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INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers wrapped up the 2023 legislative session early Friday, and State Affairs was on the floor as the House and Senate did some last-minute wrangling to get things done.
Legislators passed dozens of bills over the last few days, including the $43 billion budget — but not until it was held up by some education-funding language that later ended with more money being allocated to public schools.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, at the post-Sine Die press conference, said he'll "gladly sign" the budget once it hits his desk. Other bills headed his way include one dealing with cuts to health care costs, one targeting material "harmful to minors," and one that takes aim at rising property taxes.
Reporters Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin) and Kaitlin Lange (@kaitlin_lange) were at the Indiana Statehouse. You can check out their updates on Twitter, as well as at State Affairs (@stateaffairsin) and right here in this blog.
Here's what we were watching. Scroll down through our posts to see how each played out:
- The $43 billion state budget (and how a surprise $1.5 billion may factor in);
- Mental health funding and if (and how) taxpayers might have to pay up;
- Health care costs and if (and how) we might see some movement on cutting those costs;
- Public health and trauma care improvements;
- Property taxes are going up this year but what about in the future?
- Income tax cuts could come sooner than 2029;
- School choice vouchers may or may not be expanded;
- Free textbooks and curriculum materials: Who will foot those costs?
- "Harmful material" ban and whether it will succeed;
- School tax dollars: Will traditional public schools have to share the money with charters?
This live blog has ended. We'll have a recap sometime Friday. Thanks for following along! Be well.
Some last-minute wrangling over public school funding initially delayed the Indiana General Assembly from passing the two-year state budget on Thursday.
But as the clock ticked into Friday, Republican leadership solidified the votes.
For the House, the final approval came just before 1:40 a.m.
For the Senate, it was 2:25 a.m.
In the final hours, lawmakers stripped $300 million initially slated as part of a payment toward the pre-1996 teacher retirement fund and instead threw it toward K-12 schools. The update led to a change in per-student funding for traditional public schools, which jumped by 5.9% in the first year and 2.1% in the second. (Before the late negotiations, the numbers in the proposed budget were 4.1% and 1.9%.)
Republicans celebrated the budget as a “historic” investment in education.
It was a language choice that bothered Democrats.
“When we say historic increases in funding for education, my question is: to who?” said Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, from the Senate floor. “My district, in the second year, will be harmed.”
Sen. Andrea Hunley, D-Indianapolis and a former public school principal, also said the funding fails to keep up with inflation, which effectively amounts to a “defunding” of education.
School choice vouchers were expanded significantly by Republicans in the budget. The program will now be open to families making 400% of the income required to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, or around $220,000 in income for a family of four.
“It gives parents the opportunity to choose what they believe is the best school,” Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, said from the House floor. “They’re the ones that decide what’s best.”
Following the budget votes in each chamber, lawmakers also quickly passed an uncontroversial technical bill.
And with that, the legislative session came to an end.
The Senate passed the budget 39-10, sending it to Gov. Holcomb.
One down, one to go!
Read Kaitlin's Q&A with Rep. Jeff Thompson, the House's chief budget writer.
Also, House Bill 1499, the watered-down property tax relief bill, passed the Senate 49-1. It now goes to Gov. Holcomb.
The property tax bill, HB 1499, passed the House 98-0.
Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, said, "We really have not done anything significantly to help homeowners, so this is one step in that direction. I quite frankly wish we could have done more."
The end is nigh! Kaitlin says the Senate is now headed to their final Rules Committee.
House Bill 1004, another attempt to cut health care costs, has crossed the finish line. But, the final version of the bill has been significantly watered down and primarily calls for more data collection and analysis. Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said it’ll lead to “uncontroversial data.”
“We are getting to the point where we are going to have all kinds of data to move into the future to make a decision about what are the best avenues for us to take as a state,” Charbonneau said on the Senate floor.
The bill no longer contains its most controversial measure - fining hospitals that charge more than 260% the cost of Medicare. Instead, the final legislation simply uses 285% of Medicare as a price point for comparison purposes, not to implement penalties.
Some opponents, however, were concerned that bill language could still lead to issues in the future.
“I hate to see us heading toward anything that would be perceived as price control,” said Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, “and I’m afraid this 285% might be.”
As passed, the bill would still require large health care providers to charge for services based on where the service is actually provided and provide tax incentives for physician-owned hospitals.
The House approved the measure by an 89-8 vote, and the Senate approved it by a 45-5 vote.
It now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk.
Here's the conference committee report on House Bill 1499 (property taxes).
Almost there? https://t.co/YzkpNgsyUW— State Affairs Indiana (@StateAffairsIN) April 28, 2023
The House passes HB 1004, a watered down health care cost-related bill, by an 89-8 vote.— Kaitlin Lange (@kaitlin_lange) April 28, 2023
Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville, with the line of the night. (HB 1004 is the health care bill, in case you forgot. A little bit curious about what the question was, though.)
We can only assume it was "The Midnight Special."
Kaitlin also says if you know where she can get some, let her know! (Ryan thinks this means he's an influencer.)
