Indiana Bill Watch: Pacers, Indy Eleven, Gambling, Budget Bills Advance

Lawmakers are nearing the end of the legislative session, and already bills are making their way to Gov. Eric Holcomb. Both chambers will face more deadlines at the end of this week, which could mean more dead bills.

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Here's where various notable bills stood at the end of last week. Check back every Monday for updates.

Pacers funding 

The Indiana House voted 78-13 April 11 to approve legislation that would find ways to pay for a 25-year extension for the Indiana Pacers and a $150 million soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill in February. A House-Senate committee will negotiate a final version before the session ends later this month. 

The Marion County Capital Improvement Board and the Pacers on April 12 agreed to terms that would net the Pacers $800 million over 25 years, largely to operate and upgrade Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That deal is contingent on Senate Bill 7. 

The bill would raise cash for the CIB, which manages Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and Victory Field.

Revenue for any deal would come from a mix of income, sales, innkeepers, admissions and auto rental taxes collected mostly from within taxing districts located Downtown.

Indy Eleven stadium

Prospects for a $150 million soccer stadium have improved

After removing a stipulation that the Indy Eleven must sign a Major League Soccer franchise before beginning construction, the House voted 78-13 to approve legislation that would pay for the deal.

The same bill, Senate Bill 7, also includes funding for the Indiana Pacers. 

The Senate had set a higher bar. Under their version of the proposal approved in February, the Indy Eleven would have needed to enter into a 25-year agreement with a Major League Soccer franchise by 2022 and front 20 percent of the construction cost for a stadium before the team could use any taxpayer money.

Under the House bill, the team still would have to pay for that construction cost but the current version of the Indy Eleven could play in the stadium.  

A House-Senate committee will negotiate a final version. 

Budget

The Senate introduced its version of the budget April 11 and will vote April 15.

The spending plan largely follows what Gov. Eric Holcomb called for in his almost $34 billion proposal, which would give the Department of Child Services an additional $286 million, bringing the agency's budget in line with actual spending. Meanwhile, K-12 schools would see a modest increase in funding, and the $3 million annual subsidy for Amtrak's Hoosier State Rail Line that runs from Indianapolis to Chicago would be cut.

The Senate made changes. Senators don't think the DCS will need $286 million in additional funding, but set up a plan to allow the agency to dip into reserves to reach that figure if necessary. That's likely to be a sticking point in final negotiations. 

The Senate is proposing to spend $14.9 billion on schools over the next two years, with budget increases of 2.7 percent in 2020 and 2.2 percent in 2021 — the highest K-12 spending proposal of the differing versions of the budget presented at the Statehouse so far this year. 

The House approved its version of the two-year budget along party lines Feb. 25. A House-Senate committee will negotiate a final version. 

Payday loans

A House committee passed a bill on April 9 that would allow high-interest loans. The full House will vote on the bill April 15. 

Senate Bill 613 would allow payday and subprime lenders to charge interest rates on small loans at levels currently classified as felony loan sharking. The Senate passed the bill after an intense, last-minute lobbying effort from the loan industry.

A competing bill is dead. The Senate on Feb. 26 voted down Senate Bill 104, which would have capped payday loans at 36 percent. Payday lenders in Indiana can legally charge interest equivalent to 391 percent per year on small loans.

That bill's defeat was a big setback for more than 60 consumer advocacy groups — including charities, veterans organizations and churches — that see high-interest loans as predatory. They have now set about defeating Senate Bill 613. 

Noblevsille school shooting 

The Indiana Senate voted 39-10 on April 8 to keep alive legislation inspired by the Noblesville middle school shooting. The bill would allow judges the discretion to waive attempted-murder suspects as young as 12 to adult court.

The Senate added that language to the largely unrelated House Bill 1114. It would give juvenile courts  the same latitude they currently have with murder suspects. The suspect's age at the time of the Noblesville shooting, 13, prevented prosecutors from asking that he be tried as an adult. 

