As the clock ticks closer to the end of the Legislative Session, key issues remain yet to be resolved in the Indiana General Assembly as House and Senate Republicans face the challenge of working through their differences on tax cuts, vaccine mandates, and controversial issues in our schools.
While SB1, expanding the number of Hoosiers eligible to receive the upcoming tax refunds, heads to the Governor’s desk for signature, Senate Republicans removed all tax relief provisions benefiting both employers and businesses – over $1B – from HB1002 last week. This Wednesday, Governor Holcomb revived hopes for potential cuts, “We’ve done the modeling, we’ve had a couple months,” Holcomb said. “We’ve watched our revenue grow and I know what’s potentially in in the pipeline right now.” Data released Friday by the State Budget Agency show Indiana took in $2.03 billion in revenue last month, including $976.2 million in sales tax receipts, and $906 million in individual income tax payments. That total was $41.2 million (2.1%) more than projected in the December state revenue forecast and $223.9 million (12.4%) greater than the monthly revenue estimate used by state lawmakers last April as they crafted the two-year state spending plan. HB1002 moves to the Senate floor for final approval on Monday and then to conference committee where the real negotiations will take place.
Two more headline-catching bills passed out of Senate Education Committee this week, where social issue legislation has dominated the agenda. Several bills introduced this year, thought to be inspired by feedback from angry parents upset over mask mandates, transgender rights, fears about inappropriate materials in libraries and classrooms, and whether students were being taught critical race theory concepts. HB1041, a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ HS sports emerged 8-3 without amendment, while HB1134 saw a number of changes. The “divisive concepts” bill now mandates “good citizenship” instruction, clarifies that schools may not make contracts or accept grants to promote divisive concepts, providers of mental health services may not operate outside the scope of licensure, school are not required to contact the parent if the parent is the reason for the mental health visit, parents must “opt in” before schools may conduct 3rd party surveys of students, and curriculum committees are entitled to review materials brought by a guest speaker. A summer study committee was specifically tasked with making recommendations for mental, social-emotional, and psychological services in schools. “These changes are the reflection of my many conversations with constituents, parents, educators and many mental health providers,” said Sen Linda Rogers (R-LaGrange). The minority voiced their dissent, “Hundreds of thousands of people across the State of Indiana are not happy with HB1134,” said Sen Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis), “We are putting a target on the backs of our teachers. This bill is further dividing our State. It is sending the wrong message to our kids.” The bill passed 8-5, mainly along party lines with Republican Sen Jean Leising, (R-Oldenburg) also voting no.
After more than 8 hours of exhaustive discussion and often tense deliberation, HB1077, the “lawful carry” gun bill, was essentially gutted and amended to maintain the current licensing system with the addition of an automatic license while the application for a license was pending. This is Rep Ben Smaltz’s (R-Auburn) second attempt to pass this language that hoped to eliminate the requirement for law abiding citizens to “ask permission” and obtain a license to carry a firearm. The bill would have continued to make it illegal for Hoosiers with felony convictions, domestic violence offenses, those dishonorably discharged, and those with a history of mental illness to carry. The bill has now been reassigned to Rules Committee, where it appears to be dead, though the bill or language in it may regain life during the final days of session.
As we’ve passed some deadlines this week, a few bills that did not clear the hurdle have been removed from your list. Next up, Senate bills must pass the House on Monday and House bills must pass the Senate on Tuesday. After that, Legislators will work in “Conference Committee” to reconcile any differences in the versions of bills. Here are the highlights from the action this week (bills are listed as they are in the Report: numerically in order of High, Medium, Low priority):
- The Senate Health Committee had amended HB1001 to be solely about COVID vaccinations and employer requirements after the other components of the original bill requested by the Governor to end the COVID emergency authorizations. Those components (continued enhanced Medicaid and SNAP benefits and mass vaccination options) had been moving forward in SB3. As SB3 faced several amendments on the House floor that many members did not want to deal with, those provisions were added back into HB1001 on the Senate floor Thursday. The Senate will consider the updated bill with a final vote next week.
- HB1094 will establish adequate employer liability and worker’s compensation insurance coverage for employers that employ students in work-based learning courses. The coverage will be received through the Department of Education with a goal of increasing work-based learning for high school students. The Senate passed the bill 49-0 and the House has dissented on the amendments sending the bill to conference committee.
