TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19 – Today was the Legislature’s equivalent to the “first day of school” as Legislators convened in the Statehouse to set the stage for the 2020 Legislative Session. It probably felt more like returning to school than normal as more than 10,000 teachers greeted them as part of the #RedForEd day of action organized by the IN State Teachers Association.
As is customary, the leader of each legislative body addressed their house with thoughts for the upcoming session. Besides the focus on education created by the rally, House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) stole the spotlight when he announced that he will resign as Speaker at the end of next Session and will not seek re-election in 2020. He added that his caucus will be meeting in the next few weeks to choose a “Speaker Elect” who will work alongside him during this upcoming Session and take over as Speaker on the last day of Session in March. Bosma is the longest-serving Speaker in Indiana history (12 Sessions), and his retirement will create a ripple of changes that will unfold over the next 13 months.
Besides the statements on the floor today, leaders of each of the four legislative caucuses participated in the IN Chamber of Commerce Legislative Preview event yesterday, giving us a good idea of the issues that will be getting attention. As a reminder, this Session will be a “short,” non-budgetary Session where fiscal issues will largely be avoided until the 2021 budgetary session.
As of now, there are several issues that will be on the Chamber’s radar that are among the most anticipated:
• Education – while educators are hoping for more funding to be applied to K-12 public education, GOP legislators who control the agenda are pushing hard to delay that debate again until 2021. We will see how that plays out as they anticipate addressing some fiscal issues that could open the door to other budgetary discussions. However, lawmakers have expressed support for moving forward on some of the other concerns teachers are raising, such as:
o Holding schools and teachers harmless for the drop in statewide test scores during this first year of the new ILEARN test
o Speaker Bosma also expressed interest in finding a way to decouple teacher evaluations from test scores – while conceptually popular, it may be difficult to work out the details on this one during a short session
o Revising or eliminating the recently-passed 15 hours of professional development for teachers regarding workforce opportunities
o License reciprocity with other states
• Healthcare costs – this has continued to get significant attention throughout the interim with some specific proposals gaining traction
o President Pro Tem Bray said that transparency in billing & easier licensing is the “top priority” for his Senate GOP caucus
o Eliminating surprise billing was brought up by Speaker Bosma
o Reducing insulin costs was raised by the House Democratic leadership
• Raising the legal age for smoking and vaping to 21 (from 18) seems set for a much easier path this year than in the recent past. And while many also support an increase in the cigarette tax as a way to reduce smoking, leaders indicate that is unlikely to happen in this upcoming short, nonbudgetary session
• Regionalism – though we have yet to see a final proposal, we anticipate the Association of Indiana Municipalities will be pushing legislation to allow for multiple communities within a region to come together with funding via a locally-enacted 1% tax on either income, sales, or food and beverage.
• Tuesday, December 10th: Deadline for Legislators to request that the Legislative Services Agency draft a bill
• Wednesday, December 11th: SW IN Chamber Legislative Preview, 4:00 p.m., Holiday Inn Airport
• Monday, January 6th: Legislature reconvenes for Session – will generally be in Session Monday through Thursday of each week until mid-March
• Thursday, January 9th: Deadline for Legislators to file bills
• March 11th or 12th: Anticipated last day of the 2020 Session
• Saturday, March 14th: Statutory deadline for the Session to end