This is a last ditch effort to pass the legislation and it's unclear whether it will be successful. Senate Bill 279, the bill filed to carry the Noblesville school shooting legislation, died in a House committee.

While that bill once enjoyed broad bipartisan support, Democrats in particular have grown more concerned the law would disproportionately impact minorities. It also included a gun control provision that the Senate did not revive.

A House-Senate committee will try to negotiate a final deal.

Gaming

Following an IndyStar investigation into Gov. Eric Holcomb's two private-jet flights with a powerful gaming magnate, the Indiana House is moving to put restrictions on such unfettered access to the governor's office. 

Rod Ratcliff, chairman and CEO of Spectacle Entertainment, had hours of exclusive access to the governor when he flew Holcomb to meetings in Colorado and Arizona in July and November. Ratcliff has been pushing for big changes to the state's gaming laws that would benefit his new business.

The House voted 61-28 on Thursday to require the governor's office to post notice of meetings with certain gaming officials 48 hours in advance. The meetings would also have to be open to the public.

The House will vote on the larger gaming bill April 15. Senate Bill 552 would allow a casino to open near Terre Haute and allow a Gary casino to move inland.

More: Casino boss treated Holcomb to private flights with lucrative gambling deal on the line

Light rail ban

Legislation died in the Senate without a hearing that would have repealed the prohibition on public spending on light rail projects in Marion, Hamilton, Hendricks, Hancock, Johnson, Delaware and Madison counties.

The House had voted 89-5 on Feb. 12 to approve House Bill 1365.

The legislation gained steam last year as Indianapolis and Indiana unsuccessfully tried to lure an Amazon headquarters. Since then, though, Amazon is no longer in the mix and no one is really trying to build a rail line.

Fishers, and to a lesser degree Noblesville, have begun plans to convert the Nickel Plate rail line into a Monon-like trail. That line once was envisioned by transit advocates as a commuter route to link those cities to downtown Indianapolis. Now it seems more likely to be a pathway. 

Meanwhile, Indy has begun construction on the Red Line, a high-tech bus line. 

Revenge porn

Lawmakers continue to negotiate on the best recourse for victims of revenge porn, but a compromise seems to be emerging.

One bill in the House and another in the Senate would criminalize, to different degrees, sharing another person's intimate images without consent.

The House voted 95-0 April 8 to pass Senate Bill 243, after changing it to look more like House Bill 1333. The Senate had essentially raised the burden of proof on what constitutes consent and had only applied the legislation to images or videos shared on the internet.

The Senate can either accept the changes or negotiate a final version.

The Senate declined to hold a hearing on the House bill, meaning Senate Bill 243 is now the vehicle for this law. 

Meanwhile, a civil bill sailed through the session. 

The House on April 2 unanimously passed Senate Bill 192, which allows people to sue for damages. It cleared the House without any changes so it likely will be heading to the governor's desk. 

Authored by Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, the bill would allow victims to sue for $10,000 or actual damages, whichever is more, when someone displays or distributes their intimate image without consent.

The Senate passed it 47-1 on Feb. 12. 

Stand your ground laws

House Bill 1284, which passed out of the Senate last week, specifies someone can't be sued in civil court if their self-defense was deemed justifiable, perhaps through the lack of charges in a related criminal case.

The bills also requires civil court and attorney fees to be awarded to defendants in those cases, in order to discourage frivolous lawsuits. The actual criminal self-defense statute wouldn't be changed.

Lawmakers will now work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill in a conference committee.

More: Indiana lawmakers want to expand 'stand your ground' laws

Infant mortality

Indiana had the seventh-highest infant mortality rate in the nation in 2017, with 620 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To lower the rate, lawmakers pushed to start a pilot program pairing high-risk pregnant women with individual health care workers in the 13 ZIP codes with the state's highest infant mortality rates.

House Bill 1007 passed out of the Senate last week, and now moves to Holcomb, who is poised to sign it.

Regulating scooters

The Senate voted 43-5 on April 8 to approve a bill that would regulate electric scooters.

