INDIANAPOLS— The Indiana General Assembly reconvened on Monday. Since it’s a budget year, legislation on a wide range of topics is on the table. Both Indiana Senate Republicans and Democrats announced what their focus will be over the next four months.
Indian Senate Republicans have four points of focus: Fiscal Responsibility, Making Indiana's mental and public health infrastructure work better for Hoosiers, Supporting law enforcement and ensuring public safety and Protecting Hoosiers Data Privacy.
They sent the following information to lay out why these issues are their top priorities.
· Pave the way for transformational tax reform
Senate Bill 3 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle)
WHAT: Form the State and Local Tax Review Commission to study the feasibility of ending Indiana's income tax and reforming property taxes for Hoosiers
WHY: Indiana's tax climate consistently ranks among the best in the nation. Senate Republicans want to take a holistic look at our tax structure to ensure we remain competitive in today's economy.
· Plan for Indiana's fiscal future
Senate budget priority
WHAT: Continue to aggressively pay down the Pre-96 Teachers' Retirement Fund, which has an outstanding liability of about $6 billion
WHY: Statehouse Republicans have paid down this pension obligation by $4 billion in the past few years alone. The sooner Indiana pays off this unfunded liability, the sooner $1 billion per year is freed up in the state budget for transformational tax cuts and important public needs.
· $50 million tax cut for small businesses
Senate Bill 2 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville)
WHAT: Change state tax law so LLCs and S Corps can deduct all state tax payments on federal tax returns, resulting in what could be $50 million in federal tax savings for Hoosier businesses
WHY: This change would level the playing field for businesses – especially businesses – when it comes to receiving a deduction on federal taxes and would be revenue-neutral for Indiana.
Make Indiana's mental and public health infrastructure work better for Hoosiers
· Build a better mental health care system for Indiana
Senate Bill 1 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Mike Crider (R-Greenfield)
WHAT: Provide ongoing funding to build out a system of certified behavioral health clinics
WHY: Last year, the 9-8-8 National Suicide and Crisis Line went live, giving Hoosiers a place to call when they need mental-health support. The next step for improving our mental-health infrastructure is to make sure every person has a place to go to get care.
· Modernize Indiana's state and local health departments
Senate Bill 4 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso)
WHAT: Increase the quality of services performed by Indiana's local health departments and promote collaboration between local health departments and the Indiana Department of Health
WHY: Focusing on preventing health problems, rather than treating them, will help improve the state's poor health rankings and foster a healthy workforce.
Lower health care costs for Hoosiers
· Require 'site of service' transparency
Senate Bill 6 [iga.in.gov], authored by Charbonneau
WHAT: Make sure insurance claims are paid appropriately based on the location where service was provided
WHY: Ending practices that allow inaccurate billing could save Hoosiers millions per year on medical bills.
· Help lower prescription drug costs
Senate Bill 8 [iga.in.gov], authored by Charbonneau
WHAT: Require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to pass on the rebates they receive for prescriptions to the patients buying the medicines or to all plan members
WHY: It's common for PBMs to negotiate contracts with drug companies so a PBM gets a rebate every time a person covered by their plan gets certain prescriptions. SB 8 would ensure those savings go to the person or plan that bought the medicine.
· Promote competition in health care
Senate Bill 7 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Justin Busch (R-Fort Wayne)
WHAT: End anti-competitive noncompete clauses and referral incentives for doctors
WHY: Enabling doctors to compete on their own terms will help promote competition in the health care marketplace and help lower prices.
Supporting law enforcement, ensuring public safety
· Raise pay for Indiana State Police
WHAT: Increase pay for Indiana State Police (ISP) and alter the pay matrix from 20 years (current timeline) to 15 years so they see an increase in pay significantly quicker throughout their career
WHY: ISP, as the state's leading law-enforcement agency, offers assistance to nearly every law enforcement agency across the state. Yet, a study conducted by the Indiana State Police Alliance revealed state troopers are among the lowest paid law enforcement officers in Indiana. ISP troopers are the cream of the crop and should be paid like it.
· Allow dangerous suspects to be held without bail
Senate Joint Resolution 1 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford)
WHAT: Amend the Indiana Constitution to allow judges to deny bail if a suspect clearly poses a substantial risk to the public
WHY: At least 22 states and the federal government allow the most dangerous suspects to be held without bail, and Indiana judges should have that discretion to protect the public.
Protect Hoosiers' Data Privacy
· Restrict how companies collect and use personal data
Senate Bill 5 [iga.in.gov], authored by State Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne)
WHAT: Creates a "bill of rights" for Hoosier data privacy that would allow consumers to monitor how their data is being used and have it deleted if they wish
WHY: More businesses have access to our personal information, while data breaches and cybersecurity threats continue to grow. SB 5 updates consumer protection laws to defend against those threats.
Senate Democrats’ priorities mirrored that of Governor Eric Holcomb’s with a few social issues added in. Their focus will be on families, futures and freedoms.
They sent out the following information.
- Invest in expanding childcare access for families, which will help bolster our workforce.
- Create a Paid Leave Program for parents and families to take necessary time off work.
- Lower healthcare costs for Hoosiers paying the 7th highest costs in the nation.
- Invest in K-12 to cover school operational costs along with teacher and staff pay raises.
- Eliminate school textbook fees to remove the burden on parents.
- Auto-enroll students into the 21st Century Scholars Program to bolster college attainment.
- Restore reproductive freedom to all Hoosier women by expanding access to abortion back up to 20 weeks.
- Decriminalize marijuana and advance legislation to make it legally accessible.
- Remove the ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana’s current law, and protect all marriage in Indiana.
- Amend the Indiana constitution to allow Hoosiers to vote directly on ballot initiatives at the polls.
One of the Republicans' priorities that could be controversial is their effort to amend the Indiana Constitution. The amendment will allow judges to deny bail if a suspect clearly poses a substantial risk to the public. The constitution requires a bail to be set in all cases except murder and treason.
"State law and the rules of criminal procedure say that judges can increase a suspect bail amount if they pose a risk to the public,” State Sen. Eric Koch, a Republican from Bedford, said. “But if they set the bail too high, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that can be considered an unconstitutional defacto denial of bail."
If the proposal passes out of the statehouse, it would go on the ballot in 2026. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor of Indianapolis (D-District 33) says a change like this could affect minority communities negatively.
"As we have seen over the history of any type of public policy that has this kind of subjective criteria ,people who look like me seem to be on the bottom end of the scale, " Senator Taylor said.