Late Night At The Statehouse: Road Funding, Abortion Bans And More From Wednesday Evening
After days of negotiations and nearly an hour of emotional debate on the floor, the House Wednesday sent a bill to the governor that bans abortions performed solely because of a fetus’ sex, race or disability.
The final abortion bill is a combination of two bills – one from the House and one from the Senate. The original House bill banned the disposal of fetal remains as medical waste. The Senate bill banned abortions on the basis of a fetus’ gender, race or disability. But it couldn’t get a hearing in the House. So the Senate added that language to the House bill.
Those legislative maneuvers led several members of the House Republican caucus who typically cast so-called “pro-life” votes, to vote ‘no’ on the final bill. GOP Representative Peggy Mayfield (Martinsville) isn’t one of them. “I’m expected to choose procedure over life,” she said of the bill.
Republican Representative Sean Eberhart (Shelbyville) says the debate is a perfect example of why the chamber needs more women.
“A bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room [are] making decisions for what we think is best for women,” he said. “We just need to quit pretending that we know what’s best for women and their health care needs.”
The measure passed 60 to 40 and heads to the governor’s desk.
House and Senate leaderships – along with the governor – have reached a tentative agreement that will settle this session’s state and local road funding debate.
The deal would provide a little less than a billion dollars over the next year and a half for road maintenance:
House and Senate GOP leaders wouldn’t give out every last detail, but here’s what we know: the bill would utilize the Senate’s plan to give more than $400 million in local income tax reserve money to local communities, 75 percent of which must be used for roads.
It does not include the cigarette and gas tax increases in the initial House road funding plan, but it does include that plan’s options for local road taxes and a $100 million matching grant fund for local communities’ road investments. It would also spend down the state’s surplus to help provide an influx of state road dollars – a staple of the governor’s plan.
Speaker Brian Bosma says it gives everyone a chance to cheer.
“It addresses immediate needs, meets some of our long-term goals and assures that everyone is at the table in the budget session to work on the long-term issue,” he says.
The deal would also redistribute part of the state sales tax on gasoline. One out of every seven cents from that tax currently goes to road funding. The agreed-upon plan would move an additional one-and-a-half cents from the gas sales tax to road funding.
Indiana is one step closer to having a scholarship program to attract more high school students to the teaching profession, even though many thought the program was dead for this legislative session.
The program, created in House Bill 1002, was reinstated in a conference committee after the Senate removed it from the bill.
The plan, authored by House Speaker Brian Bosma, would give 200 college students $7,500 a year in tuition assistance as long as they attend a university in Indiana and study education.
After passing the House, the Senate voted to study the issue rather than create the program. The main concern was how to fund the program, especially during a non-budget session.
The bill allocates $500,000 to the Commission for Higher Education to start the program.
The first scholarships will be awarded in fall 2017.
House and Senate lawmakers want more Hoosiers to use the overdose intervention drug known as naloxone. The General Assembly approved a bill Wednesday that aims to give more people access to the drug, and protect them when they use it:
Naloxone immediately halts the effects of an opioid overdose. The legislature last session allowed people other than first responders to use it. But people still needed a doctor’s prescription to get the drug, and many pharmacies didn’t stock it. Republican Senator Jim Merritt (Indianapolis) says this year’s bill will allow the state to issue what’s called a standing order to pharmacies, meaning they can dispense naloxone without a doctor’s prescription.
“That somebody who might be concerned, just for a friend, that would have it on hand, they could easily go to the pharmacy and purchase it,” says Merritt.
Walgreens already planned to offer the drug in Indiana, before this bill.
GOP Representative Wendy McNamara (Evansville) says the measure also helps people who administer naloxone by shielding them from drug charges, under certain conditions.
“Somebody who follows instructions, who gives naloxone to somebody who’s overdosing on heroin, stays at the scene, [and] provides their information will receive immunity,” says McNamara.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. For Indiana Public Broadcasting, I’m Brandon Smith at the Statehouse.