11/27 Torchbearer Weekly Policy Update
Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Thank you letting us be your trusted source for local, state, and federal policy updates.
- Elections, Commerce Get New Senate Committee Chairs
- Arguments Heard in Indiana Case Alleging Discrimination Against Certain Immigrants’ Driving Privileges
- U.S. Unemployment Claims Drop In Another Sign of Labor Market Resiliency
- Indiana Gas Tax To Drop In December
- Senators Call for Investigation of Health Insurers’ Role in Driving Up Drug Costs
- Indiana Named a Leader In Computer Science Education. State Officials Look To Increase Enrollment
- Young, Hassan Lead Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Workforce Training, Employee Retention Tools
- Share the Torchbearer Newsletter with Your Network!
- Important Dates
Let’s dive in.
Elections, Commerce Get New Senate Committee Chairs
Two Senate committees will see new chairs following the resignations of two senators in recent months, shuffling leadership roles within the Republican caucus.
Why it matters: These changes in leadership will impact the direction and decision-making of the Senate committees, influencing key policies and legislation.
Sen. Mike Gaskill will helm the Senate Committee on Elections, succeeding Sen. Jon Ford who played a pivotal role in the expansion of the state's gaming industry and reforming the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Sen. Brian Buchanan will lead the Senate Committee on Commerce and Technology, focusing on supporting Indiana businesses and keeping the Hoosier economy strong.
The bottom line: These new chairs will bring their expertise and leadership to guide the Senate committees in their respective areas, shaping the legislative agenda and impacting the lives of Hoosiers. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Arguments Heard in Indiana Case Alleging Discrimination Against Certain Immigrants’ Driving Privileges
What’s new: A lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center alleges that Indiana is discriminating against certain groups when providing driver's licenses.
The backstory: The law, which went into effect in July, allows Ukrainians on humanitarian parole to obtain licenses, while individuals from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua cannot. The lawsuit argues that this law is discriminatory and unfair. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles argues that the law mirrors federal objectives.
Why it matters: The ACLU of Indiana contends that it is unfair for Ukrainians to be the only group receiving these privileges. The case is ongoing.
The big picture: The case highlights the broader issue of immigration policies and their impact on marginalized communities, emphasizing the importance of equitable treatment for all individuals.
What's next: The judge has not yet set a timeline for making a decision. (Louisville Public Media)
U.S. Unemployment Claims Drop In Another Sign of Labor Market Resiliency
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, a sign that U.S. job market remains resilient despite higher interest rates.
Why it matters: The applications are viewed as a proxy for layoffs. They remain extraordinarily low by historical standards, signalling that most Americans enjoy unusual job security.
By the numbers: The Labor Department reported that jobless claims dropped by 24,000 to 209,000. The four-week moving average of claims fell by 750 to 220,000.
The big picture: The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate 11 times since March 2022 to slow the economy and rein in inflation. The job market and economic growth remained surprisingly resilient, defying predictions of a recession.
What's next: Hiring has slowed from the breakneck pace of previous years, but job growth remains strong and businesses have yet to start reducing their workforce significantly. (IBJ)
Indiana Gas Tax To Drop In December
Indiana’s gasoline use tax will drop to 18.6 cents per gallon starting Dec. 1.
Why it matters: The drop impacts what amounts to the sales tax on gas in Indiana.
By the numbers: That’s a nearly three-cent drop since October, and the lowest mark since March of this year. It’s almost five cents less than December of last year.
The big picture: The use tax is based on the average wholesale price of gasoline in the previous month. The total combined state and federal taxes on a gallon of gasoline will be 71.0 cents effective in December.
What's next: The average price for gas overall in Indiana is the lowest it’s been since January sitting around $3.27 a-gallon, says GasBuddy. (95.3 MNC)
Senators Call for Investigation of Health Insurers’ Role in Driving Up Drug Costs
What’s new: A pair of U.S. senators called on the federal government to investigate health insurers that are paying high prices for generic drugs for serious diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Dig deeper: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Sen. Mike Braun (R., Ind.) sent a letter on Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General requesting an investigation into the high drug prices and any role played by health insurers’ shared ownership with the pharmacies that often fill the prescriptions.
