Of the more than 1,000 bills and joint resolutions introduced at the Indiana legislative session, only 316 are moving forward, according to an analysis from Hannah News Service.
Here’s where notable bills stand and what you may have missed at the Statehouse last week:
De-escalation training for police
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law Thursday, April 1, House Bill 1006, which puts in statute requirements for police to be trained on de-scalation tactics and requires prospective employers to request an officer’s employment record from the officer’s previous agency.
It also establishes a procedure allowing the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to decertify an officer who commits misconduct, prohibits chokeholds under certain circumstances and criminally penalizes an officer who turns off a body- worn camera in an attempt to conceal criminal behavior.
The bill also allots $70 million to repair and update the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy’s training facility.
Authored by Rep. Gregory Steuerwald, R-Danville, HB 1006 passed through both chambers with unanimous support.
Nursing home visitation
On Mar. 31, the House Public Health Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 202, which would require health facilities to allow visitation by family caregivers during states of emergency.
The committee also amended the bill to include hospitals in the types of health facilities required to participate.
The proposed legislation would require affected health facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and now hospitals, to participate in an existing program that allows caregivers to visit and care for their loved ones. The essential family caregiver program debuted in Indiana in June, but facilities were not required to participate. Many family members of nursing home residents have voiced deep concerns about the impacts of isolation on their loved ones in nursing homes during the pandemic.
The bill also provides immunity for facilities participating in the program, except in cases of “gross negligence or wanton misconduct.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 1 earlier this legislative session, giving businesses including nursing homes coronavirus-related liability protections. The act went into effect immediately.
On Wednesday March 31, The Senate Judiciary Committee amended another measure, House Bill 1002, that would expand those protections for nursing homes and other health care providers. Among other things, the amended version extends the protections to the end of 2024 and shield providers from injuries patients suffered because of inaction or delays of care in response to COVID-19, or because of a reallocation of staff.
Supporters say the protections are needed to help health care facilities remain financially viable, but critics say the proposal goes too far in letting nursing homes off the hook for deaths and injuries caused by problems such as inadequate staffing that preceded the pandemic.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.
A bill from Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, to extend the deadline for a new Indy Eleven stadium was signed by Holcomb on Thursday, April 1.
Senate Bill 385 would give the city two more years to establish a special taxing district to help pay for the stadium, moving the deadline from 2022 to 2024. It passed the House 83-6.
Holcomb’s emergency powers
More than a dozen bills have been filed this legislative session intended to rein in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s powers during health emergencies.
Even though Holcomb ended his mask mandate and capacity restrictions for the state on Tuesday, March 30, House Bill 1123 is still alive and well. House Bill 1123 allows legislative leaders to make the call on whether to bring lawmakers back for a special session if Holcomb declares an emergency. Plus, the bill requires the General Assembly to decide how federal stimulus money is spent if lawmakers are in session, and if not, for that spending to be reviewed by the State Budget Committee.
Seven department heads from the Holcomb administration had testified against the bill in committee.
The bill could be voted on one final time by both chambers and on its way to the governor by Monday, April 5. He plans to veto it.
Local COVID-19 restrictions
A bill that passed out of a House committee Wednesday, March 31, could make it more challenging for health departments such as the one in Marion County to keep planned COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Senate Bill 5 was amended to prohibit local health officials from implementing more stringent restrictions than the state during an emergency order, unless those restrictions are approved by either the local city council or county legislative body.
The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.
Driver’s license suspensions
A bill that looks to change how driver’s license suspensions work passed the Senate with a unanimous 50-0 vote on Tuesday, March 30. It now goes back to the House for consideration of amendments.
House Bill 1199 looks to make it easier for Hoosiers to get back on the road legally if their driver’s license was suspended for economic reasons.
About 330,000 Hoosiers had an active driver’s license suspension in 2019, according to Chris Daniels of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. He said most of those suspensions are for economic reasons.
If the bill makes it to the governor’s desk, there’s little doubt about what would happen next. Making it easier to reinstate licenses was on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s agenda for this legislative session.
Holcomb, a Republican, has been pushing lawmakers to pass legislation to force businesses to make certain pregnancy accommodations for women for years.
House Bill 1309 would require businesses to respond in writing in a timely fashion to pregnancy-accommodation requests made by women, but it does not require them to grant those requests. The proposal passed out of a Senate committee , Wednesday March 31, and now awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
Many advocates consider the bill to be a watered down effort that would offer little true support for women. It’s not exactly what Holcomb had in mind, either.
Robot delivery devices
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill that opens the door to autonomous delivery devices in Indiana into law on Thursday, April 1.
FedEx and Amazon are both developing their own robots. They supported the bill. Purdue University uses the devices for deliveries on campus.
The Senate transportation committee spent only 20 minutes discussing House Bill 1190 before its chair held it another week.
