Governor Mike Pence delivered the annual State of the State address this week. Pence addressed many important issues facing the state including infrastructure, jobs, schools, drug abuse and the economy. However, the most anticipated portion of the address dealt with civil rights. Leading up to the 2016 legislative session, much of the attention focused on civil rights for the LGBT community. As a result of last session’s religious freedom legislation, the stakes are high on how the Indiana General Assembly addresses the issue on whether to extend full civil rights protections to Hoosiers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
View the ISAHU Bill Report [pdf] for a detailed list of healthcare related bills.
Pence stated he will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the Constitutional rights of citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work. There are a number of bills awaiting committee hearings in the House and Senate dealing with civil rights. Expect the debate to dramatically increase as those bills proceed through the legislature.
To view a video and text of the State of the State address, please click here.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush gave her first annual State of the Judiciary address. Chief Justice Rush updated the General Assembly on the progress of three key initiatives from 2015: (1) developing commercial courts designed to address complex business issues; (2) expanding the use of technology; and (3) continuing to strengthen partnerships in the legislature in implementing the massive criminal code reform. Chief Justice Rush also covered Indiana’s drug crisis and the crippling effect it has on communities and the court system.
To view a video and text of the State of the Judiciary address, please click here.
The House and Senate held hearings on their respective road and infrastructure funding bills this week. Each version differs greatly in the method of funding. House Bill 1001 would raise the fuel tax 4 cents a gallon to 22 cents and would transfer 4 cents of the 7 cents tax on fuels to road repairs. It would hike cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, which would replace about $300 million in lost sales tax in the general fund. The bill also calls for charging electric car owners a $100 yearly registration fee and allowing cities to charge a “wheel tax,” as counties are allowed to do. The tax is a charge of up to $50 on car registrations to help fund local projects.
The House plan differs from one being offered by Gov. Mike Pence that adds $1 billion in road spending without raising taxes. Senate Bill 333 calls for using $241 million in state surplus funds, $240 million through borrowing and $450 million in legislative appropriations, starting this July, to fix the roads.
The Indiana Department of Transportation says it needs an extra $250 million a year to manage and upgrade roads and bridges, about half of which are 40 to 50 years old. The state plans to spend $640 million a year over the next five years on repairs and rebuilding.
Another State Senator has announced he will not seek re-election. Sen. Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte) began his legislative career in 2007 and represents District 8 which encompasses the majority of LaPorte County and the eastern part of Michigan City. Prior to serving in the legislature, Sen. Arnold was the LaPorte County Sheriff and worked for 36 years in law enforcement.
State offices will be closed on Monday, January 18 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Most Senate bills have been released by this point although we still expect some additional House bills. Two full weeks of committee hearings remain for the first half of session.