With the end in sight, Indiana lawmakers raced this week to get their bills to the finish line and on their way to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk. The deadline for the House bills to pass Second Reading was Thursday. That morning, House members – and Statehouse watchers – were greeted by a whopping 109 amendments on just 15 bills. As they trudged through their to-do list tempers flared and things grew fiery at times. In the afternoon, one lawmaker responded to an amendment by explaining that though he had “huge respect for (the amendment author’s) intellect, the story just told is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears without Goldilocks.” And during evening debate on an amendment to the controversial gaming bill SB 552 demanding more transparency and calling out the Governor for a private meeting on a plane with Gary casino owner Rod Ratcliffe, things got heated before a brief recess was called after a “point of order” was called for breaking the rule of impugning another member on the floor. Ultimately, the amendment, which requires 48 hour public notice on any future meetings between the Governor’s office and any individuals with gaming interests, received bipartisan support, to pass with 61 yeas, 28 nays.
The House and Senate worked through more concurrences this week, and conference committees have begun. To provide some background on this process, bills that pass the second chamber without amendments go to the Governor for him to either sign, veto, or allow to become law without signature. If a bill is amended, the chamber of origin may then either concur or dissent to the amendment. If the first chamber concurs, the bill goes to the Governor for his action. If the first chamber dissents, the bill will then go to conference committee for legislators from both the House and Senate (called conferees) to work out the differences. If an agreement is reached by the conference committee, the conferees will sign a conference committee report that will then have to be approved by both the House and Senate to pass and go to the Governor.
Monday is the last day for Senate bills to pass the House and Tuesday is the deadline for House bills to pass the Senate. After that, all the focus will be on the negotiations that occur during conference committee time to reach the final version on remaining bills before the Legislature adjourns no later than midnight on Monday, April 29th.
Finally a few highlights from your bill report:
- HB 1002, Representative Sullivan’s Career and Technical Education bill, received the final committee hearing in Senate Appropriations this week and was presented on Thursday for 3rd reading by Senator Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg), “The thing about opportunity is you never know when it’s going to go away. HB 1002 is an effort to try to take advantage of those opportunities. A year ago, we passed a bill to create a workforce cabinet to try to move more quickly and try to make programs more relevant to the opportunities that are being presented. Today, HB 1002, a Governor’s priority bill, is also a priority of the Workforce cabinet and is their work project.” This bill would, among other provisions, allow workforce ready grants to be used for programs approved by the Commission for Higher Education. The bill was amended in the Senate committee to require the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to conduct a systematic and comprehensive review, analysis, and evaluation of whether Indiana’s primary, secondary, and postsecondary education systems are aligned with employer needs and whether Indiana’s students and workforce are prepared for success in the twenty-first century economy. The bill also now requires the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to create a comprehensive strategic plan to ensure alignment between Indiana’s primary, secondary, and postsecondary education systems with Indiana’s workforce training programs and employer needs. HB 1002 passed Third Reading 39 yeas, 9 nays. Representative Sullivan will now have the option to ask her House colleagues to consent on the amendments from the Senate or take the bill to Conference Committee to consider final changes.
- This week the Senate dissented from House amendments to SB 233, the business personal property tax bill. Senate and House advisors and conferees have been appointed.
- HB 1057, the bill which directs the judge of the Vanderburgh circuit court to appoint an additional magistrate to serve the Vanderburgh circuit and superiors courts, was signed by the Governor on Wednesday.
- Unemployment Matters, HB 1062, makes various changes to unemployment compensation law concerning confidentiality, the method of sending notices to claimants and employers, caps expenditures from the special employment and training services fund, and makes technical corrections. The bill, presented by Senator Boots (R-Crawfordsville) amended on Second Reading Monday with “some minor technical amendments in language in notifications and confidentiality,” and passed Third Reading unanimously Thursday, 48-0, giving praise to Senator Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes), “who has worked closely with myself, with DWD, and the Attorney General’s office and made it a better bill.”
- HB 1444, the retail excise tax or more commonly referred to as the “e-cigarette tax bill,” was heard in Senate Appropriations Thursday where it was amended and passed out of Committee with 12 yeas and 1 nay. It will be considered on the Senate floor this week.
- HB 472 Utility Matters, that has a rather controversial provision placing a moratorium on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission rulings while the state develops a comprehensive energy plan was presented by Representative Soliday (R-Valparaiso) for Second Reading. As an amendment offered by Representative Pierce (D-Bloomington) to soften the “moratorium” language was debated, Soliday noted, “The world is changing very rapidly. When I came to the legislature, the price of natural gas was $14 a therm. Now you can buy it for $2. Now the part of the amendment to the bill that you have been hearing so much about, and we’ve been able to employ a lot of unemployed lobbyists on, deals with a pause in the approval process of public certificates of public need and convenience. We have provided “off ramps” but the word “emergency” is scaring a lot of people. This amendment is removing that word. All we are saying is, we, the legislature, should set energy policy, not small, regional, whack-a-mole defacto policy settings. Let’s behave responsibly. Let’s proceed slowly.” However, Representative Hatfield (D-Evansville) was not rebuffed, “Nothing that the Chairman has done up until now follows the process. On roads, we were deliberate, but we didn’t stop building roads. On water infrastructure, we were deliberate but we didn’t stop water infrastructure. And so now, it comes to utility policy and the world is certainly changing, rates are changing all of the time, but that’s not new. There’s nothing new about that. There isn’t a single interest that testified in favor of this language. Not a single one. Not on the left. Not on the right. But you all know that. They talked to you, too. If you vote against this amendment means you are ok with government coming in and halting the only regulatory process that we’ve set up. I suggest to you that this is the biggest form of government.” The minority led amendment ultimately prevailed with a vote of 53-38. The House will consider the bill on Third Reading on Monday.
- Monday, April 15th – Deadline for Senate Bills to pass the House
- Tuesday, April 16th – Deadline for House Bills to pass the Senate
- Friday, April 26th – Date set at the beginning of Session as the goal for the last day
- Monday, April 29th – 2019 Session must adjourn