Indiana Legislative Update: First Look at the Legislative Session

Legislators have been filing their bills in anticipation of convening this afternoon for the “short session” of the 122nd General Assembly. The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee kicked off action this morning with four bills on the schedule. As is often the case, more discussion than anticipated meant that they did not consider amendments or have full discussion on the bills before the Committee recessed for caucus meetings and Session, planning to reconvene later this afternoon. Great to have the thorough discussion, though it’s occasionally frustrating for anyone trying to plan a schedule during these months of Session.

Yesterday, Governor Holcomb shared his 2022 priorities during a press briefing. Several of these initiatives align with EREP public policy priorities and we look forward to the upcoming discussion on the these. The Governor’s priorities fall under 5 key categories:

  1. Economic Development: eliminating the 30% depreciation floor on new business personal property and providing greater flexibility in incentive programs.
  2. Education, training and workforce development: creating an Office of Kindergarten Readiness through the IN Dept. of Education (DOE) to partner with early childhood education partners; moving forward with the IN Graduates Prepared to Succeed (IN GPS) school performance dashboard; and increasing connections between unemployed Hoosiers with employers, jobs, and training programs.
  3. Public health and wellness development: building awareness for and increasing access to mental health services to “remove the stigma,” using the Public Health Commission to develop recommendations and improve public health infrastructure and resources; prioritizing guidelines for universal lead screening and connecting children with the proper care.
  4. Community Development: assist local government in strengthening cybersecurity; overseeing the implementation of $500M READI grant programs; continue progress on capital projects in the current budget by completing roads, trails, broadband and facilities.
  5. Good government service: supporting firefighter safety through collecting and properly disposing of PFAS chemicals; enhance the Law Enforcement Training Board membership and use the group to expand development and oversight of statewide training to include implicit bias and cultural awareness; develop an IN State Police strategic plan to accomplish recruiting and diversity goals; modernize state law enforcement information systems to better track and analyze performance.

Senate Republicans shared their 2022 priorities earlier today.

E-REP will be discussing our 2022 public policy priorities with legislators this Friday, January 7th at 8:00 a.m. at our Legislative Session Kickoff event. We hope you’ll join us – register here.  

Click the link for the first list of bills we’re watching for E-REP. There will be many more added to this list over the next week as bills continue to be filed until Tuesday, January 11th.

We may be starting a new year, but we were unable to leave COVID-19 behind us. On December 30th, the IN Chamber hosted a press briefing featuring leaders from Indiana hospitals and also OneAmerica, an Indy-based insurance firm(the entire briefing can be viewed here). One of the significant revelations shared from OneAmerica is that they have seen a 40% increase in deaths in their working-age (18-64) insured population and a significant increase in the long- and short-term disability claims. Unfortunately, this will lead to an even smaller available workforce and higher premiums for employers and workers as the cost of these claims is ultimately shared by all policy-holders.

As part of their “COVID Stops Here” program, the IN Chamber also unveiled a partnership to offer free COVID-19 vaccine clinics onsite to employers and a statewide testing pipeline. Interested employers can learn more about all of these programs here.

Due to a national shortage of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests, the IN Dept. of Health is limiting these tests at state and local health dept sites to only individuals aged 18 and younger and symptomatic individuals ages 50 and older. This change is designed to keep students in school and ensure Hoosiers most likely to need a monoclonal antibody are identified within the prescribed window. Indiana typically uses about 50,000 rapid tests per week, but is only guaranteed to receive 11,000 per week right now.

Consensus continues to build that the Omicron variant of COVID is putting a lower percentage of those infected in the hospital. While that is incredibly good news, it is mitigated by the increased contagiousness of the variant. An example shared is:

  • Delta Variant: Assume 2000 cases/day of Delta at a 15% hospitalization rate creates 300 hospitalized/day
  • Omicron Variant: Assume 20,000 cases/day of Omicron at a 5% hospitalization rate creates 1000 hospitalized/day

As reported by IN Dept. of Health Commissioner leaders last Thursday, Indiana hospitals already have more patients (for all reasons) than at any point in the last five years. This is leading to a shortage of beds for those needing hospital services for any reason – car crashes, heart attacks, and other emergent situations – and is exacerbated by the growing number of COVID patients requiring hospitalization. Over the holiday weekend, there were less than 200 ICU beds available across the state.

COVID-19 BY THE NUMBERS

  • As we’ve shared previously, the state is divided into 10 districts by the IN Dept. of Health. SW IN is in District 10 with 46 ICU beds available (~20% of total ICU beds) yesterday. If you have a child at Purdue, urge them to be careful as District 4 had 0 (yes, zero) ICU beds available. See graphs showing this info here.
  • Statewide, 54.8% of Hoosiers aged 5+ are fully vaccinated (2 or more doses of Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J). The 4-county SW IN region has 166,467 (58.2%) out 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 1,278,285 positive cases of COVID-19; 15,133 of these are “reinfections since 9/1/21.”
  • All of Indiana is either orange (approaching high risk spread with 10% or greater positivity rate & 100-199 new cases/100,000 residents) or red (high risk spread with 15% or greater positivity rate & 100 or more new cases/100,000 residents) advisory levels (updated weekly on Wednesdays). All of SW IN is currently orange except for Pike County.
  • The 7-day positivity rate as of 12/27 (lags by 7 days to include late-arriving test results) for all test results is 18.2% and the 7-day rate for unique individuals tested is 29.3%. SW IN Positivity rates are: Gibson 16.5%, Posey 15.8%, Vanderburgh 15.1% and Warrick 15.7%.
  • The state reported 43 new deaths over the holiday weekend. At this time 18,433 Hoosiers have died from COVID; or if you include presumptive deaths (clinically diagnosed as COVID by a physician, but no COVID-19 positive test), the total is 19,084.

IMPORTANT DATES: