Politics

Focus shifts to governor after lawmakers wrap up

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The fate of Hoosiers’ income taxes, concealed carry permits and a host of other issues are up to Gov. Eric Holcomb after Wednesday morning’s adjournment.

Lawmakers wrapped up the 2022 legislative session just after midnight Wednesday having approved most key Republican agenda items. Legislation will be formally presented to Holcomb over the next few days. The governor will have seven days to decide whether to sign or veto legislation once he receives it. If he does nothing with a bill, it will become law without his signature.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Statehouse on May 24 for a one-day technical correction session. That will also be their first opportunity to override any vetoes if legislative leaders choose to do so. Indiana is one of six states that require a simple majority to override the governor, rather than the more common 2/3 or 3/5 margin.

The House/Senate divide

Perhaps the biggest divide was not between Republicans and Democrats but between House and Senate Republicans. The Senate watered down a number of House GOP proposals before they reached the governor’s desk. In one high-profile instance, disagreement between the two chambers derailed a key agenda item. House Republicans approved legislation that would have banned educators from teaching a number of social justice concepts in the classroom and would have required every school corporation to have a parent-led curriculum review committee.

Senate Republicans stripped out most of the bill’s provisions and ultimately did not bring it up for a vote. Senate President pro tem Rodric Bray floated the idea of incorporating elements of the bill into other legislation through the conference committee process but did not do so after House Republicans insisted on effectively resurrecting the bill in its entirety.

Permitless concealed carry

One of the last bills to clear the Statehouse on Tuesday night eliminates the requirement for Hoosiers to get a permit in order to carry a concealed handgun. A Senate committee substantially rewrote the House’s version of the bill too close to a key deadline, after which the House’s version was brought back via conference committee. Gun-rights supporters and some sheriffs, including Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, said the bill puts law-abiding Hoosiers in a better position to defend themselves against criminals who already don’t follow gun laws. Almost all law enforcement groups in Indiana opposed it, with Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter accusing lawmakers of putting partisan politics above the safety of his troopers.

Taxes

A key priority for Holcomb did not survive the legislative process. In his State of the State address, the governor asked lawmakers to eliminate the 30 percent minimum for the state’s business personal property tax, arguing it caused businesses to overpay in taxes on old capital equipment. House Republicans combined this with a reduction in the state’s income tax and other adjustments. Senate Republicans balked at the idea of cutting any taxes in a non-budget year, especially once Russia’s invasion of Ukraine roiled global markets.

The chambers ultimately compromised. Lawmakers threw out the business personal property tax idea but enacted a reduction in the state’s income tax from 3.23 percent to 3.15 percent effective Jan. 1. After that, the income tax will be phased down to 2.9 percent over 7 years as long as state revenues meet a certain threshold.

Crime and public safety

Senate Republicans spotlighted Indianapolis’ growing murder rate when they rolled out a package of anti-crime bills in January. Three ultimately became law. One creates a violent crime reduction pilot project but doesn’t fund it, other than through existing grant money. Further funding would have to come from the state budget next year. A second bill, passed almost unanimously in both chambers, classifies any attempt to tamper with a GPS monitoring bracelet as an escape attempt and directs law enforcement and the courts to react accordingly.

Lawmakers also approved new restrictions for nonprofit bail organizations, an effort sparked by a pair of murders committed by suspects who had been bailed out from a previous criminal charge by the nationwide nonprofit, The Bail Project. Lawmakers originally wanted to prohibit such organizations from bailing out any felony suspect or anyone whose bail amount was greater than $2,000. The final version removes the limit on bail amounts and only prohibits nonprofit bail organizations from paying bail for anyone accused of a violent crime, or else someone with a prior violent crime conviction.

Two public safety-related bills were not part of the main GOP push but received unanimous support in both chambers. One would prohibit corrections officers from restraining pregnant inmates after the first trimester or during labor and delivery unless absolutely necessary, and then only using the bare minimum necessary. Another requires 35 percent of any money from the opioid litigation settlement to go to city and county substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

Transgender student athletes

One of the most controversial bills this session would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ K-12 sports in any public or private school. Ten states have already passed such legislation. Lawmakers in Utah approved similar legislation last week but that state’s governor, Republican Spencer Cox, has vowed to veto it. Holcomb told reporters during a news conference in late February he believes boys should play boys’ sports and girls should play girls’ sports but he would review the bill carefully before acting on it.

The IHSAA already has a waiver process for transgender student athletes.

IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig told News 8 one transgender boy has received a waiver since the current policy was enacted in 2017. One transgender girl started the process but withdrew before IHSAA officials could ask her for more information.