2013 Session of the Indiana General Assembly Kicks Off
The 150 members of the Indiana House and Senate gathered on November 20 for “Organization Day,” the official beginning of the 2013 legislative session. Returning lawmakers took their oaths of office, along with the 25 new House members – 19 Republicans and 6 Democrats, and 4 new Senate members – 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat. The November 6 election brought “supermajorities” of Republicans to both chambers: 69 Republicans and 31 Democrats in the House, and 37 Republicans and 13 Democrats in the Senate. These ratios mean that Democrats are not needed in either chamber for quorum to start business, and minority walkouts are no longer an option to stop or slow legislative action. Governor-elect Mike Pence and Lieutenant Governor-elect Sue Ellspermann will officially assume office in January of 2013. Follow news about your newly elected legislators at the Indiana General Assembly website.
Republican legislative leadership has remained relatively static. Speaker Brian Bosma returns as leader of the House, and President Pro-Tem David Long remains head of the Senate. The weightiest change is assumption of the Ways and Means Chair by Rep. Tim Brown, a physician from Crawfordsville, replacing retired Chair Jeff Espich. In the minority caucuses, Sen. Tim Lanane will now lead the Senate Democrats following the departure of Sen. Vi Simpson, and Rep. Scott Pelath will be the new leader of House Democrats. The Senate announced new committee leadership, but the House has not yet announced leadership and membership of committees other than Ways and Means, including a new chair for the House Health Committee. However, with the reduction in numbers of House Democrats, regular committees will have only four Democrat members, contrasted with five members in the past two years.
Upcoming Legislative Issues
The largest issue to be undertaken next session is determination of the two-year state budget. Although the state recently reported a $2.1 billion surplus, $360 million will be applied to unfunded pensions, and another $360 million will be refunded to taxpayers. Leaders have also already acknowledged that some of the $300 million cut from K-12 education will be replaced, there has been general agreement that funding should be made available for early education, and with depletion of funds from the 2006 toll road lease (and elimination of toll road revenue), more general fund dollars will have to be spent for roads. The impact of these increased spending items will be compounded by a reduction in revenue from a phase-out of the state’s inheritance tax earlier this year, a large cut in the corporate income tax last year, and what may be a decrease in gambling revenues, the third-highest source of revenue, caused by the proliferation of casinos in surrounding states. Governor-elect Pence has also called for a 10% income tax cut, but thus far this idea has not gained much traction in the General Assembly. All of these factors make it unlikely that there will be significant increases in appropriations. The state’s official revenue and Medicaid forecasts will be announced on December 17, 2012.
Always of particular interest to aging and disabled clients of the Area Agencies on Aging are appropriations for CHOICE and Medicaid programs. In recent recessionary years we have been able to advocate successfully for continued funding of the CHOICE program at $48.765 million per year, but increasing amounts are being taken from CHOICE to match Aged and Disabled Medicaid Waiver slots. Amounts to be appropriated for CHOICE and Waivers will necessitate continued advocacy in the upcoming months. The Area Agencies on Aging will again join AARP to rally at the Statehouse in support of home care funding on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. All supporters are welcome and encouraged to attend this “Rally for Independence.”
With the re-election of President Obama, Indiana lawmakers must also now determine how to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The first decision is how Indiana will implement a health insurance exchange, the system through which consumers will find and select health insurance plans. Governor-elect Pence has announced that Indiana will opt into the federally-run exchange, but some of his party are asking that this decision be reconsidered in the next year, meaning that Indiana could operate a “hybrid” exchange with the federal government, or even operate its own state-run exchange.
A larger immediate issue for the legislature will be whether or not to expand Medicaid for adults. Medicaid coverage for adults is now allowed only up to 24% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Children are covered separately with Medicaid up to 250% FPL. The ACA allows states to expand Medicaid coverage for adults from 24% to 138% of FPL, with 100% federal Medicaid match for the first years, continuing at 90% federal match. Current general federal Medicaid match for Indiana is only about 67%. Subsidies for health insurance premiums will be available on a sliding scale for those above 100% FPL. Proposals under discussion will include an increase in Medicaid coverage up to 138% FPL, an increase in Medicaid coverage up to 100% FPL, and using the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) – a Medicaid waiver program - as a vehicle for Medicaid expansion, although the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has already informed Indiana that HIP’s current cost-shares and asset tests will not be allowed for Medicaid.
The legislature will also consider an initiative to allow local taxation to fund mass transit, supported by the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and by a number of individual AAAs. Of concern could also be the return of proposals to require the value of Section 42 IRS Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to be included in the assessed value of a property for taxation, and broad proposals to allow termination of a consumer from Medicaid services without due process, both of which the AAAs successfully opposed last session.
The Indiana General Assembly will convene to start considering legislation on Monday, January 7, 2013. Since this is a “long” budget year, the session may continue by statute through April 29, 2013.
Last updated November 2012