A Halftime Update from the RJL Solutions Government Relations Team
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has taken up several measures which seek to end Indiana’s state of emergency and address pandemic-related issues in the workforce. While there were originally several proposals that were introduced, both the House and Senate narrowed their focus to two specific bills: HB 1001 and SB 3.
Starting with the smaller of the two proposals, SB 3 allows Indiana to no longer declare a state of emergency while still providing state agencies the ability to claim COVID-related federal Medicaid and SNAP dollars. Alternatively, HB 1001 is a larger and far more contentious measure, containing proposals relating to COVID-19 vaccination requirements along with measures similar to those in SB 3. Through a broad expansion of qualified exemptions, HB 1001 would effectively diminish the power an employer has to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees. The House proposal has been met with pushback from a variety of opponents, including the business and healthcare communities.
Aside from COVID-19, both chambers of the General Assembly have passed other measures to tackle healthcare issues. Driven by Indiana’s nursing shortage, HB 1003 is a House-passed proposal which aims to expand Indiana’s nursing workforce pipeline. The Senate also passed SB 5, SB 36, SB 251 and SB 365 in an effort to address workforce shortages in Indiana’s healthcare industry. Lastly, the Senate passed both SB 88 and SB 249 in an effort to reduce Hoosier healthcare prices.
In various forms, taxes are a recurring policy discussion every year in the General Assembly. This year is no different and the major topic of discussion revolves around taxation of business personal property – a legislative priority for both Governor Holcomb and House Republicans. Each chamber has offered their own proposals, which have all been met with pushback from local governments across Indiana, as business personal property tax revenue goes directly towards funding local communities.
Without a viable revenue replacement mechanism in place, the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee killed SB 150 and SB 378 and expressed concern over the larger impacts these cuts could have on Indiana’s local communities. The House passed HB 1002, which is a larger tax package containing business personal property tax reduction provisions.
The House and Senate Education Committees have arguably garnered the most publicity this year (some good, some bad) regarding the various sweeping education reform bills considered. Early on, the Senate considered SB 167which was drafted in large part due to concerns over critical race theory being taught in schools.
Among other things, the bill required K-12 schools to post curricular materials on their website, gain parental consent for certain educational activities and create advisory boards comprised of school staff and parents to advise on curriculum and educational activities. After hearing hours of mostly oppositional testimony from the public, Senate leadership decided to kill the bill.
While the death of SB 167 was met with optimism from those who opposed it, HB 1134 quickly dampened their dreams. The House moved forward in considering this companion bill to SB 167, ultimately passing the measure by a final vote of 60-37. While the future of the proposal is unknown, the Senate is expected to, at the very least, make some changes to the language to make the bill more palatable to educators who oppose it.
Workforce shortages are on the top of everyone’s minds this year, as industries across the board struggle to recruit and retain workers. In response, the Senate passed SB 4, which allows local entities to establish workforce retention and recruitment programs for the purposes of issuing grants and loans to qualified workers. Additionally, SB 262, which seeks to address Indiana’s affordable housing shortage by creating a statewide housing tax credit system, passed the Senate unanimously.
While a few notable proposals designed to address workforce shortages through tax incentives for recent college graduates and tuition reimbursement for healthcare workers failed to pass out of committee this year, these proposals could have a chance of future success in next year’s budget session.
As Session resumes early next week, the RJL Government Relations team will continue to track, monitor and provide updates on issues that matter most to each of our clients.
Our team is grateful for your continued partnership, and we look forward to further advocating on your behalf throughout the remainder of the 2022 Legislative Session.