Legislative Update: Super Bowl Halftime Show Edition

It’s been a quiet week at the Indiana Statehouse, with lawmakers on break since Tuesday as the 2024 session hit the halfway mark. The respite was perfect timing for the Indy Chamber team, given how much we still have to do to be ready for Sunday’s Super Bowl Halftime Show party— since that’s most of what we’ll be tuning in to watch. With thanks for this bit of scheduling serendipity, we say pass the nachos! It’s the Indy Chamber legislative update—Super Bowl Halftime Show edition.

Let’s Get It Started (In Here) 

Though we can hear the imperative refrain of the Black Eyed Peas’ (2011 Super Bowl Halftime Show) hit, we are obliged, like all good commentators, to reset the game with a quick rundown of where things stand at halftime.   

The 2024 “short session” was gaveled in on January 8 and must adjourn no later than March 14. This week was the deadline for bills to receive a third reading, which is an option only for bills that have passed a committee vote, as well as an initial vote in the chamber of its lead author/s.

The “third reading” is when a bill gets either the go-ahead or the guillotine from its home chamber. Only bills that survived the vote on Monday (for House bills) or Tuesday (for Senate bills) can cross over to the other chamber for consideration in the session’s second half. All other bills can cross over to… another place. If it helps, remember that the first Super Bowl Halftime Show in 1967 featured the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  

Legislative Encore: Halftime Hits

Most of the bills that made the cut were as easy to spot coming as a pregnant Rhianna in a giant red marshmallow puffer coat at last year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. Like all great halftime shows, however, some of these bills are subjects of considerable debate. Here are the bills and issues currently picking up steam: 

Healthcare. A few of the priority Senate bills this year take aim at the issue of healthcare costs, a leading and fraught topic for the last few years at the Statehouse. SB 3 proposes to limit the volume and scope of prior authorizations utilization review entities can require. SB 9, with its requirement that the state’s attorney general be notified of mergers or acquisitions of healthcare entities in the state, would put legislative leadership in an oversight role on ownership structures in the healthcare markets. While we share the goal of making Indiana’s healthcare costs more competitive, we’re concerned that these two bills may indicate that the discussion on how to do so has become more combative and possibly less productive.

Indiana desperately needs data-based strategies to drive to better health outcomes and lower costs while simultaneously addressing fiscal challenges like the recently discovered $1 billion Medicaid shortfall at FSSA. Raising the state’s tobacco tax springs immediately to mind, as a measure to raise revenue, disincentivize one of the most damaging behaviors to Hoosier health, and drastically reduce the burden on our state’s employers. 

Another important measure is SB 5, Senator Koch’s bill seeking to speed the replacement of lead water lines across Indiana. This quiet but critical effort to upgrade legacy infrastructure and support public health by reducing Hoosiers’ lead exposure is the Bruce Springsteen (2009 Super Bowl Halftime Show) of this year’s IGA session—no sequins or special effects, just a top-quality performance with lasting impact.

Lemonade: Representative Blake Johnson's Version

Virtually every Super Bowl Halftime Show proves to be a breakout moment for one performer or another, and the legislative session is no different. This year’s first-half breakout stars are Indy-area legislators Senator Cyndi Carrasco and Representative Blake Johnson. Each earned the right to their first touchdown dances this week when their respective chambers passed SB 190, by Carrasco, and HB 1019, by Johnson.  

Carrasco’s bill proposes positive changes to Indiana’s disaster relief fund, including increasing the claim limit on damages to an individual’s property and decreasing other technical burdens on those looking to access aid. Johnson’s bill strikes an important blow to the right of young Hoosier entrepreneurs to be free from tyrannical and intrusive fetters in the operation of that great American tradition, the lemonade stand. For his part, Johnson went full Left Shark (a la Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show) in his floor speech. You’re not likely to see anything funnier this weekend, and we’re including the Super Bowl commercials in that assessment. Advance to the three-minute mark in this video to see for yourself. 

Keep Ya Head Up—as long as it’s real 

When Dr. Dre brought a hologram Tupac out onstage in the 2022 Super Bowl Halftime Show, jaws around the world dropped in unison. With the incredibly swift evolution of AI, though, many of us wouldn’t be surprised to see hologram Elvis join Usher onstage this weekend.

Like many statehouses across the country, the IGA is attempting to get its collective head and hands around the use of “fabricated media” in elections through SB 7. With the capabilities and applications of AI growing exponentially from one week to the next, Indiana’s lawmakers share a legitimate concern about the use of deep fakes to influence election outcomes. SB 7 makes it a crime for any individual to disseminate fabricated media—like, say, a photo that uses AI to convincingly but falsely portray an elected official using illicit drugs—if the person knows or should know the image is false and is disseminating it to influence an election.

Debate on the issue is happening just as a new election cycle is baring down on us all. While the U.S. presidential election gets the most attention, Hoosiers will also vote for a new U.S. Senator to fill the seat Mike Braun is vacating to run for Governor. All nine of Indiana’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election this year, as are a majority of seats in the General Assembly. 

Can you make it rain harder?

The Indianapolis Colts will forever be associated with what every thinking person agrees is the all-time greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show: the night of February 4, 2007, when Prince stepped onto a rain-slicked stage and delivered a performance unrivaled by anything before or since. With the right policy strategies in place, Indiana and the Indy region are teed up to deliver a similarly virtuosic tour de force.

As has been widely reported, Indy and the state led the Midwest in real GDP growth over the last three years, both in percentage terms and raw dollars. That success is praiseworthy, but it’s important to keep our ambition and recognize that the Midwest as a whole continues to underperform fast-growth regions like the South and Mountain West. Let’s leverage our demonstrated success into elevated excellence.  

That excellence begins and ends with the people and communities of our state. As outlined in our 2024 Legislative Priorities, we will continue to drive solutions, in partnership with legislators, to expand work-based learning, and high-quality childcare, and to enhance student literacy. Our communities will continue to find innovative solutions like the Economic Enhancement District to drive investment to our most culturally and economically significant places, the engines of our quality of life and economic growth.

Earlier we mentioned the coming election cycle, which represents a critical opportunity for the business community to support candidates who will advance solution-focused strategies to accelerate the inclusive growth of our economy.  

Indy Chamber members invest their time in policy council meetings, on Leadership Exchange trips, in public and private dialogue on the issues most critical to the successful economic development of the Indy region and the state of Indiana—and yet, these investments alone will not create the results our membership is seeking. Our best collective policy idea is only as effective as the partnerships we’re able to build at every level of government. With your support, we can continue to engage with like-minded candidates and elected officials and support their leadership. To join us in supporting elected officials who will move the region forward, check out (and consider contributing) to the Indy Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee.  

No doubt Usher will put on a fantastic show at this Sunday’s Super Bowl. But if there was a fan write-in option, we’d vote enthusiastically for Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs’ joint performance of Fast Car at this past Sunday evening’s Grammy Awards. Chapman and Combs reached across divides of race, genre, age, orientation, and more to give us all a glimpse of what is possible when we reach beyond those labels and work together. Let’s get some more of that.

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