Okay, here we go. The updated budget has been released, and Republicans reiterate their commitment to end tonight.
Read Kaitlin's previous story on rising property taxes here.
Here's the House Bill 1004 (health care) conference committee report.
And now for some news that isn't Statehouse-related (and maybe the only thing some people in Indy care about right now): The Colts selected Florida QB Anthony Richardson with their first-round draft pick (No. 4).
The working headline for Ryan's forthcoming Pulitzer-winning piece has been unveiled.
The bill requires pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBM), who negotiate agreements with drug manufacturers for insurance companies, to pass along discounts to those who are insured. Depending on the health plan, a PBM could do so by either lowering premiums or making drugs cheaper at the point of sale.
The final version passed the Senate by a 40-9 vote and the House by a 69-21 vote. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for consideration.
The Senate passed SB 8 by a 40-9 vote, per Kaitlin. It now goes to Gov. Holcomb. The bill deals with pharmacy benefit managers. Stand by for a more in-depth update.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R) confirmed that lawmakers are going to be releasing a new final budget in the next hour or so.
A not-published conference committee report shows that lawmakers are planning to pump more funding than planned into education, adding an additional $310 million for tuition support to schools over the next two years.
The budget released by lawmakers on Wednesday, which was supposed to be the final version, contained a 4.1% increase for traditional public schools in fiscal year 2024 and an additional 1.9% increase in fiscal year 2025. House Democrats and public school advocates asked for more.
Asked when lawmakers might finish their work, Huston said he was “trying to beat midnight.”
Per House rules, lawmakers are supposed to release the final budget 24 hours before the House can vote on it, but it appears lawmakers plan to waive that rule.
— Ryan and Kaitlin
The House is back!
And, in case you missed it, Crouch's red dress got some love today, as did "Seinfeld" (from Ryan, anyway).
Three bills are headed to Rules, per Ryan, and the House is leaving for another hour or so.
We also got the conference committee report on SB 8 (prescription drug rebates and pricing).
"Sounds like they're about to send one bill to House Rules. And they're close on a few more bills," Ryan says.
Ryan is also wondering if "these people have heard of a recycling bin":
Someone(s) hadn't heard about the budget problem and started the party too soon. ... Or maybe they had heard and started the party too soon.
Will the legislative session wrap up tonight? That’s still unclear.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (R) confirmed to State Affairs that there was an error in the budget surrounding the school funding formula, which means a new version of the budget may be printed tonight.
Per House rules, lawmakers have to wait 24 hours after the final budget is released before they can vote on it. Crouch said the House was “looking at trying to waive” the rule.
“I was told earlier we’re going to be here tomorrow, and then I was just told, ‘Oh no, we might get out tonight,’” Crouch said. “So I don’t know.”
Crouch also elaborated on a tweet criticizing lawmakers for inserting a last-minute provision into the budget giving elected officials substantial pay raises. She argued the pay raises should have been discussed earlier in the legislative process.
“If it’s something that is important to do, and if the work we do really reflects a higher salary, which I’m not arguing against,” Crouch said, “it should be a part of the legislative process and it should be able to be discussed and vetted and people should be able to weigh in.”
— Ryan and Kaitlin
Here's a link to the current budget proposal.
Kaitlin says the Senate is now going to caucus as well.
There appears to be an issue with the budget. So, should we cancel those dinner plans?
From a previous report by Kaitlin: Health insurance is less affordable in Indiana based on workers’ average annual pay than the U.S. as a whole, a report from the Nicholas C. Petris Center found. On average, premiums for an individual were 14.1% of a workers’ annual average pay in Indiana, compared to 11.2% in the U.S. as a whole in 2020.
Legislation about obscene and harmful materials in public schools has now moved through both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly.
The bill's concepts, initially contained within Senate Bill 12, were tucked by Republican lawmakers into moving legislation after SB 12 died earlier this session.
Republicans added the language to House Bill 1447, an education bill about third-party surveys. The legislation, largely supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, cleared both chambers on what is expected to be the final day of the legislative session.
Now the bill awaits the governor.
Scroll down in this blog to read more about HB 1447 and SB 12, a controversial measure dubbed by opponents as the book-banning bill.
"Jeopardy!" theme song plays.
House is in recess until 3:30. Perhaps Ryan and Kaitlin will be able to restock their snacks!
Production editor (and blog writer) Jackie Winchester really likes that carpet and wants to know if she can get it for her home.
More on 1447 (materials "harmful to minors") below. (We can't do anything about the snacks, though. Sorry, Kaitlin!)
Hang in there, Ryan!
Senate Bill 4, which seeks to revamp the state’s public health system, is on its way to Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) for consideration after both chambers approved the final version of the bill this morning.
The House voted 73-21, while the Senate voted 39-10.
The bill sets up a grant program for local health departments to receive state money, with a goal of increasing services that local health departments provide, such as tobacco cessation programs or immunizations for children.
“This is a preventative health bill,” said bill author Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. “I think where we have ended up is a very good bill that is going to move us into the next level of health care.”
