2021 Indiana General Assembly Report, Week 12
Week twelve was indeed one of our busiest of the second half of the Legislature. We are quickly barreling towards sine die, or final adjournment, which must occur, according to state statute, on or before April 29th. We attended multiple committee meetings and stakeholder meetings this week.
Consumers got some great news on Senate Bill 386 thanks to changes made in the House Utilities Committee last week. Not only is the bill now returned to its introduced version as a pilot (meaning it applies only to Centerpoint Energy and the AB Brown coal-fired power plant) but it also includes language now that provides ratepayer protections. SB 386 will be on third reading (up for a vote) as soon as Monday in the House. We are now neutral on the bill.
The House Utilities Committee also passed Senate Bill 348, the wastewater task force bill; and Senate Bill 349, a bill which seeks to clarify the local government public process for investor-owned water, wastewater and electric utilities in purchasing municipally owned systems. The bill was amended to match the introduced version and we are now neutral on the bill.
On Monday we testified in the House Environmental Affairs Committee on Senate Bill 389, the bill seeking to deregulate Indiana wetlands so builders and developers can increase their profit margins. There were two amendments proposed, both of which make things worse for wetlands, if even possible, than SB 389 itself. The bill will be heard again on April 5 but it is unknown if the bill will move.
We submitted testimony for the House Committee hearing on Senate Bill 141, the bill seeking to curb transit and transit-oriented development which stand to improve lives and lift folks out of poverty. The House Roads and Transportation Committee heard more than two hours of testimony, with only a scant few in support of the bill. The Committee Chair, Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) adjourned the committee without a vote and did not announce his intentions for the bill. Hopefully the bill dies as it did last year. Read more from our Twitter thread as to why this harmful bill continues Indiana’s race-to-the-bottom policymaking.
The Senate Utilities Committee vastly improved House Bill 1220, the bill that extends Indiana’s 21st Century Energy Task Force. The bill now includes the Utility Consumer Counselor, which is a critical change that we called for initially upon the bill’s first hearing back in February. The Committee also heard House Bill 1520, a bill loosely aimed at the large topic of electric reliability which we initially opposed since the topic of reliability is already addressed within the robust planning processes at both at the IURC and the Regional Transmission Organizations. But because the grid failure in Texas has dominated the dialogue, we welcome the reliability conversation occurring in an additional forum to benefit consumers and the public.
This Monday the House Utilities Committee will hear a slew of broadband legislation. Senate Bills 352, 359 and 377 will all be heard in Chairman Ed Soliday’s Committee. We are watching all of these bills as they continue their way through the legislative process.
On Tuesday, March 30th, we will be attending the meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee for Senate Bill 373. We submitted testimony in support of 373 during its Senate hearing but the bill is likely to be amended Tuesday with unprecedented language giving absolute indemnity from any and all liability related to the underground storage of toxic carbon waste, specifically the proposed Wabash Valley Resources project in Vigo County. We will be there to oppose this unconstitutional move to sacrifice Hoosiers for an experimental science project.
This Wednesday in House Ways and Means, Senate Bill 271, which we testified against because of a harmful amendment introduced in committee by Rep. Mike Speedy (R-Indianapolis), faces an additional committee hearing, as it now has a fiscal impact. SB 271 would allow Indiana utilities to benefit from less stringent coal ash regulation. As a reminder, Indiana investor-owned utilities are already allowed to pass the cost of coal ash remediation along to consumers.
Lindsay Haake & Kerwin Olson