The bill would allow local governments to ban people from leaving electric scooters wherever they please. There's a catch. The city or town would have to provide a close-by public docking area. 

House Bill 1649 also bans scooter use on interstate highways and grants local governments some ability to regulate where scooters can be used.

Indianapolis leaders have created scooter ordinances, and West Lafayette officials are looking to create their own.

The measure also limits financial responsibility for scooters by exempting them from title and registration requirements by pulling them out of motor vehicle code.

The House, which passed the bill 94-3 on Feb. 20, can either accept the changes made in the Senate or negotiate a final version. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, rode a Bird scooter to the dais to speak about the bill prior to the vote.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, authored a separate bill, which did not pass, aimed at holding scooter companies accountable for the damage caused by their devices.

Firearm access

There were over 20 firearms-related bills filed this legislative session — some restricting access to firearms and others expanding gun rights. Only a few survived the first half of the session.

House Bill 1643, which allowed firearms in churches with schools on their property and scrapped the fee for short-term firearm carry permits, died on the House floor during the first half of session. But later House lawmakers added the language back into another gun-related bill, Senate Bill 119

Originally, that would have just clarified that no one can transfer a handgun to someone under age 18 or a machine gun to someone younger than 21.

The House passed that bill, but the Senate dissented with the House's changes. The bill now heads to a conference committee, with lawmakers from both chambers to work out the difference.

House Bill 1651, which passed out of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy committee last week, expands on the state's so-called red flag laws and specifies the procedures for taking away a firearm from a dangerous individual. That bill now moves to the floor.

Hemp

For years, industrial-hemp advocates encouraged lawmakers to make the product legal, with no success. But with the passage of the federal 2018 Farm Bill, hemp —  marijuana's non-psychedelic cousin — is now a legal crop.

But before Hoosiers can grow the product, Indiana has to set up an oversight program. Senate Bill 516, which passed out of the House last week, would set up those guidelines. Lawmakers will now iron out the differences between the Senate and House versions in conference committee with lawmakers from both chambers. 

Fertility fraud

Legislation that would open a pathway for patients to sue over fertility fraud passed the House last week. 

Senate Bill 174 was filed after several patients accused Dr. Donald Cline of artificially inseminating them with his own sperm. The bill now moves to Holcomb's desk.

Department of Child Services

Gov. Eric Holcomb wants lawmakers to fully fund the troubled Department of Child Services' request for a $286 million increase that would bring its annual budget to $965 million, help ease employee caseloads and allow it to serve children better.

Last week, the Senatepassed House Bill 1006, which would limit DCS workers' caseloads, allow young people to receive foster care services until they are 21 and gives caseworkers more time to respond to child abuse.

The bill now heads to Holcomb's desk. 

Hate crimes

The governor signed Senate Enrolled Act 198, a hate crimes measure that includes explicit victim protections for color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion and sexual orientation but lacked them for age, gender and gender identity. 

The bill allows judges to consider bias due to a crime victim's real or perceived traits, but also points to the specific list of traits that are outlined elsewhere in Indiana code to ensure hate crime data is properly reported to the federal government.

Some civil rights, religious, community and business leaders are still not pleased with the language, arguing it leaves out the transgender community and women. Proponents of the measure say it's far more inclusive than any other state's bias crime law and it includes everyone. 

More: Holcomb signs hate crimes bill void of explicit protections for gender, gender identity

Abortion

Indiana lawmakers sent two abortion-related bills to Holcomb's desk.

House Enrolled Act 1211, which could face a court challenge, would prohibit the most common second-trimester procedure except when the mother's life is at risk.

The other, Senate Enrolled Act 201, would allow nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants to refuse to provide any abortion care due to a moral or ethical objection. Already, physicians, others hospital employees and health clinic staffers have this option under Indiana law.

Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, filed another abortion-related bill, one that would ban all abortions in Indiana. That proposal failed to make it out of committee.

Gender identity debate

Senate Bill 182, which would have made it more challenging to change one gender on driver's licenses, was quietly removed from the House's calendar last month.

