House Bill 1414 (Retirement of Electric Generation Facilities), authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), narrowly passed out of the House by a vote of 52-41. The often amended bill, in its current version, prohibits a public utility from shutting down a legacy power generation resource in which the public utility has an ownership interest unless the public utility provides the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) with at least three years advance notice of the termination. The bill requires the IURC to conduct a public hearing to receive information concerning the proposed change in generation and to issue findings and conclusions regarding the proposed shutdown, transfer or sale of the generation. The bill also provides that a public utility is entitled to recover the cost of not more than 90 days of reserve fuel supply. In addition, the bill provides that in awarding high value workforce ready credit-bearing grants, the Commission for Higher Education, in conjunction with the Department of Workforce Development, shall give priority to an applicant who is a dislocated coal mine employee.

This bill has been very controversial with the Chamber being one of many stating its opposition.  Most of those organizations are often on the opposite sides of issues but not this time. The Chamber’s primary opposition is directed at the likelihood this will increase electricity rates for ratepayers, both residential and business, and interfere with a utility’s ability to make business decisions.  The most telling sign is in the actual language of the bill itself: The General Assembly finds that it is in the public interest to support the reliability, availability, fuel security and diversity of electric generating capacity in Indiana for the purpose of providing reliable and stable electric service to customers of public utilities. Not once does it use the term affordability. The Chamber opposes the current version of the bill and will continue to work on it in the Senate. There needs to be a balance between affordability and reliability, and the prudent action is to wait on significant changes until recommendations from our energy study and the 21st Century Energy Task Force are available.

Senate Bill 46 (Storm Water Fee Exemptions), authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis), cleared the Senate by a vote of 47-2. The bill urges the Legislative Council to assign to an appropriate interim study committee the task of studying storm water fees. However, the bill directs the study committee to consider alleviating the financial burden of storm water fees assessed on property where religious services are held regularly or that belongs to a school corporation and is used for educational purposes.  Even though this would result in a study of the storm water fees, the Chamber opposes the bill because this issue has been addressed multiple times through the Chamber’s water study, the Indiana Finance Authority water study and the work of the 2019 Stormwater Task Force, which identified a need for additional investment in stormwater infrastructure. The study committee could make recommendations that would shift costs to business property owners and residential property owners. There would be no one else left to pay for stormwater infrastructure.

House Bill 1119 (Regulation of Pesticide Use and Application), authored by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), makes changes to the statute governing the state chemist’s authority to impose civil penalties for purposes of the law concerning pesticides, pesticides use and application. The bill establishes a new schedule of civil penalties in statute, which are significantly higher, and requires the state chemist to impose the penalties on a strict liability basis (no discretion).  The bill passes out of the House 95-0.  The Chamber is opposed to this bill and has agreed to work with other stakeholders at the request of Rep. Lehe.

However, the Senate version – SB 438 (Regulation of Pesticide Use and Application), authored by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) – is the preferred vehicle and passed out of the Senate 38-9. The Chamber supports this version. It started out nearly identical to HB 1119, but was amended to create the civil penalty advisory panel to study and recommend a system for use in determining the civil penalties that may be imposed for a violation of the laws governing pesticide use and application. It requires the panel to make recommendations concerning the study to the Pesticide Review Board and General Assembly before December 1, 2020. This would allow for meaningful input from agriculture, the business community and others that may be impacted by changes to the existing civil penalty provisions administered by the state chemist’s office.  The Chamber has committed to both Rep. Lehe and Sen. Leising to continue to work with the different groups that have interest in this bill to come up with the best legislation.

Resource: Greg Ellis at (317) 264-6881 or email: [email protected]