road funding

The 4 Big-issue Bills Approved On The Final Day Of Statehouse Committees

Feb 29, 2016
Noah Coffey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/noahwesley/

1. MEDICAL MALPRACTICE 

The House Judiciary Committee Monday revived a bill that reforms Indiana’s medical malpractice law.

The bill raises the amount someone can collect for a single malpractice incident, from $1.25 million to $1.65 million. It hasn't been raised in 18 years.

Supporters say this accounts for inflation and prevents future legislators from having to deal with the issue. Others say the increase would further discourage physicians from working in Indiana.

The bill passed 11-1.

Brian Hefele / https://www.flickr.com/photos/brhefele/6973020335

Senate fiscal leadership Thursday unveiled its attempt at a compromise in the road funding debate. The effort came in the form of a committee amendment that dismantled much of the House Republicans’ proposal.

The Senate’s action came one day after House Republicans inserted the entirety of their plan into a Senate bill, ensuring it would be kept alive in the process.  That’s because the Senate committee only kept small portions of the House plan in the proposal it unveiled. 

Jamelah E. / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamelah/27848559

As health groups advocate for the cigarette tax hike in House Republicans' road funding plan, opposition to the bill say that if people stop smoking, the state would receive less money.

Anti-smoking groups argue the opponents should support this one as a public-health measure, but Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says it’s impossible to separate the tax hike from the road repairs it's intended to pay for. 

Dave Dugdale / https://www.flickr.com/photos/davedugdale/

Senate Republicans have made clear they're not enthusiastic about tax hikes in a House road funding bill. But they're not crazy about a tax cut in the bill either.

House Republicans added a sixth-of-a-point income tax cut to their road funding bill.

Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) acknowledged it was a sweetener to try to win Senate support for the rest of the plan. But it doesn't appear to be working.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says road funding and a tax cut are, in his words, “apples and oranges.”

cycleluxembourg / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cycleluxembourg/

As legislators tinker with road funding plans, mass transit advocates say not to forget them.

Kim Irwin with the Indiana Citizens' Alliance for Transit says buses, rail and even bike trails and greenways are part of infrastructure too -- and they're the kind of infrastructure that attracts people.

The group isn't looking for money in the road bills. But Irwin says they want to start legislators thinking about increasing transit funding next year in the state budget.

Tobacco Free Indiana / Facebook

Health groups are urging the Indiana Senate to set aside its misgivings and endorse a tax hike on cigarettes.

The plan is to spend that money on Medicaid and free up existing money for roads.

But IU Health cardiologist Julie Clary argues the debate over doubling the cigarette tax shouldn't be about taxes at all, but about making it too expensive to be unhealthy.

Monique French leads the group Tobacco Free Indiana and says a cigarette tax increase would push 40,000 Hoosier smokers to quit, and dissuade 50,000 teenagers from starting.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM / https://www.flickr.com/photos/auvet/7974506488

The bill proposing tax hikes to keep Indiana's roads in good repair includes another proposal for raising money -- toll roads.

But even if the bill passes, motorists won't be paying to drive on Indiana roads for at least five years -- if ever.

The bill simply orders INDOT to study whether tolls on I-65 and I-70 would be workable.

State law requires legislative approval of any tolls, and federal law bans tolls on roads that used to be free.

But Congress has approved an experiment to grant three states an exception to that rule.

Noah Coffey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/noahwesley/

Republicans in the House Roads and Transportation Committee Wednesday rejected an attempt by Democrats to remove all tax increases from the House GOP road funding plan. 

The Democrats’ amendment – offered by Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) – would have shifted all money from the sales tax on gasoline to road funding; only a small portion of that revenue source currently goes to roads. 

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

The road funding plans moving through the House and Senate would mark a first: they'd reduce the amount of money the state considers an adequate reserve.

Three decades ago, House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) recalls, the state thought a six-and-a-half-percent surplus was enough, only to discover in the 1991 recession that it wasn't.

“That was clear that that was not the case in the recessions of the 90s. We moved ourselves up to about nine-or-10-percent,” Bosma says. “It was clear that that was not sufficient for the recession of 2007 and '08.”

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

During testimony Wednesday for the House GOP’s road funding plan, local government leaders applauded the potential influx of money to their communities, but taxpayers’ advocates weren’t happy with the source of that new money-higher gas and cigarette taxes.

All three mayors who spoke at the hearing said they support the bill.

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott says with a current budget of $6 million a year, the city is still $3 million short of being able to overlay and patch what they already have. And he says the bill's dollar-for-dollar matching grant program would help.

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