Weekly Statehouse Update: Surplus Spending To Governor, Hands-Free Driving Goes Forward
Legislation reached the governor’s desk for the first time this session. Hands-free driving easily cleared committee. And a controversial coal bill moved forward.
Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.
The Senate approved a bill to spend $291 million in excess budget surplus dollars, sending it to the governor. Republicans opted to use that money on cash payments for higher education building projects, rather than bonding. Democrats sharply criticized the bill, arguing the money should be spent on teacher pay.
A House committee unanimously passed a bill to ban drivers from using cell phones unless hands-free. That’s a priority of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s that leaders of both chambers say has a good chance to pass.
A measure to stop utility companies from retiring old, coal-fired power plants cleared a House committee along party lines. Only coal lobbyists testified in support. Most opposed it, including environmentalists, the utilities, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Indiana House Republicans rejected an attempt to exempt breastfeeding equipment from the state sales tax. The underlying bill creates a sales tax exemption for RVs.
Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis) offered the amendment on the House floor.
A bill passed by the Indiana House Tuesday would ban companies from mandatory microchipping of employees. Although it seems like science fiction, the practice is growing more common in Europe and Asia.
In other countries, implanted RFID microchips are sometimes used for accessing workplace amenities like parking garages, vending machines and even computers. And although the bill wouldn’t make it illegal for Hoosiers to be voluntary microchipped, it would make it illegal to require one for work.
More districts are hiring law enforcement to increase security in schools and can use state funding to do so, but lawmakers are debating what sort of training officers need before working around students.
Indiana requires school resource officers (SROs), to have 40 hours of specific training.
The committee ultimately rejected the bill in a split vote, 5 to 6.
A bill up for passage in the Senate this week would require schools, beginning in 2021, to have a relationship with a mental health care provider before getting school safety dollars.
The measure is one of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s agenda items.
The Indiana House easily approved legislation Tuesday raising the legal age to smoke and vape to 21.
The measure focuses on enforcement, since Congress recently raised the age as well. It makes it easier for retailers who sell to those underage to rack up higher fines and even get their licenses suspended – which retailers have complained about.
The bill passed 84 to 14 and heads to the Senate.
Legislation to allow speed cameras in highway work zones didn’t get a vote in a Senate committee Tuesday. And its future this session is in doubt.
The proposed bill would only allow Indiana State Police to issue tickets if a driver is caught on camera going at least 11 miles per hour over the speed limit in a highway work zone, while workers are present. It also requires signs alerting drivers beforehand and only allows pictures of the rear license plate – not the driver’s face.
Women gathered at the Indiana statehouse today to pressure lawmakers to support gender equality legislation. The rally highlighted wage discrimination and hostile work environments for pregnant women.
According to Women4Change Indiana, although women make up close to half of Indiana’s workforce, they get paid 21 percent less than men. The pay disparity gets significantly worse for minority women.
Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) also spoke, asking voters to attend a committee hearing Monday to support a bill he authored that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
Legislation changed and approved by a Senate committee Tuesday makes an incremental step to give more time to prosecute child sex crimes.
But the original bill went a lot further.
Current law says child sex crimes must be prosecuted before the victim turns 31 years old. The new bill slightly extends that. It says if new evidence – DNA, an audio or video recording, or a confession – is discovered after the victim turns 31, the crime can be prosecuted within five years of that evidence coming out.
The bill originally eliminated the statute of limitations entirely for child sex crimes and rape – that couldn’t get support in committee.
A bill going to the Senate floor would create a program for high schoolers to try out careers while performing community service, called the Indiana Youth Service Program.
The program would last for 10 weeks during the summer between a high school student’s junior and senior years. Public or private high school students could apply. A pilot group of students would be selected by a panel based on their curiosity, work ethic, and desire to serve others.