The 2021 legislative session began with calls for flexibility and patience, and to fast track certain bills in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis. Civil immunity for businesses and school funding emerged as two priority issues. In the midst of calls to spend more money to help struggling Hoosiers reeling from an unprecedented 2020 shutdown, Lawmakers are also required to produce a balanced 2-year state budget at a time when revenues are reduced.
Massive changes were facilitated at the Statehouse to allow legislators to return to work, notably, the use of masks, social distancing guidelines necessitating the move of Members of the House of Representatives to a large conference room at the nearby Government Center, and those testifying to Committees are often in a different room than the Legislators. “It would be disingenuous to say we aren’t making it up a little bit as we go along,” admitted Speaker Todd Huston (R- Fishers).
The Republican-dominated Legislature will also be tasked with the important, once per decade work of using Census data to reconfigure congressional and legislative district maps to reflect population shifts. Republicans who currently enjoy a 39-11 and 71-29 supermajority in the Senate and House respectively, have sole control of this process, just as they did in 2011.
Bills are listed in order of bill number (House bills first, then Senate). Once more bills are filed and added to the Report, each bill will have a priority ranking and the most important bills will be listed first.
Bills that have either already had a Committee hearing or are scheduled to be heard this week:
- SB1 – Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19 (Messmer R – Jasper) was first heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday, it will have a 2nd hearing and be voted out of Committee this Wednesday, March 13th. The SWIN Chamber participated in a group letter with other large Chambers from across IN to support the bill and will encourage our local legislators to support it when it is considered by the Senate. The bill is retroactive to March 1, 2020 and will cover most individuals and businesses, organizations, associations, government entities, etc. and provides immunity from civil liability for damages resulting from exposure of an individual to COVID-19: on the premises owned/operated by the person; on premises on which the person/employee/agent of the person provided property or services to the individual; during an activity managed, organized, or sponsored by the person. It does not grant immunity to those whose actions or omissions constitute gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct as proven by clear and convincing evidence. An amendment adding liability protections for some products is anticipated this week.
- The House bill addressing Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19 is SB1 is HB1002 (Torr, R-Carmel) is scheduled for hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this Tuesday 1/12. Sally Rideout will be speaking to the Committee in support of the bill representing our Chamber and several other large Chambers from across the state as we work together to minimize the number of individuals making in-person appearances before Committees during COVID-19 considerations.
- Two bills are designed to side-step existing law capping per-pupil funding for students who take at least half their classes virtually at 85% of full in-person student funding – the number of these students dramatically increased in the pandemic and could have significant implications on school budgets. HB1003 – Tuition Support (Slager, R – Schererville) passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee with a 24-0 vote and will be ready for 2nd Reading in the full House this Thursday 1/14. SB2 – Funding for Virtual Instruction in Public Schools (Raatz, R – Richmond) had a first hearing in Senate Education & Career Development Committee last week and is scheduled for an “Amend and Vote” hearing this Wednesday. The bills establish a definition of “virtual instruction” for purposes of determining a brick and mortar school corporation’s basic tuition support average daily membership “ADM” in hopes of protecting full state payments to school districts.
- HB 1123 (Lehman, R-Berne) is scheduled for hearing on Tuesday. The bill provides that a state of disaster emergency may not continue for longer than 30 days unless it is renewed for an additional 30 when the general assembly is in session or if the Governor has called for a special session.
- On Wednesday, the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee will hear two bills of interest to businesses. The first, SB 74 (Kruse, R-Auburn) would prohibit employers from requiring any sort of immunization for employment. The second, SB129 (Sandlin, R-Indianapolis) would allow employees to provide whistleblower reports re: the execution of a public contract to do so by an oral report or via electronic mail (current law requires a report to be in writing).
- Also on Wednesday, a bill clarifying and expanding several telehealth matters, SB3 (Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso), will be considered by the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee.
- A bill of local interest, HB 1197 (McNamara, R-Evansville) will be heard in Committee on Tuesday. The bill will rename the official state aircraft of Indiana the “Hoosier Spirit II” – recognizing the role Indiana played in building so many P-47s (current law designates the P-47 Thunderbolt as the official state aircraft).
- Tuesday, January 12, 2021
- Wednesday, January 13, 2021
- Tuesday, January 19th – Governor Holcomb State of the State Address
COVID-19 Information and Updates:
- Since Monday’s update, the state has reported 33,965 new positive cases (563,653 total), 463 new deaths (8,613 total), 77,468 new individuals tested (2,752,524 total), and 295,127 new tests administered (6,109,153 total). There are an additional 372 probable Covid-19 deaths (X-Ray, CT, symptoms & exam consistent w/Covid-19, but no positive test received). All of this information is on the ISDH dashboard at www.coronavirus.in.gov.
- The state shares 2 different positivity rates. The positivity rate for ALL tests administered (comparative metric to most other states) is 10.8% from the beginning of testing and 16.3% for the 7-days ending on 01/03. The positivity rate for unique individuals is 20.5% since the beginning of testing and is 28.5% for the 7 days ending 01/03. Both rates trail by 7 days to account for lagging test reports.
- The color-coded county metrics that combine new cases per 100,000 people over the last week and the 7-day positivity rates updated on Wednesday placing all of SW IN in red (high community spread) – currently 57 of 92 Counties are in red. The nearest Counties in orange (moderate to high community spread) are Knox on the North and Perry on the East. You can find these metrics and how they are calculated by choosing the “County Metrics” tab above the map of Indiana on the state dashboard.
- The state also publishes county-level 7-day positivity rates for all tests given. Currently, SW Indiana rates as of 01/03 are: Gibson 22.2%, Posey 25.4%, Vanderburgh 18.5%, Warrick 20.8%, and Spencer 20.7%. You can find the county-level information by choosing the “Positivity” tab above the map of Indiana on the state dashboard.
- The Vaccination Dashboard is now available and will be updated weekly. As of 01/05, 128,026 Hoosiers have received their first dose of the vaccine and 585 are considered “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19. The site also has county-level vaccination numbers and information re: age, gender, race, and nationality of those vaccinated.
- There are nearly 280 testing sites across the state. You are encouraged to get tested if you have any symptoms or are have had contact with someone who has tested positive.
- You can see the Governor’s Executive Orders here.