Lawmakers returned to Indianapolis this week after a brief mid-session break, and committee action has started back up, albeit at a much slower pace. Education and Judiciary Committees in particular, met this week and sent several bills to the House and Senate chambers.  As a reminder, this is the portion of the legislative session where all bills passed in their initial chamber, will have a second set of eyes put on them from the opposite chamber. Bills move through the same process — committees, second reading amendments, and third reading final votes — over the next 6 weeks. From there, bills are sent back to the original author. If the bill has changed at all in the second house, the bill author can either consent to the changes and the originating chamber will vote to concur, or the bill author can dissent to the changes and the bill will be sent to Conference Committee. Those changes are negotiated largely during the last two weeks of the session, where a bill’s ultimate fate lies. And as always, Torchbearer Public Affairs will be on the ground to keep you informed along the way. In the meantime, here’s the rundown of this week’s activity. Let’s dive in:

Increase in Juror Pay Gets Initial Committee Green Light

For the first time in nearly three decades, Hoosiers serving jury duty would see an increase in pay under HB 1466.  In addition to an increase to the existing fee, the bill also creates a brand-new fee to help local units of government cover the new expenses.

The bill would double the daily appearance pay to $30 and then $80 per day to sit on the jury for the first five days. Starting day six, jury pay would increase to $90 daily. HB 1466 passed unanimously out of Senate Judiciary Committee and now heads to Senate Appropriations Committee where lawmakers will consider the fiscal impact. 

Expansion of Childcare Costs for Fathers Passes Committee

Senate Judiciary Committee also gave unanimous approval to HB 1009, which would add two more additions to the list of expenses fathers would be lawfully required to help cover: “other necessary expenses” related to birth, and “postpartum” expenses. Indiana law already allows court orders to include cost-sharing for prenatal and postnatal care, delivery, and hospitalization.

Education Committees Dive Into Robust Discussion

Education committees in both chambers wasted no time getting down to business during the second half of session. On Wednesday, Senate Education Committee heard measures to establish a robotics program in schools aimed to increase STEM engagement among K-12 Hoosiers. HB 1382 also sets forth grant funds for which schools could apply for from IDOE to help fund the program. 

The committee also furthered the discussion on HB 1449, a measure that seeks to automatically enroll eligible students in the Twenty-First Century Scholars Program. This is part of the education package recommended by Governor Holcomb and has seen strong bipartisan support and authorship.

In House Education Committee, the committee took up SB 167, which addresses waivers given by school administrators when a student applying for FAFSA cannot obtain their parent’s information. The committee is also considering SB 342, which adds reporting requirements for schools to report to the Department of Education if a school hires or contracts with an employee under certain circumstances and gives local school boards the power to approve the hire.

Budget Bill Begins Second Set of Hearings in Senate

After successfully passing out of the House, HB 1001 begins its hearings and budget presentations in Senate Appropriations Committee. This week, the committee reviewed presentations given by statewide officeholders and departments on Tuesday and finished the week on Thursday by hearing from the state’s higher education institutions. 

Up Next Week More budget hearings are on deck next week, where the Indiana Finance Authority will present the state’s debt overview along with several other state agencies, including the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Department of Workforce Development, and the Department of Education, presenting their budget proposals. In addition, the Senate School Funding Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on all issues K-12 education funding on Thursday. Look for much more activity in committees and second reading amendments starting next week. 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.