February 12, 2021

Weekly Statehouse Update: House GOP Budget Proposal, Eliminating Handgun Licenses

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Weekly Statehouse Update: House GOP Budget Proposal, Eliminating Handgun Licenses

Weekly Statehouse Update: House GOP Budget Proposal, Eliminating Handgun Licenses

House Republicans unveil their budget proposal. Lawmakers debate eliminating Indiana’s license to carry a handgun. And the Senate approves a bill giving local city and county leaders more power to overturn health orders. 

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

House Republican Budget Proposal

The House GOP’s proposed state budget includes a smaller increase for traditional public K-12 schools than Gov. Eric Holcomb’s. Instead, House Republicans prioritize a significant expansion of vouchers for private schools. 

They also want to spend budget reserve dollars differently than the governor. Rather than hundreds of millions to pay down state debt, the House GOP plan creates programs to help children with learning loss from the pandemic, help small businesses recover and improve facilities at the state’s law enforcement academy.

Eliminating Handgun Licenses

A House committee debated a bill to eliminate the state’s license requirement to carry a handgun in public. Some law enforcement groups – Indiana State Police, the Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police – oppose that, arguing it will have dangerous consequences. But others, including the Sheriffs’ Association, said the measure will boost individual freedom.

Local Health Enforcement Appeals

And legislation headed to the House would allow businesses to appeal fines and shutdowns by local health officers to their city council or county commissioners. The bill is a response to COVID-19 emergency orders.

General Assembly In Statewide Emergencies

A bill giving the General Assembly more power in future emergency situations – and tying the government’s hands a bit – in future emergency situations is halfway to the finish line.

The House easily approved the measure Tuesday, 69 to 27.

Rep. Matt Lehman’s (R-Berne) bill allows the legislature to call itself into an emergency session if the governor declares a statewide emergency – like he did at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

Protesters Bill

Republicans in a Senate committee pulled back slightly Tuesday on a bill that originally would’ve criminalized almost anyone attending a protest that turns violent.

The measure’s initial language said anyone at such a protest could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor unless they immediately leave or alert police, whether or not they were involved in the violence.

Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s author, deleted that language and instead created a new crime, a conspiracy charge for misdemeanors committed while attending a protest.

Pregnancy Accommodations

Pregnant workers could ask for workplace accommodations under a new bill headed to the House floor, but employers wouldn’t be required to grant them. Several groups say it’s a start to help expectant mothers and their babies, but doesn’t go far enough.

Accommodations for pregnant workers could include things like extra bathroom breaks or limiting heavy lifting. The legislation would require employers to receive requests and respond to them in a “reasonable time frame” and without retaliation.

Senate COVID-19 Liability Protections

Legislation to protect businesses and institutions from COVID-19 lawsuits is one step closer to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1 would limit legal action from Hoosiers against companies, hospitals, schools and other organizations for damages related to COVID-19. It’s one of two COVID liability protection bills proposed this session. 

A large number of COVID-19 deaths in Indiana have been in long-term care facilities. Advocates have raised concerns that language in both the Senate and House versions is too broad and creates unnecessary barriers to have a case qualify to be heard in court.

House Environment Bills Won’t Be Heard

Thirteen bills addressing state environmental issues will likely never see the light of day. House Environmental Affairs Committee chair, Rep. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville), said he won’t hold hearings for any of the bills assigned to that committee this session.

Gutwein said revised rules from the federal Environmental Protection Agency should be able to address concerns laid out in three of the bills — specifically coal ash pollution and lead in schools. As for the rest, he said there are some duplicate bills working their way through the Senate and others can wait.

Preschool, Day Care Lead Testing

A state House bill would require preschools and day care centers to test for lead in drinking water and take action if lead levels are too high. Kids with lead poisoning can have trouble learning, behavioral issues, and poor kidney function. It’s especially harmful to children under the age of 6.

The chair of the House Environmental Affairs Committee says he won’t hear the bill because the issue of lead in drinking water is being addressed at the federal level.

But last year, the Environmental Protection Agency kept the level at which utilities had to take action the same — at 15 parts per billion. The federal Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even allow bottled water to have more than five parts per billion of lead. 

Teacher Union Dues

Indiana teachers could see extra steps to pay union dues in the future if a bill headed to the Senate floor succeeds. Testimony weeks ago sparked lengthy debate about the contentious measure. 

The bill would make teachers sign forms each summer allowing their union to automatically deduct dues from paychecks. The forms would include bold-font language informing them of their rights to not join a union and if teachers forget to renew, their membership would lapse. 

Highway Work Zone Speed Cameras

Indiana could put speed cameras in highway work zones under legislation unanimously approved by a House committee.

The measure would allow speeding tickets for drivers caught by the cameras going at least 12 miles per hour over the limit. It would create a pilot program, allowing no more than four speed cameras in construction zones across the state. And the cameras could only be active when workers are present.

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