Weekly Statehouse Update: Budget-Writing Session Wraps Up, Gaming Overhaul

Apr 26, 2019

Lawmakers wrapped up the 2019 legislative session with passage of a new, two-year state budget and a major gambling bill. But a vaping tax couldn’t make it to the finish line.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Lawmakers Approve $34.6 Billion Budget

The $34.6 billion state budget increased direct K-12 education funding by $689 million. Republican leaders say they want the bulk of that increase to go to raising teacher salaries. But Democrats argue there’s no guarantee that will happen.

The new budget also gives the Department of Child Services a $500 million funding boost – though that’s less than what the agency originally asked for.

“Monumental Shift” For Indiana Gaming Industry

Lawmakers approved legislation that makes major changes to the state’s gaming industry. It clears the path for two new casinos, the state’s first in a decade – one in Gary, another in Terre Haute.

It also legalizes sports wagering statewide, including online and mobile sports betting.

Vaping Tax Dies

A new tax on the liquids used in e-cigarettes couldn’t clear the legislature before the deadline. In the session’s waning hours, proponents offered two options: a 10 percent tax or a 5 percent levy.

But no consensus could be reached in the Republican caucuses.

READ MORE: 2019 Session: Quiet With Few Major Controversies

Doula Funding Cut From Budget

A bill to cover doulas under Medicaid passed the Indiana legislature and was signed into law. The money for the measure, however, was stripped out of the budget in the last days of session.

The bill was signed by Holcomb last week. It’s unclear how it moves forward without funds.

ACLU Sues State Over D&E Abortion Ban

The ACLU of Indiana followed through Thursday on its threat to sue the state over the latest anti-abortion law.

The suit comes one day after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the legislation into law.

The measure in question largely bans the second trimester procedure known as dilation and evacuation abortions, or D&Es. Proponents argue D&Es are barbaric and cause the fetus pain – though medical experts testified that’s not possible.

Teacher Pay Accountability Bills Approved

The General Assembly gave final approval to a bill this week that pressures schools to spend more money on teachers.

House Bill 1003 aims to keep schools from using funds intended for classroom expenses – like teacher pay – to address other operational needs.

The bill says if schools transfer more than 15 percent from their classroom spending account, they have to tell the state why and how they might avoid doing it in the future.

READ MORE: Environment Legislation 2019: What's A Law, What Failed & What's Waiting

Funds For Pacers, Indy Eleven Approved

Indiana Senators passed a bill Tuesday that will provide funding for the state's professional basketball and soccer team facilities.

The bill will give the Capital Improvement Board millions of dollars to revamp Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Indiana Pacers play, and help build a proposed Indy Eleven soccer stadium.

The bill’s approval was dependent on the CIB getting a new 25-year contract with the Pacers. A deal was approved earlier in April.

Hemp Regulation To Governor

Lawmakers in both chambers passed legislation Wednesday that would allow Indiana to regulate the growth and sale of hemp.

After months of deliberating, lawmakers took the final step in bringing the hemp market to Indiana and are now sending it to the governor for final approval. The final version of the bill creates a hemp advisory committee, consisting of regulators and industry leaders, and a regulatory structure. 

The legislation gives a deadline for the committee so that its only purpose is to help set up the state’s hemp laws.