2020 Indiana General Assembly Report, Week 3
This week was a truncated workweek due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. CAC staff presented testimony at four committee hearings, attended many more and had constant dialogue with legislators and staff throughout the week. CAC is tracking more than 50 bills. As we mentioned last week, 912 pieces of legislation have been filed. These bills must be heard by the committees in which they were placed by Monday January 25th in the House our Tuesday January 26th in the Senate or they will be considered dead. Of course that doesn’t stop any legislative language from being inserted into other bills. Anything is possible until the gavel falls sine die in the Indiana Statehouse.
It was a busy committee day in the basement of the Statehouse on Wednesday where we testified in two concurrent committee meetings: the House Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Utilities Committee.
Clean Water Bills
We testified in support of an important initiative from Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville), House Bill 1337 which would improve reporting protocols to downstream water users of toxic chemical spills. While this bill is slightly narrower in scope than House Bill 1257 which was heard last week, passing either bill will improve upon current situations we’ve seen unfold, especially in the Region with discharges from industry into Lake Michigan and inland waterways. HB1257 passed by 11-0. We also saw Rep. Carolyn Jackson’s lead testing bill, House Bill 1265, pass 10-0.
Coal Bailout Bill
In the House Utilities Committee we joined a broad coalition including the Indiana Energy Association, The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Advanced Energy Economy, and additional conservative and environmental groups including Hoosier Environmental Council in opposition of House Bill 1414, otherwise known as the coal bailout bill. The bill was lightly amended to include a sunset date of 2021. The hearing lasted for almost 4 hours and was covered widely.
The Senate Utilities Committee met on Thursday and passed Senate Bill 411, a horrible bill which was thankfully amended to remove the tracker for electric utilities to charge captive customers the costs related to leasing excess bandwidth capacity to telecommunications carriers. The vote was 8-1 and the bill now proceeds to the Senate floor where it may be amended.
Senate Local Government
We also testified in Senate Local Government on Thursday, joining another broad coalition of opposition against Senate Bill 46, authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis). SB46 would exempt religiously affiliated entities from paying storm water fees. We are concerned that this bill, if passed, would degrade local units of government from managing their stormwater and create an undue environmental hardship in addition to implementing a significant cost shift to residential ratepayers. After testimony from the City of Indianapolis, The Chamber of Indiana, The Association of Indiana Municipalities, Hoosier Environmental Council, CAC and others, the bill was held. We are hopeful this means the bill will die.
Clean Water Bills
The Senate passed Senate Bill 254 on Thursday. Senate Bill 254 is designed to extend the authority to replace customer-owned lead service lines to municipal and non-profit utilities, which we strongly support. The bill will also provide the water and wastewater utilities a new tracker, or a rider on your monthly bill, to more quickly recover the costs related to health and safety concerns, primarily water contaminants like PFAS.
This week was a critical week for our redistricting initiative, Senate Bill 293, authored by John Ruckelshaus (R-Indianapolis). Many of our members called and emailed Senator Greg Walker (Chair of the Senate Elections Committee) to ask that he hear the bill. He said that he’d hear it if Representative Tim Wesco (Chair of the House Elections Committee) would hear it once the bill crossed over. Despite hundreds of calls and emails into the Statehouse this week, we’re at an impasse and a committee hearing has yet to be announced.
Upcoming this week
- House Bill 1414 will be on second reading in the House on Monday - meaning it may be amended. A vote could come as early as Tuesday.
Lindsay Shipps Haake & Kerwin Olson