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Indiana Legislative Update – We’re Back After the Half

Indiana lawmakers finished the first week of the second half of the 2024 legislative session.  Opposing chambers are taking a close look at the bills that found success across the hallway.  The Indiana General Assembly finished the first half of the 2024 legislative session with the Senate having introduced 297 bills, with nearly a third – 110 – passing. Of those bills, 88% received bipartisan support and 58% received unanimous support. The House passed 111 of the 442 bills they filed. 

As we reported last week, HB1383, the somewhat controversial “wetlands bill” was the first bill to reach the Governor, and on Monday, Holcomb signed the bill into law. By the end of next week, we should start seeing other bills make their way through the complete process and to the Governor. You can monitor his bill watch page to see when bills officially hit the Governor’s desk, marking the start of the 7-day clock for action.  

Heading into session, leadership anticipated a break from hot button issues, focusing on “tweaking” of legislation. This week, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) reported things are going about as planned, and “the definition of ‘tweak’ can look different from person to person.” House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) called it a “good first week working through bills and communicating across the hallway,” warning, “beginning Monday, the real slog begins,” noting, “To some, you aren’t doing enough and to some you’re doing way too much.”

In political news, Indiana candidates had until noon last Friday, Feb 9 to file for office. With a mere 82 days until the May 7th primary, political junkies have an endless number of races to follow across the Hoosier state. Notably, there are 7 candidates who gathered the required number of signatures to qualify for the Indiana ballot for Governor: six GOP candidates, Braun, Chambers, Crouch, Doden, Hill, and Ritenhour; and Republican-turned-Democrat, former State Superintendent of Education Jennifer McCormick plus one Democrat challenger who awaits her fate with signature verification pending for Tamie Dixon-Tatum. When asked if House leadership would be supporting any gubernatorial candidate, Speaker Huston matter-of-factly replied, “I am as neutral as neutral can be,” while Pro Tem Bray stumbled with, “I am still pending on that one,” then recovered and replied, “I, and our Chamber, will have to work very closely with the Governor and that Governor’s administration. I don’t expect I will come out and support someone publicly.”

Embattled Attorney General Todd Rokita recently launched his Eyes on Education portal “to further empower parents.” Eyes on Education is a platform for students, parents, and educators to submit and view real examples from classrooms across the state.” A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education reported the department was not consulted prior to the launch. 

To leave you with positive news, the Indiana House of Representatives has partnered with the non-profit Samaritan’s Feet to host a shoe and sock drive this month. Donations will be collected until March 1st and will then be distributed across the state. Anyone interested can get involved here.

Your updated Bill Track is attached with only bills that have survived the first half. As always, please let us know if you would like to add/remove any bills or change the priority coding of any bill. Here are  highlights from action this week on your bills: 

