2021 Indiana General Assembly Report, Week 16
The first session of the 122nd Indiana General Assembly ended last Thursday afternoon with the passage of the biennial state budget.
We will be issuing a full length report once all bills that passed the legislature are acted on by the Governor.
The issues that yet hadn’t been resolved by the start of the final week of the legislature included Senate Bill 373, which allowed underground storage of toxic, supercritical carbon dioxide for the Wabash Valley Resources project in Vigo County. By Wednesday it became clear that SB 373 was not going to pass with the Wabash Valley language and the immunity-for-toxic-carbon-polluters language ended up appearing in a conference committee report for House Bill 1191.
We were already working on HB 1191 thanks to troubling “ban the ban” language that protects the monopoly utilities' “right” to provide service and consumers and property owners “rights” to take service from the monopoly utility. Unfortunately the “ban the ban” language became an afterthought, as HB 1191 was stuffed full of other controversial subjects including IndyGo language and the language giving toxic carbon polluters immunity. HB 1191 was now a lethal soup of contentious issues and as negotiations in caucus Tuesday evening became public, we swung into action Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon it was clear consumers were going to win as negotiations broke down and Republicans refused to sign the conference committee report. Time was running out. At the same time this was unfolding, the conference committee with the biennial budget language was released to the public. Conversation began to shift to the budget, which was for the most part good news.
During a press conference earlier in the week, we learned that Statehouse Republicans, who control every part of the budget conversation, were restoring the state’s CHOICE program funding, which allows disabled Hoosiers and Hoosier seniors to remain in their homes instead of institutionalized with expensive and unnecessary nursing care. This is a crucial win for consumers—thank you for your calls and emails about CHOICE funding. We couldn’t have fought for this without you.
Senate Bill 386, Indiana’s first attempt at securitization, or financing capital recovery with a bond repaid in utility bills, was signed by Governor last Monday. We were pleased to be part of the conversations on this bill from the beginning and appreciate the bill taking a more consumer-friendly form. SB 386 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 that provides ratepayer protections. More on this important pilot here.
Senate Bill 389, the bill deregulating Indiana wetlands still hasn’t made its way to the Governor, yet. Keep track of the bills on the Governor’s desk here. Governor Holcomb has stated his disapproval in the past. We will join advocates this coming Monday to deliver a letter signed by more than 100 coalition partners asking Governor Holcomb to veto the bill. Once the Governor officially receives the bill , he’ll have up to ten days to either veto or sign the bill. If the bill does not receive either action, it becomes law without the Governor’s signature after ten days has elapsed.
As a reminder, the Legislature didn’t adjourn sine die this year. Legislators will allow the session to continue until November in order to act on redistricting since census data has been delayed. It is still unclear whether legislators will act on other issues during this period of time, though a technical corrections day is scheduled for May 10th.
Lindsay Haake & Kerwin Olson