Welcome to the first Statehouse Report of the 2021 session of the Indiana General Assembly. Indiana University’s State Government Relations team brings you these reports to provide concise information on the progress of legislation monitored by IU. This newsletter is a recap of the first month, from now until the end of session the newsletter will be weekly.
This session began on Monday, January 4th, under historically unusual circumstances—COVID-19 has largely reshaped the face of the State legislature. The Indiana House of Representatives has moved entirely to the State Government Center South to accommodate social distancing. The Senate remains at the Statehouse but is using the gallery in the Senate chamber for more space. Meetings with lawmakers have shifted to Zoom, and the hallways of the Statehouse, usually bustling with news of legislation and busy advocates, are silent except for those who are specifically testifying on bills being heard that day.
One thing that does not change this year is the fact that the 2021 session is a budget year. The biennial budget is the most critical bill to be considered by the legislature during this session. Of course, the pandemic has directly affected the State’s revenue which will greatly affect budget growth.
Our team has been diligently working on IU’s piece of the biennial budget process for months. The first three steps of the biennial budget process have been completed. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved its university operating and capital funding recommendations in November. Then, in December, the state revenue forecast was released. Most recently, in January, the Governor made his budget recommendations, marking the third step in a long process of deliberation by the General Assembly, leading to final passage of a biennial budget in late April. Unlike past years, IU did not present its formal budget requests to the House Ways and Means Committee due to time restrictions associated with COVID-19 session accommodations. The House budget must be approved by the Committee by February 16.
The IU State Relations team reviewed every bill filed this year—there were over 1,000—to ensure that we are tracking all legislation that may impact the university. Here is a summary of some of the most important bills proposed this session that IU will be tracking:
HB 1002: Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19
The bill provides that a person is not liable to a claimant for loss, damage, injury, or death arising from COVID-19 unless certain conditions are met. The bill also protects health care providers from professional discipline and civil liability for certain acts or omissions arising from a state disaster emergency unless certain conditions are met.
HB 1006: Law Enforcement Officers
The bill requires the Indiana law enforcement training board to establish mandatory training in de-escalation and establishes a procedure to allow the Indiana law enforcement training board to decertify an officer who has committed misconduct. The bill also specifies that a law enforcement officer who turns off a body worn camera with the intent to conceal a criminal act commits a Class A misdemeanor.
HB 1511: Hazing
The bill requires each postsecondary educational institution to develop and conduct an educational program on hazing, inform law enforcement of certain allegations of hazing, and report hazing incidents on the institution’s website.
SB 1: Civil Immunity Related to COVID-19
The bill provides civil tort immunity for damages arising from COVID-19 unless certain conditions are met.
SB 3: Telehealth Matters
The bill expands the application of the telehealth statute to additional licensed practitioners and requires that telehealth medical records be created and maintained under the same standards of appropriate practice for medical records for patients in an in-person setting.
SB 54: FAFSA Requirement
The bill requires all students in their senior year to complete and submit the FAFSA unless certain conditions are met.
SB 101: Education and Higher Education Matters
The bill deems a student who is at least 17 years of age to have full legal capacity to enter into a contract for a Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship. The bill also amends requirements regarding the development of a student's graduation plan.
SB 287: Health Care Strategy Task Force
The bill establishes the health care strategy task force, which will recommend ways to improve quality, access, and affordability of health care in Indiana and includes Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health as the home of the task force.