Two-thirds of filed Senate bills dead, including immigrant help and marijuana legalization

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Indiana Statehouse (IL file photo)

Just one in three of the Indiana Senate’s filed bills — about 160 of 489 total — survived do-or-die deadlines this week.

Among the casualties are some bills aimed at helping immigrants residing in Indiana without authorization, a collection of marijuana legalization proposals and even one on craft hemp, plus changes to Airbnbs and seat belts in court.

The weeks ahead will be crammed with headlines on what’s moving forward, but just as significant are the proposed changes to state law that won’t come to fruition — for now. Any bill the full Senate didn’t approve by Tuesday is dead.

Meanwhile, just a quarter of House bills made that chamber’s deadlines.

Lawmakers could resurrect fallen proposals by inserting the language into live bills, but the majority are dead at least until next year.

Mixed results for Hoosiers without citizenship

A Senate bill expanding driving privileges to undocumented immigrants residing in the state without authorization made it further than it ever has this session but will go no further after it died in a fiscal committee last month.

So did an attempt, also by Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, to make non-citizen college hopefuls eligible for cheaper in-state tuition rather than higher out-of-state rates.

Senate Bill 135 would have let people who attended a Hoosier high school for at least four years and either graduated from one or earned a diploma equivalent qualify for lower tuition.

Those without legal status would’ve had to file an affidavit with a public college or university that they have applied, or will, to legalize their status. And they wouldn’t have been able to apply for other government aid.

That bill died without a committee hearing, but another immigration-related bill progressed through the Senate and has been sent to the House.

Senate Bill 376 would expand Medicaid eligibility to people who do legally reside in the state, even if they’re not yet citizens, and expand federal children’s health insurance program eligibility to minors with legal residence.

The bill would also tell agencies and local units of government that they don’t have to verify citizenship or immigration status to decide someone’s eligibility for programs like the special supplemental food program for women, infants and children.

Indiana holds out against marijuana legalization

To no one’s surprise, Indiana will go at least another year — and likely more — without advancing a growing number of marijuana legalization bills.

A House committee heard one such bill for the first time this session, drawing headlines, but it wasn’t brought up for a vote.

In the Senate, lawmakers from both parties filed bills decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less of marijuanacreating a medical use program, and several more fully legalizing the substance, permitting-taxing structure and all. None were heard in committee and died earlier this session.

One bill would even have established a legal defense for people operating vehicles or boats with marijuana found in their blood, as long as they weren’t intoxicated at the time. It didn’t get a committee hearing either.

Even a bill establishing regulatory testing and packaging requirements for the distribution and sale of craft hemp flower products died earlier this month when it didn’t get heard on the Senate floor.

Short-term rental regulations and seat belts cut

A bill allowing local units of government to charge up to $25 for an annual short-term rental inspection fee cleared its first committee last month, but died in a second one — prompting its author to ditch.

Several homeowners and even town council members bemoaned their inability to curb what they described as negligent, out-of-state owners who allow massive parties under unsafe living conditions. Local short-term rental owners previously testified that abusive ones made them “look really bad.”

Committee chair Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, held the bill back, citing a lack of committee consensus.

Upon hearing that his bill wouldn’t advance from the Senate tax committee, Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, declined to present his bill and left the room.

And seat belt usage will remain inadmissible in court as part of a lawsuit after senators narrowly killed a heavily debated bill in committee last month.

Senate Bill 163 would’ve changed that, opening the possibility that those responsible for causing a crash might pay less if the injured person wasn’t wearing a safety restraint.

But lawmakers on the lawyer-heavy committee worried the measure would lay a heavy burden of proof on the victims of crashes, or take too much money from them. The bill failed on a 5-6 vote.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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