Indiana Legislature

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Republican legislative leaders say Indiana made huge gains in health care and education in the 2020 legislative session. But Democrats decry missed opportunities.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) cites some accomplishments: loosening regulations on public schools, shielding teachers from penalties over low student test scores, sending more money for career and technical education. And he points to what he calls huge strides in health care transparency.

FILE PHOTO: Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A last-minute change to a bill at the Statehouse in the days before the 2020 legislative session came to an end opens the door for charter schools to receive property tax funding through referendum measures. Lawmakers approved the multi-purpose bill on the last day of session after more than an hour debating the language.

Indiana Bill Further Restricts Panhandling

Mar 12, 2020
FILE PHOTO: Doug Jaggers/WFYI

A bill that further criminalizes panhandling awaits the governor’s signature. 

Both Indiana chambers passed the bill that would make it a misdemeanor to ask for money within 50 feet of any place where financial transactions are made, including parking meters. That effectively bans panhandling in downtown Indianapolis.

Supporters of the bill say aggressive panhandling is the biggest complaint they hear about Indianapolis from visitors. 

The new law could face legal challenges. The Indiana ACLU says the measure is unconstitutional. 

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Confusion remains over whether Attorney General Curtis Hill will keep his job if his law license is suspended.

That’s because Senate Republicans couldn’t agree to a bill on the issue as the 2020 legislative session ended.

A disciplinary hearing officer recommended Curtis Hill’s license be suspended for two months, without automatic reinstatement. That stems from groping allegations against the AG.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Lawmakers sent legislation to the governor late Wednesday that would help prevent some patients from getting surprise medical bills.

HB 1004 would ensure patients will not face unexpected charges if they go to an in-network hospital but a service is done by an out-of-network doctor. They could be billed for out-of-network charges if given a good faith cost estimate at least five days in advance.

Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) says the bill is the start of lowering health care costs.

Seth Tackett/WTIU

Lawmakers voted to send a bill to the governor on Wednesday that would create a working group to look into penalties for misusing pesticides.

The original bill would have increased the maximum fines for farmers and others who abuse products like dicamba — a controversial weed killer that can drift off of fields and kill neighboring crops.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Health care facilities that perform abortions will now have procedures to follow for burying and cremating fetal remains based on legislation headed to the governor’s desk.

It’s the only abortion-related bill that advanced this session.

Controversial Coal Bill Awaits Holcomb's Signature

Mar 11, 2020
Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The state House and Senate voted to send a controversial bill on coal plant closures to the governor Tuesday. The original version of the bill aimed to keep coal plants open until Indiana could come up with a statewide energy plan. 

But the current version only requires utilities to note planned coal plant closures in their long-term energy plans called IRPs or integrated resource plans.

Hands-Free Driving Law Heads To Governor Holcomb

Mar 10, 2020
Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana is just the stroke of a pen away from becoming the 22nd state to ban cell phone use while driving unless hands-free.

The House and Senate overwhelmingly sent the bill to the governor Tuesday.

The bill says people can’t hold or use their cell phones while driving unless utilizing hands-free or voice-activated technology.

Indiana House Leadership Change Set As Session Nears End

Mar 9, 2020
BRANDON SMITH / IPB NEWS

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An unusual leadership change is set to happen in the Indiana House just as this year's legislative session is about to wrap up.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Indiana lawmakers are preparing to finish the 2020 session this week a few days ahead of when state law says they have to.

The reason they’ll wrap up early: the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament in downtown Indianapolis. It begins Wednesday and lawmakers will get kicked out of their hotel rooms, making extending the session through the rest of the week difficult.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana’s syringe exchange programs will get “another year of certainty” after a bill extending them was sent to the governor Thursday. 

State law would eliminate Indiana’s nine syringe exchange programs after July of 2021. And after the Senate killed a bill earlier this session to permanently extend them, many worried the programs were running out of time.

Yes4Wayne/Facebook

Lawmakers created an avenue for charter schools to access referendum funding Monday, with a sudden change to legislation in the Senate that worries public education advocates.

Sen. Linda Rogers (R-Granger) offered a proposal to a bill this week to let school corporations partner with charter schools to split referendum funding. Indiana law already says if school boards approve, school corporations can share some of their operations funding with local charter schools.

Houses Passes Bill To Extend Syringe Exchanges

Mar 3, 2020
FILE PHOTO: Jake Harper/Side Effects

Indiana’s syringe exchange programs are one step closer to staying open another year. The Indiana House passed a bill Tuesday that includes language to extend the programs.

The program is currently set to expire next July. A proposal to extend that date died in committee earlier in the session. House lawmakers last week brought it back by inserting that language into another bill. 

