Indiana Legislative Update – Out of an Abundance of Caution

Although the Indiana Statehouse was shut down this week “out of an abundance of caution” and due to “recent national events,” it was still a busy week for politics. Governor Holcomb stated, “This was a week like I can’t remember in my lifetime,” adding, “I will always be safe, not sorry, and err on the side of caution.”

COVID and security concerns meant the Governor delivered the first-ever pre-recorded State of the State address. He opened with a moment of silence for the “loss of life and livelihoods” and praised the many Hoosiers across the state who have “risen to meet unprecedented challenges.” He detailed his budget priorities, and reassured Hoosiers that the State of Indiana remains strong, and important to SW IN, he confirmed the continued work on I-69 and a commitment to new programs supporting regional development.

Tensions eased Tuesday as a new chapter in American history played out without incident and President-Elect Joe Biden took his oath of office to become the 46th President of the United States. President Biden in his inaugural address said democracy had survived and asked the divided nation to unite in the face of tough days ahead.  

On Thursday, the Governor provided his weekly briefing on Indiana’s fight against Covid-19. While many counties showed improved numbers and hoped for an easing of restrictions, the Governor extended the current Executive Order for a week stating, “We’re starting to see reason for optimism as we look across the state of Indiana and the positivity rates tick down, tick down, tick down.” The focus on vaccination continues with more than 270,000 appointments scheduled for first and second shots between now and the end of January. He noted his intent to watch numbers over the next week to consider revisions to the Order.

Lawmakers return to their work at the Statehouse on Monday – much of the scheduled work is what was planned for this past week, though there have been some additions and deletions. It’s up to each committee chair to decide what they have time for — between this and potential COVID-19 closures—it might get tight.

Here’s where our focus will be over the next week (please note there are other bills moving in Committee per the list in “important dates”):

  • We should see movement this week on both the House and Senate bills seeking to provide civil immunity to employers from COVID-19 impacts. HB 1002 will have a 2nd Hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday and should be voted out for full House consideration. In the Senate, SB1 has passed out of Committee and will be considered by the full Senate this week. It could pass through the Senate by the end of the week and then move to the House for their consideration.
  • On a similar fast path are the bills designed to ensure full funding of students regardless of the amount of virtual instruction required during the pandemic. SB2 will be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee in Thursday. Meanwhile, HB1003 is up for a final House vote on Tuesday where it is expected to pass overwhelmingly.
  • A few bills supporting business and economic development in Committee this week include: HB1025 (Enterprise Zone Renewal); HB1004 (Small Business Restart Grant Program); HB1152 (Unemployment Insurance); SB336 (Assessment & Tax Exemptions)
  • Two environmental bills will be heard in committee over the next 10 days. Senate Natural Resources will consider SB373 to establish a carbon credit program in Indiana while the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee will hear SB389 to repeal the state regulated wetlands law.
  • Health Related bills on the move include: HB1225 (Opioid Treatment Programs); HB1286 (Telehealth Matters); SB3 (Telehealth Matters)
  • A bill designed to address the problem many parents had finding daycare during the pandemic is HB1101, which would exempt daycares developed during an Emergency Order from licensure requirements. Several employers tried to establish daycares to assist employees and were unsuccessful; this sort of legislation should help.
  • Wednesday the House Ways & Means Committee will hear several bills, including two of the key House GOP agenda items including a small business restart grant program, HB1004, and the student learning recovery grant program, HB1008
  • Rep. McNamara’s bill to rename the current state aircraft to the Hoosier Spirit II, HB 1197 is ready for final vote in the House this week.  

Important Dates:

  • Monday, January 25th
    • Senate Environmental Affairs
      • SB389 Repeals State Regulated Wetlands Law
    • House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development
      • HB1025 Enterprise Zone Renewal
      • HB1224 Craft Hemp Flower and Hemp Production
    • House Judiciary
      • HB1002 Civil Immunity Related to Covid-19
  • Tuesday, January 26th
    • House Public Health
    • House Roads & Transportation
      • HB1072 Personal Delivery Devices
      • HB1150 Overweight Divisible Loads
    • Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy
      • SB336 Assessment and Tax Exemptions
    • House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications
      • HB1220 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force
      • HB1287 Water or Wastewater Service for Underserved Areas
      • HB1385 Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Pilot Programs
  • Wednesday, January 27th
    • House Employment, Labor & Pensions
      • HB1152 Unemployment Insurance
      • HB1156 Prohibition of Microchipping Employees
    • House Family, Children & Human Affairs
      • HB1101 Daycare Licensure Exemption in Declared Emergency
    • Senate Health & Provider Services
      • SB3 Telehealth Matters
      • SB36 Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact
      • SB305 Physical Therapy Licensure Compact
    • House Ways and Means
      • HB1004 Small Business Restart Grant Program
      • HB1008 Student Learning Recovery Grant Program
    • Senate Public Policy
      • SB5 Appeal of Local Health Enforcement Actions
      • SB238 Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas
    • Senate Education and Career Development
      • SB54 FAFSA Requirement
      • SB93 Tuition Charges for Veterans
      • SB123 Audiology & Speech Language Pathology
    • Senate Judiciary
  • Thursday, February 28th
    • Senate Appropriations
      • SB2 Funding for Virtual Instruction
    • House Government & Regulatory Reform
      • HB1238 Northeast Indiana Development Commission
  • Monday, February 1st
    • Senate Natural Resources
      • SB373 Carbon Credit Program

COVID-19 Information and Updates:

  • Since last weeks’ update, the state has reported 26,932 new positive cases (605,426 total), 437 new deaths (9267 total), 87,605 new individuals tested (2,879,896 total), and 380,897 new tests administered (6,652,500 total). There are an additional 375 probable Covid-19 deaths (X-Ray, CT, symptoms & exam consistent w/Covid-19, but no positive test received).  All of this information is on the ISDH dashboard at www.coronavirus.in.gov.
  • The state shares 2 different positivity rates. The positivity rate for ALL tests administered is 10.7% from the beginning of testing and 10.4% for the 7-days ending on 01/15. The positivity rate for unique individuals is 21.0% since the beginning of testing and is 18.9% for the 7 days ending 01/15 (rates trail by 7 days to account for lagging reports).
  • The color-coded county metrics that combine new cases per 100,000 people over the last week and the 7-day positivity rates updated Wednesday move Vanderburgh County to orange (moderate to high community spread), but all of our surrounding counties remain in red (high community spread) – currently 33 of 92 Counties are in red. Vanderburgh County must remain in the improved orange category for 2 weeks before restrictions are eased. You can find these metrics and how they are calculated by choosing the “County Metrics” tab above the map of Indiana on the state dashboard.
  • The state also publishes county-level 7-day positivity rates for all tests given. Currently, SW Indiana rates as of 01/15 are: Gibson 17.3%, Posey 15.9%, Vanderburgh 12.9%, Warrick 14.8%, and Spencer 16.1%.  You can find the county-level information by choosing the “Positivity” tab above the map of Indiana on the state dashboard.
  • The Vaccination Dashboard shows that as of this morning (1/22), 388,398 Hoosiers have received their first dose of the vaccine and 91,940 (1.7% of 16+ Hoosiers) are considered “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19. The site also has county-level vaccination numbers and information re: age, gender, race, and nationality of those vaccinated.
  • There are nearly 280  testing sites across the state. You are encouraged to get tested if you have any symptoms or are have had contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • You can see the Governor’s Executive Orders here