Bail, public health changes and a possible gas tax increase move forward

By: - April 14, 2023 7:00 am

The House made significant changes to a public health bill on Thursday. (Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Lawmakers finished the week Thursday by finalizing a move to limit the right to bail, extend a gas tax increase and make several key changes to a public health bill.

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

Action in the House

A resolution amending language in the Indiana Constitution passed the House by a 38-9 margin, marking its final vote for the 2023 year.

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

However, the bill must also pass in 2025, after a new General Assembly is elected, 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 originates from a yearlong commission that determined Indiana’s public health funding per capita ranks near the bottom of the country. It allows counties to access additional funds in exchange for providing enhanced services.

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

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

The former, authored by Rep. Becky Cash of Zionsville, requires that health departments disclose the federal vaccine adverse reporting system – which health experts emphasize relies on reported, not substantiated, health issues post-vaccination – and national adverse reaction compensation programs.

Rep. Chris Jeter, R-Fishers, authored the amendment to review legal authority and determine if it was used excessively.

Both prevailed on a voice vote alongside two amendments from Rep. Jack Jordan, R-Bremen, to remove “extra” infrastructure and incentivize private partnerships with local health care entities.

Lawmakers of both parties offered amendments attempting to fund the measure with an increase in the state’s cigarette tax, but they ran afoul of rules prohibiting revenue-generating language in bills that originate in the Senate.

The full House chamber will vote on the measure before the Senate chooses whether or not to accept the changes or go to a conference committee to address outstanding conflicts. 

House Democrat Leader Phil GiaQuinta said he didn’t agree with all of the amendments, but was relieved it had advanced at all.

“I wasn’t even really, frankly, sure it was going to — we’ll see what happens on on third reading,” GiaQuinta told reporters Thursday. “… Let’s hope it at least moves along, it gets to conference [committee] and see if we can iron out some of these differences.”

Action in the Senate

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

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

In 2017, lawmakers passed a comprehensive road funding bill that included a 10-cent increase on the state gas tax. It also tied the tax directly to inflation through July 1, 2024, capping an annual increase at one penny. That increase has occurred each of the last four years.

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Thursday’s amendment — offered by Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield — extended the annual adjustment another year. A one penny increase usually brings in about $30 million annually.

Another amendment he didn’t call would have extended it until 2029 — a much larger tax increase on Hoosiers.

The bill now awaits a full vote by the Senate.

Senators approved a controversial proposal cracking down on the state’s pension investment managers, after a turbulent couple of months — and votes.

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

The bill’s current fiscal analysis notes that the affected agencies will have larger workloads, but that their current funding levels should be adequate. The state’s public pensions system could see higher trading costs if it’s forced to drop an investment manager, the document notes, but could make up for it if a replacement charges lower fees or brings in higher rates of return.

Senators approved the bill on a 38-9 vote.

Capital Chronicle Reporter Leslie Bonilla Muñiz contributed reporting.


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.