Birth-control and housing bills pass chambers
Welcome to Wednesday’s legislative roundup, with lawmakers approving several key bills Tuesday, from housing and education to contraceptives and taxes.
The House kicked it off with a 91-5 vote to advance House Bill 1005, which establishes a revolving loan fund meant to help municipalities cover housing-related development costs.
Bill author Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart, said the dollar amount attached to the fund had yet to be determined but would prove vital to incentivize the construction of housing to addresses statewide shortages.
A handful of Democrats, mostly representing population-dense areas, voted against the bill. Rep. Regan Hatcher, D-Gary, was one of the five Democrats against the bill and earlier voiced concerns about the bill’s required 70/30 funding split, which prioritizes localities with less than 50,000 people.
The House also voted — this time, unanimously — to approve a bill exempting active duty military personnel from the state’s income tax – a carveout that currently exists for retired military service members, those in the reserves and Hoosiers in the National Guard.
Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, said that military members frequently claimed another state as their residency to avoid Indiana’s income tax – such as Tennessee, which has the exemption. He disputed the fiscal attached to the bill, which said the state would lose money, noting that the state already loses money because those members claimed other states as their places of residency.
“Instead of just losing the income, we’re losing the resident,” Frye, the bill’s author, said. “Some of those [claiming Tennessee or other states] might not come back to Indiana.”
The bill does include those in training as exempt from the income tax but not the spouses of service members.
Both bills now move to the Senate for further consideration.
Bill shadowed by “furries” comment also moves
The Senate additionally advanced 39-10 a bill that places restrictions on high school graduation waivers and emphasizes that schools can have dress codes. State senators previously heard mixed testimony on the bill, which now heads to the full House.
Senate Bill 380 author Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, said he doesn’t intend to completely eliminate graduation waivers. They’re given to students who don’t complete postsecondary-readiness competency requirements by the end of their senior year.
But his bill does set a 10% cap on the number of students who can graduate from a school with a waiver before July 1, 2027. After that, the cap drops to 5%.
Raatz maintained that other language in the bill addressing “disruptive behavior” in the classroom ensures that schools can ban kids from “dressing inappropriately.” He previously referred to students dressing like a “furry,” although he did not provide examples of any Indiana schools where such behavior has been documented or considered disruptive.
Critics argue that claims about schools making accommodations for students who identify as “furries” are transphobic and amount to misinformation.
Contraceptive regulations altered
Senators threw their weight behind a bill letting health providers use abandoned long-acting reversible contraceptive devices, passing it 49-0.
Current law ties the devices to their assigned Medicaid recipients — even if those people change their minds or just don’t show up to the follow-up appointment.
It was the first bill passage for author Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington.
“This is a win-win for Hoosiers because it saves money for our health care providers and it’s a convenience for our Medicaid recipients,” she said on the floor.
Unanimous support for bad-landlord bill — and almost for tax re-do
Also unanimous, 50-0, was passage of a measure cracking down on landlords who collect utility fees from tenants as part of rent, but who still don’t pay their utility bills.
Senate Bill 114 lets utility companies ask courts to appoint receivers over those landlords, taking control of the properties and enabling liquidation of the assets to pay off the debts.
It stems from shutoffs to hundreds of residents at several Indianapolis complexes last year after the landlord failed to pay its bills. Such shutoffs of essential services risk mass displacement: if a health department declares a residence uninhabitable, residents would be forced out on short notice.
But it’s not just about Indianapolis, author Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said on the floor Tuesday.
“If you think that was a one-time incident, I received a call last night telling me that up in northern Indiana, a mobile home park with 300 mobile homes had exactly the same thing happened to them,” Koch said. “This bill creates a legal remedy that does not currently exist.”
Senators also approved 49-1 an overhaul of local food and drink taxes that are worth roughly $90 million a year.
There was little discussion on the bill Tuesday, which supporters say will foster transparency. But the prospect has rankled local communities.