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

House lawmakers moved forward with a bill Tuesday aimed at increasing the transparency of health care costs in the state.  

SB 5 would create a database of prices for health care services so Hoosiers could compare costs. 

Rep. Donna Schaibley (R-Carmel) says the creation of the database is an important step in lowering health care costs.  

Darian Benson/IPB News

The Indiana Senate Monday passed an amendment to prevent some medical facilities from seeing a reduction in reimbursements. The language came as an update to legislation on surprise billing. 

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A measure to restrict local governments from creating regulations on landlords passed out of the Indiana House Monday. That’s despite pushback from several hundred housing, legal and other organizations. 

The vote comes after Indianapolis passed an ordinance recently to protect tenants’ rights.

Bill To Make Major Child Labor Law Changes Advances

Mar 3, 2020
Brandon Smith/IPB News

A bill that would significantly reduce restrictions on teenage workers got one step closer to becoming law in the Indiana House on Monday. Among other things, it aims to remove student work permits by the summer of 2021. 

Indiana Hospitals Warn Of Big Cuts Under Billing Proposal

Mar 2, 2020
Lauren Chapman/IPB News

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana hospitals are pushing back against a legislative proposal that could cut how much insurance companies pay for medical services performed at offices located away from a hospital's main campus.

A few hundred doctors and nurses from health systems across Indiana descended Monday on the Statehouse urging lawmakers to roll back the payment limitations added last week to a wide-ranging bill that Republican legislative leaders have touted as steps toward controlling ever-growing health care costs.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A bill that will help smaller utilities address lead in drinking water passed unanimously in the state House on Monday. 

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

House Republicans this week voted down Democrats’ attempts to help ensure Indiana’s voting machines are more secure in the 2020 election.

More than half of Indiana’s 92 counties have voting machines without a paper backup. Election security experts say those backups are critical to electoral integrity.

The General Assembly budgeted $10 million last year to help upgrade. But that amount only covers about 10 percent of the machines that need it. And they plan to get to the rest of them by 2030.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

A Department of Child Services oversight bill is dramatically scaled back. Syringe exchanges are given a little extra time. And a consensus has been reached on a smoking age increase.

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

DCS Oversight

Brock Turner/WFIU, WTIU

A state Senate committee gutted language in a controversial coal bill on Thursday. The bill aimed to keep coal plants open until Indiana can develop a statewide energy plan. 

An amendment proposed by the Senate utilities committee chair, Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), altered key parts of the bill. It changed language that would require the state to review the reasonableness of a plant closure, hold a public hearing, and issue an opinion before a utility could close it.

Pixabay

House and Senate lawmakers have reached consensus on what the final version of the bill to increase the smoking age will look like.

That’s even as some health advocates push for further changes.

FILE PHOTO: Jake Harper/Side Effects

Lawmakers pushed back the death sentence for Indiana’s syringe exchange programs by one year under legislation approved by a Senate committee.

Wednesday’s vote comes after the programs were put in jeopardy earlier this session.

Indiana’s nine syringe exchange programs are set to expire in state law July 1, 2021. A bill earlier this year would’ve extended them indefinitely – but the Senate killed that measure.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A proposal to require teachers who carry guns in school to receive specialized training is being scrapped, as a key lawmaker raises concerns the legislation is overly-specific.

FILE PHOTO: Brandon Smith/IPB News

A House committee dramatically scaled back a bill that would’ve provided greater oversight of the Department of Child Services.

The original bill would’ve created a new committee, required to investigate decision-making at DCS over every case in which a child is seriously hurt or dies after having contact with the agency.

But a House panel decided instead to pursue resurrecting an old legislative study committee dedicated to examining child welfare issues.

Indiana Teacher Gun Training Plan Failing Amid Opposition

Feb 25, 2020
Lauren Chapman/IPB News

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A proposal for requiring annual training for teachers who carry guns inside Indiana schools has been scuttled amid a disagreement over whether it infringed on gun rights.

The state Senate approved the bill this month, but a House committee chairman said Monday he wouldn’t be taking any action on the proposal.

It specifies a 40-hour training program for teachers volunteering to be armed, followed by 16 hours of additional training each year.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

A resolution passed by in the House Monday would honor those killed or injured at work. It would formally recognize April 28 as Workers Memorial Day.

Members of the United Steelworkers and AFL-CIO spoke in support of the resolution to promote workplace safety awareness. So did Samantha Hogue-Figgs, a Fort Wayne resident whose daughter was killed in a factory accident. 

“I feel like I had to take my pain and turn it into purpose,” she says.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Uncertainty over Curtis Hill’s future as attorney general. Calls for greater accountability of virtual charter schools. And a fix to Indiana’s welfare eligibility laws.

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

Curtis Hill Disciplinary Update

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