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Indiana Daily Student

Where are they now: 2017 Indiana bill update

Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance holds up posters depicting clearcuts. Stant testified in support of Senate Bill 420 at the Monday morning hearing.
Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance holds up posters depicting clearcuts. Stant testified in support of Senate Bill 420 at the Monday morning hearing.

The end of the week marks the final deadline for bills to pass through committee in the Indiana legislature. That leaves a big question — which ones made it through, and which ones won’t see the light of day?

And then, what’s next? Bills that pass through committee have to be read and then passed by the full chamber of either the House or Senate. If that’s already happened, they’ll be sent over to the opposite house of the Indiana General Assembly from where it was introduced. The process then starts over completely — the bill will be considered by a committee in the other house. If anything, even a single semicolon, is changed in the opposing house committee, the bill must be then agreed upon by a conference committee. Finally, the governor has to sign or veto the bill.

The committee report deadline for Senate bills was Thursday. Here’s the progress of bills IDS has been following, plus a few extra:

SB 179 - Superintendent

Status: Defeated on Senate floor

Authors: Sen. James Buck, R-Kokomo; Sen. Eric Bassler, R-Washington; Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.

This bill would have made the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position rather than an elected one. It failed on the Senate floor, but a similar bill — HB 1005, authored by House Speaker Rep. Brian Bosma, passed the full House chambers and was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure.

Opponents of these bills have said they take power away from the people. They’ve also expressed concerns that the bills don’t list enough qualification requirements for the newly appointed school chief.

“It reduces the power of voters in Indiana,” said Vic Smith, founder of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, at a committee hearing for HB 1005. “Our democracy would take a hit.”

SB 276 - Pre-K funding

Status: Passed committee

Authors: Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle; Sen. Eric Bassler; Sen. Randall Head, R-Logansport.

Multiple news sources reported Thursday that while a Senate committee passed its version of a Pre-K grant program expansion bill, it did so after severely cutting included fund amounts.

Its House sister bill passed through the full chambers and was referred to committee in the Senate.

The Pre-K grant program expansion was initially heralded as a focus of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s legislative agenda. Holcomb pushed for a $10 million increase for the On My Way Pre-K grant program. But the Senate appropriations committee slashed that number to a $3 million increase.

The sister bill, HB 1004, was authored by Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis.

Some spoke out against an aspect of the House bill that would expand private school voucher programs in Indiana.

“I think it’s an unrelated topic,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis,on the voucher section of the bill. “It’s a highly divisive topic.”

HB 1004 has been assigned to the Senate education and career development committee.

SB 420 - Old forest areas

Status: Didn’t pass committee

Authors: Sen. Eric Bassler, Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute

Senate Bill 420 would preserve 10 percent of each state forest as a designated “old forest area,” free from logging. Dozens crowded into a small room to give testimony Feb. 13, but the bill appears to have not ever been voted on, according to the Indiana General Assembly website.

The Indiana Forest Alliance, a forest preservationist group that brought the bill to the legislature’s attention, organized a rally earlier this week in support of the bill and in opposition to the Department of Natural Resources’ forest management style.

The IFA has protested increases in logging in state forests. Since 2001, the number of trees sold at DNR auctions has increased nearly sixfold, and the money loggers have paid for the trees has increased about fivefold.

SB 309 - Net metering

Status: Passed in Senate committee

Author: Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek

This bill received considerable backlash and was amended heavily as a result. It would remove net metering in Indiana, a process used to give incentive to renewable energy users.

When an individual’s solar panels produce excess energy, that energy goes back into the energy grid, and the user will be compensated for it at the retail price, as law stands today. This exchange is referred to as net metering. Hershman authored this legislation to slowly wean renewable energy users off net metering.

After amendments, the bill states people with solar panels already installed will receive the retail rate for 30 years, after which point they’ll be compensated at a much lesser, wholesale rate. Those who install panels within the next five years will receive the retail rate for putting energy back into the grid until 2032.

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The House deadline for passing bills out of committee was Tuesday. Here’s what made it through.

HB 1002 - Tax and infrastructure

Status: passed through House committee, full House; assigned to committee in the Senate

Author: Rep. Edmond Soliday, R-Valparaiso

Perhaps the most-discussed fiscal bill on the agenda in 2017, House Bill 1002, would hike up Indiana’s gas tax in order to fund infrastructure improvements.

The gas tax would increase from 18 cents annually to 28, which Soliday said makes up for a lack of adjusting to inflation since 2002. It would also tie the tax to inflation from now until 2024, so it could possibly increase up to 1 cent each year.

Democrats oppose the bill, which passed the House 61-36, according to the Indiana General Assembly website.

Some Republicans who’ve vowed into the past to not hike up taxes of any sort also rose in opposition to the bill.

None of us like raising or paying taxes, Soliday said, but he has to do his job.

“We’ve done some really good gathering on the state roads,” Soliday said. “We’ve got good data.”

According to the IGA website, the bill has been assigned to the Senate tax and fiscal policy committee.

HB 1003 - ISTEP replacement

Status: Passed House committee and full floor; referred to Senate committee

Author: Rep. Robert Behning

This bill replaces the controversial ISTEP assessment with a new test: ILEARN.

ISTEP was criticized for not aligning with state standards, being too long and causing scoring delays. The new test, supporters say, would be shorter and distributed during one testing window later in the year instead of two. Indiana teachers could grade the assessments themselves.

The new test likely wouldn’t be implemented for a few years. Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, from the House education committee voiced concerns about the transition period between tests.

“Are we doing the same thing we’ve been doing?” he asked during a committee hearing.

Democrats in the House education committee expressed concerns earlier in the hearing process that the new test won’t be much different from ISTEP.

HB 1130 - Student journalist protections

Status: Passed House committee and full floor; referred to Senate committee

Author: Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany

House Bill 1130 fortifies protections for student journalists in the state. It has received little opposition: in committee, it passed unanimously, and on the full floor, it only received four nays compared with 88 yeas, per the IGA website.

The bill would prevent school administrators from suppressing student-produced media unless it’s slanderous, libelous or extremely profane. Advisers, students and administrators from across Indiana trekked to the Statehouse on Valentine’s Day to support the legislation.

There were concerns during the committee hearing that the bill would give students too much liberty to haphazardly publish whatever they wanted, but apparently these concerns were not enough to bring any “no” votes for the bill.

Testimony came from student journalists who emphasized how lucky they are to have press freedoms due to cooperative administrations or independent student publications. Others aren’t so lucky, they said.

The bill will now be heard in the Senate committee on education and career development.

HB 1128 - Abortion reversal

Status: Passed House committee

Author: Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler

Bacon authored a controversial bill that would require abortion providers to tell their patients that there’s an option to “reverse” a medically-induced abortion. Opponents of the bill say the method is not supported by scientific research.

Bacon didn’t respond to the IDS’ request for comment before this story’s deadline, but has said in previous interviews that the bill is important for women who say they regret their pregnancies after the fact.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky released a statement in response to the bill passing through committee.

“This bill is an attempt by politicians to use junk science to erode trust in safe, legal non-surgical abortion practices,” said Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of PPINK. “Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal decisions surrounding her pregnancy.”

Other notable bills to look out for:

House Bill 1133, a bill that would prevent local government from banning Airbnb rental services, passed through its committee and the full floor of the House and will now be considered in a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 285, another controversial bill, originally stated law enforcement could break up protests blocking traffic by “any means necessary.” It has since been amended, and that phrase of the legislation has been removed. It passed out of committee this week.

SB 15, which would allow cannabidiol to be used to treat epilepsy, has also passed the full Senate. 

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