Allowing more overweight trucks on Indiana roadways, the bill has become controversial, with diverse groups in favor and opposed. The same committee heard testimony from more than a dozen people two weeks earlier. It did not take a vote that day, either.
The bill is in the hands of committee chair Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, who said he was trying to be fair with his handling of the bill and felt stuck. Sen. James Tomes, R-Wadesville, suggested moving the bill to a summer study committee.
Not everyone on the committee was in favor of holding the bill again. Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, and others suggested moving the bill forward to the Senate floor so the full caucus could discuss it and make necessary amendments.
Ultimately Crider decided to hold the bill as he said he would at the beginning of the hearing. It’s scheduled for another hearing on Tuesday, April 6. Bills die if they don’t pass out of committee by April 8.
:The House passed Senate Bill 316 Tuesday, March 30, by a 90-3 vote and now heads to the governor for consideration.
The act would expand the number of veterans who are eligible for benefits from the Military Family Relief Fund by including anyone who is not dishonorably discharged.
Some veterans groups were opposed to the language because they say it lowers standards to include Bad Conduct discharges and Other Than Honorable discharges. Proponents though, say they just want to help more Hoosier veterans.
The bill also would enable money to be used from the fund for its own administration.
Renewables or fossil fuels
There are a handful of bills this year that are coming out of the 21st Century Energy Task Force that wrapped up at the end of 2020.
One bill, House Bill 1220, would reestablish the task force for a version 2.0 to discuss topics such as net metering, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. House Bill 1520 would create some metrics to ensure utilities are providing reliable service. Both bills passed out of the Senate on March 30, and were returned to the House with amendments.
House Bill 1381 would create some consistent standards for locating wind and solar projects across the state. The bill, which has received pushback from local officials in counties with more restrictive wind or solar ordinances, was substantially amended in the Senate Utilities committee on April 1 to allow those counties to be grandfathered in. The bill was reassigned to the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy, where it awaits hearing.
House Bill 1348, which has been assigned to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy committee, would create a uniform tax assessment structure for solar projects. It is still awaiting a hearing. Senate Bill 386, which would create a pilot program on how to pay for coal plants that have been retired early, passed out of the House on March 29, and returned to the Senate with amendments. The Senate concurred with House amendments on April 1.
A bill that would repeal the state law protecting wetlands has been referred to the House Environmental Affairs committee. That committee did not meet once or hear any of the 13 bills assigned to it during the first half of the session, but had a meeting for Senate Bill 389 on March 22.
Two amendments to the bill were discussed, but not voted on. Both would keep the state’s wetlands law, but change and strip it to different extents. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a follow-up hearing.
Citing communication issues and high costs, supporters of this bill say it would remove red tape for developers and builders. But opponents of the bill worry it would open the door for destroying wetlands that environmentalists and engineers say are crucial for flood mitigation and groundwater stores. And considering Indiana has lost 85% of the wetlands it had a century ago, they fear it could further diminish a natural state habitat.
Local control and natural gas
A bill that would prevent cities from being able to ban or place favor on any particular fuel source has been assigned to the Senate Utilities Committee, where it is awaiting a hearing.
Though House Bill 1191 doesn’t list any particular fuel source, the bill’s author has made it clear the legislation targets natural gas. Those in opposition worry that the bill could slow if not stop a city’s efforts to electrify or mitigate climate change. Those in support, however, say it’s needed to keep cities from taking away consumer choice.
Protection of monuments
A bill to protect monuments and statues from vandalism passed the House committee on Courts and Criminal Code Wednesday, March 31.
Senate Bill 187 would allow Indiana to prosecute any person destroying monuments or inciting a riot will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It was amended on March 9 to also protect the state capitol and Indiana state government campus.
The bill directs state police to prioritize the investigation of such crimes and work with local cities to assist with investigations. Under the bill, the state can also still withhold certain state funding from local governments that fail to protect public monuments from destruction or vandalism.
The Indiana Public Defender Council has opposed the bill.
Under House Bill 1577 abortion clinics would have to provide information in writing about Progesterone, a drug some anti-abortion groups say can reverse medically-induced abortions, as long as a mother has only taken one of the two required abortion pills.
Not everyone agrees the science behind the reversal pill is sound, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
House Bill 1577 also would require parents to take an additional step when they write to consent to their minor receiving an abortion: That consent would need to get notarized.
The legislation was passed out of a Senate committee on Wednesday, March 31 by a 7-4 vote.
Police use of force
An amended version of Senate Bill 311, authored by Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, has been referred to the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee. A hearing had not yet been scheduled as of Friday, April 2. It previously passed through the Senate 40-8.
The original version of the bill aimed to prohibit municipalities from banning or restricting use of force options, like chokeholds. It also would have allowed officers to disregard the department’s use of force continuum “based upon the officer’s determination of what is reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances.”
