INDIANAPOLIS — On Jan. 9, Indiana legislators returned to the Statehouse for the session, which will include passage of the two-year state budget.
Both Senate Democrats and Republicans laid out their agendas for the session, which lasts until April 29.
“Our caucus has put together a substantive agenda that will tackle concepts like re-evaluating Indiana’s tax structure, ensuring Hoosiers have reliable access to mental health services, increasing pay for state police and more,” said Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville. “We are poised to make some significant changes this session under the leadership of our members, and I’m excited to get started.”
Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said, “The governor and Senate Republicans have shared their 2023 priorities, and I’m encouraged by what I see. I think there’s room for collaboration, and I’m hopeful we can get things done this session on behalf of Hoosiers.
“I will stress that my caucus and I believe we can invest heavily both in the state and Hoosiers this session. I know there’s an appetite to engage in the culture war being waged at the national level, but I pray the members of this Indiana General Assembly can avoid that as much as possible this session. I think that, and really working together to do the best for our residents, will be how we have a successful session.”
Senate Democrat priorities: Families
Invest in expanding childcare access for families, which will help bolster our workforce.
Create a Paid Leave Program for parents and families to take necessary time off work.
Lower health care costs for Hoosiers paying the 7th highest costs in the nation.
Invest in K-12 to cover school operational costs along with teacher and staff pay raises.
Eliminate school textbook fees to remove the burden on parents.
Auto-enroll students into the 21st Century Scholars Program to bolster college attainment.
Restore reproductive freedom to all Hoosier women by expanding access to abortion back up to 20 weeks.
Decriminalize marijuana and advance legislation to make it legally accessible.
Remove the ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana’s current law, and protect all marriage in Indiana.
Amend the Indiana constitution to allow Hoosiers to vote directly on ballot initiatives at the polls.
Senate Republicans’ agenda: Fiscal responsibility
• Pave the way for transformational tax reform: Senate Bill 3, authored by State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle. Form the State and Local Tax Review Commission to study the feasibility of ending Indiana’s income tax and reforming property taxes for Hoosiers. Indiana’s tax climate consistently ranks among the best in the nation. Senate Republicans want to take a holistic look at our tax structure to ensure we remain competitive in today’s economy.
• Plan for Indiana’s fiscal future: Senate budget priority. Continue to aggressively pay down the Pre-96 Teachers’ Retirement Fund, which has an outstanding liability of about $6 billion. Statehouse Republicans have paid down this pension obligation by $4 billion in the past few years alone. The sooner Indiana pays off this unfunded liability, the sooner $1 billion per year is freed up in the state budget for transformational tax cuts and important public needs.
• $50 million tax cut for small businesses: Senate Bill 2, authored by State Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville. Change state tax law so LLCs and S Corps can deduct all state tax payments on federal tax returns, resulting in what could be $50 million in federal tax savings for Hoosier businesses. This change would level the playing field for businesses — especially businesses — when it comes to receiving a deduction on federal taxes and would be revenue-neutral for Indiana.
Make Indiana’s mental and public health infrastructure work better for Hoosiers
• Build a better mental health care system for Indiana: Senate Bill 1, authored by State Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield. Provide ongoing funding to build out a system of certified behavioral health clinics. Last year, the 9-8-8 National Suicide and Crisis Line went live, giving Hoosiers a place to call when they need mental-health support. The next step for improving our mental-health infrastructure is to make sure every person has a place to go to get care.
• Modernize Indiana’s state and local health departments: Senate Bill 4, authored by State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. Increase the quality of services performed by Indiana’s local health departments and promote collaboration between local health departments and the Indiana Department of Health. Focusing on preventing health problems, rather than treating them, will help improve the state’s poor health rankings and foster a healthy workforce.
Lower health care costs for Hoosiers
• Require ‘site of service’ transparency: Senate Bill 6, authored by Charbonneau. Make sure insurance claims are paid appropriately based on the location where service was provided. Ending practices that allow inaccurate billing could save Hoosiers millions per year on medical bills.
• Help lower prescription drug costs: Senate Bill 8, authored by Charbonneau. Require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to pass on the rebates they receive for prescriptions to the patients buying the medicines or to all plan members. It’s common for PBMs to negotiate contracts with drug companies so a PBM gets a rebate every time a person covered by their plan gets certain prescriptions. SB 8 would ensure those savings go to the person or plan that bought the medicine.
• Promote competition in health care: Senate Bill 7, authored by State Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne. End anti-competitive noncompete clauses and referral incentives for doctors. Enabling doctors to compete on their own terms will help promote competition in the health care marketplace and help lower prices.
Supporting law enforcement, ensuring public safety
• Raise pay for Indiana State Police: Increase pay for Indiana State Police (ISP) and alter the pay matrix from 20 years (current timeline) to 15 years so they see an increase in pay significantly quicker throughout their career. ISP, as the state’s leading law-enforcement agency, offers assistance to nearly every law enforcement agency across the state. Yet, a study conducted by the Indiana State Police Alliance revealed state troopers are among the lowest paid law enforcement officers in Indiana. ISP troopers are the cream of the crop and should be paid like it.
• Allow dangerous suspects to be held without bail: Senate Joint Resolution 1, authored by State Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford. Amend the Indiana Constitution to allow judges to deny bail if a suspect clearly poses a substantial risk to the public. At least 22 states and the federal government allow the most dangerous suspects to be held without bail, and Indiana judges should have that discretion to protect the public.
Protect Hoosiers’ data privacy
• Restrict how companies collect and use personal data: Senate Bill 5, authored by State Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne. Creates a “bill of rights” for Hoosier data privacy that would allow consumers to monitor how their data is being used and have it deleted if they wish. More businesses have access to our personal information, while data breaches and cybersecurity threats continue to grow. SB 5 updates consumer protection laws to defend against those threats.
House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, delivered his 2023 agenda speech on the House floor.
“Despite the many factions and fractures that may exist between us, it is my earnest belief that all of us gather in this building in pursuit of a better Indiana,” he said. “Though we may disagree on how to get there, almost every Hoosier wants the same things.
“From the steel mills of the Region to the rolling hills of southern Indiana, through the farms, the towns and the cities in between, everyone wants good schools, good roads, clean drinking water, good-paying jobs and a better future for themselves and their children.
“I hope we can focus on these issues as opposed to some of the extreme, needless culture wars we’ve spent so much of our time on over the last few years.”
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