The letter cites a recent article in The Wall Street Journal that reported that big health insurers Cigna Group, CVS Health and UnitedHealth Group are paying multiples more for drugs such as cancer therapy Gleevec and multiple-sclerosis treatment Tecfidera than what manufacturers charge for generic versions.
What they’re saying: “These findings are alarming,” the senators said of the Journal article in its letter to HHS Inspector General Christi Grimm. “This anticompetitive behavior raises costs, hurts independent pharmacies, and undercuts Congress’ ability to rein in excessive profits of insurance companies.”
Yes, but: The senators also asked the Health Department’s investigators to examine whether the healthcare companies are able to dodge a federal law that requires insurers to allocate no more than 15% to 20% of insurance premiums to profits and administrative costs, known as the Medical Loss Ratio, or MLR. (Wall Street Journal)
Indiana Named a Leader In Computer Science Education. State Officials Look To Increase Enrollment
A new report ranks Indiana sixth in the nation for K-12 computer science education, with 91% of high schools offering foundational computer science courses.
Why it matters: Computer science is a crucial component that ties various subjects together, and Indiana's efforts to increase computer science courses and policies are commendable.
By the numbers: Indiana has adopted nine new computer science policies in 2023 and has expanded courses to small and rural schools.
The big picture: Indiana is making progress in promoting computer science education and integrating it into STEM learning.
What's next: Indiana officials aim to further increase enrollment in computer science courses and prioritize training teachers in this field. (Indiana Public Media)
Young, Hassan Lead Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Workforce Training, Employee Retention Tools
U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) reintroduced the Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen workforce development and ensure job providers have the necessary tools to hire and retrain workers.
Why it matters: This legislation would increase the amount of tax-free educational assistance employees can receive from their employers and would cover expenses for education-relation tools, technology, and equipment.
The big picture: The rapid pace of AI and other technological advancements underscores the importance of upskilling and training for workers across various sectors.
What's next: The Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act would update the tax code by expanding the tax exclusion from $5,250 to $12,000 for the next two years and would also expand the tax exclusion to include the cost of education-related tools and technology. (Press Release)
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Tuesday, December 12th - Bill Request Deadline for Senate @ 4:30pm
Tuesday, December 12th - Bill Request Deadline for House @ 5pm
Thursday, January 4th - Unlimited Bill Filing Ends in the Senate
Friday, January 5th - Two Per Day Bill Filing Begins in the Senate
Monday, January 8th - First Day of the 2024 Legislative Session
Tuesday, January 9th - Senate Bill Filing Deadline
Tuesday, January 9th - State of the State @ 7pm
Wednesday, January 10th - State of the Judiciary @ 2pm
Thursday, January 11th - House Bill Filing Deadline
Tuesday, January 16th - Senate Deadline to Assign Bills to Committee
Tuesday, January 16th - Statements of Economic Interest Due in House and Senate
Tuesday, January 30th - House Committee Report Deadline
Thursday, February 1st - House 2nd Reading Deadline
Thursday, February 1st - Senate Committee Report Deadline
Monday, February 5th - House 3rd Reading Deadline
Monday, February 5th - Senate 2nd Reading Deadline
Tuesday, February 6th - Senate 3rd Reading Deadline
Tuesday, February 27th - House Committee Report Deadline
Thursday, February 29th - House 2nd Reading Deadline
Thursday, February 29th - Senate Committee Report Deadline
Monday, March 4th - House 3rd Reading Deadline
Monday, March 4th - Senate 2nd Reading Deadline
Tuesday, March 5th - Senate 3rd Reading Deadline
Thursday, March 14 - Last Day to Adjourn Sine Die