There was an interesting dichotomy at the Indiana General Assembly this week. It began with no House committees scheduled on Monday. But by the end of the week, things started to heat up. HB 1001, the biennial budget bill, was heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee, a handful of bills hit Governor Holcomb’s desk, and language began to tighten around major priority legislation. Less than two weeks remain until the final committee deadlines. Where do things stand after week 12? Let’s dive in…
Bill to Ban Gender Care Lands on Governor’s Desk
SB 480 – legislation that would prevent gender transitioning care for minors was quickly passed by the House this week and now sits on the Governor’s desk for signature. This bill has been highly controversial, bringing protests to the statehouse and hours of testimony. As a reminder, the Governor reviews all legislation and has seven days to sign or veto the bill. If he does not sign it, it automatically becomes law on the eighth day after receipt. You can view the Governor’s Bill Watch here.
Law Enforcement “Buffer Zone” Bill Advances
Also sitting on Governor Holcomb’s desk is a bill to require a 25-foot area being referred to as a “buffer zone” around law enforcement officers. HB 1186 creates a Class C misdemeanor offense for people who “knowingly or intentionally” get within 25 feet of law enforcement officers and who participate in “unlawful encroachment on an investigation” if the officers have asked them to back away.
New Amendment to Sunset $1 Law Makes Its Way Into Bill
An education bill took on a major amendment on Wednesday in House Education Committee. The amendment to SB 391 would sunset Indiana’s existing “$1 Law,” which requires public school districts to sell or lease vacant or unused instructional buildings for a single dollar to public charter schools. The amended bill also now requires four school districts in Lake, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh counties to provide a share of an operating or school safety referendum with public charter schools in those counties. For all other counties, sharing referendum dollars would remain optional. The bill passed out of committee by a party line vote and now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Healthcare Legislation Sees New Action
HB 1004, a cumulative healthcare bill including fines for hospitals with healthcare costs higher than the national average and tax breaks for doctors who are unaffiliated with large healthcare systems, had its first hearing in Senate Public Health Committee. The bill also includes a tax credit for health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) as well as a credit to physician-owned healthcare facilities. After a few hours of testimony, the bill remains in committee, where it awaits a vote. At this point, little consensus has been found between lawmakers and public health stakeholders. As always, Torchbearer Public Affairs will keep you updated on the progress of this ongoing dialogue.
Over in the House Public Health Committee, substantial changes were also made to SB 400, a bill to address licensing and insurance processes within healthcare industries. The amendment now provides an alternative licensing path for students who don’t match with a residency and revoked a dental compliance fee. The amended bil found unanimous approval from the committee and now heads to the full House for their consideration.
Surprise Road Funding Amendment Puts Indy At Forefront
An amendment to an infrastructure bill now allows the state to consider a municipality that is $1 billion behind in funding its critical infrastructure needs as a “distressed asset.” Proponents of the bill say this would afford more options for cities like Indianapolis. Leaders around Indy say this time of label could have a chilling effect on economic development. The original language in SB 283 would allocate an additional $8 million in annual road funding to the city and received unanimous approval before being sent to the House. The bill was held in committee, but the House Roads and Transportation Committee is set to hear the bill for amend and vote on Tuesday. Amendment language can be found here.
Legislation to change how courts handle bail is advancing through the House. Senate Joint Resolution 1 (a constitutional amendment) passed out of House Courts and Criminal Code this week. The proposed legislation would allow judges to deny bail if a suspect poses a substantial risk to the public.
Opponents voiced their fear that broader discretion given to judges could give way to more prevalent discrimination and contend that the resolution conflicts with Eighth Amendment protections from excessive bail. Bill authors say there is a need to add this additional tool to judges’ toolboxes as a matter of public safety.
A Note on Processes For Constitutional Amendments – Any proposed change to Indiana’s Constitution must see approval by two successive general assemblies, not legislative years. This means it would need to pass this session and after a new legislature takes office in 2025. From there, it would be on the ballot in 2026, and a majority of Hoosiers would need to vote for the measure for it to take effect.
Leaders Signal Mental Health Funding in the Works
Priority mental health language has advanced throughout the process, but the final component, the funding, remains under consideration. This week legislative leaders signaled that the funding needed to kick the bill into action would be included in the biennial budget. SB 1 increases options for mental health centers and the 988 Crisis Hotline, while HB 1006 creates a mental health referral program to be utilized by those in the criminal justice system. House and Senate GOP leaders say that they may have different ideas for how the level of funding plays out but noted that details will be hammered out by the end of session.
Up Next Week Expect the discussion around road funding in Indianapolis to continue next week as committee members consider this new amendment. As the volume of legislation hitting the Governor’s desk has begun to increase, we will learn the fate of controversial legislation like SB 480 and HB 1186. Appropriators continue to weigh the fiscal impacts of legislation moving through the process, and Senate budget discussions are well underway. As always, Torchbearer Public Affairs will be there monitoring, testifying, and advocating for your needs. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.