As the week comes to a close, Hoosier legislators again decide which bills will advance one stop closer to becoming law.
The deadline for bills to pass out of committee for the second time was Monday, and the second and third hearing deadlines were Wednesday and Thursday. Bills that weren’t voted on and passed by their respective deadlines remain in hibernation, only for their contents to be revived through future bills if legislators feel so inclined.
Those bills that were changed at all in their second round of committees and floor votes must be agreed upon by conference committees before they can be handed off to the governor for deliberation.
This is an update on the status of some bills we’ve covered throughout the session, plus a few new noteworthy ones:
HB 1002 — infrastructure improvement funding
Status: Passed full Senate, moves to conference committee
Author: Rep. Edmond Soliday, R-Valparaiso
Legislators voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would hike up Indiana’s gas and diesel tax. The House and Senate versions of the bill both call for a 10 cent increase for the gas tax during a two-year period, but they differ on how much the diesel tax should increase. In the House version of the bill, the diesel tax would increase 10 cents while the Senate version has it increasing six cents during a two-year period.
The increased tax funds will go toward state infrastructure improvements, which both lawmakers and the governor have emphasized as an essential focus of the legislative session.
The bill also contains language that gives the Indiana Department of Transportation permission to implement tolls on any United States interstate. It would allow the governor freedom to toll as he wishes.
HB 1104 — synthetic urine ban
Status: Passed full Senate, author concurred with changes
Author: Rep. Greg Beumer, R-Modoc
This bill, which has bipartisan support, would ban the distribution of synthetic urine that individuals could use to fake a drug test. It would make the selling of synthetic urine a misdemeanor.
Beumer said the idea for the bill came to him from a retired school teacher, who informed him of the product’s existence. He went to a store, Beumer said, purchased the synthetic urine on three separate occasions and sent one of the samples to a regional hospital. The hospital then tested it and said they found nothing in it that showed it to be anything but a normal sample of human urine.
The bill is a very small piece in combating the drug epidemic still sweeping the state, Beumer said.
“Clearly, the intent is not to punish people, it’s not to point the finger,” he said. “It’s more about let’s find out who has a problem.”
At his last count, Beumer said there are currently 11 states that have either approved or are currently considering a measure similar to this, with the closest being Illinois.
HB 1005 — Appointing superintendent rather than election
Status: Passed full Senate
Author: House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis
In a controversial move, the Senate on Tuesday passed a measure that would make Indiana’s head-of-schools position appointed rather than elected. The elected position of superintendent of public instruction would be abolished in 2025, upon which time it would become the secretary of education, appointed by the governor.
The vote, which was 28-20, was a contentious one because a nearly identical bill was shot down by the Senate earlier this session, and Senate rules forbid passing legislation that has previously failed on the full floor.
In a February committee hearing, Bosma, the bill’s author, argued the bill is good public policy and one that’s been needed by the state for years.
“It’s not a partisan bill,” Bosma said.
HB 1517 — Raising the age of consent
Author: Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis
Macer’s bill, which would have raised the age of consent in Indiana from 16 to 18, stalled during this legislative session, never to advance beyond its initial committee in the House.
The bill’s intent, Macer said, had been to punish older individuals for taking advantage of teenagers and not to interfere with “young love.”
In an emailed statement, Macer said while she’s disappointed the bill didn’t advance, she plans to reintroduce the legislation next session.
“The political process can be disheartening, but it is critical that we persist in the face of tribulation and remain steadfast in our pursuit to address important issues like this one,” Macer said in the email.
SB 1 — e-liquid regulations
Status : Passed full House
Author(s): Sen. Randall Head, R-Logansport, Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette
This bill makes alterations to the state’s vaping law; it contains fewer regulations than what are currently in place. Current state law was investigated by the FBI last year for only giving a few e-liquid producers control of the entire market, according to The Indianapolis Star.
Some regulations remain from current law in this new bill. For example, manufacturers would still need to put nicotine warning labels on their products, and companies would need to inform the Food and Drug Administration or the state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission of the ingredients of which the e-liquid is made. But the bill would remove restrictions that made one security firm the gatekeeper of the industry.
SB 309 — net metering
Status: Passed the full House
Author(s): Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis
Despite extensive public outcry, legislators voted Tuesday to pass the bill that would slowly get rid of a huge solar power incentive — net metering.
Net metering is a process that allows solar customers to be compensated for excess energy they send back to the energy grid at the retail rate. If it were to be eliminated, customers would be compensated for this excess energy at much lower wholesale rates.
The vote was a relatively close one — 56-43. Darrell Boggess, a Bloomington solar energy proponent and member of the Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network, posted in a SIREN email forum, which he said contains about 500 members, informing them all of the verdict. Their opposition to the bill likely contributed to the close vote, Boggess said.
Boggess said it took him a few hours to get over the shock of the vote, but now he’s resigned himself to the fact that the bill will likely pass in some form and is trying to be optimistic moving forward. He said he’s confident the abnormally high level of political involvement he saw regarding this bill may become the norm in the future.
Jacqui Bauer, sustainability coordinator for Bloomington also said she was pleasantly surprised at the level of political activism the bill inspired.
It’s been a motivator for some to engage with the city’s Solarize Bloomington program, Bauer said, but it’s also already been a deterrent for others who are unsure where the industry will head.
“People can still engage and encourage the governor to veto it,” Bauer said. “I guess we fight the fight ‘til it’s done.”
HB 1003 and HB 1004 — the bill that would replace ISTEP with a new statewide test and the bill that would expand funding for a Pre-K grant pilot program — will both be heading to conference committee. The House and the Senate must agree to and consolidate changes they each made into on cohesive bill.
SB 15, which loosens restrictions on the use of cannabidiol, a marijuana-derived oil, for the treatment of epilepsy, passed its third reading in the House unanimously Thursday.
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