Roundup: Lawmakers advance legislation on road funding, pre-K and others

Full Article

Evansville Courier and Press on 02/10/2017 by Kaitlin Lange

With more than 1,000 bills flooding the Statehouse this legislative session, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Here’s what you may have missed this week:

•Legislatures undo some of former Gov. Mike Pence’s decisions:

Representatives voted to override two of Vice President Pence’s vetoes Thursday. One bill would allow private university police departments to keep records private while the other would prevent the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from establishing regulations stricter than the federal government until after the General Assembly meets to review them.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said he has talked to Pence about overriding the veto.

“He was aware they were going to be acted upon at some point, but quite frankly he has a lot bigger fish to fry right now than worrying about these two bills,” Bosma said.

Meanwhile, one floor down current Gov. Eric Holcomb made several announcements that undid some of Pence’s policies.

•Road funding bill moves forward — with a major change

The House’s plan to fund road maintenance and construction using a 10 cent gasoline tax is on to the House floor. Lawmakers in the House Ways and Means committee made an adjustment to the plan Thursday before its passage that would immediately move all revenue from gas sales tax to the roads fund.

The initial plan was to phase the money out of the general fund to the various roads funds, which made some opponents to the tax increase unhappy. Now lawmakers will have to find a solution for the hole this move creates in the general fund. A cigarette tax increase could be one option.

•Changes in the selection of the superintendent of public instruction:

At the beginning of session, Holcomb prompted legislatures to make the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position, instead of an elected one. Senate Bill 179, one of a couple bills dealing with the change, passed through committee this week and will head to the Senate. The change would take away the power of people to elect the schools leader starting in 2025, though it may make the change permanent as early as 2021.

The suggestion follows four years of conflict between the Democrat who held the position, Glenda Ritz, and Pence. Now the superintendent is from the same political party as Holcomb.

Some lawmakers think this will help depoliticize the position, while others worry about removing the choice from voters.

•Pre-K legislation moves forward:

On Tuesday, the House voted to pass legislation allowing for the expansion of the pre-kindergarten pilot program. Currently $10 million is dedicated to five counties for low income Hoosiers. House Bill 1004 would double that amount and allow up to five counties to participate.

While most lawmakers support additional funds for the pilot program, some fear the current plan expands the school voucher system. The bill allows students who receive the pre-K scholarship to continue attending a private school using a voucher. The main impact would likely be that students could attend a private school one year earlier than they do now.

A similar measure will be voted on in Senate next week.

•Casino tax bill evolves

A bill that would allow casinos to pay less taxes passed out of committee Wednesday, but not without some adjustments to how much state and local governments would lose. In the bill’s current form, local governments in casino communities around the state would lose a collective $6 million per year from the state government and the state itself could lose $4 to $12 million per year.

The bill would adjust how taxes are collected from casinos. Instead of being charged a $3 admissions tax on each person, the casino’s would have to pay a percentage of their revenue. The casinos also would be able to deduct gaming taxes from their corporate taxes entirely by the year 2020, so they aren’t taxed twice.

Read about the specific details here.

•ATV helmet law advances

A bill that would require all people under 18 years of age to wear a helmet while on an all-terrain vehicle passed through the House Thursday.

In 2015 a Warrick County girl died after her ATV overturned and landed on top of her. In response, her mother pushed for the legislation.

Some were worried the new legislation was an overreach of the government’s powers, while the bill’s author Rep. Lloyd Arnold, R-Leavenworth, said it was just to promote safety.

Lawmakers also advanced a bill that would allow minors with epilepsy to use hemp and a bill that waves juveniles who rob pharmacies to adult court.