  • The House’s bill to improve access to childcare, HB1102, passed out of Senate Health Committee Wednesday morning. The bill’s author Rep. Dave Heine (R-Fort Wayne) noted that there are 4,195 licensed or registered childcare providers in Indiana giving care to 206,000 children, which is only about 40% of the 502,000 needed childcare slots. The bill addresses “six common sense reductions in regulations,” including: increases in the number of unrelated children in a home setting and the number of hours able to work; expands the preemption of local communities to zone providers out of existence; lengthens the time in between license renewals; and allows public or private schools to provide care beyond just their own employees’ children. While some committee members expressed concern for the safety of the children in care, regulators, providers and other Senators pushed back on the concerns noting that these are small changes moving in the right direction. The bill passed out of Committee 8-2 sending it to the full Senate for consideration.
  • Despite one committee member threatening to yell his comments if the Education Chairman “cut off his mic,” Sen Linda Rogers’ (R-Granger) amended “Every Child Learns to Read” bill emerged from a contentious House Education Committee hearing this week along party lines 9-4.The bill now requires educators who are tutoring 2nd graders to be trained in the science of reading. Rep Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis) fought to delete language entirely that mandates retention of students who fail ILEARN, and Rep Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) called for lowering the age for kids to begin school from age 7 to age 6, a change Chairman Behning hinted at support, but indicated it was not possible this year as it would incur a fiscal. Both measures failed. Last year, 13,840 Hoosier third graders failed IREAD, with just 412 of those students retained. Although Rogers assured the committee, “This is not a retention bill,” SB1 will bring an end to the social promotion of 3rd graders still struggling to read in the Hoosier State, “We owe this to every Hoosier child,” said Rogers. SB1 now heads to House Ways and Means.
  • Sen Jeff Raatz’s (R-Richmond) SB6, a companion bill to SB1, tasks the IDOE with identifying students in grades 4-8 who previously did not pass the state reading exam and are not proficient in reading, and to provide a plan to help these students improve their reading skills. “Ensuring students can read is the most important thing Indiana’s education system can do so students can have successful futures, yet nearly 1 in 5 Hoosier third graders lack basic reading skills,” Raatz said in a press release. “This bill serves to get students who moved on from third grade and are in need of support back on track with their peers.” The bill has now passed out of House Education 10-0 and moves to the full House for consideration.
  • SB10 is modeled after the NobleACT from Noblesville as an attempt to “reimagine what public safety looks like,” said Mayor Jenson. “It is the right thing to do,” said Jensen, “It is fiscally conservative and lessens the burden on our first responders and criminal justice system.” To date, NobelACT has responded to more than 6,000 calls. The bill establishes a new grant program within FSSA to help communities build sustainable, proactive systems to identify at-risk individuals and connect them to services – hopefully addressing problems before they become issues needing reactive responses. The grants are worth up to $100,000 for training and support for the first responders. No new dollars are created for the program (until perhaps next year’s budget draft), but FSSA can use existing funds and accept gifts and donations. The House Public Health Committee amended the bill to include Counties (vs. just municipalities) before passing the bill 13-0 and sending it to the Ways & Means Committee for further consideration. 
  • Senator Mike Crider (R-Greenfield) presented SB233 to the House Public Health Committee Tuesday to establish the community cares initiative grant pilot program and “align federal grant processes and FSSA procedures” that should help expand mobile integrated healthcare and mobile crisis aid across the state. The bill passed out of committee 12-0 and has to go to the Ways & Means Committee for further review.
  • SB20 allows towns within a Riverfront Development District to have the same opportunity cities currently have to obtain additional alcoholic beverage permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. The bill passed unamended out of committee on Tuesday and through 2nd Reading in front of the full House on Thursday.
  • 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 bill was amended slightly in House Public Policy to allow for a permit issued in 2019 to be covered. Once amended, the bill received unanimous support from committee members on Tuesday and through 2nd Reading on the House floor on Thursday.
  • SB146 would allow an employee 18 years of age to ring up the sale of alcohol or serve drinks prepared at a bar in a restaurant. (Current age is 19). A 10 minute grace period was added to the civil penalties portion of the code regarding time clock violations. An amendment was added in the House Committee to address a potential conflict with HB 1093. A similar change in HB 1093 is anticipated in the Senate. The bill passed out of Committee unanimously February 15th. 
  • SB264 creates an exemption for a religious community – “Near Amish”, from worker’s compensation participation requirements similar to the exemptions they have for programs such as Social Security. “Old Order Amish” already have this exemption. The bill establishes the process an employee must pursue to be exempt. Immunity from civil liability for an employer of those with valid exceptions was added while in committee in the Senate, with the exception of negligence and types of misconduct. House Committee discussion included the potential for a competitive advantage being created for a business that is not required to pay for workers compensation. The bill was not voted on in Committee and held for the time being.
  • HB1121 is a wide-ranging bill with a variety of Local Income Tax issues. The one getting the most attention is the section that allows the City of Indianapolis to pass a new LIT (for all residents) to support the work in the “Mile Square” of downtown Indianapolis currently planned to be paid for with the new Economic Enhancement District that would have only applied to property owners in the Mile Square. The committee discussion was an interesting debate about the philosophy of having all residents pay for something that benefits just a small portion of the 400-square mile county vs. having the businesses in the area pay for those services. It did appear that there isn’t full consensus on this solution, so the last few weeks will provide some interesting debates and votes on what sort of final solution the legislature will pass. 

Important Dates

*Reminder: Committee Hearings only require 24-hours’ notice, so this list will grow

  • Monday, February 19
  • Senate Environmental Affairs
    • HB1399 PFAS Chemicals (Lindauer)
  • House Veterans Affairs & Public Safety
    • SB15 Veterans’ Benefits and Services Poster (Tomes)
    • SB190 State Disaster Relief Fund (Carrasco)
  • Tuesday, February 20 
  • House Roads & Transportation
    • SB52 Prohibition on Use of Dedicated Lanes (Freeman)
  • Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy
    • HB1199 Repeal of Economic Enhancement District Law (McGuire)
  • Wednesday, February 21
  • Senate Pensions & Labor
    • HB1093 Employment of Minors (Culp)
  • House Environmental Affairs
    • SB206 Environmental Matters (Niemeyer)
  • Thursday, February 22
  • Senate Local Government
    • HB1329 Local Government Matters (Pressel)
    • HB1387 Housing Development (Miller)
  • Tuesday, February 27: Deadline for Senate Bills to pass out of House Committee
  • Thursday, February 29: Deadline for House Bills to pass out of Senate Committee
  • Monday, March 4: Deadline for Senate Bills to pass the House
  • Tuesday, March 5: Deadline for House Bills to pass the Senate
  • Thursday, March 14: Deadline for Legislature to Adjourn Sine Die