But amendments to the bill nixed those measures and switched its focus to protecting officers from discipline in cases where the officer “lawfully exercises the officer’s right of self defense.” That protection does not apply to officers using force to make an arrest.
Earlier this legislative session, both chambers voted to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of Senate Enrolled Act 148, a 2020 bill that would prohibit Indianapolis from regulating relationships between tenants and landlords.
The bill does forbid landlords from retaliating against tenants who bring concerns about living conditions.
House and Senate Republicans are pushing for the passage of a separate bill, either Senate Bill 150 or House Bill 1541, to narrow the scope of the act, and nix vague language that prohibits local governments from regulating “any other aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship.”
In a win for tenants-rights advocates, House Bill 1541 was amended Thursday, March 25, to prohibit landlords from forcing tenants to sign away their rights in a waiver. The bill passed out of committee unanimously and now awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
IndyGo bus rapid transit
After nearly two hours of testimony from more than a dozen people, the chair of the House Roads and Transportation committee held the bill that jeopardizes IndyGo’s future Purple and Blue lines.
The Wednesday, March 24, hearing was the bill’s first in the House. It will now be up to that committee chair — Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie — to decide whether to hold another hearing on the bill. A bill is dead if it doesn’t pass out of committee by April 8.
After the hearing and again on Monday, March 29,+ Pressel told IndyStar he had not yet decided what he would do.
Indianapolis’ business community pushed for rapid transit. Will they fund it?
Many of the arguments made for and against Senate Bill 141 at the hearing were the same as those made in the Senate.
Supporters of the bill say they do not want the future bus rapid transit lines to use dedicated bus lanes and therefore remove traffic lanes. Opponents say the bill threatens hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money that would be used to fix streets, build sidewalks and improve drainage in addition creating the bus stops.
Debate continues over whether IndyGo is meeting requirements in current law. The bill’s author, Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, cites an Indiana attorney general opinion to argue they’re not meeting it. IndyGo cites the State Board of Accounts and a law firm opinion to say otherwise.
The Indiana House previously voted 65-31 to nix the law requiring a license to carry a handgun in Indiana. The bill is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
Under House Bill 1369, the license would be eliminated in March 2022. Certain offenders would still be prohibited from carrying handguns. The bill would require state police and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to develop a process to enable law enforcement to quickly check whether someone is prohibited from carrying a handgun.
Right now, the licenses raise $5.3 million per year to train law enforcement officers, a tab that taxpayers would at least partially have to pick up.
The Indiana House has already passed its version of the two-year state budget. It includes a cigarette tax increase and a major expansion to the state’s private school choice programs.
The $36.3 billion budget sets aside 11.9% of the budget for reserves in 2022 and 11.7% in 2023.
There are some key differences between what Gov. Eric Holcomb and House Republicans proposed. Holcomb’s version did not have a cigarette tax increase. Likewise, the House Republicans’ budget invests more in K-12 education spending over the two years than Holcomb’s version, but a large chunk of those new dollars will be spent on expanding the state’s private school choice programs.
The Senate will present its own version of the budget, House Bill 1001, later in the session.
City name changes
Some lawmakers want to make it more challenging for cities to change their names.
Senate Bill 130 would require those interested in changing the name of cities named in Indiana’s Constitution or Indiana Code to obtain a certain number of signatures on a petition. If a city’s governing body wants to move forward, the question can be taken to voters as a public question on the ballot.
The bill already passed the Senate by a 36-11 vote and is now awaiting consideration on the House side. It was heard in a House committee, but has not yet been voted on.
A bill carrying heavier penalties for obstructing emergency vehicles that passed the Senate floor is still waiting to be heard by the House committee on Courts and Criminal Code.
Senate Bill 194 would give a felony six charge to any person blocking an emergency vehicle. It applies to any vehicle using a visual or audible emergency signal, responding to an emergency call or in pursuit of a suspect. It also applies to people blocking the entry to a building that provides emergency medical services.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, would carry a harsher level five felony sentence if the act causes catastrophic injury or death.
The bill passed the Senate floor 45-2 on Feb. 2, with Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux and Sen. Lonnie Randolph voting against it.
The committee pulled language from the bill that would have made it a misdemeanor to provoke a public safety official to commit battery, citing constitutional issues.
Marion County zoning
A bill to change the makeup of Marion County’s board of zoning appeals passed out of the House committee on Government and Regulatory Reform with a few changes.
Senate Bill 392 would give the four excluded cities and towns of Marion County — Lawrence, Speedway, Southport and Beech Grove — the power to rezone land for various uses.
