As the clock ticks down and the final days of the 2023 legislative session come to a close, conference committees are in full swing. Nearly 100 bills landed on Governor Holcomb’s desk on Tuesday, all of which were signed by the end of the week. And, in particularly good news, the April revenue forecast projects an extra $1.5 billion dollars that budget writers can potentially spend. What does that mean for HB 1001 and the overall fiscal impact of 2023 legislation? Let’s dive in…   

Revenue Forecast Positions Comfortable Budget Spending 

Good news came in large numbers this week, $1.5 billion to be exact, as news of the April Revenue Forecast made its way to budget drafters. Given the vast differences between Senate and House versions of HB 1001, especially in school choice funding, this unexpected increase in available funds could ease final negotiations. 

Now that this information is readily available, the budget writers can go back to the budget and decide how (or if) to spend this extra money. Will the private school vouchers and school choice initiatives receive more funding? Will mental health policies get fully funded? What about public health? Will we see an increase in the cigarette tax to help fund more priorities? The good news is – we will know for sure in a week.

Environmental Bill Sees Major Changes and Senate Approval

A bill that would expand legislative oversight of rulemaking generally left to state agencies passed the Senate early this week. Major changes to HB 1623 in the second half would affect emergency rulemaking and regulatory practices of state agencies. The original version of the House bill solely affects the regulatory process of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and restricts the agency from imposing any regulations on all coal-powered electricity generators that are stricter than federal requirements. The bill would also require pre-approval from the Governor for emergency and interim rules and gives both the Governor and Attorney General the power to overturn some rules. The bill’s author dissented on the changes made in the Senate, and it will head to conference committee this upcoming week.

Teacher Union Bill Advances

A bill to sunset the list of topics required to be discussed between teachers’ unions and school administrators continues to advance through the legislative process. Current law includes 16 topics that must be discussed. SB 486 would remove topics like class sizes, curriculum, and student discipline. The Senate has filed a concurrence motion, saying that they will accept the made in the House – but it has sat on the concurrence calendar for a number of days without being called down.

Auto-enrollment for 21st Century Scholars 

A  bill that would automatically enroll Hoosier students who are eligible for the 21st Century Scholar program advanced out of the House and is headed to the Governor’s desk. This bill was part of the Governor’s legislative agenda and has seen wide, bipartisan support. Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program is an early-college promise program designed to make college more affordable for students. Eligible students who meet requirements receive a two- or four-year scholarship that pays up to 100% tuition at an eligible Indiana college or university.

Public Health Legislation Receives Bipartisan Support

The Governor’s priority public health department bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 78-21 early in the week. SB 4  gives local health departments access to new state dollars if they opt into a new set of standards for what services local health departments must offer. This optional program would be offered to all 92 counties and Gary, East Chicago, and Fishers. The brunt of the opposing votes came from Republicans despite the inclusion of a provision to establish a 12-member Health Powers Review Task Force charged with spending nearly two years assessing the actions taken by the state and local governments aimed at minimizing the spread of the coronavirus. Stay tuned – as this bill is headed to conference committee.

Senate Votes to Block Indy “No Turn On Red” Proposal

In response to a new Indy City-County Council proposition that would ban drivers from making a turn while at a red light, state lawmakers voted to block the proposal. The Democrat-majority City County Council says the measure aims to reduce pedestrian accidents. This late-session provision was amended into a various motor vehicles matters bill, HB 1050. This bill is also headed to conference this upcoming week.

Firearm Training for Teachers

A controversial measure to expand funding for firearms training for school teachers has advanced. The legislation also establishes a standardized 40-hour curriculum, with instruction on safe handling, carrying, and storage. Legislation similar to HB 1177 has been proposed various times over the last few years but has failed to see House approval. The bill now goes to conference committee for final negotiations.

Governor Signs Off On Machine Gun Switch Ban

A bill to prevent the use of “glock-switches,” devices that give a semi-automatic firearm the ability to fire a machinge-gun like spray of bullets was signed by the Governor on Thursday. Such devices are already illegal under the federal National Firearms Act and have been identified as a major cause of incidents in Indianapolis’ crime scene. HB 1365 saw bi-partisan support from the legislature in addition to several Marion County elected officials. 

Next Week As stated above, conference committees are fast and furious at this point – with over 20 already posted for Monday. We anticipate late nights as the final negotiations continue. As a reminder, the Indiana General Assembly must adjourn statutorily by April 29th at midnight – but we anticipate with so many priority bills almost finalized, there is a good potential for finishing up a day or two early. Torchbearer Public Affairs will be at the Capitol advocating for your priorities until the very end.