What happened to important bills
Tasty breaded pork tenderloin explains Indiana legislative process
Let’s face it — the legislative process is complex, and a bill can die at any point in the process. But a state food staple explains the basic steps of how Indiana laws are made. Pay attention.
Stephen J. Beard, Indianapolis Star
Lawmakers wrapped up the 2022 legislative session last week, closing out a fast-paced session dominated by social issues.
For subscribers: Legislative session defined by GOP infighting, social issues and calls for transparency
Here’s the final outcome of the legislation IndyStar was watching this legislative session:
Permitless handgun carry
Lawmakers approved a bill on March 8 that would eliminate the license requirement to carry a handgun. Holcomb has not said whether he will sign the measure.
Lawmakers approved a $1.1 billion tax cut package on the last day of the legislative session, which could reduce Indiana’s income tax rate from 3.23% to 2.9% over seven years.
Once fully phased in, Indiana’s tax rate would be tied for the lowest flat income rate in the country under House Bill 1002. But the majority of the tax could take longer than seven years to go into effect, nor is there a guarantee a large chunk of the tax cut will even happen. That’s because after the first tax cut in 2023, future tax cuts would only occur if state revenue growth reached 2% the prior year. That threshold is usually met, unless there is a serious economic downturn like there was in 2020.
Lawmakers stuck provisions of House Bill 1100, which would have increased oversight over state agencies, into House Bill 1211 on the last day of session.
The final bill no longer contained more restrictive language that would have prohibited agency rules from being more stringent than corresponding federal rules, but agencies still will have to renew rules more frequently and also will be required to submit to state lawmakers an economic impact statement and explanation of any penalty associated with a proposed new rule.
Indiana now has a state fossil. House Bill 1013, which would name the mastodon Indiana’s state fossil, passed the Senate by a 39-6 vote on Feb. 14. Holcomb signed in it into law on March 7.
Vaping tax bill
A bill that would reduce a tax on some vaping products before it could go into effect is heading to Holcomb for consideration.
Senate Bill 382 would, among other things, reduce the tax on non-refillable vape pens set to go into effect in July from 25% of the wholesale price to 15%. The change would ensure the tax matches those on refillable vape products, but opponents are concerned about the impact lowering the rate before it goes into effect could have on kids.
Under Senate Bill 361, which received a final vote from both chambers on March 8, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation would be able to create Innovation Development Districts, in an attempt to lure more high-dollar economic development projects to the state.
These districts would capture most new state income, state sales and local property taxes generated by the district. The money generated could be used to cover debt, pay for utilities or transportation infrastructure, acquire land, recruit new businesses and pay for employee training within the districts.
The final bill also included a film and media production tax credit. It now goes to Holcomb for consideration.
In the final hours of the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that would prevent charitable bail organizations from bailing out people accused of violent crime in Indiana.
Lawmakers in conference committee removed language from the bill that would create a Marion County pilot program that would, among other things, set a minimum cash bond for people accused of violent crimes and double that bond amount for those with previous convictions for violent crimes.
It is now in the governor’s hands.
Targeting crime in Marion County
A measure that aims to establish electronic monitoring standards for people on pretrial release or probation landed on Holcomb’s desk after the Senate approved House amendments March 2.
Led by Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Lawrence, Senate Bill 9 would require a supervising agency to notify a victim within 15 minutes of someone’s monitor going offline. It also includes language that allows for a backup verification method of a tracked person’s compliance with standards to account for accidental interference with the electronic monitors.
Senate Bill 10, which aims to establish a law enforcement grant program zeroing in on crime hotspots in Marion County, is tied into that measure.
Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday signed HEA 1004, a bill designed to ease overcrowding inside Indiana’s county jails. The new law will allow judges to resume sentencing people convicted of low-level felonies into state prisons. The change reverses part of Indiana’s landmark criminal justice reform bills from the mid-2010s, which resulted in sending most of those people into local jails. The bill gained bipartisan approval in both chambers and counted supporters among county officials and law enforcement.