- HB1226 has four main components: establishing the federal hazardous waste rules in Indiana regulations; clarifying that Hazardous waste permit holders do not need a solid waste permit if they maintain certain practices; an essential elimination of the need for processing permits or legitimate/beneficial reuse permits; and establishing a recycling pilot project in Marion County. The permit changes have drawn attention and concern from many and an on-the-fly amendment about coal combustion residue added during the Senate Environmental Committee hearing has slowed the bill down. It passed Committee 9-1 and awaits likely changes on the Senate floor on Monday.
- SB245 establishes a statewide sports and tourism bid fund for communities to support competitive bids to bring sports and tourism events to Indiana. An amendment in the House – strongly advocated for by EREP – requires at least 30% of the funds allocated to the fund must be used outside of Indianapolis (the original bill committed 25%). The bill passed the House 86-6, and the Senate concurred with the amendments 47-0 sending the bill to the Governor.
- The Ways & Means Committee heard SB361 in the final hearing of retiring-Chair Tim “Doc” Brown’s final committee hearing on Tuesday. This is the IN Economic Development Corp’s (IEDC) bill with several changes to incentives they offer for encouraging business investment. Two days later, the House considered the bill on 2nd reading and made further changes. As set for a final House vote on Monday: IEDC will have a $300M bucket for several tax credit programs including a new film/media and music credit (currently each program has an individual cap) plus an additional $300M upon approval by the State Budget Committee; local governments are authorized to create a workforce recruitment and retention program fund; and IEDC can create as many as 5 Innovation Development Districts (IDD’s) – already with a nickname of “Super TIF’s” – before July 1, 2025. Each IDD will be governed by a board of 3 IEDC appointments and 3 local representatives and the group will not be able to use eminent domain to acquire property. Any local income taxes created in the IDD stay with the local community and 12% of the incremental real and personal property taxes will flow through to the local government. This new TIF idea is creating concern among local government leaders and could see further changes during conference committee in the last days of session.
- HB1003 has an overall goal of increasing the number of nursing students to graduate in Indiana. It allows nursing schools to hire part-time faculty, enroll more students, and spent more time in simulation labs rather than on live patients. It is expected that the bill could add as many as 1350 graduating students each year creating an additional 5K nurses by 2031. The House voted Thursday 89-0 to concur with the amendments made in the Senate.
- HB1093 has several components related to education, including changes to the Early Learning Advisory Council (important to 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. After passing Senate Education Committee last week, the bill passed Senate Appropriations 8-4 on Thursday.
- “This bill is not just for one company,” began Rep Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) about HB1209, “Whether you believe in climate change or not, there is enormous pressure on corporations. If we’re going to be able to live the life we enjoy, corporations need to do something with carbon.” The bill clarifies mineral rights, sets forth permit procedures, establishes an application and review process, establishes a fee of 8 cents per ton sequestered, provides some protections for nearby water sources, and limits claims and damages for a company doing this work. Stakeholders and committee members were mixed in their support of the bill, “Would it be fair to say the monitoring will be continuous? Once it starts, the company will monitor for leaks or other issues,” asked Sen Susan Glick (R-LaGrange). Sen Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) added, “I am for carbon sequestration, but I don’t know if we’re ready to move this bill.” HB1209 passed out of Senate Natural Resources 7-2 on Monday, and after a minor amendment, passed Senate Appropriations 7-5 on Thursday.
- HB1221 allows public utilities to apply to the Utility Regulatory Commission to set up public-use electric-vehicle pilot programs, including school buses and transit, and recover the cost of the program by charging higher public rates, directing the commission to adopt the necessary rules. It also allows electric vehicle charging stations to charge by the kilowatt-hour rather than by the minute. The bill passed 33-13 in the Senate and returns to the House with amendments.
- HB1318 will ease licensing requirements for daycare operated by a public or private school on school premises. It is one attempt to add more childcare options for Hoosier families. The Senate approved the bill 48-0. It was amended while in the Senate, so the House will determine whether to concur with the changes or send the bill to conference committee.
- SB74 defines what a “manufacturing business” is and clarifies that a preferred small manufacturer is less than 100 employees and 4 million in revenue in a fiscal year. Agencies will also be required to track preferences given to bidders. The bill passed the House 92-1. It was not amended, so it will move to the Governor for final action.
