-19. The bill will allow IDEM to increase fees for Title V and Federally Enforceable State Operating Permits (FESOP) air permits. The bill will increase the base fee for both permits to $6,100 effective January 1, 2024 (up from $2,381) and keep existing “guardrails” limiting the frequency and amount of future increases (from 2019 legislation) in place. The bill now returns to the Senate where a concurrence vote is anticipated to send the bill to the Governor for signature.
  • 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 to be used to continue supporting entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities. The Ways & Means Committee reduced the potential retention amount from $500,000 to $250,000 per year, which will still be a significant boost to the funding available at Innovation Pointe. E-REP has been a lead advocate of the bill throughout Session and will continue to watch it through the final steps.
  • SB46 is one of several attempts to provide residential property tax relief while assessed values climb by allowing a county council to designate some or all of the county where homeowners could receive a property tax credit capped at 2%. The Ways & Means Committee amended the bill on Wednesday to add some language from Rep. Cherrish Pryor’s HB1051 establishing “neighborhood enhancement districts” where long-term owner occupants of homesteads are eligible for additional property tax relief – this provision is targeted to historic neighborhoods experiencing gentrification impacting the ability for those who have remained in their home for years to keep their homes. The amended bill passed out of Committee 21-1 and moves to the full House.
  • Tank owners seek to use SB246 to expand the Excess Liability Trust Fund (ELTF) statute to cover tanks that are above ground as the next logical step after successfully remediating underground tanks. The bill also includes tanks at airports and the funding of initial site characterization changes for the release of petroleum. The bill was amended in the House Environmental Committee to include language from HB1072 dealing with aviation fuel fees collected and disbursed through ELTF.  
  • 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 the House 86 – 8 and has been returned to the Senate where a concurrence is anticipated.
  • An effort to save the City of Evansville up to $40M in pollution control costs, SB473 will establish permit requirements for the city ensuring there is no more mercury in the water that returns to the river than what was present in the water withdrawn from the river for drinking water. The measure passed unanimously from the House Environment Committee and is available for consideration by the full House.
  • 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) is headed to the Governor’s office for his decision after the House voted 93-2 to Concur with the Senate amendments on Tuesday.
  • 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 unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Technology and is eligible for consideration by the full Senate.
  • SB33 directs IDEM and the IURC to conduct a joint study concerning the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels and wind power equipment – they must report their findings no later than October 2024. The bill passed the House Monday 95-0; it was amended while in the House meaning a Motion to Concur or a Conference Committee is in the future.
  • The Ways & Means Committee heard from NE Indiana advocates and leaders supporting SB344 on Wednesday afternoon. As introduced, the bill provided a $15M budget allocation to the Northeast Indiana Strategic Development fund to support their regional development work. The $15M was stripped of the bill while in the Senate, but became a topic of discussion Wednesday with several indications it could be amended into the bill when the committee hears it again next week. E-REP will keep an eye on this bill and work with our delegation to determine what sort of opportunities it may create for our region, too. 

Important Dates:

  • Tuesday, April 4
    • Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy, 9:00 a.m.
      • HB1106 Mine Reclamation Tax Credit (Lindauer)
    • House Public Policy, 10:30 a.m.
      • SB20 Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (Brown)
  • Wednesday, April 5
    • House Judiciary, 9:30 a.m.
      • SB5 Consumer Data Protection (Brown)
    • Senate Judiciary, 1:30 p.m.
      • HB1200 Government Reform Task Force (Bartels)
    • Senate Public Policy, 2:30 p.m.
      • HB1349 Outdoor Refreshment Areas (Lindauer)

*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.