House committee strips, replaces Senate social services bill language
Dr. Tracey Wilkinson testifies on Senate Bill 2 before the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday (Whitney Downard/ Indiana Capital Chronicle)
The Senate social services bill, designed to accommodate an increased demand in family services following a proposed abortion ban, duplicates the House version after Tuesday’s committee meeting.
The bill, which includes the Senate’s $10,000 tax credit for adoptions, passed the committee unanimously and will be voted on by the full House later this week.
Senate leadership previously indicated their disapproval for House Bill 1001, which distributes $1 billion of the state’s $6.1 billion in surplus accounts to individual Hoosiers via $225 checks.
The bill also provides $58.5 million for social services and repeals the state’s diaper tax.
“I don’t have any idea what we’re doing because we’re passing something we already passed that the Senate doesn’t like,” Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said before voting yes.
SB 2 author Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, left the committee room as members introduced the amendment and didn’t return for closing testimony to share his thoughts on the changes.
The previous version of the bill created a $45 million fund for agencies to use to support maternal health programs and family services.
Shannon Schumacher, the CEO of The Villages, which provides foster support, said the state would need to provide more funding if abortion access is curtailed.
“We don’t know a lot about the new parents we’re going to see,” Schumacher said. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen once this legislation goes through.”
Childcare costs for an additional 1,000 babies would cost agencies like hers at least $18 million while 300 more children in the foster care system would cost at least $14 million, according to Schumacher.
“We’ll need more funding,” she said.
Amendments to the bill fail
Ways and Means Chair Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, rejected several Democrat amendments to the Senate social services bill, saying they created new funds that he didn’t want to establish outside of the budget writing process. The original bill, before Brown amended it, created the Hoosier Families First Fund.
One amendment, from Rep. Carey Hamiliton, D-Indianapolis, would have dedicated $3.5 million in funding for domestic violence services, which have seen an uptick in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a critical need for women who need help getting out of that cycle of violence,” Hamilton said.
All of the committee’s Republicans — save for Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany — voted against the amendment, defeating the measure.
Brown also rejected Clere’s proposal to provide funding for the state’s First Steps program to alleviate the burden on impoverished families, saying the committee would examine the program in the coming budget session.
Brown announced his retirement earlier this year and House Speaker Todd Huston hasn’t named Brown’s successor for chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. There are no guarantees any of the amendments will be revisited.
Angela Espada, the executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, urged legislators to do more to promote healthy babies, such as incentivizing businesses to have pregnancy accommodations and family leave.
“We know that probably people with means will go outside of the state to seek abortions,” Espada said. “But there are still going to be a lot more babies who are going to need help.”
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