The House and Senate face a looming deadline to reach an agreement on the biennial State budget (and all other bills). On Monday, Democrats attempted 31 amendments to the bill. Notably, Senators made a last-ditch effort to get hate crimes language passed this legislative session. “My amendment is what I want in the law. But even if I don’t get it, there is somebody looking down on this issue,” said Senator Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, who requested a roll call vote. Senator Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, also offered an amendment, “Senate motion #2 would amend the Indiana Civil Rights Act. We have an act in the State of Indiana which prohibits discrimination, it does not include, however, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status. This would add to the list – and it is a list – those three categories – sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status.” While their efforts to get their hate crimes list, raise the minimum wage to $11/hour, award a 5% increase to teachers and increase the cigarette tax failed, Democrats did not go home empty-handed. Senator Karen Tallian, D-Portage, received bipartisan support for her amendment to increase funding to local jails from $35 to $45/day to address overcrowding.
On Wednesday legislators received an updated state revenue forecast broke, and some voiced concern the current draft of the two-year State budget may require some adjustments after the data showed a $35 million revenue shortfall and a nearly $65 million increase in Medicaid expenditures. Experts point to a slowing economy and reduction in wage growth for the shortfall in revenue. In spite of the bad news, legislative leaders appear to remain optimistic. “We can work it out,” said Representative Todd Huston, R-Fishers, co-chair of House Ways and Means. “This does change things,” Senate Appropriations Chair, Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen, said. “We have to sit down and see the priorities of the caucuses and administration and see what we’re willing to cut out.”
Lawmakers must finish their work by midnight on Monday, April 29th, though they are currently hinting at wrapping up everything next Thursday, the 25th. With time running out, there are lots of bills moving through the final stages of legislation and hoping to get to the Governor’s desk for his consideration. the Governor’s Bill Watch page tracks all the bills that are awaiting his decision and shows you the timeline for his action on bill.
Here are your highlights for this past week:
- The House dissented on Senate amendments for HB1002 on Monday, and the Career and Technical Education bill was heard in Conference Committee on Thursday, Bill Author Rep. Sullivan (R-Evansville) shared, “So 1002 went through the House and the Senate and it looks quite different. There were four and a half bills that found their way into HB1002 through Education and Appropriations Committee. What we want is to continue to remove barriers at the local level for schools so that they can properly grow and align their CTE courses to the needs of the industry in their region and our state. And we want to ensure industry has a seat at the table for workforce development. We are going to continue to fund our career and navigation grants that we’ve talked about all session. We also want to be able to work on putting together infrastructure for students and teacher in the work based learning tracks as well.” The bill remains for further consideration in conference committee at this time.
- A Motion to Concur for HB 1344, the Nurse Licensure Compact bill, passed the House 88-4 on Wednesday and will head to the Governor for his consideration.
- The Conference Committee Report (CCR) for HB1402, the Innkeeper’s tax bill, has now passed both the House and Senate and will go to the Governor. Representative Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) explained, “HB1402 helps county councils or city councils adopt these food and beverage taxes, so they can collect taxes and remit the taxes in an organized way.” Discussion determined that any lack of support seemed to be coming from concern by freshman lawmakers that they were voting for a tax increase. Karickhoff clarified, “It would actually be the locals who are enacting the tax. This language is simply enabling the locals.”
- HB1444, the “e-cigarette tax bill,” passed the Senate 45-2 on Tuesday, but without the tax. Both Senator Head (R-Logansport) and Senator Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) noted that, “We need to stem the tide,” citing statistics that revealed a 900% increase in vaping among 5th graders in Indiana. The House dissented the Senate amendments and was referred to Conference Committee. Lawmakers are hopeful to strengthen the bill during Conference – the hearing this coming Monday will shed light on whether that will be possible.
- HB 1628, expanding and improving the Pre-K programs was approved by the Senate early in the week and the House has dissented on the changes made in the Senate. The bill is one of many education bills headed to Conference Committee for final negotiations.
- The Gaming bill, SB 552, is headed to Conference Committee after passing the House on Monday with a vote of 78-15. The bill is a wide-ranging bill that includes the potential of a new casino in Terre Haute, which could have a significant impact on Tropicana and the revenues the City of Evansville receives from the casino.
- Senator Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) presented SB460, “As the bill moved through the House we continued to work on the content and got it to a point we got agreement with the Governor’s office, and all the broadband providers, rural electrics that set up grant parameters they that will have to spend the money on rural unserved customers and put the total of that $100M to rural. This will do a great job in moving the needle on rural, unserved customers in many of your districts. I would appreciate your support.” The Senate concurred unanimously with House amendments 46-0. It goes to the Governor.
- The House concurred with Senate Amendments to Representative Leonard’s Unemployment Matters HB1062 on Tuesday, a bill which makes various changes to unemployment compensation law. Representative Leonard (R-Huntington) explained the changes the Senate made, “The Senate made 2 changes. One clarification change on overpayments, they put a limit of 4 years for the Department to discover an overpayment and then added that after the discovery of an overpayment, they had 10 years to actually commence a civil suit to collect those funds. The overpayment that was paid fraudulently, that amendment was put in by Senator Tallian, and I’d like to thank her for that. Secondly, a senator believed we needed to put some sort of 10M cap on preventing, and recovery of fraudulent unemployment benefit payments.” The House concurred 64-28.
- Senator James Merritt (R-Indianapolis) presented his Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Center, or “CARC”, bill on Thursday explaining, “SB33 is a new program recognizing Addiction as being the epidemic in our communities. This bill establishes three different opportunities in Indiana, north, central and southern Indiana, where the drug czar will pick entities that can offer addiction services of detox, treatment, and recovery, which is a system of care.” Senator Breaux (D-Indianapolis) acknowledged, “You know, I’ve just been concerned that we have been approving so many programs with high-dollar tags on them for opioid addiction. Its admirable and it is a huge problem, but I just feel like we don’t really know where they are, what they are doing, or what sort of success they are having. I’d like a comprehensive review. I may offer something next legislative session to address this issue.“ Conference committee report for SB33 was unanimously supported in the Senate yeas 44, nays 0; and the House yeas 91, nays 0. It moves to the Governor for his consideration.
- Monday, April 22nd – Conference Committee Hearings
- Friday, April 26th – Date set at the beginning of Session as the goal for the last day
- Monday, April 29th – 2019 Session must adjourn