The bill is paired with $225 million funding for the next two years in the budget bill. Before the pandemic, Indiana only spent $55 per capita on public funding, compared to the U.S. average of $91, leading to inequities in public health across the state.
The final bill no longer contains language added on the House side that created a task force to study the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a body, I think over the last two years we’ve made a lot of adjustments to respond to the public health emergency,” said bill sponsor Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond.
The bill had more Republican “no” votes than typical in the legislature. Some voiced concern throughout the process due to fears that the bill would expand the purview of the state health department following the pandemic when some conservatives accused the state of government overreach.
The House filed a conference committee report for House Bill 1447, confirming what State Affairs reported last night.
The legislation, crafted by a conference committee, was originally about school surveys and is now reviving language from Senate Bill 12, which died earlier this session.
The bill would make it easier for employees of public K-12 schools to be criminally charged for providing books that contain materials considered obscene or harmful to minors. It would also create a new appeal process to request the removal of books — including a new requirement that school boards must respond to requests by the next public meeting.
Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, spoke during a House committee meeting this morning about some concerns she had with the original Senate bill that had been addressed in the conference committee report.
Before voting her approval, Negele wanted to ensure someone couldn’t simply disrupt school board meetings by repeatedly challenging the same books or by traveling the state to raise challenges in multiple school districts.
HB 1447, though, will enable school boards to develop rules that won’t require them to relitigate the appropriateness of a book multiple times. It also would limit who can challenge books and materials — giving the opportunity only to parents or guardians of a student in the school or a community member in the school district.
Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, addressed Negele’s initial concerns in his comments during the House committee meeting.
“Once a book’s been approved, it would seem we wouldn’t have repeat challenges of the same book,” Carbaugh said. “We want to be reasonable about it.”
Three Democrats on the Rules Committee voted against the bill.
Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend, said bills like HB 1447 — which draw heated feelings from both sides of the issue — should not be passed by the legislature during the conference committee process.
“I think everybody knows this is a sneaky way to do legislation,” Dvorak said.
In another change from the original bill in the Senate, HB 1447 would not affect public libraries.
The bill next moves to the full House sometime today. It would also need Senate approval.
From Wednesday night:
The House and Senate appear to have reached an agreement on where to put language that died earlier in the legislative session limiting materials that are “harmful to minors” in schools.
SB 12 passed the Senate but never received a committee hearing in the House. (More below.)
Time to update those scorecards.
Good morning. We're back for what will likely be the last day of the legislative session. The House returns at 9 a.m., while the Senate will start at 9:15 a.m. with a Rules and Legislative Procedure committee meeting.
Lawmakers posted an updated conference committee report for the budget last night, with some minor Medicaid changes. You can read that here.
We started the week with a list of 12 questions, and we have four outstanding:
1. Will language banning “harmful material” make it across the finish line after years of failed attempts by the Senate? An unpublished conference committee report points to yes, but it hasn't been finalized yet.
2. Will lawmakers make any big changes to lower health care costs? We're still waiting to see final bill language for two health care cost-cutting bills.
3. Will Hoosiers receive any property tax relief? Lawmakers say Hoosiers will see some in House Bill 1499, but we also haven't seen the final bill language for that.
4. When will the legislative session actually end? Probably today, but what time?
— Ryan and Kaitlin
This live blog is adjourned....until Thursday.
The House and Senate are done for the day. The fun will begin again when both chambers return Thursday morning.
And that's when our live blog will kick back into action. By the way, all signs point to Sine Die happening Thursday. We'll see!
Have a great evening, folks! We'll see you back here Thursday morning for the rest of the action.
The House and Senate appear to have reached an agreement on where to put language that died earlier in the legislative session limiting materials that are “harmful to minors” in schools.
SB 12 passed the Senate but never received a committee hearing in the House.
Rep. Vernon Smith and Sen. Andrea Hunley, both Democrats, were removed from the conference committee Wednesday and replaced by Republicans. That often happens at this stage in the process when Democrats refuse to approve language preferred by both House and Senate Republicans.
The language contained in an unpublished conference committee report would make it easier for employees of public K-12 schools to be criminally charged for providing books that contain materials considered obscene or harmful to minors. The legislation would also create a new appeal process to request books be removed.
One thing that is different compared to SB 12 is that public libraries would no longer be impacted.
The legislation also would limit third-party surveys, as the original HB 1447 did.
— Ryan and Kaitlin
Republican lawmakers released the full 248-page final budget Wednesday evening, about 45 minutes later than expected. The release of the budget indicates the end is near, and lawmakers need to start wrapping up their discussions on other outstanding issues.
You can read the document here.
Earlier in the day, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R) and House Speaker Todd Huston (R) boasted about the final budget.
“The product is really going to be beneficial to the state of Indiana,” Bray said. “We couldn’t be more pleased that we have a responsible, balanced budget that’s going to care for Indiana for the next two years and do so in a fiscally responsible way.”
The final budget, which lawmakers will have to vote on Thursday, contains priorities from Republicans in both chambers. That includes an investment of $3.1 billion to pay down debt associated with the pre-1996 teacher pension fund. Senate Republicans have routinely advocated for paying down that fund to free up money in future budget cycles.
