Police Reform and Broadband Bills Move at the Statehouse; Federal CARES Act Signed in D.C.

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 3.15.21

Aspire Economic Development Chamber Alliance Johnson County Indiana

Last week was the second week of the second half of the 2021 Indiana General Assembly session. All committees are starting to hear bills, and we anticipate bills to move to the House and Senate chamber floor for amendments and votes as soon as this week. This legislative update begins with news on bipartisan Statehouse work regarding police reform. We end with a pivot from our usual focus on the Indiana General Assembly to share insight on what the Federal CARES Act means for local communities.

Police Reform Bill Unanimously Passes Through Senate Committee

HB 1006, the police reform bill authored by Representative Gregory Steuerwald (R-Avon), passed through the Senate Corrections and Criminal Code Committee with a vote of 8-0.

Some key provisions in the bill include adding mandatory de-escalation training to the use-of-force training curriculum, defining chokeholds (and banning them in certain situations), adding misdemeanor penalties for officers who turn off body cameras with intent to conceal, and creating a procedure to allow the Indiana law enforcement training board to decertify an officer who has committed misconduct.

The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee, because it makes an appropriation for capital improvements to the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Academy. The bill passed through the House unanimously.

Broadband Bills Converge

There was a lot of action last week on broadband legislation. Senator Zay’s (R-Huntington) SB 377 and Senator Houchin’s (R-Salem) SB 352 were both heard in the House Utilities, Energy, and Telecommunications Committee. As a reminder, these bills both address funding broadband expansion, including reprioritizing existing funds to areas which fall below newly revised (up) speed standards. Both bills were held, and will be heard again for amending and voting.

HB 1449, which is the broadband bill dealing with the allocation of funding, was voted out of the Senate Utilities Committee unanimously. It will now be sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

We anticipate several of the broadband related bills will get merged into one bill to create one sweeping reform bill. Broadband expansion is an Aspire legislative priority this session. We will continue to follow and support these bills as they make their way through the process.

Federal CARES Act Signed into Law

President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in the Oval Office last Thursday. Key provisions of the bill include direct payments to Americans, an expansion of the child tax credit, aid to state and local governments, billions for the distribution of vaccines and more. See a full breakdown of the bill.

State governments will see an influx of federal money from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that could suddenly enable them to undertake large, expensive projects that have long been on their to-do lists, including high-speed internet for rural areas and drinking water improvements.

The aid plan, approved by Congress in close party-line votes includes $195 billion for states, plus separate funds for local governments and schools. Indiana is expecting about $5.87 billion.

Local governments will also see an influx of federal money. Cities and counties are likely to use the funds for additional expenses incurred during the pandemic, funding local grant and loan programs, and supporting other local relief services, or tackling deferred capital needs.

Indianapolis and Marion County are expected to receive a total of about $424 million from the pandemic relief package — more than twice the amount received from previous aid packages. Johnson County is expected to receive $30.68 million.