February 18, 2022

Weekly Statehouse update: Senate GOP makes major changes to tax, school curriculum bills

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The Indiana Statehouse. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Statehouse.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Senate Republicans make major changes to several House Republican priority bills, including measures on school curriculum, taxes and vaccine mandates.

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

HB 1134: School curriculum transparency bill

Among changes made to a controversial school curriculum measure: the bill no longer requires that teachers post classroom materials online before an annual deadline or that schools create parent-led curriculum committees. A Senate committee also scaled back provisions in HB 1134 limiting the promotion of "divisive concepts" and eliminated a way for parents to file lawsuits against schools over violations of the bill.

Teachers have gathered at the Statehouse for two consecutive weeks to talk with lawmakers about their concerns.

HB 1002: $1 billion tax cut 

House Republicans included a variety of tax cuts in HB 1002 that would eventually cost the state more than $1 billion a year in revenue. And Senate Republicans took out every one of them. Senate leadership is wary of tax cuts this year, citing uncertain economic conditions.

HB 1001: Vaccine mandate 

And changes made to the House GOP’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate bill mean private companies will not be greatly restricted from enforcing such mandates. HB 1001 now essentially preserves the status quo, requiring businesses to honor religious exemptions by following federal law. It also allows companies to require COVID-19 testing up to two times per week – and would let them charge their employees for the cost.

READ MORE: Faith, medicine and COVID-19: Why do religious vaccine exemptions exist?


HB 1116: Election security, absentee vote-by-mail restrictions 

A Senate committee made major changes to a controversial elections bill Monday, eliminating language that would’ve added a new restriction to absentee mail-in voting.

Right now, you can get a mail-in ballot for about a dozen reasons. That includes if you attest you won’t be available on Election Day. A House-approved bill, HB 1116, would’ve expanded that to require a voter be unavailable in the 28 days before the election, too.

An amendment in the Senate committee eliminated the new restriction. The measure also moves up the deadline for counties to add a critical election security measure to their voting machines.

HB 1041: Transgender girl athletes school sports ban

A Senate committee approved a controversial bill aimed at transgender athletes Wednesday. House Bill 1041 would ban transgender girls from participating in girls school sports.

The bill's author, Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland) insists it's about preserving fairness for girl athletes. But critics have said it will harm transgender children, and doesn't effectively address fairness in sports.

LGBTQ Hoosiers and allies have rallied against the bill at the Statehouse, and lawmakers heard hours of testimony from Hoosiers opposed to the legislation last week.

HB 1093: School resource officer training loophole

Indiana lawmakers are considering legislation that would require all police who regularly work inside public schools during regular hours to undergo basic school resource officer training. That training would include lessons on adolescent brain development, how to interact with students with disabilities and understanding racial biases, among other issues.

But there are police officers working in Indiana schools who haven’t received this training, and they’re not required to so long as they don’t claim the title of SRO, according to Chase Lyday, director of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association.

Lyday has lobbied lawmakers for years to close this loophole. His latest attempt — House Bill 1093 — defines an SRO as any law enforcement officer who is assigned to one or more school corporations or charter schools during school day hours. Lyday said the legislation would therefore mandate SRO basic training for all police inside schools — effectively closing the loophole.

Hoosier Lottery’s online gaming

A Senate committee added language to a tax bill Tuesday that would stop the Hoosier Lottery from adding online gaming without lawmakers’ approval.

That comes after a report by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that the lottery planned to forge ahead on “iGaming” without legislative action.

The 1989 law that authorized the state lottery is pretty broad, giving the Lottery Commission a lot of room to add new games without legislative approval. That apparently includes moving into online gambling.

Lawmakers may put a halt to that, at least temporarily.


 

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 statewide issues. Trying to follow along with our coverage of the legislative session? We've compiled all the stories our reporters have published by bill number and topic here.


SB 7: Marion County crime reduction

A Senate bill that would create a crime reduction pilot program in Indianapolis advanced, but it was met with some opposition.

Senate Bill 7 passed 7-2 by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee Wednesday, and will continue to move through the Indiana General Assembly.

It would create a Marion County crime reduction board led by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and involve other law enforcement agencies in downtown Indianapolis, like the Indiana State Police. The board would collect data on crime and produce an annual report.

But critics said they wanted to hear more from both community organizations and law enforcement.

HB 1221: EV charging

An Indiana House bill, HB 1221, would allow businesses like gas stations to sell electric vehicle charging without being subject to state utility rules. The bill partly aims to level the playing field between gas stations and electric utilities.

But the Indiana Food and Fuel Association said right now there’s not enough demand to make installing EV chargers profitable for gas stations. And they wouldn’t have the opportunity to recover the cost of chargers from a large pool of customers — which utilities would be allowed to do in pilot programs under the bill.

Utilities would only be able to recover those costs for public charging stations, however. They would also have to give lower-income communities and racially or ethnically diverse communities equal access to chargers installed as part of a pilot program.

While some solar advocates support the bill overall, an amendment is giving them pause. The amendment requires businesses that sell electric vehicle charging to get their energy from their local utility.

HB 1157: Township trustee oversight

A House committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would create a removal process for township trustees.

SB 304 was heard by Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) - who has herself introduced legislation creating oversight for township budgets (HB 1157). She voted against the bill - noting that the removal process it creates uses the courts, and the courts are already used for removing public officials who have violated the law.

SB 407: In-home long-term care reform

The Indiana Family and Social Services Agency and state lawmakers are at odds about how to best reform the state’s in-home care for the elderly population.

Over the past year, FSSA has been working on a plan to help elderly people in need of long-term care receive those services — like physical therapy or a home health aide — at home, instead of in a nursing home.

The plan the FSSA initially proposed consisted of five elements: make eligibility faster; link the payments health care providers receive to patient outcomes; move long-term services and supports from a fee-for-service system to a risk-based managed care system; create an integrated data system that connects providers, patients and facilities with the state; and grow and sustain the workforce.

But now, a spokesman for the FSSA says a bill proposed – Senate Bill 407 – will render efforts to reform the system useless.

HB 1214: Sealing evictions

A Senate committee moved legislation forward Wednesday that would seal eviction filings in some instances.

Tenant advocates have long argued that eviction filings can serve as a permanent “scarlet E” that harms a renter's chances of getting housing in the future - even if an eviction filing against them is ultimately thrown out.

HB 1214 moved quickly through the committee after Rep. Ethan Manning (R-Peru), the legislation's author, introduced an amendment. The amendment made tweaks to the language of the bill, including a segment that would have tied several requirements to eviction diversion programs.

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