Filing Deadline: They’re All In and We’re Optimistic
The bill filing deadlines have now passed in both the Senate and House. All bill lists are now complete and public.
Aspire is pleased to see numerous bills filed on our priority issues and optimistic about achieving some good work for the business community. We are also starting to track some bills we think are bad for business and will report on those next week. For now, here is how things stand at the Statehouse after the filing deadline.
Governor Holcomb is Sworn in for a Second Term
Governor Holcomb was sworn in for his second term on Monday, January 11th at a ceremony quite different from years past. He spoke about the state’s COVID-19 response as well as his hopes for the next four years. Also sworn in that day were Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and Attorney General Todd Rokita.
Employer Liability Protections
Aspire has been working closely with legislators on protections for employers. Key bills were introduced and are moving through the process. HB 1002, Representative Jerry Torr’s (R-Carmel) COVID-19 civil liability immunity bill, was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 12. The committee took testimony and held the bill to be amended and voted on next week. SB1, the Senate’s version of the bill, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines. It was amended to include liability protection for products produced for the pandemic, such as PPE.
Smoking Cessation Updates
As we’ve discussed, Aspire supports an increase in the tobacco tax – and assessing electronic cigarettes the same as old fashioned smokes – to help improve the health of the Hoosier workforce. HB 1434 was introduced by Representative Julie Olthoff (R-Crown Point). It would impose a tax on e-liquids that contain nicotine at a rate of $0.08 per milliliter of consumable product and increase the cigarette tax by $1 to $1.995 per pack and makes a corresponding increase for larger cigarettes. It has been referred to the Committee on Public Health, which has not yet scheduled a hearing for the bill.
We are pleased to see this bill introduced, and we believe this topic will most likely be tackled later this session within the budget process. Stay tuned.
Senator Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) filed a work share bill, SB 312, making for a total of four work share bills introduced across the legislature. A Work Share program would allow employers to reduce employee hours in lieu of complete separation and the unemployment insurance program would pick up some or all the lost wages. Making this program available to Hoosier employers is an Aspire priority. Several chambers of commerce have made this a legislative priority, and we like the attention this issue is seeing in this year’s legislature compared to the past.
On the Broadband-Wagon
Multiple broadband bills were introduced last week, another Aspire legislative priority. SB 352, authored by Senator Erin Houchin (R-Salem), would amend the statutory priorities for funding projects from the rural broadband fund to prioritize projects which extend service to areas where current speeds are less than 25 megabits per second downstream. SB 359, authored by Senator Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), would permit a unit of local government to finance broadband projects. SB 377, authored by Senator Andy Zay (R-Huntington), would establish the Indiana broadband expansion fund for deposit and distribution of federal broadband funding.
On the House side, HB 1426, authored by Representative Holli Sullivan (R-Evansville) is the Governor’s agenda bill and would change the criteria for eligibility of broadband grants for rural areas. Additionally, Governor Holcomb’s budget proposal includes $100 million additional dollars for the Next Level Broadband Grant Program.
In a budget year with tight revenue projections, we are thrilled with the level of attention this critical 21st-century infrastructure is receiving, and we applaud the volume of ideas swirling around the government center to close the gap.