The legislation would have required Hoosiers to present a birth certificate that corresponds to their new gender if they want to change it on a state-issued ID, instead of just the currently accepted physician's note. 

House Speaker Brian Bosma said leadership decided to hold off on making any changes after meeting with Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Secretary of education

House Bill 1005 moves up the date when Indiana transitions to an appointed secretary of education from an elected superintendent of public instruction. It’s sponsored by House Speaker Brian Bosma and a priority for Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The bill, which moves the time frame to 2021 from 2025, was signed by the governor last week.

School safety

House Bill 1004 is priority legislation for Republican leadership and Holcomb. It makes changes to the state’s school safety grant program and requires active-shooter drills and threat assessments at all schools. It was amended in late January to allow dollars earmarked for school safety to be used on a wider variety of things, including mental health services.

A Senate committee amended it to allow parents to sue schools that provide students with certain services or information without parental consent. The Indiana State Teachers Association also asked for, and was granted, an amendment to prohibit projectiles from being shot at teachers during active shooter training.

The bill passed the Senate last week and is expected to go to conference committee. 

However, a different bill would turn that aroundHouse Bill 1253 was amended by the Senate's education committee to allow for projectiles in active shooter training. The legislation would otherwise expand the use of state safety grants to include firearms training for teachers. It sets minimum training requirements to access the grant funds. 

Civics test

Senate Bill 132 requires students to take the United States civics test as part of the U.S. government course required in high school. The exams will test them on basic knowledge of U.S. government and history, like the first president and the branches of government. Originally, the bill was going to make passage of the test a graduation requirement

The bill has been sent to the governor.

Military Family Relief Fund 

The Indiana Senate voted 48-0 March 20 to pass legislation to reform an Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs grant program in response to an IndyStar investigation that revealed potential abuse.

The bill now heads back to the House with some technical amendments. The House previously voted 95-0. 

The investigation that began in November found middle-income employees of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs had an inside track on emergency assistance grants available through the agency's Military Family Relief Fund.

Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, subsequently filed House Bill 1257, which would take the decision to award grants to employees out of that agency's hands. Instead, the independently appointed Indiana Veterans Commission would handle employee applications, using the same newly prescribed income requirements as for all veterans. The commission also would consider appeals for requests by any veteran over the agency's lifetime cap of $2,500.

Creationism

Originally, Senate Bill 373 dealt with a whole host of religious issues in schools. It would have allowed schools to require the teaching of creationism, obligated all schools to put posters of the American flag and the nation's "In God We Trust" motto in all classrooms and mandated the Bible be included as a text in world religion courses. That provision caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted support for "numerous states" with such bills.

Right before the committee hearing deadline, though, it was amended and stripped of all but one provision. As amended, it would allow students to get elective credit for religious studies.

The pared down bill has been sent to the governor.

Hospital certificate of need

A bill that might have prevented St. Vincent from opening a new hospital along the already crowded Meridian Street corridor in Carmel died without a hearing. 

Sen. John Ruckelshaus filed Senate Bill 573, which would require hospitals to show why there's a need in the area.

The Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services heard the bill Jan. 30 but did not vote.

Charter schools

Several bills that would make changes to various pieces of the state's charter school legislation are working their way through the Statehouse right now. 

Lawmakers are considering some recommendations around troubled virtual schools from a review by the State Board of Education. House Bill 1172 passed out of the House and is waiting to be taken up in the Senate. Lawmakers have said, though, they'll shelve this bill in favor of Senate Bill 567, which is also regulating virtual schools.

Some of House Bill 1641's most controversial language has been removed, but it still makes some big changes to charter school law. In part, it would change the state's law governing how public school districts can dispatch unused school buildings. It has passed out of the House and is up for amendment in the Senate on Monday.

Smoking age

Health advocates for years have tried to curb Indiana's high smoking rates by imploring lawmakers to increase the cigarette tax and raise the smoking age to 21. 