Backers from both parties have pitched the bill as a way to ease jail overcrowding, which is a rampant problem in Indiana. They also say the bill would provide some people with greater access to drug and mental health treatment inside state prisons because many rural county jails lack those services. The bill is widely supported by county officials and law enforcement, but even some supporters noted it would reverse past attempts by the legislature to be less punitive on crimes driven by mental health issues and drug addiction.
Gov. Holcomb on March 8 signed into law a bill that loosens restrictions on the selling of homemade shelf-stable foods.
The new law takes effect July 1.
Concerns with Marion County Democratic leader
Lawmakers nixed language from a bill that would have forced the chair of the Marion County Democratic Party to resign her chairmanship or tap out of the race for Marion County clerk.
The language split Democrats and was the latest example of the inner-party rift in Indianapolis.
But Democrats selected to the conference committee for bill, Sen. J.D. Ford of Indianapolis and Rep. Tonya Pfaff of Terre Haute, agreed to remove the language.
The House and Senate adopted the conference committee report on March 7 and 8, and the bill was signed by the House speaker on March 9.
The House voted to concur on changes to House Bill 1116, an elections-related bill by a 95-0 vote on March 7, sending the bill to the governor.
Township trustee discipline
Township boards would have the power to remove a neglectful township trustee under legislation signed by the governor on March 7.
The bill follows a series of issues that townships throughout Indiana have had issues with their elected trustees — lawmakers heard from employees in the neighboring Fairfield and Wabash townships in Lafayette and West Lafayette. The employees reported having issues with their trustees, citing instances where one failed to file an adopted township budget with the state and another faced multiple counts of felony theft.
The legislation allows for a township board, county executive and county fiscal body to petition a court to have a trustee removed from their office for committing certain violations of duty.
Schools will not receive a letter grade from the state for academic performance this year. Traditionally, schools receive an A through F grade based on their students’ scores on state tests and several other metrics. This will be the fourth year that schools have either been held harmless or not received a letter grade.
In the 2018-19 school year, schools received a hold harmless after the state changed standardized exams from the ISTEP to the ILEARN test. The pandemic canceled state testing the following year, in the spring of 2020. The null grade was issued for last year, in recognition of the pandemic’s impact on education over the last two years. With the pandemic continuing to disrupt education, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the Indiana Department of Education requested the legislature allow for another null grade.
HB 1093 passed the House unanimously. It was amended by the Senate and passed on March 1. A final version of the bill was adopted and approved by both chambers on March 8.
A House bill that lays the beginnings of a regulatory framework governing the expansion of electric vehicle charging in Indiana and who would pay for it, is on its way to the governor’s desk.
It allows electric utilities to create pilot programs deploying charging infrastructure for “public use” electric vehicles, such as public transit, school buses and emergency vehicles, and recover the cost of those programs by charging higher public rates.
The bill also allows private companies, like gas stations, to buy and sell electricity from the utilities that service their area for the purpose of electric vehicle charging.
Material harmful to minors
Senate Bill 17 would have removed a protection for K-12 schools and public libraries from the state’s law against distributing “harmful material” to minors.
It passed the Senate on Feb. 1 but didn’t get a hearing in the House. The House did pass similar language in House Bill 1134, but the Senate stripped the provision from that bill. Lawmakers tried to amend into related legislation in the final hours of the legislative session but the Senate killed the “Christmas tree” bill it was added to over concerns about how many unrelated provisions were tacked onto one piece of legislation.
School funding fix
At the start of the fall semester, COVID-19 cases among Indiana students were surging. Thousands of students tested positive and even more were identified as a close contact and told to quarantine at home. Schools worried that these quarantines could lead to cuts in state funding if students were counted as virtual.
More: Lawmakers making good on promises to protect schools from pandemic’s effects
Legislative leaders assured schools in September that they would pursue a fix, ensuring schools are fully funded for the fall semester. Senate Bill 2 allows the Indiana Department of Education to consider a student’s attendance over the entire first semester when determining their in-person status.
A bill that supporters say will make it easier for people who were wrongfully convicted to get money from the state for the years they spent incarcerated is headed to the governor’s desk.
