Some bills introduced in the Indiana General Assembly that were prioritized by Indiana lawmakers this year include repealing wetland development regulations, restricting the governor’s powers, and fixing the overall state budget for two years.
After about three months, those four bills are among the few remaining that could go through all of the steps before the April 29 meeting is suspended.
House bill 1001 – the state budget
Indiana lawmakers develop the state budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, which is set out in House Bill 1001. This bill specifies how much money will be allocated to areas such as investment, K-12, and higher education, as well as government operations.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have unveiled their versions of the bill, which are subject to change. Now both versions have a budget of $ 22 billion for 2022 and 2023, with slight differences in the allocation of money to each area.
Since the beginning of the legislative period, the budget law has adopted a language from other draft laws that are expected to be passed, such as For example, House Act 1005, which creates an educational savings account program and extends eligibility to receive vouchers for private schools to families with household incomes up to $ 145,000.
The household bill also includes sections that would increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for certain services and impose an excise tax on retail sales of vapor products.
Joel Hand, lobbyist and general counsel for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, said the last resort to amend this bill is for the House and Senate to pass their budget versions when they are reviewed by the conference committee. The conference committee, made up of a Democrat and a Republican from each chamber, is reviewing the two versions and combining them into one document for lawmakers to vote on, he said.
House bill 1003 and Senate Act 2 – Funding of virtual teaching in public schools
The state pays each school district based on the number of children attending its schools. Current Indiana law dictates that schools can only receive 85% of the funds to be allocated to a child if that child is in class half the time, Hand said.
“Losing 15% is a pretty big part of the school budget,” he said.
House Bill 1003 and Senate Bill 1002 are follow-up bills that, if passed, would ensure schools that had to offer online education received 100% of their originally allocated funds, Hand said.
Senate Act 389 – Repeal rules for wetland development
The state regulates 80% of the remaining wetlands in Indiana, said William Blomquist, a professor at Purdue University in Indianapolis at Indiana University and a member of the board of directors of the White River Alliance. The federal government regulates the remaining 20% of wetlands because the habitats are so closely related to federal clean water law, he said.
Indiana law requires individuals or businesses to apply for and obtain permission from the Environmental Management Department to conduct wetland activities in a federally regulated wetland. SB 389 would repeal this law.
The increasing development in these areas that could result from this bill would disrupt an important habitat for migratory birds and amphibians. Disturbing these habitats would eliminate plants and soils that filter contaminants from waterways and groundwater, Blomquist said.
“The more pollutants our groundwater collects, the more expensive it is to bring it to drinking water quality,” he said.
Real estate developers support this bill as it would allow them to build more properties, he said.
House bill 1123 – Restricting the governor’s authority to issue emergency orders
House Bill 1123 would require the Indiana General Assembly to approve an emergency injunction that would last longer than 30 days. It would also allow them to call a special meeting if the governor declares a nationwide emergency.
This bill is more relevant during the 2021 legislature as Holcomb issued a 30-day Public Health Emergency Ordinance on March 6, 2020 and has renewed the Emergency Ordinance every month since then.
The power to issue an emergency order and call a special session is reserved for the governor under the Indiana Constitution, which requires a division of powers between the branches, Blomquist said.
Although the bill may go through the Indiana General Assembly, seven Holcomb administration officials have spoken out against the bill, indicating that Holcomb can veto it, according to IndyStar. If that simple majority veto is overridden, it could be brought to the Indiana Supreme Court to determine whether it is constitutional in the state, Blomquist said.
Contacting the legislature
Hand and Blomquist both said in their interviews with the Indiana Daily Student that voters still have time to reach out to their lawmakers and possibly change what will or will not pass.
An easy and quick way to message your representatives is through the Indiana General Assembly website.
“It’s just as easy to contact your lawmaker as it is to order from DoorDash,” said Blomquist.
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