Bail, public health changes and possible gas tax hike go ahead

Lawmakers ended the week Thursday by finalizing a decision to limit bail, extend a gas tax hike and make several key changes to a public health bill.

The House and Senate had crucial deadlines and some bills saw significant changes in the opposing chambers and some emerged unscathed.

action at home

A resolution amending the wording of the Indiana Constitution passed the House by a margin of 38 to 9, marking its final vote for the year 2023.

The founding document makes almost everyone eligible for bail, but the proposal allow judges to deny bail to anyone they consider a “substantial risk”.

However, the bill must also be passed in 2025, after the election of a new General Assembly, before appearing on the ballot in 2026.

House lawmakers voted to make significant changes to a bill reforming how Indiana pays for public health services.

Senate Bill 4 comes from a year-long commission that determined that Indiana’s per capita public health funding ranks near the bottom of the nation. It allows counties to access additional funds in return for providing improved services.

Rep. Becky Cash, R-Zionsville. (Photo by Indiana House Republicans)

But Republican House lawmakers decided the bill could do more — from requiring vaccine disclosure to reviewing government action during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first, written by Rep. Becky Cash of Zionsville, require health services to disclose the federal vaccine adverse reaction reporting system — which health experts point out it relies on reported, unsubstantiated, post-vaccination health issues – and national adverse event compensation schemes.

Rep. Chris Jeter, R-Fishers, is the mover of the amendment to review legal authority and determine if it has been overused.

The two prevailed on a voice vote alongside two amendments from Rep. Jack Jordan, R-Bremen, to delete “additional” infrastructure and encourage private partnerships with local healthcare entities.

Lawmakers from both parties proposed amendments to fund the measure with a state cigarette tax hike, but they broke rules banning revenue-generating language in Senate bills.

The full House of the House will vote on the measure before the Senate decides whether to accept the changes or go to a conference committee to settle outstanding disputes.

Democratic House Leader Phil GiaQuinta said he didn’t agree with all of the amendments, but was relieved they had moved forward at all.

“I wasn’t even really, frankly, sure it was okay – we’ll see what happens at third reading,” GiaQuinta told reporters on Thursday. “…Let’s hope at least it’s moving forward, it’s coming to the conference [committee] and see if we can iron out some of those differences.

Action in the Senate

The Indiana Senate on Thursday extended a gas tax provision that could amount to a $30 million tax increase on Hoosiers.

The wording was part of an amendment to House Bill 1050 and was not explained on the floor.

In 2017, lawmakers passed a comprehensive highway funding bill that included a 10-cent increase in the state gasoline tax. It also tied the tax directly to inflation until July 1, 2024, capping an annual increase at one penny. This increase has occurred in each of the past four years.

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Thursday’s amendment — proposed by Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield — extended the annual adjustment for another year. A penny raise typically brings in about $30 million a year.

Another amendment he didn’t name would have extended it to 2029 – a much bigger tax hike on the Hoosiers.

The bill now awaits a full vote by the Senate.

Senators approved a controversial proposal to crack down on state pension investment managers, after a turbulent few months — and votes.

House Bill 1008 at one time had a staggering $6.7 billion price tag over 10 years, but later strategic and substantial changes reduced that $5.5 million and then down to zero.

The current financial analysis of the bill indicates that the organizations concerned will have a greater workload, but that their current funding levels should be adequate. The state’s public pension system could see higher trading costs if it’s forced to cut an investment manager, the paper notes, but could offset it if a replacement charges lower fees or brings in rates higher yields.

Senators approved the bill by 38 votes to 9.

Capital Chronicle Reporter Leslie Bonilla Muñiz contributed reporting.

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