Senate Bill 425 (Minimum Age to Purchase Tobacco and E-Liquids), authored by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), did not receive a hearing in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee before the deadline, but there is still room for optimism. The Chamber priority bill – previously passed via the Senate Health Committee – would have raised the legal age for smoking tobacco products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 years. Senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle), who is chairman of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, has indicated that he may amend the “18 to 21” language into the e-liquids tax measure, HB 1444, authored by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville). The Chamber will continue discussions with Sens. Holdman and Head on this issue; we are hopeful SB 425 will find a home in HB 1444.
House Bill 1404 (School Accountability), authored by Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero), passed the full House this week 58-38. The Chamber has been advocating publicly and working behind the scenes to make the case for a simpler and more meaningful school accountability system that’s understood by parents and is aligned with the needs of Hoosier students and employers. This proposal signals a shift away from test scores as the primary means for determining whether students are prepared for success beyond high school.
House Bill 1405 (Taxation of Data Centers), authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), passed the full House on Tuesday 95-1. The bill provides for a state sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of certain data center equipment that is located in a data center. While data centers are not high-volume employers themselves, they make huge capital investments that entice their customers and affiliated service providers to locate nearby. The very presence of a data center often attracts high technology companies in need of their services. Indiana should be competing for these developments.
House Bill 1341 (Occupational Safety and Health), authored by Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne), passed the House unanimously 96-0. The bill attempts to address negligent events by an employer that led to a worker’s tragic death in Allen County. It says that an employer who knowingly violates any standard, rule or order that involves an employee fatality shall be assessed a civil penalty of not less than $9,472 for each violation and may be assessed a civil penalty of up to $132,598. Indiana OSHA reported one workplace fatality in 2017 where the employer received a “knowing” citation; in 2018, there were two such fatalities. Fort Wayne Sens. Liz Brown and Justin Busch are now co-sponsors of the bill. The Chamber is neutral on the measure as written and will be actively involved in any discussions on the Senate side so that the content of the bill remains acceptable. That said, it’s still uncertain if the bill will get a committee hearing in the Senate.
House Bill 1629 (Various Education Matters), authored by Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), cleared the House 67-33. The bill includes several provisions aligned with Chamber policy priorities, including expansion of state-supported internships and career-technical education programming for high school students and a new high school graduation requirement designed to increase student access to financial aid for further education and workforce training. We believe HB 1629 helps more Hoosier students gain the relevant work experience and skills Indiana employers need and our state’s economy demands.
Senate Bill 108 (Coverage for Pharmacist Care), authored by Sen. Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville), was amended this week and turned into an interim study committee; it then passed the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee unanimously. Due to the amendment, our position moves from opposed to neutral. The original bill was a mandate on health insurance plans and required a reimbursement rate to be paid to a pharmacist (within their scope of practice) to the same extent that a physician would be paid or another provider. A workable compromise between all parties still seems unlikely, but now there will be more in-depth discussions over the summer and fall.