It was a busy week at the Statehouse with deadlines to move bills out of Committee for the House and Senate this week, which resulted in no more room for delay in addressing the most talked about issues of the 2019 Session (drum roll, please): the Biennial Budget and Bias Crimes.
On Tuesday, the Ways and Means Committee passed HB1001, the much anticipated $34.6B biennial budget, out of committee this week along a party-line vote of 15-6. Thursday the budget proceeded to the House floor where it was greeted by a flood of Democrat amendments which were aptly summed up in a comment from Representative Pryor (D-Indianapolis), “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. These are the things that we as Democrats value and that we believe the people of the State of Indiana value…” More than 20 amendments were summarily shot down by the Republican super majority during a 3+ hour discussion. As the bill was finally engrossed and ready for 3rd reading (final passage) in the House, Speaker Bosma reported that they had just defeated $1.6B in proposed additional spending.
The week started with a long Senate Public Policy Committee hearing for SB 12, the Bias Crimes bill. With a vote of 9-1, they passed the bill, which would allow judges to increase sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation and age. On Tuesday, the full Senate passed an amendment (vote of 33-16) to scrap all the protected classes and name only “bias” as the considered factor, despite passionate pleas of dissent. Gov. Holcomb weighed in stating the amended bill will “not get Indiana off the list of states without bias crime laws.” The action in the Senate came to a close on Thursday as a weary Senator Lanane (D-Anderson) summed it up, “This is one of the signature bills of the session and is a statement of the values of the people of this state. There’s a perception that we don’t need a list, but we do. We need more than two words and a comma.” The amended SB12 passed 39-10, with only Sen. Ron Alting, a Republican co- author of the bill, joining nine Democrats in voting against the bill. Business leadersvow to fight for changes as SB12 heads to the House.
The deadline for bills to pass out of the House and Senate are this week, so we anticipate spending long days at the Statehouse as lawmakers rush to process last minute bills before the close of this busy first half of Session. You will notice that your bill list is much shorter as bills that have not passed out of Committee by now are no longer eligible for consideration.
Other highlights from your bill list this week include:
· It was also a big week for gaming legislation that impacts our community as Senator Mishler’s (R-Bremen) Gary economic development bill, SB66, and Senator Messmer’s (R-Jasper) gaming matters bill, SB552, both passed out of Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously. Both bills would allow one of the current casino licenses in Gary to be moved to Terre Haute and unfortunately, the Committee removed the language to “hold harmless” the casino operators and communities that will be impacted by the move (including Tropicana and Evansville). The bills will be eligible for amending on the Senate floor on Monday and for full passage by the Senate on Tuesday.
· Senator Ruckelshaus’ (R-Indianapolis), SB158, Indiana Youth Service Program, passed Third reading on the Senate Floor; yeas 38, nays 11. This bill provides high school graduates the opportunity to learn various skills and participate in nine months of service at host sites throughout Indiana. The program would be administered by Ivy Tech and individuals selected for the program would receive a stipend during their time of service.
· SB289 requires the Department of Workforce Development to report on how many workers are improperly categorized and how much money the state has lost as a result of this issue. Sen. Niezgodski (D-South Bend) said, “The passage of this bill out of committee is a great step towards putting an end to unfair labor practices and making sure Indiana isn’t losing out on necessary funds.” The bill has received bipartisan support and is co-authored by State Senators Niezgodski and Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville).
· HB1278, Representative Wolkin’s Environmental act regarding the transportation of septage and reporting requirements regarding public water systems, passed Third reading Monday with yeas 97, nays 0. The bill will now proceed to the Senate.
· Monday, February 25th: Deadline for House bills to pass out of the House
· Tuesday, February 26th: Deadline for Senate bills to pass out of the Senate
** Committee Hearings can be called with just a one-day notice, so schedules change very quickly