- A Chair’s amendment changed SB82 from a requirement to an “affirmation form” to provide parents information about the value of the FAFSA. Sen Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) in her 3rd year of pushing this measure was willing to support the chair’s amendment, saying “Whatever it takes to keep it moving.” K-12 school related associations have consistently opposed the Senate version of the bill objecting to what they feel is an “undue burden” on schools. On the other hand, higher education stakeholders and the IN Chamber persist in their support, “This remains an equity and a workforce policy issue. One thing we cannot do is fail to do anything.” The bill passed out of committee 9-1 and was amended on second reading to include charter and non-public schools if they choose to participate.
- SB145 should bring an end to an ongoing debate about the property tax assessments of large commercial properties, which has seen confusion since court rulings reflecting the impact of “dark stores” on assessed value. The bill applies to new properties over 100,000 sf and sets a statewide assessment, which should prove to minimize appeals and provide clarity for local governments and developers. The bill passed the House 92-0, and the Senate has filed a Motion to Concur.
- SB166 allows local governments to enter public-private partnerships (P3’s) for certain transportation or infrastructure projects, providing new opportunities for funding local infrastructure projects. The bill passed the House 85-8, and the Senate voted 47-0 to concur with the changes in the House sending the bill to the Governor.
- SB264 creates an administrative rules review task force to review and report to the Legislature about the many rules, fees, and fines from state government. The task force will be dismissed at the end of this year. The House approved the measure 90-1 without making any amendments, so the bill moves to the Governor.
- After SB290 passed House Education Committee last week 13-0, it was directed to Ways & Means Committee due to the small fiscal impact and 3 amendments were considered. Two were clearly related to the bill regarding multiple ADM counts and the use of non-code complaint devices put on school doors – both passed without incident. However, a third amendment proposed by Rep Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville) regarding IndyGo and specifically two proposed lines of uninterrupted traffic on Washington. Chair Brown immediately referred to the changes as “technical” in nature. Rep Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis) objected, “There is a general prohibition for us laying out highways or making local laws – I suggest the amendment is out of order.” Chair Brown dismissed the concern, “This is the committee process, and it is not out of order,” and proceeded with a vote, which passed by a voice vote. Chair Brown then quickly moved the bill along, “Any further discussion other than Delaney saying we are doing unconstitutional amendments?” This unleashed an avalanche of protest from committee members, “I would appreciate no editorial comments regarding the members of my caucus,” said Rep Porter (D-Indianapolis). “IndyGo is its own entity setting its own policy and to come do this is just not right,” said Porter voicing concerns that this would jeopardize federal dollars. By this time Sen Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) arrived and expressed “frustration” with the process, “Mr. Chair, I understand people want to do certain things regarding the BLUE LINE. I respect the author personally, but don’t respect the process that just happened today. I ask you strike this amendment and don’t even hear it.” Discussion ensued with other speakers sharing their opposition before Rep Delaney moved to table the amendment. Chair Brown claimed the motion was out of order before conceding to a voice vote and ultimately a “division” vote where members raise their hand to vote, which approved the motion to table the amendment. The bill – without the IndyGo amendment – passed Committee 21-0 on Monday. On Thursday, the bill passed the House – with no debate – 82-0.
- SB365 adds Indiana to 21 other states in a psychology interjurisdictional compact, which will allow Hoosiers easier access to psychologists and allow psychologists an easier process to move their practice into Indiana. The bill passed the House 81-1 and without any amendments will head to the Governor’s desk.
- Rep Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) presented SB411 to House Ways and Means Committee, “There is nothing mandatory in this bill,” he stressed, “You can believe in global warming or not, but there is a market for renewable energy,” said Soliday. But stakeholders gave impassioned testimony opposing the bill: a farmer in tears, a constituent tearing up a dollar bill, and homeowners complaining about their lack of input, home values plummeting, offsets being insufficient, and the cost to taxpayers for wind and solar, “renewables are only something the wealthy are able to afford.” In his closing Rep Ed Soliday responded to their pleas, “All I can say is it is here, and business wants it.” After failing to advance during the first committee hearing, the Committee brought it back a second day for a 23-0 successful vote and it moved through 2nd reading on the House floor Thursday.
- HB1034 remained a “simple” bill confirming that a lien resulting from an agreement between a commission and a taxpayer in a TIF takes priority over any subsequent mortgage. The bill also allows up to 7.5% of the revenues generated in a TIF to be used for marketing and land allocation expenses. The Senate passed the bill 49-0. It was amended in the Senate, so the House will have to either concur with these changes or move the bill to the conference committee process.
