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We’ve mentioned before that the pace of the ten-week short session can feel more like a sprint than a marathon, so Run DMC is a perfect reference for this turning point in the legislative schedule (and did you see that Grammy’s performance?).  This week marked deadlines for committee action (passing bills to the floor), and Monday and Tuesday loom as the last days for third reading votes in the House and Senate.

The Senate is already working on some House bills, and vice-versa, but this is the official ‘halftime’ for legislation to be out of its original chamber…and where things get tricky: Can dead language be resurrected by amendment to a related bill?  If companion House and Senate measures both passed third reading, can differences be negotiated to avoid a conference committee?  Or will differences between the east and west sides of the rotunda become more pronounced as they dig into one another’s work?

We had to lace up our Adidas to keep up with all the committee and floor action this week, so before you say “You talk too much,” here are the highlights:

Follow the leader
We testified in support of SB350 on Tuesday; it originally created a revenue-raising ‘investment hub’ structure allowing regions across the state to identify and invest in transformative projects.  It’s changed a lot over the last week, but still represents progress on regional collaboration and a win for the Indy region.

The new version, which passed committee, creates a Central Indiana pilot that elevates our Regional Development Authority and codifies an independent Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to work together on a comprehensive economic development strategy that includes talent and quality of life initiatives, long-term infrastructure and transportation planning and other competitive priorities.

Ultimately, we support a statewide solution – but as Indiana’s largest metro and dominant regional economy, we’ll take the lead in showing the potential of empowered regions with the ability to pursue critical investments as we move forward on plans for a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to guide our efforts.

During next year’s budget-writing session, we’ll also continue to advocate for revenue reforms to make interlocal collaboration work on two levels:  We need fiscal capacity for collective investments in high-impact regional projects, like the cleanup of the White River and redevelopment around it.  But we also have to recognize that basic services – public safety, well-maintained streets – are daily necessities for livability and business climate.  We need a local tax structure that keeps up with essential costs (recognizing the unique challenges of urban areas) and addresses revenue disparities within regions.

Mother may I?
Indiana wouldn’t necessarily be a trailblazer in guaranteeing reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees – 27 states have enacted laws similar to SB342.  But we’ve delayed action on important issues before, and the future is still in doubt for this common-sense bill, which clarifies employer responsibilities and necessary accommodations – unpaid leave, job modifications  (i.e. seating) and schedule flexibility – while thoughtfully balancing the impact on business.

We’re proud to join Governor Holcomb – and former Governor Daniels – in supporting this legislation to address the state’s lagging infant mortality and labor force participation rates.  It passed committee, but we need to head off destructive amendments or attempts to sideline it altogether; please consider contacting your legislator in support of a clear, meaningful SB342.

By helping expectant mothers continue working to support their families, SB342 is a step forward for economic inclusion.  Unfortunately, a similarly forward-looking proposal faltered in committee this week: SB313 would have delayed the income cutoff for federal poverty programs (like TANF and SNAP) to ensure families who begin earning more money can build some financial stability before reducing their aid.  We’d support revisiting this issue next year.

You be illin’
It’s increasingly likely that this session will be remembered for a flurry of activity on healthcare and public health issues.  We applaud decisive action to affirm and enforce the federal mandate raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. (SB1 and HB1006, setting guidelines and increasing civil penalties for selling tobacco to minors, have both passed third reading – effectively swapping houses for further consideration.)

We also support tighter regulation on vaping (including a ban on flavored e-liquids), as its appeal to teenagers threatens to sabotage other efforts to bring down Indiana’s stubbornly-high smoking rate.  SB397 – which imposed some needed oversight on manufacturers and retailers – died in committee this week, but plenty of vehicles remain to continue this debate in the second half of session.

Other health-related bills that saw action this week:

  • HB1042 passed committee unanimously, bringing more scrutiny to pharmacy benefit managers (including licensure through the state Department of Insurance);
  • HB1064 specifies Medicaid reimbursement rates for FSSA and managed care organizations to use for durable and home medical equipment and supplies, prosthetics, orthotics, and services – it was heard but held in committee, leaving its future uncertain at this writing;
  • HB1326 passed committee 10-0; the bill defines community mental health centers and qualified providers for outpatient addiction treatments to be eligible for Medicaid reimbursement, among other administrative changes;
  • SB207 passed committee (as amended) 9-1 – it requires certain entities to maintain a syringe exchange program registry – while removing the ‘public health emergency’ prerequisite for creating such a program – and provides a legal defense from certain controlled substance prosecutions if a person is registered in a syringe exchange program;
  • SB273 also passed committee, creating the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission and tasking it with a study of the state’s behavioral and mental health services system, barriers to treatment and policy solutions to enhancing access and effectiveness.

Down to the wire…
Here’s the latest on other bills of interest still alive and kicking as of Thursday evening:

  • SB123 creates a workforce housing tax credit to incentivize the development of affordable housing projects (with approval of the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority); it passed committee and headed to the floor;
  • SB335 is a generally positive set of criminal justice reforms that also passed committee – the bill eliminates (many) prior convictions more than seven years old from consideration when sentencing for a new offense, removes certain offenses from ‘crimes of violence’ classification and makes possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number a crime;
  • SB449 passed committee as amended 4 -2, lowering from 13 to 12 the age juveniles can be tried as adults for certain serious offenses – most notably, attempted murder (in the wake of the 2018 shootings at Noblesville West Middle School);
  • SB409 (Employment of Minors) also passed committee with amendments (and with the benefit of interim analysis after a similar proposal was withdrawn last year);  it extends hours that can be worked by minors during traditional summer months (June 1st through Labor Day) and with parental permission, while also giving principals greater flexibility in reporting students that have dropped out;
  • And finally – from young workers to young companies – SB264 allows additional tax increment growth from certified technology parks’ business activities to be captured and reinvested; we support this bill, which passed committee and was engrossed for third reading.

That’s all for now.  Enjoy the Super Bowl this weekend, and we’ll be back next week with a halftime report that won’t feature J.Lo or Shakira, but will give a more thorough rundown of what survived (or stalled out) at the third reading deadlines.

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