Meanwhile, House Republicans pushed through a school choice voucher expansion and acceleration of income tax cuts put into law last year.
Here’s how much a Hoosier making $50,000 per year will save per year under the income tax cut plan in the final budget:
“The more we cut taxes, it seems like the more revenue we get in,” Huston said.
Lawmakers have posted a conference committee report for Senate Bill 4, which seeks to expand public health services in Indiana. You can read the report here.
The final bill no longer contains language added on the House side that created a task force to study the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both chambers still have to vote on the final report, which they likely will do Thursday, so things could always change.
House Rules Committee is meeting on adjournment and they have 11 bills outstanding. Kaitlin is working on an update now, so check back! In the meantime, here's a link to the sort-of-long-awaited final budget.
Meanwhile, in D.C.
In case you forgot because it's been a hot minute, the final budget was allegedly going to be posted at 5 p.m., but it's crickets in the Statehouse.
Early dinner break, perhaps?
A state budget detailed by Republicans on Wednesday will not fully fund a three-part mental health crisis system.
Republicans are budgeting $50 million per year, which is less than half the amount needed, according to an Indiana Family and Social Services Administration estimate.
Advocates had been hoping to reach a full $130.6 million per year, particularly after revenue forecasts showed an unexpected $1.5 billion in available spending over the next couple of years.
Indiana struggles with the number of people who die of overdoses and suicides, and the state routinely ranks poorly for the amount of funding it gives to mental health clinics.
President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, acknowledged the funding fell short of the need but said it will still help mental health clinics further develop the services they provide.
"This is a good start and a big investment in that space," Bray said during a press conference. He also noted that lawmakers declined to pursue a cell phone surcharge or additional cigarette tax to pay for the services.
Sen. Michael Crider, the Greenfield Republican who pushed for the mental health system revamp, said he was disappointed that he was unsuccessful in reaching the full amount.
"I've spent more time laying awake at night thinking about this and what I could have done," Crider told State Affairs. "I was trying to hit it to the fence. I got to second base. You know, that's great progress."
Indiana Republican leadership on Wednesday said they will be providing relief for increased property taxes before the legislative session is over.
They did note, however, that the actions will not affect what people are paying this year. Some Hoosiers are seeing their bills jump by as much as 20%.
President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said their caucuses' work on property tax relief will be contained inside House Bill 1499.
That bill is currently in the hands of a conference committee.
Neither leader shared specific details about what the actions might be.
Huston said he wanted to put "guardrails" on increases that Hoosiers see on their bills next year. He also noted that property tax revenue does not fuel the state budget; all the money heads to local governments.
"We want to be respectful," Huston said. "We're also imploring and asking our local elected leaders to show some restraint."
House Democrats took aim at the two-year state budget announced by House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday.
"I'm not happy with the budget," said Rep. Gregory W. Porter, D-Indianapolis, during a brief press conference inside the Statehouse. "Democrats will not be happy with this budget."
Republicans plan to expand access to vouchers that pay for private schools. Currently, vouchers are available for families at 300% of the income required to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The new budget expands eligibility to 400%.
"The expansion of vouchers at that magnitude is despicable," Porter said.
He also criticized Republicans for not providing more funding for public and mental health — two areas that have drawn bipartisan support for increased funding in the state budget. Neither allotment meets the amounts outlined in state commission reports.
"It's nonsensical at this point," Porter said. "And I hope that they would just go back, work on it again, and take care of people here in the state of Indiana."
Ryan with reaction from Democrats and mental health advocates after learning they're only getting $50 million of a requested approx. $130 million toward a three-part crisis system.
The House is in recess until 3 p.m. The Senate is in recess until "the fall of the gavel," whenever that might be.
Indiana Republicans announced some details of the $44.5 billion final budget proposal on Wednesday afternoon, including a significant expansion of the state’s school choice voucher plan.
Under the final proposal, families making 400% of the income required to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches would qualify for a school choice voucher. That means if your family of four makes about $220,000 per year or less, you would qualify for a school choice voucher.
The final budget also includes the following:
- An acceleration of income tax cuts lawmakers passed last year, similar to what the House wanted.
- A pre-K expansion to include families making 150% of federal poverty level income, rather than the current 127%, like the Senate wanted.
- $225 million for an expansion of public health, rather than the $315 million Gov. Eric Holcomb requested.
You can read the full presentation online. The final budget will be posted at 5 p.m. today.
Both chambers will have to vote on the final budget plan one last time, which will likely happen Thursday just before Sine Die.
(And, we still have a few unanswered questions.)
You can read the FY 24/25 Budget Conference Committee Report here (pdf).
Ryan and Kaitlin previously wrote about House Republicans prioritizing the expansion of school choice vouchers and speeding up income tax cuts. You can read that report here. And here's their reporting on trauma care in rural Indiana and on SB 1 (mental health care reform).
