We’re Off! The 2023 Indiana Statehouse Session Begins
The first regular session of the 123rd Indiana General Assembly officially began its work in Indianapolis last Monday with an action-packed week of ceremony, procedure, and a parade of legislative agenda reveals to follow. This session, deemed a “long session” due to its four-month timeline, will coalesce around the drafting of the state’s spending plan for the next two years.
Bills are getting filed later than usual but, so far, the message is clear: priority will be placed on developing our people, communities, and jobs. As this session returns focus on the biennial budgeting cycle, this is a good time to have these important community and economic development conversations.
Over 700 bills have been released, and we are likely to see an additional 700+ bills become public in the next week. Our top-notch team at Torchbearer Public Affairs is reading every bill to determine what will be relevant to both Aspire’s 2023 legislative priorities and core tenets for economic development and business success.
Day one saw a flurry of activity and the swearing-in ceremonies for newly elected statewide officials. Day two of the legislative session saw the first meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee, the initial architects of the budget. The Commission on Higher Education and several state universities gave their presentations, outlining priorities for funding, including $476 million for capital projects — or around $38 million per year. The Governor's recommended budget was also presented to the committee by the Office of Management and Budget.
As always, expect the budget bill to take multiple forms before we see the April revenue forecast that will ultimately determine its fate.
Holcomb Delivers State of the State Address
Governor Eric Holcomb delivered his State of the State address on Tuesday and outlined his legislative priorities and vision for Indiana’s future. Touting the state’s population and revenue growth, Holcomb said Indiana can fund one-time projects while maintaining a robust surplus and AAA credit rating. The Governor’s budget proposal adds an ambitious $5 billion in new spending.
New spending proposals include a $347 million injection of public health funding over the next two years. Local governments would be required to match these public health dollars 80-20 for access to the funds. Additionally, he is asking lawmakers to approve a $50 million investment in trail funding and $25 million in land conservation.
Education was also a clear priority in his address. His proposal includes an increase of $1.1 billion toward K-12 tuition support, an additional $120 million to pay for textbooks, and to continue to work toward raising yearly teacher salaries to $60,000. Noting that Indiana is one of seven states with textbook costs, statehouse Democrats found themselves in what they called the “interesting position” of supporting the proposal.
Workforce development is job number one. You tell our Aspire staff team this each day, and prospective employers make workforce the very first topic of conversation when considering a new location in Johnson County. The conversation on talent is starting to shift beyond quantity to quality. More than ever, employers are looking at employees as the whole person, not just the person that they see for 40 hours a week. We see a greater employer focus on the well-being of their employees, including their mental health.So, we were impressed to see the first Senate bill number focused on people. SB 1, authored by Sen. Crider, will help strengthen Indiana’s mental health support system. And Senator Ed Charbonneau’s SB4 makes attempts to implement recommendations from Governor Holcomb’s Public Health Commission to reform Indiana’s health delivery system and the prevention of health challenges.
Child Care / Early Childhood Education
One of Aspire’s top priorities is this session also relates to workforce by supporting those who wish to participate in the labor force but find access to quality childcare prohibitive.
Senator Kyle Walker’s childcare tax credit bill, SB 186, establishes a state tax credit for a taxpayer that makes qualified childcare expenditures or qualified childcare resource and referral expenditures in providing childcare to the taxpayer's employees. Senator Stacey Donato has a similar bill, SB 368, that creates a cost sharing pilot program for childcare and education.
In meetings with our local delegation to the Statehouse, we learned Representative Greene plans to author a bill to help get more kids with disabilities into the workforce. The bill has not dropped yet, but we will keep an eye out for it. And Senator Greg Walker, the new Chair of the Senate Family and Children’s Services committee, indicated he believes childcare will be a big topic of discussion this year, both as an access and workforce issue.
Community Development: Housing
As Indiana’s population grows, and Johnson County grows at a clip much faster, both residents and employers tell us the availability of attainable housing inventory is a problem.
House Government and Regulatory Reform Chairman, Representative Doug Miller, was the Chair of the Housing Task Force this summer and will take on some of the recommendations that came from the committee. We are excited to see his bill, HB 1005, a House Republican 2023 legislative priority! The bill establishes the residential housing infrastructure assistance program and residential housing infrastructure assistance revolving fund. It provides that political subdivisions may apply to the fund for loans for certain infrastructure projects related to the development of residential housing.
In meetings with our legislators last week, several legislators expressed interest in the housing issue, coupled with wanting to make sure the long-term investments are sustainable for the community.
We continue to review bills as they are filed as we know more helpful pieces of legislation are on the way. We will also remain on the lookout for bills which seek to insert the heavy hand of government into the private sector and free market.
Thank you for your support of Aspire in our work. We are off to a great start!