Indiana Senate And House Republicans Unveil 2021 Agendas With COVID-19 Focus
Indiana House Republicans plan to make a lot of one-time investments in the 2021 session to address their top legislative priorities, while Senate Republicans' 2021 agenda is tightly focused on fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the House GOP’s top priorities stem from needs that either arose or were intensified over the last year. That includes money to expand rural broadband, a one-time grant to help combat children’s learning loss from the pandemic and funding for local police departments to buy body cameras.
Spending one-time money – as opposed to building ongoing expenses into the new state budget – is a result of projected tighter revenues due to the pandemic.
Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said House Republicans also want to put more money into a small business program created by federal COVID relief dollars – funding that will soon run out.
“Build a bridge for our small business partners to get to the other side of this," Huston said. "There is a light at the end of this tunnel. I think, hopefully, it’s sooner rather than later.”
The House GOP agenda also involves some police reform. That includes full employment record sharing between departments – in an effort to identify bad cops – and required de-escalation training for all officers. Those provisions, along with body cams, are part of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus's larger police reform agenda.
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.
Topping the Senate GOP's list is liability protections for Hoosier businesses and health care providers – something that’s also a priority for the House GOP and Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said the legislation shouldn’t negatively impact workers at those businesses.
“If they are sick, get hurt during work, they’re still going to have workman’s comp that is not going to be affected by this legislation at all,” Bray said.
Also on their agenda is allowing local health department enforcement during a public emergency – like fines for businesses who don’t follow the rules – to be appealed to the local legislative body, like a city or county council.
Bray said that’s about accountability for health department officials, who aren’t elected.
“So that there is someone who is accountable to our constituents who can take a look at those things and make sure they make some sense,” Bray said.
Senate Republicans will also prioritize another agenda item of the governor's – making telemedicine expansions created during the pandemic permanent in state law.