Republican lawmakers announced they will release the bones of the final version of the state budget at 1 p.m. today via a PowerPoint presentation posted on IndianaHouseRepublicans.com and IndianaSenateRepublicans.com.
That document should answer some major outstanding questions we have about the budget, such as how much money lawmakers plan to spend on mental health and whether or not Indiana will expand its school choice voucher program. Plus, we’ll find out what lawmakers are doing with the surprise $1.5 billion.
The full budget document will be available online in the same place at 5 p.m., but of course, we’ll have an update on our live blog.
Lawmakers usually aim to vote on the budget and wrap up the legislative session approximately 24 hours after the final bill language is released, so expect the session to end Thursday.
Well, that's one question answered. Stand by for an update from Kaitlin at the Statehouse.
Header image: Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks at the post-Sine Die press conference in his office at the State Capitol in Indianapolis on April 28, 2023. (Credit: Kaitlin Lange)
Your questions answered: Why the state is feuding with Tippecanoe County over water for the LEAP District
Editor’s note: This article is part of a State Affairs and Fox59/CBS4 series looking at how decisions get made at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and how it impacts economic development in the state. The IEDC has faced increased scrutiny due to its involvement with Boone County’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation District and because two gubernatorial candidates are former IEDC leaders. Read our first story here.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is banking on the success of the LEAP Innovation and Research District, a tech hub in Boone County.
But, the state agency is missing a crucial resource it needs to enable more high-tech industries to call the hub home: enough water. The IEDC, the state agency tasked with driving economic development, hopes to funnel water from the aquifer that sits adjacent to the Wabash River in Tippecanoe County roughly 40 miles away, if studies go as planned.
Opposition to the plan has bubbled over among Tippecanoe County residents and their elected leaders, concerned about what siphoning water away from their community could mean for them long term.
What was once an often-ignored topic in Indiana has become one of the most contentious, bi-partisan issues ahead of the 2024 legislative session.
“I’ve never seen an issue like this that united everybody,” said Sen. Spencer Deery, R-West Lafayette.
Here’s what you should know about the water fight.
What is the LEAP District
The LEAP District will be a 9,000-acre “hub of global innovation” in Lebanon. The land is already ready for the IEDC’s use whenever high-tech companies show interest.
The LEAP District was created in order to allow the state to move more quickly to land deals, said Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg. Back in 2021, the IEDC lost a bidding war against Ohio for Intel, a chip manufacturer. One reason Indiana lost, Rosenberg said, was because Indiana didn’t have readily available land for use, and wasn’t able to move as quickly as Ohio.
Indiana-based drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company was the first to announce it would be building two manufacturing sites in the LEAP District, investing $3.7 billion and creating up to 700 jobs. Indiana is in the running for other companies as well.
“LEAP is not in any way or shape designed to compete against what other Indiana cities are doing,” Rosenberg said. “LEAP is designed to compete against international locations that are playing for the same types of companies of the future and other places throughout the United States, like Nashville or Austin, Raleigh, Phoenix.”
Why does the IEDC say Lebanon was chosen for the LEAP District?
Location, location, location. Lebanon is located 45 minutes from Purdue University and Rosenberg said it was relatively easy to piece together enough acreage in the city. Plus, unlike other areas of the state, it’s located within a 30-minute drive to an international airport and can pull from the central Indiana population center for talent.
Why does the LEAP District need outside water?
The IEDC already has a central Indiana source in place to provide 10 million gallons of water a day to the LEAP District. That’s enough to handle the current needs of the district, including those of Eli Lilly.
But, Rosenberg said that won’t be enough water should a high-water user decide to move to the LEAP District, which is the state’s goal. In June, the IEDC announced that Indiana is a finalist for a $50 billion semiconductor plant, the type of industry that depends on large amounts of water.
Rosenberg added that should a high water user not decide to settle in the LEAP District, the IEDC will no longer be involved in water discussions. Regardless, he said water scarcity in central Indiana is an issue that will have to be addressed in the future, even if a major water user doesn’t choose Indiana to expand in.
“Even outside of anything happening at LEAP, this is a problem that is staring the state in the face over the next few decades,” Rosenberg said. “Our premise was can we use economic development to unlock the resources to not only provide additional water for potential companies coming into these areas, but really solve a regional, generational water issue that everyone has identified and known about for decades and decades.”
An Indiana Finance Authority central Indiana water study released in 2021 estimated that the daily water demand in central Indiana would increase by more than 100 million gallons by 2070.
What is Indiana’s water solution?
The IEDC is looking at the Wabash Alluvial Aquifer as a likely solution to its water woes.
IEDC signed a $9 million contract with Black & Veatch Corporation earlier this year to manage water infrastructure. The contract itself outlined a plan to “convey raw water from a series of collector wells and pump stations located adjacent to the Wabash River” for the LEAP district.
But, Rosenberg emphasized the pipeline is not a done deal. At the request of the IEDC, INTERA Inc., has started testing how much water can sustainably be withdrawn from the aquifer adjacent to the Wabash River.
How much extra water does the LEAP District need?
