The Indiana General Assembly broadly approved a deal providing wraparound social services and inflation relief on Friday, passing both chambers with a wide majority.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill late Friday night, saying “This fulfills what I set out to accomplish when calling the General Assembly into special session in order help Hoosiers hurting from historically high inflation. I am also especially grateful for the nearly $100 million in long overdue increased funding to support the health of our Hoosier mothers and babies. While there is still more to do, better access and awareness of all our programs will be critical to improving our infant and maternal mortality rates – a long-standing priority of my administration.”

Senate Bill 2 uses over $1 billion in reserve accounts to send $200 checks to millions of eligible Hoosiers, including hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers utilizing Social Security or disability benefits.

It also repeals the diaper tax, increases the adoption tax credit and allocates about $74 million in supports needed due to an expected abortion ban.

The bill passed the House on a 93-6 vote and the Senate approved it on a 37-9 vote.

For Sen. Travis Holdman, the author of the legislation, paying down debt was “absolutely” a priority, hence his caucus’ insistence the bill include a provision to pay $1 billion to the Pension Stabilization Fund for educators in 2023 if the reserve accounts hold more than $5 billion combined.

“We have a moral and ethical duty to our retired teachers to make sure that their fund is fully funded so that they receive what has been promised to them,” Holdman, R-Markle, said. 

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, criticized the $1 billion payment for debt obligations, saying the fund’s annual payment was already paid and money could be directed to Hoosiers who needed it. He also disapproved of the $200 going to taxpayers indiscriminately, rather than focusing on the poorest Hoosiers.

 Sen. Greg Taylor address the Senate. (Photo by Monroe Bush for Indiana Capital Chronicle. )

 

“Jim Irsay (the billionaire owner of the Indianapolis Colts) is not going to ask you for $200; I guarantee you he’s never going to know if it hits,” Taylor said.

Taylor joined eight Republicans and voted against the bill.

Other Democrats said the estimated $74 million in funding for social services wasn’t enough for families now, much less the anticipated boom in pregnancies following an abortion ban.

“SB 2 really does barely scratch the surface of recognizing the concerns for women in this state,” Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, said. “This bill does not even address funding for feeding children we already have.”

Across the Statehouse, five Democrats and one Republican rejected the bill, including Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis. 

DeLaney noted the confusing process for the poorest Hoosiers, those who normally don’t file taxes because of their low income. They will receive a $200 tax credit when they file their 2022 taxes next year. 

“It’s now a combination of some bad ideas from the Senate and limited ideas from the House,” DeLaney said. “It reminds me of when my kids would frustrate me, I’d just say, ‘Here’s $20. Go do something.’ And that’s what this is – that kind of ‘Just get out of my house.’”

He also criticized the roughly $74 million in direct appropriations and discretionary spending for social services, saying the state could, and should, do more.

What’s in Senate Bill 2?

  • Distributes over $1 billion in reserve accounts to Hoosiers in $200 checks, including those on Social Security and disability
  • $1 billion to the Pension Stabilization Fund, or Pre-1996 Retirement Fund for educators, so long as reserve accounts hold more than $5 billion in the 2023 fiscal year
  • Establishes the Hoosier Families First Fund with $45 million for state agencies to distribute via grants for maternal health programs
  • Repeals the state’s sales tax on diapers
  • Caps the gasoline sales tax at $0.295 cents per gallon until the 2023 fiscal year (though the tax may decrease based on demand)
  • Increases the adoption tax credit
  • Codifies postpartum Medicaid coverage shall be 12 months
  • Tasks the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning with analyzing reimbursement rates along the state’s borders for pregnancy services
  • Adds donated breast milk to the list of supplies and services provided by Medicaid and the Health Indiana Plan
  • Creates the doula reimbursement advisory board
  • Requires Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to seek federal approval for and adopt policies to cover long-acting reversible contraceptives
  • Authorizes human service providers, including local health departments, to seek grants for fertility awareness-based family planning
  • Prohibits the Indiana Department of Health from awarding grants for the distribution of contraceptives through schools without the permission of the minor’s parents
  • Requires the Department of Health evaluates access to low-cost birth control and education related to preventing unwanted pregnancies
  • Adds $2 Million to the anti-abortion organization Real Alternatives’ $2.5 million annual contract
  • Supplements the state’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, which pairs first-time parents with healthcare staff, with $10 million
  • Gives $5.5 million to the Safety PIN grant program to protect Indiana’s newborns
  • Allots $1 million in community grants to purchase newborn safety devices or raise awareness about the devices
  • Allows the Child Care Development Fund to cover more families with an$10 million 
  • Provides $700,000 to Medicaid to cover expanded services
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