The Senate Health and Provider Service Committee passed Senate Bill 425, which would increase the nicotine purchasing age to 21. But the bill died when it failed to receive a hearing in Tax and Fiscal Policy.

House Bill 1565, which would have increased the cigarette tax by $2, to $2.995, never made it out of committee either.

Meanwhile, a similar bill that does appear to have legs is House Bill 1444, which would implement a tax on electronic cigarettes. The House passed the bill, and it's now awaiting action in the Senate. 

Alcohol

The 2018 legislative session was dubbed the alcohol session, as lawmakers tackled Sunday alcohol sales. While the general public may not be as interested in alcohol matters at Statehouse this year, alcohol lobbyist sure are.

The all-encompassing alcohol-related House Bill 1518 passed the House and now moves to the Senate. That bill would attempt to address alcohol permit shortages across the state, require grocery and drug store clerks to complete additional training to sell alcohol and create a food hall license that developments such as the Bottleworks Project could use.

Meanwhile, proposals such as Senate Bill 537, which would extend Sunday hours for alcohol sales failed to make it out of committee.

Teacher pay

House Bill 1003 is the Republican leadership’s answer to Indiana’s teacher pay problem. It sets a goal for the percentage of money schools spend on classroom expenses — and teacher pay — but makes no mandates and provides no new money.

It has passed out of the House and Senate, and it is waiting for the author to concur or dissent.

House Bill 1008 would appropriate $5 million for schools to give veteran educators leadership positions — like mentoring new teachers or training their colleagues in any area of personal expertise — that come with pay stipends and an incentive to stay in the classroom, rather than leaving for administration.

It has passed out of the House and Senate and will head to the governor.

House Bill 1009 would create a one-year teaching residency pilot program to give more experience to new teachers.

It has passed out of the House and Senate and will head to the governor. 

More: Teacher pay plan tops House GOP agenda, but will it work?

Impeachment

House Democrats Ed DeLaney, Matt Pierce, Ryan Dvorak and Sue Errington filed a resolution to investigate the potential impeachment of Attorney General Curtis Hill. 

Four women, including Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, accused Hill of inappropriately touching them at an end-of-legislative-session party in March 2018. Hill has denied the allegations and refused to step aside amid calls for his resignation.

a group of people standing in a room: Members of the Indiana House of Representatives stand for the Pledge of Allegiance on the starting day of legislative session at the Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Members of the Indiana House of Representatives stand for the Pledge of Allegiance on the starting day of legislative session at the Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

Child labor laws

Originally, state Sen. Chip Perfect, who owns a southeastern Indiana ski resort, filed legislation to scrap Indiana child labor laws. But he set aside that push amid conflict-of-interest scrutiny that arose from his employment of hundreds of minors.

Instead, the Republican from Lawrenceburg filed an amendment to Senate Bill 342 asking lawmakers to study child labor laws this summer. But he still defended his involvement.

In its original form, the bill would have gotten rid of work permit requirements for minors and removed all restrictions on what hours 16- and 17-year-old Hoosiers could work. Other protections for minors would have still been present under federal law.

Conversion therapy

Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, and Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, filed a pair of bills, Senate Bill 284 and House Bill 1231, to ban conversion therapy by medical professionals for minors in Indiana.

Neither received hearings ahead of committee deadlines.

Eliminate the State Board of Education

House Bill 1147 would eliminate the 11-member board and transfer its responsibilities to the Indiana Department of Education. Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, first introduced the idea last year in an amendment to a different bill, but his proposal was not adopted.

It was referred to the House education committee but never got a hearing. 

Cursive writing

Senate Bill 129 would require elementary schools to teach cursive writing. It’s the eighth straight year that Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has filed the bill.

It was referred to the Senate’s education committee but never got a hearing.

Call IndyStar Statehouse reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

Call IndyStar reporter Chris Sikich at 317-444-6036. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisSikich.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana bill watch: Pacers, Indy Eleven, gambling, budget bills advance

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/indiana-bill-watch-pacers-indy-eleven-gambling-budget-bills-advance/ar-BBSQ8si

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