The House on March 8 passed House Bill 1283 on a 94-1 vote. The Senate on the same day passed it on a 36-14 vote.
HB 1283, authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, will require exonerees who want to be compensated to prove they’re innocence “by a preponderance of the evidence” — a low and easy-to-achieve burden of proof. Those who are approved for compensation will get $50,000 for every year they spent behind bars.
The bill will suspend payments to people who are incarcerated for a crime unrelated to the one for which they were wrongfully convicted.
House Bill 1217, a bill aimed at preventing coerced abortions, is on it was to Holcomb’s desk after the House concurred with the Senate’s minor changes to the bill by a 78-10 vote on March 1.
The bill would require women seeking an abortion to be asked if they are being coerced into doing so. If an abortion clinic employee suspects someone is being coerced — a Level 6 felony under the bill — they clinic must report it to law enforcement, who must then investigate.
Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates and other opponents argue the bill’s requirements are “redundant and unnecessary,” and do not target the root issues of domestic and sexual violence.
Indiana lawmakers filed a number of bills inspired by the critical race theory debate that has been raging at school boards around the country. Two of them received hearings but, in the end, the Senate killed both.
SB 167 received a lengthy hearing Jan. 5. Senate Republicans killed it Jan. 14. HB 1134 passed the House Jan. 25 but was heavily amended by the Senate Feb. 16 and again on Feb. 23. After hours of closed-door discussions, Senate Republicans killed the bill on Feb. 28. Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said some members of the caucus thought the watered-down version didn’t go far enough and others thought it was bad policy.
Transgender sports ban
On March 1, the Indiana Senate voted in favor of House Bill 1041, which would prohibit transgender girls from playing girls sports at the K-12 schools level.
The controversial measure has been opposed by the ACLU and the LGBTQ community, who say it is discriminatory. Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, said she wrote the bill to protect fair play in girls sports.
Earlier in the session it was passed along largely party lines by the House. Since the Senate made no changes, the bill goes directly to Gov. Eric Holcomb. Some advocacy groups and state Democrats have urged him to veto the measure.
Holcomb has yet to say it he’ll sign the bill but he did signal support for the concept.
Vaccine mandates and the end of emergency
The House decided by a 78-10 vote to concur with a bill that ultimately ended Indiana’s public health emergency on March 3. That sent the bill to Holcomb’s desk, and within hours he had signed it and rescinded the emergency.
The law allows the state to continue to receive certain types of federal funding and permits children under age 12 to get a COVID-19 vaccination outside a doctor’s office, provisions that are were only allowed because of the public health emergency.
After years of failed attempts to change Indiana law, a bill that would help better define consent under Indiana law is heading to Holcomb’s desk.
Under House Bill 1079, a person who has sexual intercourse with someone who attempts to “physically, verbally, or by other visible conduct refuse the person’s acts” commits rape. Indiana law currently states that intercourse is only considered rape if it’s done by force or if it occurs with someone who is mentally incapacitated or unaware that it’s happening.
The Senate unanimously approved the bill on March 1, and then the House voted to concur with Senate changes on the bill on March 2, by a 90-1 vote, sending the bill to Holcomb.
Automatic taxpayer refund
At the request of Holcomb, lawmakers passed a bill expanding who can qualify for this year’s automatic taxpayer refund, triggered by higher than expected state revenues. According to a fiscal analysis on Senate Bill 1, because of the changes, an additional 440,000 people without a tax liability would now qualify.
Senate Bill 1, which previously passed out of the Senate, unanimously passed out of the House on Feb. 17 and now heads to Holcomb’s desk for consideration.
Banning ‘slumlords’ from buying property at foreclosure and tax sales
A bipartisan bill that would allow sheriff foreclosure sales to be conducted online was successfully amended on Jan. 26 to include a “slumlord provision,” as bill co-author Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, called it. House Bill 1048 would ban landlords who have ongoing housing code violations against them or who are tax delinquent from purchasing foreclosed properties at sheriff sales.
The bill passed out of the House 87-3 on Jan. 27 and passed unanimously out of the Senate on March 1. It now heads to the Governor.