The latest amended bill requires those excluded municipalities to conduct a hearing on any proposed amendment to a zone map within the excluded territory. Those excluded cities and towns would now have the power to make the decision regarding changes to the zoning map, rather than the city and county.
That’s good news for cities like Lawrence, which has had re-zoning issues with the consolidated city in the past.
The bill initially required all Marion County townships to have a say in the zoning appeals process.
A comprehensive bill on rioting passed the Senate Feb. 16 and awaits consideration in the House by the Rules and Legislative Procedures committee, often a graveyard for bills.
Senate Bill 198 enhances penalties for rioting, making it a felony. The legislation also allows businesses to sue cities like Indianapolis for damages incurred during a riot if the city recklessly failed to suppress the unlawful assembly.
The bill also requires a bail hearing for any person arrested during an unlawful assembly, and allows the government to seize property used for a crime during an unlawful assembly.
The bill passed the Senate 37-8, with seven Democrats and Republican Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, voting against.
Local prosecution powers
A bill that could once again interfere with Marion County’s new policy on prosecuting marijuana possession passed still awaits consideration by the House committee on Courts and Criminal Code after the Senate passed the bill Feb. 23.
Senate Bill 200 allows the state attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor if the local prosecutor refuses to prosecute certain offenses.
It’s the second time the legislation has been proposed since Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced in 2019 that his office would no longer prosecute certain marijuana possession offenses.
The bill passed the Senate 29-20, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats in voting against.
5G cell towers
A bill that would ultimately lessen restrictions on 5G cell poles passed the House Feb. 22 and awaits a vote in the Senate Utilities Committee.
House Bill 1164 eliminates height and distance requirements for wireless support structures. Small cell towers, or 5G poles, have drawn the ire of many Indianapolis residents who have seen them erected in public rights of way right in front of their homes.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ethan Manning, R- Denver, would limit a city’s ability to restrict poles. That’s bad news for Indianapolis, which has been using one complicated loophole to deny poles in various neighborhoods.
A bill sponsored by Democrat Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, to give communities and local governments more input and regulations for wireless providers died without a hearing. Senate Bill 225 was drafted in response to many constituent concerns and confusion over 5G poles erected in neighborhoods.
. A Republican-backed bill that would have made it more challenging for third party candidates to get on the ballot in Indiana died in February after it was pulled from the House calendar. House Speaker Todd Huston said the bill author thought it needed more work, and to not expect to see it again this session.
House Bill 1134 was written so narrowly it would have only applied to Libertarian candidates, based on past election results. The bill would have required candidates from parties that receive between 2% and 10% of the vote in the secretary of state race to acquire at least 4,500 petition signatures, including 500 from every Congressional district, to be included on the subsequent general election ballot for governor and U.S. Senate.
Within days of the publication of an IndyStar story on ethical issues surrounding a housing standards bill, it was pulled from the House calendar.
House Bill 1114, authored by Elkhart Republican and home builder Rep. Doug Miller, would have banned community architecture design requirements, a proposal that could save him and others in his profession thousands of dollars. Miller said the bill was intended to help increase affordable housing options.
House Speaker Todd Huston said it was pulled due to a lack of support.
Public safety budgets
A bill that aimed to limit when local governments can reduce public safety funding was defeated on the Senate floor Feb. 15. The bill, authored by Sens. Mike Bohacek, R-La Porte, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, died by a vote of 37-9.
A similar House Bill, HB 1327, authored by Rep. Jeff Ellington, R-Bloomington, was never scheduled for a committee hearing.
Police department administration
Senate Bill 394, authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, and Sandlin, died in committee Feb. 16. The bill would have given police chiefs “the sole authority to make general or special orders to the police department establishing the department’s procedures and policies, including use of force policy.”
The proposal was in response to Indianapolis’ creation of a civilian-majority General Orders Review Board. Critics of that board say civilians aren’t equipped to have such say in police department policy.
Law enforcement officer misconduct database
Authored by Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, Senate Bill 110 would require the state’s law enforcement training board to create a misconduct database that gives the public access to information regarding disciplinary actions against police officers.
The bill died on the Senate floor.
IMPD oversight board
Senate Bill 168, which would have created a state oversight board for IMPD, was referred to summer study earlier this session. That means the bill, authored by Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, and two other Republicans, won’t become law this session.
The original proposal called for the governor to appoint four people to a board with controls over IMPD, with the mayor of Indianapolis serving as a fifth member. The board would “adopt, amend and enforce municipal ordinances, resolutions and rules pertaining to the administration of IMPD” as well as serve as the agency’s merit board and appoint the police chief.
An amendment changed who would appoint the board members, with the governor getting just one appointment, and one appointment each to the Senate president pro tempore, House speaker and the Indianapolis City-County Council president.
Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.
Contact IndyStar transportation reporter Ethan May at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-402-1058. Follow him on Twitter: @EthanMayJ.