General Statehouse Update

It’s a wrap on week four at the Indiana General Assembly, and we are officially 25% through the legislative session. This week we where we saw consensus on a number of proposals, from TANF eligibility and data protection to small business tax deductions. And, of course, there was a fair share of debate, particularly surrounding the future of school board races. Bills to attempt to lower health care costs that affect hospitals and health insurers continue to move forward, and the state’s two-year Commission on Public Health advocated for language to support their findings. Let’s dive in.

Public Health Commission Presents to Senate Health and Provider Services

Legislation stemming from Governor Eric Holcomb’s Public Health Commission passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services on Wednesday. The Public Health Commission was co-chaired by former State Senator Luke Kenley and former State Health Commissioner Dr. Judith Monroe, who delivered their findings in August of 2022. 

SB 4 contains a list of about two dozen core services local health departments must provide if they want to get significantly increased funding from the state. Food protection, local pool inspections, immunizations, and maternal and child health services are a few of the affected areas. The funding needed to accompany this legislation is expected to be included in HB 1001, the state budget bill.

Senate Appropriations 

Last week, we saw Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch testify before the Senate Appropriations committee urging the passage of comprehensive mental health legislation, SB 1. This week, the committee unanimously approved the bill to head to the full Senate. Some changes were made in committee including reducing the number of members to sit on the re-established Indiana Behavioral Health Commission, prioritizing children and the elderly, and setting metrics for the commission to report back. 

As a reminder, this is the Senate’s major mental health bill this year and carried by Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield. SB 1 transforms the 988 Crisis Hotline into the 988 Crisis Response Centers and addresses funding and sustainability plans for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. There are currently 19 pilot CCBHC sites in Indiana.

HB 1006, the Mental Health companion bill in the House, also passed third reading unanimously on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate.

House Committees Hear Proposals to Address Healthcare Costs 

Fines for hospitals and tax credits for doctors who are unaffiliated with large healthcare systems are part of a cumulative healthcare bill heard in House Public Health Committee this Wednesday. HB 1004 is priority language for Republicans who say they are responding to a lack of action on the part of healthcare entities and insurers to lower prices. No votes were taken on this bill, and amendments are expected to be heard in committee next week. 

Meanwhile, HB 1003, which takes on the insurance component of this session’s collection of healthcare cost regulations, was heard in the House Committee on Insurance. Language to address the poor return to doctors treating Medicaid patients and delays in the prior authorization process is included in the bill, which authors say aims to increase competition in both the provider and insurance marketplaces. Additional committee discussion is expected to tie over to next week as well.

Privacy Legislation Advances Out of Committee A bill to create a “bill of rights” for Hoosier data privacy would allow consumers to monitor how their data is used and provide an option to delete it. SB 5 also includes a requirement for businesses to have annual data protection assessments and security checks.

This piece of priority legislation for the Senate Majority passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Senate Commerce and Technology Committee on Monday and is now up for further consideration by the full Senate.

High School Job Training Grants See Committee Support

HB 1002 passed through the House Education Committee on Wednesday and was recommitted to House Ways and Means, the body’s fiscal committee. Bill authors say the proposal will provide more job training to high school students to address skills gaps and employee shortages. It would also change graduation requirements, and funds previously allocated toward free college through the 21st Century Scholarship would be available for us in on-job training. 

Some changes were made in the committee to address funding concerns. Bill authors added a price range of $2,500 to $5,000 to the accounts, to be determined by the Department of Education and the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. The updated language also specifies that schools can host joint career fairs to meet the provisions of the bill, and requires all schools to offer a career awareness class for all students, regardless of whether they use the scholarship accounts, by July 2024. 

SB 188 Partisan School Boards Bill Heard

Under a proposal heard in Senate Elections Committee this week, candidates running for local school board would have to disclose their party affiliation on the ballot. While the overwhelming majority of those who appeared to testify on Monday opposed SB 188 stating that we should keep politics out of education, proponents of the measure say that stating their political affiliation is a transparency move. No vote was taken, and discussion remains as to what the final language could look like. Committee Chair Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) suggested an example of changes on deck could be to allow counties to have ballot referendums to decide whether local school board races should be partisan. The bill has not yet been put back on the schedule for further consideration.

TANF Eligibility Changes Pass Senate

The Senate is sending the House a measure to increase the maximum income threshold for families to qualify for TANF (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families) to 50 percent of the federal poverty level after two years. The bill would also increase some maximum payments families can get from TANF. SB 265 has received wide support from both sides of the aisle and advocates in the human services space. 

State and Local Tax Legislation Sails Through Committee

A bill to provide a state and local tax (SALT) deduction for many small businesses in the state passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy Tuesday morning. SB 2  would provide the deduction for what are known as pass-through entities, which are businesses that are not subject to corporate income tax. Some advocates for the bill say its passage could potentially result in an estimated $50 million in annual tax savings for business owners.

What’s Next? Committees have a little more than two more weeks to meet – so expect lots more bills moving through the legislative process – including the House-version of the biennial budget. We will be in these hearings, letting you know of issues of importance to you.