Rosenberg said the IEDC has not placed a number on how much water it would need to pull from the aquifer. That would depend on which companies choose to move to the LEAP District, he said.
Intel in Ohio, for example, is expected to use 5 million gallons of water per day. That’s the kind of water usage Indiana should expect to see if the IEDC lands a chip manufacturer.
Preliminary results from the INTERA study show that two collector wells at the site will sustainably produce more than 30 million gallons of water per day. That’s the equivalent of more than 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The actual amount of water withdrawn could be much larger. Water from the aquifer could be used for other central Indiana uses outside of just the LEAP District, to help address the expected 100 million gallons a day increase in water needs for central Indiana over the next 50 years.
There’s not yet an estimate of the maximum amount of water that could sustainably be moved from the aquifer.
Why are Tippecanoe County residents concerned?
Elected leaders and Tippecanoe County residents are worried that if the IEDC takes water from the aquifer adjacent to the Wabash River, it could negatively impact the county’s water supply and its own ability to expand economically in the future.
“The concern is once you develop that pipeline, Indiana doesn’t have any real rules in place to determine how much can be moved,” Deery said.
Plus, the LEAP District is located well outside of Tippecanoe County, which means the benefits to the community aren’t as obvious as they would have been had the IEDC chosen a location closer to the Wabash River for the development.
Does Tippecanoe have enough water to share?
That’s what the IEDC has been studying.
The preliminary results from the INTERA, Inc. study show that two wells on the site will sustainably produce more than 30 million gallons per day, with “minimal impact on home-owner wells” according to the IEDC.
Those opposed to the project, however, aren’t confident that the IEDC will be able to provide an unbiased look at what the impact on the Wabash River would be.
“Typically, you research before you buy,” Deery said, “and there’s been a sense around here that the decision has been made. And now it’s in search of the evidence to support that.”
What did Holcomb propose to ease concerns?
Last month, Gov. Eric Holcomb directed the Indiana Finance Authority to take over oversight of the INTERA water supply study.
“I am confident that these new efforts led by IFA will provide the necessary data to gain a greater understanding of the amount of excess water that is truly available to support all the surrounding region’s growth prior to any action being taken that could inadvertently jeopardize this needed resource,” Holcomb said in a statement. “ No entity is better suited to lead this overall pursuit than the IFA which will approach this study in the same methodical, collaborative, and transparent manner the organization has conducted in the past.”
Moving oversight of the water study to a different agency was praised by some critics of the project as a step in the right direction.
IFA will also start a comprehensive regional water study for north-central Indiana, expected to be completed in fall 2024.
What is Tippecanoe County doing to try to stop the pipeline?
Last month, Tippecanoe Commissioners unanimously advanced a nine-month moratorium on “high volume water export(s).”
Rosenberg said the commissioners’ moratorium would have no impact on the IEDC’s plans because the agency would not be in a place to pump water from the aquifer in the next nine months.
“I think the action was unnecessary and it was playing to some of the rhetoric and misinformation,” he said.
How will state lawmakers address water during the 2024 legislative session?
Republican legislative leaders say they want to avoid legislating on the water issue until they get the data. That means they have no plans to finance such a pipeline yet.
“We’re not going to take any other steps until we have an opportunity to study to make sure that there’s ample water for the projects that we’re trying to bring into the state of Indiana,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said last month, “and we understand just how much is too much to take away from a particular community.”
Those who represent Tippecanoe County, such as Deery, hope to implement some guardrails “that would help protect all communities against any potential harm of large water transfers to another community,” he said in a press release.
The INTERA water supply study is expected to be completed in early 2024. Rosenberg said it’s “too premature” to say whether a water pipeline would move forward without the blessing of Tippecanoe County, should studies show the capacity to move large amounts of water is there.
“We’re not going to in any way inhibit Lafayette from their ability to to grow economically,” Rosenberg said, “because they’ve had so much success already.”
The legislative session convenes on Jan. 8 and must wrap up by mid-March.
INDIANAPOLIS — Last August, Anne Hathaway’s phone lit up with a call from Gov. Eric Holcomb. Nearly a quarter-century before, Hathaway had recruited the future governor to run for an Indiana House seat in the only race he lost.
With the resignation of Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer in hand, Holcomb asked Hathaway to lead the Indiana Republican Party, and in doing so was tapping the first women to hold the role.
For the past 15 years, Hathaway had led the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series, an organization inspired by U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and created by Teresa Lubbers and Judy Singleton to develop a gender bench for the GOP.
“I encourage women every day to take a risk, be willing to lose; go out of their comfort zones and run for office or serve on a board or commission,” said Hathaway, who serves as Indiana’s national committeewoman on the Republican National Committee, during a recent, exclusive Howey Politics/State Affairs interview.
“I couldn’t continue to do that unless I was willing to do that myself, willing to take the risk, willing to lead by example,” she said, adding, “When the call came for me, I jumped. Yeah, I’m in. Let’s go.”