House Bill 1214 would allow tenants to request court expungement of eviction filings in cases where the eviction is dismissed, the judgement is in favor of the tenant, or if no action was taken by the landlord or property manager in 180 days.
It passed out of the House unanimously on Jan. 26 and passed out of the Senate Feb. 22. It returned to the House with minor amendments, where it received support for the changes on March 1. The bill is now in the Governor’s hands.
Tenant and landlord advocates alike support the bill as a major, much-needed solution to the problem of tenants being unable to find housing, because eviction filings on their record deter potential landlords from renting to them. However, housing advocates are concerned by a prohibition in the bill against any mandatory eviction diversion programs in the state. Indiana’s current eviction diversion program is voluntary and participation has been extremely low.
Compensating landowners for eminent domain
When local governments want to build a new highway or a road, they often must acquire property owned by private owners through eminent domain. Currently, they must only pay at least the appraised market value of the property, although that can be — and often is — contested by the property owner through legal settlement or litigation.
Senate Bill 29 would raise the compensation owned to those property owners for condemnation — or the taking of their property — to 120% of the appraised market value. It passed out of the Senate by a vote of 40-7 on Jan. 24 but failed to gain a hearing in the House and is now dead.
Advocates of the bill, including the Indiana Farm Bureau, say it advances property rights of landowners who deserve fairer compensation for the taking of their land. But its opponents worry it could increase the cost of building critical public infrastructure.
Affordable housing development tax credits
Riding on bipartisan support, Senate Bill 262, which would create a statewide affordable housing tax credit system, passed out of the Senate unanimously on Jan. 24 but failed to advance in the House.
Indiana has a severe lack of affordable housing, advocates say, and the bill would funnel federal tax credits to affordable housing developers seeking to develop units for low-income renters. With broad-based support from both the association representing landlords and tenant advocates, the bill is touted as a much-needed first step to fixing the state’s housing affordability crisis.
Marion County Sheriff spending
A Senate bill that would have restricted the Marion County Sheriff Office’s ability to spend money from its commissary fund failed to receive a hearing in the House Committee on Local Government and subsequently pass out of the House.
Senate Bill 307 would have required the department to present a quarterly update regarding purchases out of the fund. It passed the Senate on Jan. 27 by a 35-11 vote.
Digital billboard in Marion County
The Marion County Fairgrounds won’t be getting a new digital billboard sanctioned through a Senate bill that failed to make it through the House.
SB 142, sponsored by Indianapolis Republican Sen. Jack Sandlin, managed to pass the Senate on Jan. 31 — but it failed to get a hearing in the House after being referred to the Committee on Local Government on Feb. 7.
A bill that would have enabled lenders to offer a higher interest loan that the state currently would classify as felony loan sharking, died earlier in session after not receiving a House committee hearing.
A Senate bill seeking to establish a pilot program using speed cameras in highway work zones failed to meet the second-reading deadline in the House and is now dead.
Senate Bill 179, authored by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, catches offenders speeding 11 mph or more over the speed limit in work zones while workers are present. Speed cameras capture pictures of the driver’s license plate, then mails them a fine — a warning for the first offense, $75 for the second and $150 for the third. There is an appeals process if the owner of the vehicle was not the driver.
Lawmakers have attempted similar legislation for several years; this is the furthest a bill has gotten.
A Senate bill seeking to slim down the state’s statutes on turn signal compliance failed to meet the House’s second reading deadline and is now dead.
Senate Bill 124 proposed getting rid of the statute that requires a turn signal 200 feet before making a turn or changing lanes, or 300 feet on a highway. A separate statute that simply says drivers must use turn signals “before” making the movement remains intact. The bill’s author, Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, argued the 200-foot rule is unreasonable for many urban areas and can lead to arbitrary or preemptory traffic stops.
The confusion over whether the bill proposed getting rid of turn signals completely sparked an initial outcry on social media and caught the attention of national media.
The Senate passed a bill seeking to establish a commission that would study and advocate for the expansion of passenger rail in Indiana, but it failed to get a hearing in the House.
But since the House committee deadline has passed, the bill is dead.
Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.