Just 25% of House bills have survived session so far. Here’s what didn’t.

Abortion ban family supports, online gambling, immigrant drivers, vaccines and a state sandwich among dead bills

By: - February 24, 2023 6:45 am

Three-quarters of the House’s bills are dead. Find out what might have to wait until next year. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House lawmakers filed 673 bills this year – but only about 178 survived key deadlines this week.

Some of the bills that aren’t advancing have been woven into the budget instead, like a proposal eliminating public school textbook fees. But the language often looks a little different — the budget simply requires schools to waive the fee, for example, and doesn’t make a separate line item for the proposal.

But the majority of those bills are dead. They include increased family support in the wake of an abortion ban, legal online gambling, driving cards for unauthorized immigrants, limited vaccine requirements and an official state sandwich.

Any bill not heard by a House committee this week died, as well as any House bill that didn’t get a second reading on the floor. 

The Senate’s committee deadline, meanwhile, passed on Thursday. That chamber’s second and third reading deadlines are next week.

Skipping support for families

Lawmakers this summer focused exclusively on two topics during a special session: passing a near-total abortion ban, and expanding social services for newly expectant parents. 

That ban is tied up in court. But the legislature has also declined to go boost adoption assistance and give pregnant Hoosiers more protections.

A bill establishing a zero-cost adoption fund failed to gain any traction, despite vocal support from a Republican gubernatorial candidate. 

Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, and Eric Doden, a GOP candidate for governor, floated the idea over the summer, linking the bill with the anticipated bump in Hoosier births following the ban’s passage. 

Wesco’s proposal this session would’ve created a fund to pay $10,000 per adopted child into a 529 college savings plan and to support various adoption assistance programs. But the bill had no state money earmarked toward it — it would’ve relied on tax-deductible donations instead — as noted in the fiscal.

Another proposal, which would’ve let pregnant Hoosiers claim child support beginning at conception, was stripped back in committee. Now, the House priority bill would allow courts to make fathers pay for a wider range of pregnancy-related expenses. 

On the Senate side, a bill that would have required employers to grant an employee’s request for reasonable pregnancy accommodations failed to get a committee hearing. 

Lawmakers have defeated every pregnancy proposal in the last few years, although Indiana has one of the nation’s highest infant and maternal mortality rates. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s support in back-to-back priority lists hasn’t swayed them.

Gambling to remain a drive away – for now

House Bill 1536 would’ve brought casinos and lotteries right to Hoosier phones, potentially earning hundreds of millions for operators and for the state – while sparking addiction fears and other concerns. 

But i-gaming bill author Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Logansport, didn’t bring the bill up in his own committee.

“We need to do a better job educating the [General Assembly] membership and the public about need for i-gaming,” Manning told reporters Thursday, when asked why he didn’t hear the bill – thus killing it.

Manning said a legislative fiscal analysis showing i-gaming could cannibalize from brick-and-mortar gaming establishments – in contrast to an Indiana Gaming Commission report saying it wouldn’t – also gave him pause.

“There’s a disconnect there,” Manning said. “… We need to work on that and figure out why the [commission] report’s not being pushed through onto the [Legislative Services Agency] fiscal side. I think there’s some concern about the source of the data that was used.”

And there are some more wrinkles in the plan – industry tussles, tax rate details, addiction funding accountability and recent federal convictions.

Bumpy road for driving privilege cards

The Senate’s powerful fiscal body killed a bill earlier this month that would’ve expanded driving privileges to immigrants residing in the state without authorization.

The bill’s Republican author said it would ensure those people are held to the same driver training standards as citizens who are able to get driver’s licenses.

But other Republicans said immigrants to the United States should “follow the rules” to establish legal residency before getting to drive.

“I think there’s value in making sure that people that are going to be driving on our roads have training and have insurance and are more likely to stay and accept responsibility when there’s been an accident,” Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray told reporters Thursday. “That’s very appealing to me.”

“The bill has made it farther than it has in the past,” Bray noted. “In this building, sometimes  it takes six, seven years to get something passed … It’s an idea that I would imagine will continue to come back, but it’s just hard for some people to get there.”

The measure narrowly survived its first committee hearing, passing 5-4. But it never got taken up by the Appropriations committee for a fiscal impact analysis, and died.

Vaccine uproar fading?

Vaccines — and an increase in skepticism and rejection — were big news during the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the public policy discussion has faded out — with a flurry of bills intended to limit the jabs dying without ever getting heard.

One bill would’ve blocked the state and units of local government from requiring that minors get Covid-19 vaccines. Another bill would’ve limited employers’ ability to mandate Covid-19 tests.

Some bills extended to all vaccines, like a bill that would’ve made it easier for prospective foster families to bypass the state’s vaccination requirements. Another would’ve taken all student vaccine information off records and transcripts, and given lawmakers the power — instead of the Indiana Department of Health — to change the list of mandatory vaccines.

None got a hearing.

Lawmakers “hold the mayo” on state sandwich

Indiana isn’t any closer to putting the breaded pork tenderloin into law.

Senate Bill 322, authored by Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, sought to declare the Hoosier favorite as the official state sandwich. But the proposal died in committee without ever getting a hearing.

That’s despite support from Gov. Eric Holcomb, who said last month he wanted to settle the state sandwich question “once and for all.”

Zay’s bill specifically intended to honor Nick’s Kitchen, home to the first Hoosier breaded pork tenderloin. It’s located in downtown Huntington and has been serving up the famous creation since 1908.

It was the latest in a string of bills in recent years to establish more state emblems beyond the bird (cardinal), tree (tulip) and river (Wabash). Recent additions include the insect (Say’s Firefly), fossil (mastodon), and snack (popcorn).

Earlier this week, House Bill 1143, which sought to establish “The Hoosier State” as Indiana’s official nickname, also died in a House government committee after historians raised questions about the “Hoosier” origin story outlined within the proposal.

Until next time.

Capital Chronicle reporters Casey Smith and Whitney Downard contributed reporting.

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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie joins the Indiana Capital Chronicle after covering city government and urban affairs for the Indianapolis Business Journal for more than a year. She graduated from Northwestern University in March 2021, and has reported for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and student publications in Evanston, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Doha, Qatar.