Lawmakers returned to the Statehouse this week in good spirits proceeding to work at a pace best described as “relaxed” in spite of announcements by leadership that the 2020 Legislative session will wrap up a few days early this year in advance of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament coming to Indianapolis March 11-15. Bills are still in review and some have still not been assigned to a committee in the 2nd house. However, while things are moving slowly at present, expect things to ramp up quickly as the deadline for bills to emerge from Committee is just 2 weeks away. Or, if the pace doesn’t quicken, a LOT of bills will die at this point in the process.
We saw the softer side of politics in Indiana this week as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to fill care packages for homeless veterans across the State. Also this week, Indiana’s oldest-ever state employee was celebrated, retiring at age 102 years young. Bob Vollmer was born in 1917 in southwest Indiana and grew up in the Great Depression. He enlisted in the Navy where he fought in the Philippines. After the war he studied engineering and surveying at the University of California Berkeley for a few years before transferring to Purdue to finish his degree, after which he went on to serve as a surveyor in the State of Indiana for over 57 years.
On Tuesday, Governor Holcomb vowed to keep pushing for SB342, which, as introduced, provided workplace accommodations for pregnant women. The GOP dominated Senate stalled the bill, calling for it to be assigned to an interim summer study committee to consider pregnancy and childbirth accommodations and the fiscal impact on business within Indiana. The vote came despite SB342 being touted as one of the Governor’s legislative priorities this session. “We’ve got our work to do, but I’m still hellbent on making sure that this becomes a reality in the State of Indiana,” vowed Holcomb.
We had a great turnout from our region on Wednesday at our Day at the Statehouse where we had quality interactions with our local delegation and all the key statehouse leaders starting with Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, then House Speaker-Elect Todd Huston (R-Fishers), Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville), and ending our day with Governor Eric Holcomb. Mayor Winnecke presented a Key to the City to retiring Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) for being a friend to our region throughout his tenure in leadership. These leaders appreciate hearing from you and realize the sacrifice made by traveling to Indianapolis for the day – it’s valuable to have had such a strong group participate in the event.
Only a few of the many bills we are still watching for the Chamber moved this week. Here are the highlights:
- HB1343 provides civil immunity for the New Harmony and Wabash River bridge authority, created in 2017, for any act or omission related to implementation of the statute that establishes the bridge authority. The Bridge Authority is currently undecided as to the eventual use of the 92-year-old bridge, one of the last commissioned by the government still standing. After amending the bill to make it retroactive to meet a federal deadline, the bill passed Committee 10-0.
- One of the bills to come out of the summer study regarding healthcare costs is an attempt to increase transparency of costs through SB5. It ensures that health provider contracts may not prohibit providers from disclosing health care service claims data to employers. It is hoped that the increased transparency will lead to more “consumerism” and also to better health care and health care plans. The bill was heard by the House Committee on Public Health and was held for further consideration next week.
- The Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor heard HB1111, the bill that will keep Unemployment Insurance rates the same for the next several years to continue building the UI Trust Fund to meet federal expectations necessary to be prepared for any downturn. While some are interested in also raising the payout levels, the core of the bill has broad support as a way to keep stability in the UI system. The discussion comes as state lawmakers attempt to find balance between growing the unemployment trust fund to comply with updated standards from the U.S. Labor Department and at the same time impose overly burdensome higher tax rates for businesses. The Committee held the bill and will consider it and any possible amendments at their meeting next week.
- Like all of our surrounding states, Indiana is considering joining the EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact that would provide greater flexibility for EMS personnel doing interstate patient transfers, ensure we have access to more caregivers in time of disaster, and allow us to know personnel coming into Indiana to deliver services. The House Statutory Committee on Interstate & International Cooperation members shared mostly positive comments about SB61 and passed the bill to the full House to consider with a vote of 10-0.
- HB1143 would make it illegal to require implantation of any device in the body as a condition of employment. While some businesses are turning to new technology of implanting a microchip that serves as a badge or for other employment reasons, this bill would permit employees to do this voluntarily, but would not allow punishment or termination if an employee chooses not. The bill passed easily out of Senate Pensions and Labor by a vote of 9-1. Senator Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) was the lone opposing vote, asking why the government was getting involved, and complained technology cannot advance “because we are holding on to the old ways.” This bill, which passed unanimously in the Republican majority led House, also garnered support from the ACLU in the Senate Committee this week, “A person’s digital footprint can be tracked by companies and we believe no Hoosier should be required to give up their privacy as a condition of employment.”
- Tuesday, February 18th
Tax and Fiscal Policy
- HB1065 Various Tax Matters
- Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy
- Wednesday, February 19th
Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications
- SB177 Administration of Broadband Ready Program
- SB254 Water and Wastewater Utilities
- SB343 Rural Communications Cooperatives
- House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications
** Committee Hearings can be called with just a one-day notice, so schedules change very quickly