By REBECCA TOWNSEND
(With contributions from Lesley Weidenbener and The Statehouse File)
Indiana lawmakers authored more than 1,200 proposed pieces of legislation for consideration by the 2013 General Assembly.
At the session's midpoint, about 350 bills remain alive.
The state's biennial budget, which passed the House on Monday, is now in the hands of the Senate.
Overall, as of Feb. 25, 123 House bills have been sent to the Senate and assigned to committee. The same number of bills have advanced from the Senate and been assigned to House committees. (Altogether state representatives passed 175 bills on for Senate consideration from an original pool of 615. And will just hours before the deadline to move their bills to the House, the Senate had advanced a total of 174 from an original pool of 621.)
Once both legislative chambers have marked up the bills of the opposite chamber, they will convene conference committees for what's known as the "sausage-making" period in the final weeks of the session, a magical time when just about anything can resurface and work its way into Indiana code.
Lawmakers encourage people interested in influencing the outcome of any particular piece of legislation to contact their local representatives in the House and Senate. The General Assembly's website offers contact information, as well as a tool to identify one's representatives. Bill summaries, complete bill text, and a digest of the most recent actions lawmakers have taken will be linked to this story at Nuvo.net.
Here is an update on a handful of bills, still in play as of Monday, in which our readers have expressed interest:
Gov. Mike Pence remains committed to his 10 percent tax cut, but House skepticism crystallized Monday when the leadership refused to include the cut in its version of the budget. The general attitude is that they want to see the next state revenue forecast, due out in April, before committing to policies that will reduce the state's cash flow, though there seems to more sentiment to speed corporate and inheritance tax cuts than offer an income break, observed John Schorg, director of media relations for the Indiana House Democrats. The House Democrats offered a graduated income tax, which was rejected. They also attempted to introduce Pence's proposed cut, but leadership refused to allow a vote on the issue.
The House budget would spend 2 percent more on education in the first year and 1 percent more in the second year, which would send a total of $334 million more to schools. It also increases funding for universities by 3.5 percent over two years. By changing allocations in gasoline tax, the plan would add about $250 million per year to the state's Motor Vehicle Highway Account, from which about 53 percent of the money is spent on state projects and 47 percent is sent to local governments for their road budgets.
Among many other items of interest, the House budget boosts funding for the Department of Child Services by $40 million.
Mass Transit – HB 1011
The roadblocks that impeded the mass transit bill from progressing out of committee last session have fallen. House lawmakers on Monday approved the bill, which would enable Central Indiana to pursue much-needed upgrades to local mass transit systems, by a vote of 56-39. It is now in the hands of the Senate.
City Council Consolidation – SB 621
The innocuous title ["Local Govermnent Issues"] on this bill belies its seismic intent — to, among other power consolidating efforts, strip the at-large council seats from the Indianapolis-Marion County City County Council. Authored by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, the bill passed the Senate on 33-14 vote and was scheduled to be heard Tuesday in its first House committee meeting.
Department of Child Services Oversight – SB125
This bill would enact reforms to help abused and neglected children. It passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the hands of the House.
Legislators authored 12 bills pertaining to abortion and reproductive rights this session; as of Monday, two of these bills were still poised for possible advancement.
Senators voted to eliminate one of two vaginal ultrasounds required by Senate Bill 371, but the bill's primary purpose, to tighten restrictions on clinics dispensing the abortion-inducing drug, RU489, is still in effect. Senate Bill 489, which supporters say pertains to "informed consent" and detractors call "misinformed consent," insists that the Indiana State Department of Health take a more active role in publishing the brochures distributed to women preparing for abortion, and that the pamphlets be printed in color with information and pictures "that are available at no cost or nominal cost to the state department."
Filming Farms - SB 373
Mainstream farm lobbyists insist that this bill is necessary to protect farmers from misguided activists who would sensationalize modern agricultural techniques and foment unfair attacks on the ag industry. Detractors call the bill, which prevents the dissemination of photos taken on a farm without written consent to anyone outside of law enforcement, the "ag gag," and are concerned that it will make it increasingly difficult to blow the whistle on operations flouting regulations to protect the workers, the environment and animal welfare.