The 120th Indiana General Assembly adjourned sine die on Saturday morning, April 22, 2017. A total of 1245 bills were introduced this session, with 271 making their way to the Governor for action. The Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem have 7 days after sine die to sign all bills, after which they are sent to the Governor's office. Once a bill reaches the Governor's desk, he has seven 7 days to act. The Governor’s deadline is May 5 to approve legislation, veto legislation, or let it become law without his signature. A technical corrections day, if needed, is set for Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
For the Prosperity Indiana policy agenda, it was a legislative session of definitively mixed results. Let’s start with the good news.
Senate bill (SB) 245 proposed to expand payday lending in Indiana. It was defeated. As Prosperity Indiana outlined in our introduction to this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly, fighting back efforts to expand predatory lending was a top state policy priority. Thank you to members for your responses to our action alert and Prosperity Indiana member testimony. Steve Hoffman, the President of the Prosperity Indiana Board and the President/CEO of Brightpoint, based in Fort Wayne, provided testimony opposed to the measure and shared client insights and details of the Community Loan Center his organization administers to reduce reliance on payday lending.
Another of our state legislative priorities seeing success was expanding economic opportunities for Hoosier families, including childcare resources and pre-k expansion for low-income households. SB 154 passed and increases the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) asset limit to $5,000. The bill was amended to increase the asset limit from its current $2,250 level to $5,000.
In other good news, the biennial state budget, House bill (HB) 1001 included $970,000 per year for funding Individual Development Accounts. A new “housing first” program receives $1M per year. The program is authorized by SB 242, authored by Sen. Merritt, and establishes the program at the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). The budget allows the Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) to make grants to qualified entities to be used for services to veterans. Among the uses of these grant funds are eliminating homelessness, moving from public housing, accessing state and federal resources, and other services specified. Other highlights of the budget include increasing K-12 funding by $345 million and $21 million to expand the state's preschool pilot program.
SB 310 allows a county where a land bank is established to adopt an ordinance allowing a land bank to retain between 25% and 50% of the assessed value on transferred properties. It also authorizes a third-class city to which the unsafe building law applies to establish a land bank to manage and improve the marketability of distressed real property in the city. Ninety-four (94) jurisdictions qualify as third class cities.
The 2017 session included several disappointments for Prosperity Indiana’s policy priorities.
Prosperity Indiana worked with two legislative leaders Rep. Burton and Sen. Merritt to introduce bills to extend the $50 foreclosure filing fee, which helps fund statewide foreclosure counseling training, extensive counseling services and court coordinator-assisted mortgage workouts for Indiana borrowers at risk of losing their homes. SB 227 successfully passed the Senate 39-10. Once the bill crossed to the House of Representatives, it was assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, it did not receive a hearing and died. The foreclosure filing fee expires July 1, 2017.
Sen. Eckerty and Rep. Negele authored and sponsored SB 559. The legislation created parity across the state by providing a uniform standard for property tax exemption for affordable rental housing properties owned by charitable organizations. The bill passed the Senate 47-3. Once SB 559 crossed to the House of Representatives, it was assigned to the Ways and Means Committee did not receive a hearing and died. Language was added to HB 1489 during conference committee to assign study of uniform property tax assessment of nonprofit entities to an interim committee this summer. The provisions of HB 1489 seeks the study of a more expansive issue rather than the finely tailored provisions of SB 559 dealing with residential rental property owned by a nonprofit.
Prosperity Indiana opposed SB 309, a bill that fundamentally changes net metering and solar energy investment. Director of Sustainability Allyson Mitchell testified about its dramatic and negative consequences for community development organizations and sustainable development throughout the state. SB 309 passed the General Assembly and Governor Holcomb is considering whether to sign or veto the legislation. Read a discussion of SB 309 in the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Another disappointment from the session is SB 558. This bill amends the statute concerning landlord and tenant relations to provide that a local unit of government may not regulate rental rates for privately owned real property, through a zoning ordinance or otherwise, unless the regulation is authorized by an act of the General Assembly. Among the many provisions of the bill, Indiana's residential landlord-tenant statute now allows a landlord to refuse to rent a rental unit on the basis of an occupancy standard of no more than two persons per bedroom.
Prosperity Indiana's member the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana summarized this provision of the law as limiting housing choice for families with children and forces them to rent larger, more costly apartment units than necessary, especially for couples with 3 or more children. This standard is inconsistent with federal guidance meant to provide consistency of law and decrease housing discrimination against families with children. According to the Center, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidance related to occupancy standards for families with children which recommends a review of square footage, local safety code, unit configuration, and other factors in determining occupancy limitations. Giving a landlord the option as to whether to follow or not follow this guidance will lead to increased levels of housing discrimination. SB 558 removes a city's ability to enact inclusionary zoning. Read a discussion of the SB 558 in the Indianapolis Business Journal.
You can research other approved legislation by issue on the Prosperity Indiana Legislation Tracker.
Issue Tracking list