INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Leaders from both parties on Monday pledged sweeping public health and workforce development measures during the Indiana legislative session, but differed on ways to get there.
Speaking at length with reporters for the first time since Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed his budget priorities last week, Senate Republican leaders said their focus will be on cutting health care costs. Her ideas include banning non-competition clauses for hospital doctors and requiring pharmacy benefit managers to pass on any discounts they receive to all patients who buy their medicines.
Additionally, Senator Ed Charbonneau, a Republican from Valparaiso, said he will sponsor legislation that would require all public health agencies to meet a minimum set of standards if they choose to accept additional government funding.
“I think most of them will appreciate that if they decide to go for it,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to overlook the point that this doesn’t dictate anything to any district. It’s an opportunity to sign up.”
The 2023 Legislature met on Monday.
Notably, the Senate Republicans’ published list of priorities lacks any mention of funding for education. When asked about Holcomb’s proposal to increase K-12 base spending by $1.157 billion over the next two years, Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, a Martinsville Republican, said lawmakers would consider it. He said the Republican goal is to make sure the dollars spent on education get to the teachers in the classroom.
Democrats said they want lawmakers to prioritize funding for traditional public schools over vouchers and charter schools. Additionally, they said that universal pre-kindergarten and paid childcare will go a long way in solving Indiana’s educational and workplace challenges.
Senator Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, said she will introduce legislation creating a tax credit to help working parents pay for child care.
“Indiana businesses cite the lack of child care as their top external labor barrier,” she said. “There are so many parents who need and want to work to support their families to care for their children, but cannot because they cannot find a trustworthy or affordable option to care for their child.”
Democratic leaders said they also plan to press lawmakers to approve the full $240 million-a-year public health boost recommended by a blue-ribbon panel last year. Holcomb’s budget includes a $120 million increase for fiscal 2024, which begins July 1, and a $227 million increase for fiscal 2025.
Fault lines also emerged over a Republican-backed proposed constitutional amendment that would ban bail for any criminal suspect considered “a significant risk to the public.” Sen. Eric Koch, a Bedford Republican, said it would help deter violent criminals from committing more crimes while they are on bail awaiting trial.
Senate Minority Greg Taylor, an Indianapolis Democrat, said he has mixed feelings about the legislation. Taylor, who is black, said while he agrees with the concept behind Koch’s proposal, he worries that “people who look like me” would in practice be more likely to be denied bail.