The Legislature has officially reached half-time as the deadline for bills to pass through the house of origin has now passed. Legislators worked long hours on Monday and Tuesday to determine the fate of more than 100 bills that had passed Committee, but still awaited a vote from the full House or Senate. On these last days, several bills died – either by a failed vote or because the bill did not get called for final vote. Several others that would not have passed in their current form changing statute were amended to become “study committee” recommendations as Legislators work to keep their issues alive and hopefully gain more support in the interim before the 2021 Session.
As Indiana lawmakers scrambled to wrap up their work for the week, the President trumpeted his accomplishments in the State of the Union address as Democrats await results from the Monday Iowa caucus and the much-anticipated impeachment vote in the U.S. Senate.
Lawmakers are taking a long weekend and will return to start the legislative process all over again on Monday as all bills which successfully passed in one house have now been referred for consideration in the other. Over the next month, bills that passed the House must go through the full process again in the Senate (Committee hearing, potential for amendment, and final vote on the floor) and Senate bills face the same fate in the House. That work must be complete by midnight on March 3rd, with the following 10 days dedicated to reconciling difference between House and Senate versions of bills.
As of today, no bills of interest are scheduled for Committee hearing next week, but there will definitely be activity when many of you come to Indianapolis on Wednesday for Southwest Indiana Chamber Day at the Statehouse. We look forward to seeing you then. Here are updates on several of the bills of interest that had action this week. In the bill report, you’ll notice that many bills have been assigned to Committee in the 2nd house; others await that assignment before being eligible for moving forward in the 2nd half of the process.
- HB1343 was presented by Rep Hostettler (R-Fort Branch) to the full House. “This bill is about the New Harmony and Wabash River Authority. It was believed Indiana would assume responsibility for the bridge – in 2019 – however, Illinois kept part of the bridge. Because we don’t have sole ownership, the bridge authority is unable to go out on the market and purchase insurance. And so this bill brings them under the same types of protections as the BMV and enable us to go through with this transaction. The folks down in the New Harmony area have big plans for that bridge and hopefully can restore it to its former glory. If you’ll notice this is effective upon passage because the deadline for that transfer is Feb 18 of this month.” The bill passed unanimously 93-0.
- SB3 would limit surprise billing by requiring hospitals to give patients a good faith estimate for the cost of services upon request. Currently, patients may receive a “surprise” bill when they receive care from multiple providers at one location, but not all of the providers are in the patient’s network. The bill passed out of the Senate 47-0 and has been referred to the House.
- SB4 aims to increase health care cost transparency for Hoosiers by creating an All Payer Claims Database (APCD). This database would allow Hoosiers to shop for the best priced health care. Over 30 states have begun collection of this data from health insurance claims for both services and medication. It does not retain identifying information about individuals. The bill passed out of the Senate 47-3 and has been referred to House Public Health Committee.
- SB5 passed in the Senate Monday with a vote of 47-0. It is one of several bills this session resulting from the summer study committee on health care costs. This bill is aimed at increasing transparency by prohibiting secrecy agreements/gag clauses between providers and others (employers, insurance companies, etc.). It will move to the House for consideration.
- The Senate passed SB350 on Tuesday with a 48-1 vote forming the Central Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) that will utilize the Indianapolis area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The bill is authored by Sen. Holdman (R-Markle) after hearing much testimony over the summer and through the Session regarding the structure of other Indiana RDA’s (including ours here in SW IN) and how they have achieved success. While this bill does not immediately impact our region and our RDA, we will continue to watch the bill to ensure that it doesn’t.
- HB1332 passed 91-1 and moved to the Senate this week after Rep Lehman (R-Berne) presented the bill which provides ambulatory outpatient surgical centers may only be reimbursed an amount not to exceed 225% of the ambulatory outpatient surgical center’s Medicare reimbursement rate and that payment to an ambulatory surgical center for a medical device under worker’s compensation may not exceed the invoice plus 3%.
- One of the more controversial bills moving forward to the 2nd half is HB1414, the bill that requires increased scrutiny over the process the IN Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) over the potential closure of any utility power plants. While all the provisions of the bill expire in May 2021, many are concerned by the increased legislative oversight of the regulatory agency and the heart of the bill’s intent, which seems to be to slow down the transition to new, different power generation sources. There is common ground on ensuring that we have a reliable power grid to fuel our future, there is strong disagreement on how to get there. The bill passed the House 52-41 on Monday and will surely see some changes – though we don’t know what or how substantial – as it moves through the Senate in the next few weeks.
- Rep Behning called HB1419 a “small tweak” to the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. The bill seeks to “align Indiana’s workforce policies from preschool all the way to career preparation” and adds members to the cabinet from Indiana colleges, the Chamber of Commerce, political caucuses and directs a Governor appointment of a technology sector appointee. The bill passed 92-1.
- SB123 is an effort to address affordable housing to meet growing workforce needs in some communities. The bill requires the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to provide a detailed report to the interim study committee on fiscal policy regarding affordable and workforce housing incentives. The bill passed 48-1.
- Legislation that will support the continued development of Innovation Pointe in downtown Evansville and other Certified Tech Parks (CTP’s) across Indiana, SB264, passed the Senate Tuesday with a vote of 43-6. The bill allows the CTP to capture up to $500,000 of incremental income tax generated in the park and, esp. important to Innovation Pointe, is the ability to negotiate with the IEDC to set the base that determines what income is “incremental.” Because the geographic boundaries of our CTP have changed significantly since it was first established, being able to re-establish the base is valuable to ensure that Innovation Pointe is still able to demonstrate growth and development. Thanks to Rep. Holli Sullivan (R-Evansville) for agreeing to become a co-sponsor of the bill to help usher it through the House to final passage.
- SB448 requires a nonprofit hospital to annually report the policies, procedures, activities or any other actions taken by a nonprofit hospital in the preceding year that were intended to make healthcare more affordable. Bill author, Sen Holdman (R-Markle) reported “Not for profits in Indiana hold over $29B in reserves, that’s greater than 300 days of reserves. Those are the dollars you spend on hospital care in Indiana – and we must insist those dollars are not invested on Wall Street and fund projects in other states and communities that compete with our own Indiana communities. The purpose and goal of SB448 is to urge our not for profit hospitals to bring some of those dollars back to Indiana and Indiana projects where we project it could generate $4-5B into Indiana economy.”
- SB 170 is a bill to provide a tax credit to help ensure former abandoned mine lands can be competitive when being considered for new development. Because most of these sites are in SW Indiana, this is a positive development for our region as a new tool to assist economic developers in improving current undeveloped land and return it to the tax rolls. The bill also repeals the obligation to submit plans for development be approved by the local BZA in Spencer County – the only county in the State of Indiana with that requirement. The Senate passed the bill 46-0 and will be ushered through the House by Rep. Matt Hostettler (R-Poseyville) as the Sponsor.
- The Senate passed SB262 Tuesday with a 47-2 vote to authorize the Indiana Destination Development Corporation to employ a commissioner and to establish a film & media production incentive program that would be funded in the 2021 budget. Bill author Sen. Justin Busch (R-Ft Wayne) noted that this work is being drawn to other states that are actively working to develop this business and are filming shows that are “set” in Indiana in those other states that are offering incentives for the jobs and economic impact that are created by the industry. Local Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) is one of the sponsors who will carry the bill through the House.