Holcomb said in making this historic nomination: “Here are several key reasons I believe Anne is the right person at the right time for this role. Anne’s resume of service to the Republican Party is as extensive as just about anyone’s in the country, having served with distinction at the local, state and national levels throughout her entire career. Furthermore, with experience in running campaigns at every level of government, she has the knowledge and relationships to not only keep our party moving forward, but to continue to take it to the next level.”
Hathaway’s roots are in the tiny Illinois town of Galva just north of Peoria. After graduating from high school with a class of 77, and then from the University of Illinois, she decided to spend a year in Washington, D.C., where she began as a typist at the Department of Treasury.
Hathaway served in the White House as assistant and director of scheduling for former Vice President Dan Quayle, was program director for the 2012 Republican National Convention, and was executive director of the Indiana House Republican Campaign
Following Hathaway’s resume is a lesson in stewardship and power.
“Sen. Lugar would be more excited about me being state chair than I am just because, Judy Singleton and Teresa Lubbers were ecstatic,” said Hathaway.
She now helms the party at (or nearing) its historic apex. The Indiana GOP holds all the state constitutional offices, nine of 11 congressional seats, maintains General Assembly super majorities, more than 90% of county offices, and as of the municipal elections earlier this month, 76 mayors. If a Republican is elected governor in 11 months, the party will increase its historic dominance to five consecutive terms.
Hathaway will lead the party through the five-way gubernatorial primary. Following next June’s Indiana Republican Convention, she will head to Milwaukee, where Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tabbed her to head the RNC’s Arrangements Committee.
Hathaway has committed to serve only through the May primary. “At that time, she will work together with the gubernatorial nominee and you all to decide who is best to finish out the remainder of the term,” said Holcomb.
Asked if there was a chance to continue as chair beyond the May election, she said, “That’s a conversation to be had.
“I have agreed to stay at least through the state convention. I believe the gubernatorial nominee should have his or her own political partner here. I’m just focused on the time between now and then, she said.
Senior reporter and columnist Brian Howey sat down for a 45-minute, wide-ranging interview with Hathaway where she discussed what it means to make history as the first female state Republican chair, how her work at the Lugar Series prepared her for this new role, the Republican party’s diversity programs and other topics. Read the full conversation on State Affairs Pro here.
Gov. Holcomb taps Boone County Council president to serve out remainder of Comptroller Tera Klutz’s term
Republican Elise Nieshalla, president of the Boone County Council, will serve out the remaining three years of State Comptroller Tera Klutz’s term.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the appointment of Nieshalla, a real estate investor, on Tuesday. As state auditor, Nieshalla will oversee the balancing of Indiana’s checkbooks and payment of all state employees.
“My appreciation runs deep for the strong financial standing of our state and the integrity in which the State Comptroller’s Office is run,” Nieshalla said in a statement. “It is truly my privilege to receive Gov. Holcomb’s appointment to serve our great state and local units of government by upholding the highest standards of fiscal responsibility and offering tremendous Hoosier service.”
Earlier this year Klutz announced she would resign Nov. 30, roughly a year after she was reelected. Klutz, who was first appointed by Holcomb in 2017, is the fourth state auditor in a row to not finish their term, enabling the sitting governor to choose a replacement.
Nieshalla was already well-known within Republican circles. She previously ran for treasurer in 2022 against three other Republicans, losing to current Treasurer Daniel Elliott at the state Republican convention. At the time, the convention loss of Nieshalla and other Republicans more closely aligned with the party establishment was seen as a rebuke of the Holcomb wing of the party.
Nieshalla, who lives in Zionsville, is also president of the Indiana County Councils Association and the chairwoman of the Association of Indiana Counties’ 2023 Legislative Committee. She has a bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University and a master’s degree from Indiana University.
She’ll be sworn in on Dec. 1 and will serve until at least the 2026 election when voters will have the option to choose the next state comptroller.
Holcomb praised Nieshalla in an emailed statement.
“Elise is a dedicated and proven public servant who has committed much of her professional life to bettering her community through service,” Holcomb said. “She has shared her financial expertise to help steer and shape the bright future of Boone County which gives me great confidence she’ll do the same serving Hoosiers as our next State Comptroller.”
On Tuesday, Indiana lawmakers returned to the Statehouse for Organization Day, the ceremonial start to the legislative session, ahead of what legislative leaders are saying should be a low-key, short session.
“We’ll probably take a pretty measured approach on what we address … , maybe fine tune some things,” House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said during an Indiana Chamber of Commerce legislative panel on Monday. “Short sessions are supposed to be for emergency items only.”
Not only will 2024 be a non-budget-writing legislative session mandated to end by mid-March, but this session also falls in the midst of a heated Republican gubernatorial primary. There’s no obvious assumed winner who can lead policy discussions ahead of the election, nor has Gov. Eric Holcomb laid the groundwork for any major policy changes in his last legislative session.
Plus, recent criminal corruption charges against a former lawmaker — and the potential for other lawmakers to be charged in connection with the case — has put a cloud over the Indiana General Assembly.
Still, some minor bills are expected to move, and something can always pop up. Here’s a breakdown of some of the issues State Affairs expects to be debated, and three that probably won’t move.
