Weekly Statehouse Update: DCS Funding Request, Tech Leaders On Hate Crimes

Mar 8, 2019

Tech leaders engage in the hate crimes debate. A House committee approves an anti-abortion bill. And legislative leaders question DCS’s funding request.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Tech Industry On Hate Crimes

The Indiana Technology and Innovation Association wants its member companies to reach out directly to their local lawmakers advocating for hate crimes legislation that includes a list of victim characteristics, which GOP legislative leaders don’t support. The tech CEOs say anything less will reaffirm Indiana’s reputation as, in their words, “socially regressive.”

House GOP leaders are not supportive of a hate crimes law with a list of victim characteristics, though Gov. Eric Holcomb has advocated for one.

Abortion Ethical Exemption

The Republican-controlled House Public Health Committee approved a bill that allows pharmacists to deny women access to abortion-inducing drugs.

Current law lets doctors and hospital employees refuse to provide or participate in abortion services. Proposed legislation would extend that to nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists.

Supporters say health care providers shouldn’t have to violate their ethical beliefs. But opponents argue the measure fails to protect women who need care.

DCS Funding

Department of Child Services officials again asked lawmakers to increase the agency’s funding by $286 million a year.

But legislative leaders point to a decrease in caseloads and reduced case manager turnover as reasons the agency’s request might need more review. Caseloads are down about 15 percent over the last year; case manager turnover decreased about 27 percent in that period.

Payday Lending Options

As the first half of the 2019 lawmaking session wrapped up, a bill limiting payday lenders died, while another, allowing different types of high-interest loans, passed out of the Indiana Senate.

The surviving bill would expand loan options not currently available in Indiana.

Virtual Education

Both the Senate and House have approved their own versions of a virtual education bill, but some worry the proposed new rules for virtual education moving forward don’t do enough.

The state board of education made policy recommendations focused on virtual education ahead of the session. Those include limiting enrollment and growth for virtual schools and stricter regulations for virtual charter authorizers. The bills approved by lawmakers so far focus mostly on orientation for virtual school families also included in the recommendations.

Hoosiers Rally For Renewable Energy

Eight organizations rallied at the statehouse Wednesday for policies that support renewable energy in Indiana. 

They’re backing a House Bill 1331 that prevents homeowners associations from banning solar installations, forcing property owners to remove them, or making unreasonable restrictions on them.

Environmentalists also oppose House Bill 1470 that would allow utilities to more quickly recover the cost of certain projects from customer’s bills.

Nutritionists At The Statehouse

Nutritionists from Indiana held their annual lunch for lawmakers this week at the Statehouse. 

Indiana has more than 2,000 registered dietitian nutritionists, or RDNs. And lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate the dietitian certification board and move to a licensing board.

Universities Make Budget Pitch

Indiana’s public universities made their funding requests to Senate legislators Tuesday as that chamber’s budget hearings are underway.

The state’s Commission for Higher Education began the hearing by telling lawmakers the number of people completing degrees is up 15 percent over the last five years.

The House version of the budget increases university funding less than the Commission for Higher Education recommends. The Senate budget draft will come out in the next few weeks.