Mrvan: Week in Review March 13-17

Home/Mrvan: Week in Review March 13-17

Mrvan: Week in Review March 13-17

Lawmakers are in the midst of making crucial revisions to more than 360 proposals that survived out of over 1,200 introduced in January. Committee activities dominate session schedules as senators consider bills already approved by the House of Representatives and stay abreast of Senate initiatives under House review. Amended legislation must return to its house of origin for approval of new provisions. Bills approved by both chambers with no amendments proceed to the Governor for possible signature into law. This brief summary highlights some of the bills under review this week.

State budget

The only bill that must gain approval this session is a state budget plan to fund government services and schools over the next two years. Contained in House Bill (HB) 1001, the $31 billion proposal is now under review by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Approved by a House vote of 68-29, the bill’s author recently presented the House-passed budget proposal to committee members. Other testifiers included state university presidents, state agency commissioners, and representatives of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The committee will continue to hold information-gathering hearings on HB 1001 over the next few weeks. Changes to the proposal are expected.

State road funding

Another priority this session is the development of a long-term funding plan for the state’s infrastructure needs, estimated to cost $1.2 billion annually to cover costs of improving the condition of aging state and local roads and bridges. Members of the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy and the Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation held a joint meeting this week to discuss and receive testimony on HB 1002, which passed the House 61-36. The measure currently includes a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase, and would tie future gas tax increases to inflation allowing it to rise one cent per year. Drivers would also see a $15 increase on registration fees, and $150 for electric vehicles. Furthermore, HB 1002 calls for feasibility studies on imposing tolls on current and new roadways. Final action is pending.

Freezing recent corporate tax cuts, bonding and reducing the surplus are other options under consideration in efforts to produce tax-free funding for roads. Senate Bill (SB) 262 would allow the state to leverage its credit rating to levy bonds, creating up to $500 million for road improvements. The bill stipulates that state pension funds would be offered the first opportunity to buy these bonds as part of an “Invest in Indiana” program. The bill gained Senate approval by a vote of 41-9 and awaits further action by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Emergency contact database

HB 1084 would require the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to create, maintain, and operate the Indiana emergency contact database in efforts to assist police with contacting emergency contacts in the event of a serious or fatal motor vehicle accident. Providing the data would be voluntary, and up to two emergency contact persons could be entered into the database. HB 1084 would require that the database be available not later than July 1, 2019. Changes made to the bill by the House will require it to return to the Senate for further consideration.

Senate-approved bills await House action

Students between the ages of three and five with developmental delays are currently eligible for special education grants from the State Board of Education (SBOE). Co-authored by Mrvan, SB 475 would require the SBOE to extend the age cap to age nine as of July 1, 2018. Approved unanimously by the Senate, the bill passed out of a House committee this week and is eligible for final action by the full House.

Legislation to provide additional assistance to victims of domestic violence is moving through the process. SB 323 would allow for the transfer of wireless telephone numbers and accounts as part of a court-approved protective order process. This action would prevent a perpetrator from monitoring or controlling a victim’s phone. This week, a House committee amended the bill to include a similar protective order process to allow victims to safely retrieve their pets from abusers. SB 323 was approved unanimously by the House committee, and now awaits final action by the full House.

Students between the ages of three and five with developmental delays are currently eligible for special education grants from the State Board of Education (SBOE). Co-authored by Mrvan, SB 475 would require the SBOE to extend the age cap to age nine as of July 1, 2018. Approved unanimously by the Senate, the bill passed out of a House committee this week and is eligible for final action by the full House.

Unsuccessful bills

SB 179 would have required the Superintendent of Public Instruction to become an appointed position by the Governor, instead of being an elected position chosen by voters. The bill died in the Senate by a surprise vote of 23-26. Similar House legislation, HB 1005, was approved 68-29. Since HB 1005 contains substantially similar language, under Senate rules, the bill should not receive a Senate hearing.

Popular legislation calling for redistricting reform died in both chambers this session. HB 1014 called for an independent redistricting commission to draw election maps, and then provide the General Assembly final authority on the proposed districts. The bill was recommended by a summer study committee that held numerous hearings on the issue. After holding a hearing on the proposal where many testified in support of the bill, the Republican House committee chair chose not to take a vote on the bill thus killing the measure. Similar legislation in the Senate did not receive a hearing.

SB 354 sought to allow the Rising Sun Casino to split its gaming license and move games to a supplemental facility in Terre Haute. After much debate, the bill failed by a vote of 5-5 in the Senate Public Policy Committee where numerous members expressed concerns about how a gaming expansion at this time would adversely affect current gaming facilities in the state.

SB 439 sought to allow judges to consider imposing tougher sentences on crimes motivated by hate with the intent to harm or intimidate an individual because of certain perceived or actual characteristics such as a victim’s race, religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation. The bill also included protections for public safety officials. Indiana is one of only five states without a bias or hate crime law. The bill died on the Senate floor when the author chose not to call it down for final consideration.

Important upcoming dates

April 3 – Deadline for standing committees to meet

April 5-6 – Deadlines for bills to be heard by the opposite chamber

April 10 – Conference committees begin

April 29 – General Assembly must conclude business on or before this date

To learn more about bills moving through the General Assembly, log on to www.in.gov/legislative. Also from here, you can watch the House and Senate in session and committee hearings. Senate Democrats offer up-to-date information at www.indianasenatedemocrats.org. Multimedia updates on the Senate’s daily activities are provided at The Briefing Room (www.INthebriefingroom.wordpress.com) and Twitter at @INSenDems (www.twitter.com/INSenDems).

Visit my website at www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/S1 and subscribe to receive periodic e-mails about action taken on major issues. Check out my Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/senatorfrankmrvan.

Personal contact with constituents has a direct impact on legislation considered by the General Assembly and what ultimately becomes state law. Please contact me to express your concerns regarding pending legislation or if I can be of assistance.

2017-03-16T16:20:15+00:00 March 16th, 2017|