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5/11/2018 5:49:00 PM
Indiana General Assembly special session: Four critical bills, one day - May 14

Scott L. Miley, Herald Bulletin CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS -- Four critical legislative bills considered key by Republican legislators will likely be passed -- all in one day -- in a special session Monday of the Indiana General Assembly.

The cost to Hoosier taxpayers is expected to be less than the original estimate of $30,000 a day.

The bills deal, respectively, with state takeover of financially distressed schools systems, school safety funding and tax rules. 

Those bills, along with a fifth that cleans up technical errors from previously passed bills, are expected to be wrapped up by Indiana's 150 legislators Monday. The bills are essentially unchanged from March 14, when the General Assembly ran out of time before the deadline to close its regular session.

Doing it all in a day and remaining transparent and cost-effective, as House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, recently pledged, requires waiving rules so that the House can give a yea-or-nay vote and send legislation quickly to the Senate.

Also, legislators will be confined in adding amendments, which can serve to clarify a bill or bog it down. And no public testimony will be allowed.

At the last hour on March 14, some items were added to bills without public testimony. That the items were discussed in a public conference committee is seemingly enough for Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

"Every one of these bills has had a very thorough vetting public testimony, most of them in both chambers and in conference committees," Bosma said.

Both are aware that some legislators might protest a bill's passage.

"I anticipate that we'll be finished well before midnight," Long said. "I think you can make your case that you're unhappy about one of the bills effectively without filibustering this into the next day. I don't expect that to happen."

House Bill 1315 would fine-tune the state's role in addressing financially distressed school corporations.

Two districts are targeted. The Gary school governing board would become an advisory board. Muncie schools would be governed by a seven-member panel appointed by Ball State University. The current five-member elected board would become advisory.

Democrats oppose allowing an elected board to be replaced by appointees.

"I am dismayed they ask that this crucial bill affecting both Muncie and Gary be passed in a no-rules, no-constitution, no-amendment, one-day rubber stamp session," said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, whose district includes Muncie.

The bill would provide an interest-free loan to Muncie schools to pay off a $10 million general fund obligation bond, which had been instead used for operating expenses, a decision criticized by Bosma.

"I certainly expect the Democrats in the Senate and perhaps in the House, too, to make noise about some of the these bills, particularly 1315 because for them, particularly in Lake County and Delaware County, it's high-profile stuff," Long said. 

"We do feel that we're doing the right thing for the school children there," he added. "These are two school entities that year after year ignored all the requests from the legislature to get their fiscal house in order."

Bill description

Four bills to be considered by the Indiana General Assembly during its special session Monday:

-- House Bill 1230: Initially tightening rules on bullying and cyberbullying, this school safety bill grew into a $5 million appropriation for the Secured School Fund (in a non-budget session) to provide school safety grants. In addition, $35 million would be available from the state's common school loan fund for safety upgrades, limited to $500,000 per district. Before deadline, the bill passed the Senate but not the House.

-- House Bill 1242: The Indiana Department of Revenue is focusing on adding language to this multi-faceted tax bill to match a recently implemented IRS requirement, said DOR spokesperson Emily Landis. A provision would require that anyone who has access to federal tax information undergo FBI background checks, including fingerprints.

-- House Bill 1316: This bill, primarily, would align laws with national tax reform. Provisions address Hoosiers who have to file amended taxes due to trusts in estates. At the last minute, original Software as a Service (SaaS) language was removed that would have required merchants to pay sales taxes.

-- House Bill 1315: This large bill fine-tunes the state's role in addressing financially distressed school corporations. The state's distressed unit appeal board would take on a greater role in removing districts from distressed status.

Related Stories:
• Indiana House legislative council approves school takeover bill
• Muncie Community Schools governance debate resumes before legislative panel
• General Assembly special session: Testimony to be allowed on school bill
• 5 proposals to be considered at May 14 General Assembly special session now online
• Reduced role for Gary school board on agenda for special Indiana legislative session
• Indiana GOP supermajority passes bills during 2018 special legislative session
• BSU takeover raises nearly $3 million for Muncie schools

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