- “This bill was about parity and good policy for the State of Indiana as a whole,” began Rep Pressel (R-LaPorte). On Thursday, SB1245 was amended yet again in Senate Utilities committee to “change the shot clock” for homeowners who file for an exemption from sewer districts. The amended bill allows an exemption for 10 years from the date of inspection and allows that if a professional engineer, registered soil scientist, and registered septic installer all agree to a plan and sign off for a parcel, the local health officer must accept the plan and a permit must be issued within 30 days. This encourages the use of new technology a health department may be unfamiliar with and improves turnaround time. There was considerable education involved in this hearing as one committee member asked, “You don’t just go to Lowe’s and buy these off the shelf?” so, you can imagine the patience and explanations involved here were extensive. In the end, the bill passed out of committee 11-0.
- SB2 provides scholarships for up to $1000 for young students needing tutoring, in addition to clarifying school headcounts necessary for determining funding levels. Students who do not pass the iREAD 3 test, will be eligible for the scholarship to pay for tutoring in the science of reading to hopefully get those students back at grade level. The House passed the bill 93-0 and because it was amended while in the House, the Senate will must concur with those changes or send the bill to conference committee.
- SB5 provides for reciprocity for healthcare workers in Indiana and is quite comprehensive in the list of professions included. The bill requires the Indiana Professional Licensing Board to make decisions within 30 days of receiving a completed application file. The bill passed the House 89-0. The House did make a few minor changes, so the Senate will next need to either concur with the amendments or move the bill to conference committee.
- Assuming a signature from Governor Holcomb, Indiana will now recognize underground pumped storage hydropower as a clean energy resource. Supporters believe there is a $100B market in the US and could invite new economic investment in Indiana’s “coal country.” The House passed the SB147 92-0 and did not amend it during their review, so the bill moves to the Governor.
- SB251 adds Indiana to the Interstate medical licensure compact so that doctors that have already been credentialed in a compact state can get in front of patients sooner. The bill passed the House 88-0. It was not amended while in the House, so it will move directly to the Governor for consideration.
- While concerns persist about nuclear power. the management of spent nuclear material, and costs to ratepayers, the House passed SB271 with a 70-22 vote to authorize the creation of rules to allow and regulate the use of small modular nuclear reactors in Indiana. The bill was not amended in the House so it will move forward to the Governor for action.
- SB272 has 5 key parts addressing wastewater infrastructure: asset management, appropriate rates, regional collaboration, workforce training and technical support and oversight. The bill passed the House 95-0, and the Senate concurred with the House changes 47-0 sending the bill to the Governor.
- SB388 concerns foreign investment and influence in the State of Indiana – originally just about foreign acquisition of farm ground and now applying to grants to and contracts with our higher ed institutions. “Our goal with post-secondary education is to get a handle on what input foreign countries have on our higher education. We have concerns about research projects and intellectual property being compromised with foreign grants and contracts,” said Rep Lindauer (R-Jasper). “The federal reporting is “lacking” with inadequate enforcement mechanism, and an estimated $6.5B in unreported donations by foreign entities; however, we can rein in what is happening at the state level,” added Lindauer. While asserting that it “is duplicative reporting” to what is required at the federal level, HB388 requires reporting for anything over $50,000, the federal reporting doesn’t kick in until $250,000 causing concerns that the lower threshold is “very burdensome.” The bill passed House Education Committee 7-2 and has moved through 2nd reading on Thursday.
- COVID cases continue to plummet in Indiana and the state has made updates to their reporting; data below reflects some of those changes.
- Statewide hospitalizations are hovering just above 1000 – the fewest since August 6th. Fewer than 210 Hoosiers are in the ICU with COVID and the state now has more than 365 open ICU beds.
- Statewide, 56.5% of Hoosiers aged 5+ are fully vaccinated (2 or more doses of Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J). The 4-county SW IN region has 169,848 (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 1,679,591 positive cases of COVID-19; 65,415 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).
- The 7-day positivity rate as of 2/17 (lags by 7 days to include late-arriving test results) for all test results is 7.7% (down from 12.8% last Friday). SW IN Positivity rates are: Gibson 17.1%, Posey 15.1%, Vanderburgh 13.3% and Warrick 17.1%.
- The state reported 40 new deaths on Thursday 2/24 (13 from the last 2 days). At this time 21,858 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 22,736.
IMPORTANT DATES (all times Eastern):
- Monday, February 28
- Deadline for Senate Bills to pass the House
- Tuesday, March 1
- Deadline for House Bills to pass the Senate
- Monday, March 14
Legislature must adjourn the 2022 Session