Indiana Legislative Update First Half of Session Wraps Up

Like college students before final exams, legislators crammed long hours into this short week of Session to beat 1st half deadlines in each house.  This year 426 Senate bills and 514 House bills died as they failed to obtain a positive third reading hearing or vote.  Beginning Monday, each house will spend the next 6-7 weeks considering bills passed by the other house, and go through the whole process of committees and passage again. That will leave just under 2 weeks to finalize differences in bills during Conference Committee. One interesting trend we’ve already seen this Session is how many bills have already turned from a substantive change to statute into a request for an interim study committee. 

On Monday HB1001, the House approved the $34.6B (yes, billion) biennial budget on a party line vote.  Democrats in the super-minority, voiced their concerns.  “House Democrats listened to those who came out on the coldest day in our state. We want to live within our means, but we can do better. Being in the super-minority all we can do is bring our issues to the forefront – and deal with the cards dealt. We won’t throw our hand in,” said Representative Porter (D-Indianapolis).  Debating an attempt to increase the minimum wage, Representative Pryor (D-Indianapolis) reasserted the Democrat priority, “There is nothing in this budget that will help Hoosier working families. We have not increased our minimum wage since 2008.  You cannot afford to raise your family on $7.25/hour.  We were only proposing $8.50.  We are failing in our commitment to the good people of our State.”  Republican Ways & Means Committee Co-Chair Todd Huston (R-Fishers) responded to the criticism with a conciliatory, “I thank my colleagues who feel passionately about this budget. And we can have a good hearted agree to disagree. This budget is financially responsible, doesn’t raise taxes and keeps us on our strategic path to economic growth while prioritizing our investments. Worth noting, of the new money in this budget that isn’t going to DCS and Medicaid, 67.6 percent of the new money is going to K-12 education,” Huston said. “That is a commitment.” Budget hearings will begin in the Senate Appropriations Committee next week.

The Senate spent significant time this week debating lending bills that mostly impact the “payday lending” industry. One bill ultimately failed, while another increasing the interest rates allowed for those loans passed on a narrow vote. Another long debate took place on SB 552, the bill overhauling the state’s gaming industry by allowing for Sports Wagering and moving licenses from Lake Michigan in Gary to a new Gary location and to a new market in Terre Haute. The bill will surely face more shaping in the House over the next two months as it has significant impact on the current casinos, their communities, and to the State budget.

As the Bias Crimes bill moves to the House,  Speaker Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said, “I understand the advocates’ desire for a list. I really believe there needs to be a discussion of compromise in that regard and still have a bill that covers everyone, including those that are desired to be on the list. I think that’s the right approach.”  Governor Holcomb says, “There’s a lot of work to do on the hate crimes bill and time still to do it.”

After taking a long weekend, legislators will be back to work on Monday, assigning bills to committees and deciding which bills will continue moving forward. 

Because any bills that have not passed the house of origin are now considered dead, those bills have been removed from your bill list. Other highlights from your bill list this week include:

  • As SB 552 passed the Senate Tuesday, it includes a small 3-year payment to the City of Evansville to help offset the anticipated tax revenue lost when Tropicana loses revenue to a Terre Haute casino. Senators Becker and Tomes both were among the 11 Senate votes against the bill (38 yes votes) for various reasons, including the negative impact it will have on our community and also for the long-term policy implications. Related is Senator Mishler’s Gary economic development bill, SB66, that also allows for casino license movement passed out of the Senate on Tuesday 43-6 (Becker & Tomes also voting no) yeas 43, nays 6. 
  • HB1596, a bill addressing the use of TIF money for education, sparked a war of words between Representatives Austin and Clere over the statutory definition of the word “clearly” in the bill. Representative Huston weighed in urging his Republican colleagues to support the bill saying, “I don’t think TIF dollars are appropriately used for general education. It is for economic development in that community.  There is a bright line here. I ask for your support of this bill.” The bill passed third reading 55-41 among concerns from economic developers from across the state.
  • SB420, a bill that provides a tax credit for workforce development contributions by Senator Raatz, passed third reading 44-5 on Monday.  The bill has now been referred to the House.
  • SB436, an exciting Nurse Compact bill passed 48-1 on Monday. Senator Zay boasts support, “a lot of the testimony on this came from our southern counties but will help a lot of our nurses and health systems with their employment of nurses.” The bill has been referred to the House.

Important Dates:

** Committee Hearings can be called with just a one-day notice, so schedules change very quickly