The Indiana Senate passed an amended version of fiscal matters Senate Bill 2 into law on Friday with a vote of 46-1-3. The bill establishes the Hoosier Families First Fund and allocates $45 million towards efforts assisting pregnant people and works to increase access to foster care support and contraception.
SB 2 was authored by Senator Travis Holdman, R-Markle, Senator Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, among others. The bill was read for the third and final time after Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch approved a motion for a ten minute recess from Senator Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville.
Before Dec. 1, 2022, the Medicaid office has to compile Medicaid reimbursement rates in neighboring states for various “prenatal, pregnancy, postnatal, and pediatric wellness services.” After, the office has to submit a report to the general assembly before Dec. 31, 2022. Upon passing, fiscal matters enclosed in the legislation will become effective on January 1, 2023.
Before the recess and voting of SB 2, Lieutenant Governor Crouch allowed for amendments to be introduced and discussed regarding Senate Bill 3, which includes a temporary sales tax exemption on utility bills and a fuel tax freeze effective through June 2023 among other relief measures against inflation costs.
Out of eight filed amendments, five were introduced. Two of these passed unanimously and three failed before the bill was ordered for reprinting for a final reading and vote in the Saturday session.
The first amendment that passed elaborated on the types of transactions exempt from the state retail tax for six months during the exemption period set in the bill. The second amendment explained the timeline set for the sales tax refund program.
The three failed amendments went under much discussion across the Senate. Senator Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, introduced an amendment he drafted that calls for advancing $1 billion for K-12 education in schools statewide.
Referring to published data from the American Enterprise Institute, he said when people don’t graduate from high school or college or receive vocational training, the government spends hundreds of millions to upskill them and fill jobs.
“We are investing in the back end of the system to upskill people, which I support, but we’re not investing at the front of the system, in state-wide universal pre-k, expanding child care where Hoosiers struggle,” Qaddoura said.
He said that waiting to address the issue at the end of the budget process, would probably mean delaying until next May. By then, the school year would be over, because the budget doesn’t go into effect until July.
“If we are serious about addressing education in Indiana, then I urge you not to vote on party lines on this issue,” Qaddoura said. “I urge you to support the $1 billion to invest in the future of Indiana.”
Senator Timothy Lanane, D-Anderson, motioned for another failed amendment that proposed an alternative tax refund to help support lower and middle-income taxpayers. Upon passing, there would have been a two-tier type refund system based on income.
Senator Eddie Melton, D-Gary introduced the last failed amendment discussed for SB 3. It extended the timeframe for cities to make the tax refund payment without necessarily affecting their budgets.
He said the mayor of Holbert, Indiana, a constituent in his district, is extremely concerned about the fiscal impact it will have because it would mean taking a significant portion of the funding that could potentially impact public safety.
“The purpose of this is to give them an opportunity to make these payments in a responsible way,” Melton said.
Senator Holdman addressed Melton and said as the tax and fiscal chair, he would certainly work with him towards a resolution with the mayor too. However, he said he suggested letting it play out for the meantime and readdressing in January if need be.
SB 2 will move into effect at the start of next year. Tomorrow, the Indiana Senate will reconvene at 11 a.m. to read and vote on the revised Senate Bill 3 following the new amendments.