Top 6 government stories of the year that impacted Hoosiers

Goodreads tells you the books of the year. Spotify tells you the top artists. But we at State Affairs Indiana are telling you which actions by state government had possibly the biggest impact on Hoosiers.

While we’re not delivering any Taylor Swift jams, we’d be okay with you tossing on “Bejeweled” in the background while reading about the tax cuts and refunds Hoosiers received this year.

1. Two tax refunds 

Sure, record inflation hit everyone at the gas pump, the grocery store, and everywhere in between, but at least Hoosiers got some extra cash returned from the state government, right?

The first $125 check this year was a give-back because state revenue numbers during the 2021 fiscal year were higher than anticipated. And, under Indiana law, the state's reserves can only go so high before taxpayers start to receive some of their money back. 

The second payment — another $200 — came as the result of Gov. Eric Holcomb and state lawmakers pushing for a measure of relief from inflation. That bill passed during a special legislative session, where they also added new abortion restrictions following the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

2. Lawmakers restrict abortions after 10-year-old’s case

Indiana was thrust into the national spotlight over the summer after a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio traveled across state lines to obtain an abortion because the procedure was restricted in her own state following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade

The case heightened interest in Indiana’s special legislative session as lawmakers worked to significantly restrict abortions in Indiana, too. The Hoosier State was the first to pass new abortion restrictions following the landmark Supreme Court decision that left abortion access up to the states. 

The new law is blocked while under the Indiana Supreme Court’s review, but if it is permitted to go into effect, abortions would be banned at every stage of pregnancy in nearly all cases. The only exceptions would be for fatal fetal abnormalities, to protect the life or prevent serious risk to the mother’s health or in cases of rape and incest up to 10 weeks post-fertilization.

Roughly 8,000 Hoosiers sought an abortion in-state in 2021, which means if the law goes into effect, likely thousands of Hoosiers who otherwise would have sought an abortion each year will now choose whether to travel out-of-state for an abortion or not get one. 

3. Tax cuts

There’s no guarantee of another taxpayer refund in 2023, but Hoosiers will be able to save some of their tax dollars, thanks to new income tax cuts passed by the General Assembly in March. Hoosiers making $50,000 per year will save $40 on 2023 state taxes.

As long as the state’s revenue keeps increasing at a steady pace, Indiana’s income tax rate is slated to decrease from 3.23% to 2.9% over seven years, due to the new law. A Hoosier making $50,000 per year would save $165 per year on taxes if all of the tax cuts are phased in.

State lawmakers also nixed utility taxes, equal to 1.4% of someone’s utility bill. That’s not much savings for the average Hoosier, but it is a boon for manufacturers that use large quantities of energy. 

4. Elections: New maps, new faces

Truth be told, it maybe wasn’t the most interesting midterm election for Hoosiers this year. Just about everybody who was expected to win did, in fact, win.

Todd Young, for example, was reelected to the U.S. Senate, and the distribution of power in the Indiana Statehouse remained unchanged.

But 2022 marked the first year that voters cast their ballots using new maps and districts drawn by state lawmakers as part of redistricting. In Indianapolis, a new heavily Democratic senate district went to Andrea Hunley. 

The political makeup of the majority of the newly drawn congressional seats stayed relatively unchanged. Seven stayed Republican; two stayed Democratic. Even then, the midterms introduced two new Republican representatives: Erin Houchin, who succeeded Trey Hollingsworth in southern Indiana, and Rudy Yakym, who filled the northern Indiana seat formerly occupied by Jackie Walorski, who died in a vehicle crash. 

Perhaps the story of this election was the strength of Diego Morales, whose campaign for Indiana secretary of state was inundated with questions about his military record, allegations of sexual assault that he denied, and whether he lived at the address where he voted during a run for Congress in 2018. 

Morales, a Republican, survived the onslaught to be elected as one of two new statewide officeholders in Indiana. The other is Daniel Elliott, a Republican elected as Indiana state treasurer. 

5. Carrying handguns without a permit

Hoosiers were previously required to obtain a permit in order to carry a handgun in public. That requirement went away in July thanks to a bill that passed the General Assembly last regular session. 

It was another win for gun owners in Indiana, who have argued for years that citizens should not be required to seek permits in order to exercise their constitutional rights. (The prior law did not require a permit to buy or own a handgun; it required one to carry in public.) 

The bill passed both chambers over the opposition of several police officers, including the head of the Indiana State Police, who was appointed by Holcomb. 

Just as before, Hoosiers also can carry rifles in public without a permit. 

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita released a pamphlet titled "Gun Owners' Bill of Rights," which answers questions about the permitting process, including reasons why Hoosiers may still want to seek a permit.

6. Public health emergency ends

This year marked the end of the state’s COVID-19 public emergency after two years. 

Holcomb’s executive order ending the emergency in March was largely symbolic, but it did at least signal a sort of finality to the state government’s willingness to restrict how Hoosiers live, regardless of whether COVID-19 cases increase down the road. 

Throughout the public emergency, Holcomb used his emergency powers to mandate Hoosiers wear masks or restrict how businesses operate, both highly controversial moves among fellow Republicans. Unless he issues another public health emergency, which is unlikely, he can’t impose such restrictions anymore. 

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Contact Kaitlin Lange on Twitter @kaitlin_lange  or email her at [email protected].  Contact Ryan Martin on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or at [email protected]stateaffairs.com.

Header image: Lawmakers will return to the Indiana Statehouse, shown here, on Jan. 9. (Credit: Rudy Balasko)

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