Legislative Update: Walk in my Shoes

This past
weekend, West Coast rapper Nipsey Hussle (“Walk in my shoes,” “Dedication”) was
slain in Los Angeles as he prepared for a meeting with LAPD officials the next
day exploring ways to ease gang violence in LA. 
A promising talent, seeking reconciliation, snuffed out by senseless
violence…a somber story to match a somber topic – bias crimes – that saw action
this week at the Statehouse.

On Tuesday,
Senator Greg Taylor – a longtime champion of bias crimes legislation –
emotionally urged his fellow lawmakers to ‘walk in [his] shoes’ and attempt to
understand the perspective of groups routinely targeted for violence and other
crimes inspired by hate.  Other supporters
joined the case for empathy and inclusion for the most vulnerable Hoosiers.   

At the end
of the debate, however, SB198 passed its
concurrence vote and was sent to and signed by the Governor, a big step forward
on bias crimes that still leaves us short of the finish line.

new law will allow judges to increase criminal penalties for bias motivation
towards “real or perceived characteristics…” and refers to other parts of the
Indiana Code to address race, creed, disability, national origin, religion and
sexual orientation.   It omits sex,
gender, ancestry and age as specific classifications.

However, it
represents substantial progress from the stripped-down SB12 that was
referred to the House.  It will protect
more Hoosiers from hate and positions Indiana as a more welcoming state to
live, work and do business.  But even
though Indiana joins 45 other states with a bias crime law on the books, our
work isn’t finished.

To quote
from the statement issued by Michael Huber on behalf of Indiana Competes: “Indiana may move off ‘the list,’ but bias
crimes won’t move off the Indy Chamber’s legislative agenda.  We’ll keep pushing to strengthen the law so
no Hoosiers are left behind or denied justice.”

We owe
Senators Bohacek and Alting, and other supporters of the committee-approved
version of SB12,
thanks for their commitment to a comprehensive solution on bias crimes, and
look forward to continuing their efforts.

Revisions for Regionalism

We don’t
need to look any further than SB198 to see how bills can be transformed from
their original intent with a single amendment. 
This played out in a more constructive way (and as part of the normal
committee process) on Wednesday, when language creating regional ‘investment
hubs’ was added to SB565
(otherwise dealing with administrative matters at the Department of Revenue).

The need to
strengthen local finances and allow cooperative investments in regional
priorities is a key legislative issue, but one without much movement to date.  The investment hub concept allows cities,
towns and counties to voluntarily form a ‘new style’ of Regional Development Authority;
participating jurisdictions would levy a new local option income or food and
beverage tax, keeping half the resulting revenue for local needs and adding
half to a regional fund administered by the RDA.

prospects for actually passing this concept this session are uncertain, but
getting the idea out of committee helps advance the discussion on the fiscal
challenges facing local government and the need for regional cooperation and
action on issues like infrastructure and quality of life.    

Pre-K: ‘On Its Way’ (to second reading)

Wednesday, HB1628
passed the Education & Career Development Committee 8-1, expanding the ‘On
My Way Pre-K’ program statewide (while protecting service levels in pilot
counties like Marion) with amendments dealing with household eligibility and
pursuing federal capacity-building grants – while state funding levels
ultimately need to rise to meet demand for high-quality, affordable preschool
for Hoosier children, the policy framework for a successful program is taking

Tourism, Technology & Taxation

HB1115, creating
an IEDC-style, quasi-governmental agency for tourism development, passed the
Senate and (with no amendments to the House version) headed straight to the
Governor for his signature.

all the new visitors from this effort – and always eyeing the state’s bottom
line – the legislature also moved closer to enacting new rules to capture
maximum tax revenue from online hotel bookings, short-term rentals (AirBNBs)
and other internet retail transactions.

SB322 would
require third-party hotel booking sites (like Expedia) to collect taxes based
on retail (not wholesale) room prices, and also puts short-term rental platforms
on the hook for hotel taxes.  The bill
also puts the onus on market facilitators like Amazon to collect Indiana sales
taxes.  These high-tech tweaks could add
up to a nine-figure annual windfall for state coffers; it passed Ways &
Means easily.

Workforce, the legislative workload and more:

As we’ve
noted before, major bills are often held in committee until third reading
deadlines loom, to allow more time for fine-tuning (and deal-making).  Next week will see a rush of committee action
on key issues like economic development (including the redevelopment tax
credit), and the Capital Improvement Board.

Until then,
some updates on other bills we’ve been tracking:

  • HB1177 (Township Government) requires townships to adopt a
    capital improvement plan for persistent surpluses and addresses fund transfers
    for smaller townships – it passed committee this week;
  • HB1010, expanding income tax exemptions for military retirement
    and survivor’s benefits, passed Senate Appropriations as well;
  • SB607
    (Workforce Diploma Reimbursement Program) encourages partnerships helping
    adults earn their high school diplomas – it also graduated through third
  • HB1141 (Traffic
    Amnesty) reduces
    reinstatement fees for suspended driving privileges; this workforce mobility
    measure cruised through third reading with relative ease;
  • SB235 deals with
    the process and criteria for expungements (supporting ex-offender re-entry to
    the workforce); it passed third reading after minor amendments to address law
    enforcement concerns;
  • SB436 (Nurse
    Licensure Compact) passed committee with minor amendments, putting Indiana a
    step closer to licensing reciprocity with other states to address nursing
    workforce shortages;
  • HB1008 (Teacher
    Career Ladders) establishes the teacher and
    student advancement grant program – it climbs one more rung towards final
    passage with a positive committee vote;
  • HB1002, covering
    Career and Technical Education and encouraging real-world employer engagement
    in K-12, passed committee on Thursday;   
  • HB1641, on the
    other hand, was heard but held; among other charter school issues, it would
    reduce the window for charters to pursue unused school facilities and remove
    other financial liabilities, helping IPS maximize the market potential of Broad
    Ripple High School and other properties;
  • HB1003 made it
    one step further: It sets efficiency targets for school corporations (an 85/15
    ratio of education versus administrative and capital expenses) to encourage
    districts to raise teacher salaries; it was engrossed after second reading, but
    (a little surprisingly) didn’t get called for third reading this week.

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