Both Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said they want to limit the situations in which schools allow third graders to advance to fourth grade when they fail the IREAD-3, the state’s reading comprehension test.
During the 2021-2022 school year, more than 18% of students failed the test because they were not reading at a third grade level.
“When you pass that kid on, and they aren’t prepared to succeed, you’re not doing that kid a favor,” Huston said, following his Organization Day speech in which he laid out his caucus’ priorities.
Huston’s goal is to make Indiana the No. 1 state in the nation for third grade reading proficiency by 2027.
Democrats cautioned that it may be too soon to make major changes to how IREAD scores are handled in Indiana. During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers passed a science of reading bill.
“We need to make sure that schools have the opportunity to train their teachers, to implement these strategies across the board before we start throwing new legislative hurdles in the way,” said Sen. Andrea Hunley, D-Indianapolis. “We have to give [new recommendations] time to work before we start, say, failing all children or retaining a whole class of children.”
Continuing to re-think K-12 education
Last legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill seeking to expand work-based learning in high school, but Huston emphasized during his Organization Day speech that legislators can still do more to transform the K-12 school system.
Huston said House Republicans will push to allow state money typically set aside for students pursuing a college education to be used to obtain certificates and certifications for “high demand, high wage jobs.”
“We must continue to adjust the way we think about K-12 education in order to meet the needs of all students, including those who aren’t interested in pursuing a two-or four-year degree,” Huston said. “Let’s use this session to build on skill and work-based learning, and let’s align our funding to this goal.”
This fall the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce took a delegation of Indiana lawmakers and others to Switzerland to see how the country’s apprenticeship program operates. Expect more changes in the coming years that would enable Indiana’s K-12 system to more closely mirror that of Switzerland’s.
Child care access
During his own Organization Day speech, Bray emphasized a need to expand affordable child care options for young children.
“Day care is a constant challenge from the Ohio River to the Michigan line, trying to find day care at all if you can find it and whether it’s affordable,” Bray said.
He pointed to a legislative study committee on the topic which recommended some minor reforms to the system, such as lowering the age requirement for working unassisted in an infant or toddler classroom to age 18 from 21 and requiring the state to review how it can streamline child care regulations to increase availability.
Don’t expect lawmakers to throw more money at the child care system since 2024 isn’t a budget-writing year.
Health care costs
Lawmakers passed multiple bills during the 2023 legislative session aimed at cutting health care costs, ranging from limiting physician noncompete agreements to creating benchmarks for how high hospital prices in the largest hospital systems should be.
But Bray said he expects lawmakers to offer more legislation on the topic this year in order to help drive down costs long term.
A legislative study committee on the topic backed recommendations to require more disclosures by insurance companies on their “prior authorization” process for medical care, as well as require medical providers to give lawmakers a six-month notice for mergers or acquisitions.
It’s unclear whether legislation on water access will actually pass either chamber, but the topic is almost certain to come up in discussions.
Earlier this year, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced plans to pump water from the Wabash River aquifer to the LEAP district in Lebanon. Tippecanoes citizens have been vocal in their opposition to the plan, and just this week the Tippecanoe County Commissioners voted to put a moratorium on high volume water exports.
Legislative leaders say they want to avoid legislating on the issue until they get more data. The Indiana Finance Authority and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce are studying the issue.
“We’re not going to take any other steps until we have an opportunity to study to make sure that there’s ample water for the projects that we’re trying to bring into the state of Indiana,” Bray said, “and we understand just how much is too much to take away from a particular community.”
But, even if leadership would rather wait to address the elephant in the room, lawmakers are almost certain to file legislation.
Issues that won’t move: Gaming
For at least the past two legislative sessions, lawmakers have filed bills to legalize internet casino gaming, or iGaming. It appeared momentum was on proponents’ sides. Until this month.
Earlier this month former state Rep. Sean Eberhart agreed to plead guilty to criminal fraud charges that federal prosecutors say stem from influencing casino legislation in return for the promise of a $350,000-a-year job.
Both Bray and Huston said Monday they don’t expect any gaming legislation to move in 2024.
During Monday’s Chamber panel, Bray said the federal investigation “makes gaming extremely hard to engage in.”
“It taints the Statehouse, it diminishes the confidence that people have in the integrity of the Statehouse, it causes an awful lot of problems and it makes it particularly difficult to engage in that kind of policy,” Bray said.
Issues that won’t move: Marijuana
Lawmakers studied the impact legalizing marijuana would have on the workforce and youth in an interim committee this fall, but the committee never issued any recommendations for legislation.
Both legislative leaders and Holcomb have emphasized their reluctance to legalize marijuana until at least after the federal government reschedules it. Huston reiterated his hesitation on Monday.
“No one has made a compelling case to me yet on why legalizing marijuana or having more people use cannabis in the state of Indiana is a positive thing,” Huston said. “So until I hear that answer, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of change.”
Likewise, Bray said its passage “seemed unlikely.”
The ceremonial start of the legislative session is just that. Lawmakers won’t start moving bills until they return to the Statehouse in January.