Indiana Senate Republicans prioritize health care and financial responsibility in the 2023 session

Indiana’s top Republican senators said their caucus will give broad priority to health care and fiscal responsibility at the 2023 session, and omit any education-related agenda items.

The plan was unveiled at the statehouse on Monday as lawmakers reconvened for the first day of the legislative session. The supermajority’s proposals include tax cuts, mental health funding, a statewide overhaul of local health departments, pay increases for state police officers and a policy to improve Hoosier’s privacy.

The caucus’ main initiatives are outlined in eight Senate bills, although some priorities are set to be included in the two biennial state budgets that lawmakers must finalize before the end of the April session.

Senate Bill 3, tabled by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, aims to form the State and Local Tax Review Commission to study the feasibility of ending Indiana’s income tax and reforming Hoosiers’ property taxes.

Holdman said the House and Senate chambers have already passed a plan to reduce Indiana’s individual income tax rate from 3.23% to 2.9% by 2029.

“As we look to our long-term future, I think the goal for Indiana should be to completely eliminate individual income tax rates in the coming years,” he said. “To do this, we need to look at the entire tax system holistically, rather than trying to make piecemeal changes.”

Republican Senator Scott Baldwin of Noblesville is an additional author Senate draft 2that would change state tax laws, allowing LLCs and S Corps to deduct all state tax payments from federal tax returns.

Senator Ryan Mishler, R-Mishawaka

Under federal law, individual taxpayers can get a federal tax deduction for money they pay in state taxes, up to $10,000. But for companies that pay corporate income tax, there is no such cap on the deduction of government tax payments.

Baldwin said this change would level the playing field for businesses — especially small ones — and result in $50 million in tax savings for Hoosier businesses.

“This change will have essentially no tax impact on the state budget, but will help boost your business and reduce federal tax levels,” Baldwin said.

Republican Sen. Ryan Mishler of Mishawaka said the caucus is also seeking to continue paying off the pre-1996 teachers’ pension fund, which has an outstanding debt of about $6 billion.

The state has paid in about $4 billion in recent years, Mishler noted, adding that “we can do something transformative with income or property taxes” once the state meets its obligations to the pension fund.

Equalization of public health across the country

Senate bill 1written by Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, would provide ongoing funding to establish a system of certified behavioral health clinics in Indiana.

Crider said the bill, as currently drafted, would provide $30 million to expand levels of mental health services statewide. He stressed the need for more centers that provide 24-hour access to post-crisis care and support.

“We will get Hoosiers the mental health care they need,” Crider said.

Senator Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso

Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, will carry three major healthcare bills, the largest of which is Senate draft 4which seeks to restructure the state’s public health system and create “uniform standards” that Hoosiers can expect when they go to a local health department.

According to the bill, the state will give money to Indiana’s local health departments with an 80-20 match. Local governments can decide whether or not to participate. Local health departments that accept the new funding must provide core public health services as determined by the state health department.

The governor’s public health commission has been pushing for a public health funding injection — originally recommending at least $243 million a year. However, Holcomb denied the request in his own budget proposal, targeting $120 million in fiscal 2024 and an additional $227 million in fiscal 2025.

“Where we’re going at the end will be settled as we go through the budget process,” Charbonneau said of a final figure.

Governing health care costs

Charbonneau Senate Bill 6 would ensure insurance claims are paid appropriately based on where the service was provided. He said the measure would end practices that allow inaccurate billing and save Hoosiers millions a year in medical bills.

This location of service delivery would prevent healthcare companies from charging higher “hospital” rates for services that are part of a hospital system but not on a hospital campus.

His Senate bill 8 would additionally require that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) pass on the discounts they receive for prescriptions to the patients who buy the medicines or to all insured persons.

Often pharmaceutical companies give PBMs a rebate for each time a person covered by their plan receives specific prescriptions. Charbonneau said his bill would ensure those savings go to the person or plan that bought the drug.

Another priority bill, Senate bill 7would end anti-competitive non-compete obligations and physician referral incentives

Law author Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne, said the legislation would allow doctors to compete on their own terms, which would help encourage competition in the healthcare market and contribute to lower prices.

“These incentive agreements restrict competition in the healthcare market and do nothing to improve patient care,” he said. “It is time to ban this anti-competitive behavior for the benefit of Hoosier patients.”

Increase in the salaries of state troops

Republican Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, outlined a Senate plan to increase salaries for the Indiana State Police.

The governor said last week he would provide $30 million to increase the state troopers’ starting salary from about $56,000 to $70,000. GOP senators weren’t clear on what kind of pay rises they’re supporting, but Garten noted that state police recruiting “has never been more challenging” than it is right now.

Senator Chris Garten, R-Charlestown.

The state police department’s youngest recruit class was the smallest since 1946 and had just 23 candidates, Garten said. In 2006 there were almost 300 graduates in two classes.

Separately, Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, suggested an amendment to the Indiana Constitution To allow judges to refuse bail if a suspect “clearly poses a significant risk to the public”.

The Indiana Constitution currently requires that bail be offered to every criminal suspect except in cases of murder and treason.

“This has caused difficulties for some of our local courts when trying to set bail for dangerous criminal suspects who are not charged with both of these crimes,” Koch said, although he noted that state law allows judges to raise a Bail the suspect if they pose a danger to the public.

However, if bail is set too high, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that it could be deemed unconstitutional.

“We think this is a tool that the Indiana criminal justice system needs to have in its toolbox,” Koch said.

Protection of Hoosiers Personal Data

To round out the Senate GOP’s priorities, Sen, Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne submitted Senate draft 5creating a “Bill of Rights” for Hoosier’s privacy that would allow consumers to monitor how their data is being used and have it deleted if they so choose.

Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne (Courtesy Indiana Senate Republicans)

“This legislation is consumer empowerment law that establishes valuable consumer rights, such as the right to review what data has been collected about you, the right to correct that information or even have it deleted,” Brown said.

The measure also includes the obligation for companies to carry out annual data protection assessments and security reviews.

If passed, the bill will come into force later this year.

Companies that collect sensitive data – such as medical and biometric information or details about religious beliefs, race and ethnicity – would have an increased requirement to obtain prior consumer consent before processing that information.

To ensure compliance, Brown said the Indiana Attorney General has the authority to conduct investigations and seek penalties for alleged violations.

“This legislation will put Indiana at the forefront of protecting our Hoosiers while ensuring their businesses have a clear understanding of what is required of them when doing business in this state,” Brown said.

education is lacking

However, none of the Senate GOP’s priorities revolve around education. And that despite the budget Requests from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb Injecting billions more federal dollars into schools.

Republican Senate Representative Tem Rodric Bray said education is “the most important thing we do here in the state of Indiana,” but cited previous increases in education funding in the 2019 and 2021 budgets.

When asked about Holcomb’s education priorities, Bray didn’t discuss the governor’s proposal to increase tuition fees, instead saying the state has “some restraints” on spending due to inflation and a possible upcoming recession. Nor did he comment on Holcomb’s proposal to abolish textbook and circular fees for Hoosier students. The pre-K expansion “is certainly part of the conversation, but obviously that’s also an expensive process,” Bray continued.

House Speaker Rep. Todd Huston also said his caucus would “look at” Holcomb’s textbook fee proposal and advocated giving parents and schools more spending flexibility, but declined to put his support behind Holcomb’s agenda priority.

“I think we’re going to look at what options are out there … and how we’re going to give parents the flexibility to use those dollars to get the curriculum materials they need for their kids,” Huston said.