These updates keep an eye on bills, committee deliberations and vote tallies – at this point in a budget session, there’s a lot of action to cover. But what about the legislative leaders who keep the whole process moving?
After all, the General Assembly is made up of 150 unique personalities, with their own perspectives but a shared passion for public service…how they work together determines how the institution works. One of the more interesting – and influential – characters in this budget-crafting session is Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown, a retired doctor tasked with keeping the state’s finances healthy.
From ER doc to budget specialist:
Chairman Brown represents District 41, which centers on Crawfordsville but reaches into the Indy metro with portions of Boone County; first elected in the GOP wave of 1994, ‘Doc’ Brown came to the Statehouse as an Emergency Room physician for St. Elizabeth Hospital in Crawfordsville. He left the ER a couple of years ago, but seems to have kept the ability to work calmly under stress – indispensable during tough budget talks.
But before he got the chance to operate on the budget as Chair of Ways & Means, Brown spent 18 years moving up the ranks of the Republican caucus, chairing the Public Health Committee along the way. He’s developed close ties to Speaker Bosma, earning him broad authority over fiscal issues. He’s a policy wonk – a physician’s eye for detail? – who also sees the big picture.
What’s the prognosis?
Brown’s loyalty to leadership and long-term perspective will likely make him a steadfast proponent for HB1002’s infrastructure approach in an eventual conference committee. (He also enjoys riding his Harley – routinely visiting the grave sites of Indiana governors – so a sustainable campaign against potholes probably also has a personal appeal.)
On the other hand, Chairman Brown’s deliberate approach may lead him to a “first do no harm” appropriations approach to early childhood education. But he is willing to entertain competing views, and we’ll keep pushing for a faster statewide expansion while understanding the challenges.
But Brown’s most daunting task is crafting and building consensus for the mammoth two-year budget bill.
More details on Chairman Brown’s House Republican budget were released last week, as HB1001 was heard in Ways & Means (and is expected to get a committee vote on Monday, 2/20).
The budget integrates HB1002’s fiscal plan, shifting all gas tax revenues to infrastructure and filling the resulting general fund gap with proceeds from a $1-a-pack cigarette tax hike (supplanting the $1.50 increase supported by the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, but still positive for smoking cessation and Medicaid).
But Senate Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley has questioned the long-term sustainability of gas and cigarette taxes.
This sets up a showdown between M.D. (Brown) and J.D. (Kenley) over issues you’d need an M.B.A. to grasp. We’ll sell you the whole seat – but you’ll only need the edge.
More issues to watch:
- The budget hews to HB1004’s pre-K approach, with $20M for an expanded pilot program;
- Governor Holcomb gets some of his proposed ‘Next Level’ innovation and entrepreneurship fund, but only half the Major Moves trust fund is converted to support it (with another $10M in new money);
- On the workforce priorities we covered last week, the strategic plan conceived byHB1008 is paid for, along with $2M for high-demand job training (‘Workforce Ready’ tuition grants, which could supplement or offset employer-driven tax credits proposed elsewhere);
- Funding for non-stop flights and the Regional Cities Initiative didn’t make this version, so your Chamber team will be focused on those priorities along with keeping the discussion going on pre-K investments;
- Finally, K-12 gets a modest bump in biennial baseline funding (a little under $300M); we’re hoping for more specific policies and resources aimed at STEM education to emerge in weeks to come.
The General Assembly’s only real job this year is passing a budget; for other bills, the clock is running:
Deadlines for Live Bills
Next week marks the deadline for bills to move out of committee in both houses, kicking off a new phase of the session.
Committees are rushing to take action on their remaining assigned bills (either passing them – in original form or amended – voting them down, or letting time run out).
As committees push bills onto the floor, there’s a ‘second reading’ vote – a majority of legislators present either endorse the committee’s version, send it back to committee, or make amendments.
Bills approved on second reading are ordered ‘engrossed,’ and schedules for debate and a final vote – no amendments, take it or leave it. This third reading sends the bill to the second house; the third reading deadline in the House is Monday the 28th, while the Senate gives itself a few more hours (noon on Tuesday).
Rounding second, sliding into thirds…where we stand:
So we expect another fast-paced week ahead. Several Chamber-supported bills have already passed second- or third reading; the fate of other key issues still lie with committee chairs like Tim Brown. A few updates:
- SB507 (the IEDC bill we described last week) passed Senate third reading unanimously and heads to the House, as did SB310 (Land Banks);
- SB276 – the $20M expanded pre-K pilot, largely mirroring HB1004 – passed Senate Education (8-3) and was recommitted to Appropriations;
- SB439 (Bias Crimes) awaits second reading, while SB9 (SNAP eligibility for former drug offenders) is up for third;
- Senators showed low interest for high interest lending, as SB245 (Payday Loans) died in committee;
- HB1005 has been engrossed, while SB179 is on second reading (these are companion bills on the appointment of Superintendent of Public Instruction);
- HB1002 passed third reading 61-36 after running the Roads & Transportation/Ways & Means gauntlet; ·
- HB1386 (a pilot for “competency-based” education, which could encourage innovative career-based programs) passed its third reading 68-21;
- HB1133 (Preemption of Local Bans on Short Term Rentals) continues its comeback with a 53-40 third reading victory, so don’t cancel that Carmel Airbnb just yet;
- HB1601 (Certified Technology Parks) is also on third reading in the House;
- Redistricting reform (HB1014) appears to be bottled up in the Elections Committee, denied a vote this week.