Bill Watch 2014

Despite the fast pace of the short 2014 Indiana legislative session, Hoosiers concerned about protecting our environment can celebrate several victories, including the passage of mass transit funding, defeat of a “right to farm” constitutional amendment, removal of the most harmful provisions in the “Ag Gag” bill, and stopping bills that would have allowed unethical canned hunting and prevented environmental regulations stronger than the federal safeguards.

Major Wins: HEC Played a Key Role

Win: Defeated Factory Farm Constitutional Amendment
We successfully pushed back against efforts to give unprecedented constitutional protection to factory farms. During the prior 2013 legislative session, “Right to Harm” language was proposed in a resolution to amend the Indiana Constitution – the Bill of Rights – to guarantee a right to “hunt, fish, and commercially produce meat, poultry, and dairy products.” Because of our efforts to raise awareness of this dangerous measure, we convinced lawmakers not to reintroduce the measure again this year — effectively killing it.

Win: Pushing Back Against Dangerous Anti-Environmental Legislation
We also organized a coalition of sixteen diverse organizations to defeat a bill that would have tied the hands of Indiana policy experts to strengthen health safeguards beyond minimal federal standards. HB 1143, introduced by Rep. Dave Wolkins (R-Warsaw) would have prohibited the Indiana Environmental Rules Board from adopting any environmental safeguards that are stronger than the federal minimum standards. HB 1143 passed the House of Representatives, but was defeated in the Senate when Senate Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Ed Charbonneau refused to call a vote on the bill.

In other legislative action, language that would have put into law a moratorium on new environmental regulations was stripped from HEA 1005 – ensuring that the environmental rules board retains the authority to enact new safeguards!

Win: Mass Transit
And we achieved a great breakthrough, at last, in working closely with our allies to see a mass transit funding bill finally become law! Since 2008, transit advocates including HEC have sought legislation authorizing cities and counties to establish regional transit systems and enable new, local funding sources for improved public transit. This effort succeeded in 2014 with the passage of SEA 176, the Central Indiana Transit Bill. This legislation authorizes six central Indiana counties to cooperate in building an expanded regional transit system with increased local bus service, more express bus routes, and for the first time, modern bus rapid transit corridors. SEA 176 also authorizes the participating communities to ask voters to approve a modest local income tax dedicated to funding the improved transit system.

We commend Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indy), Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Indy), Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indy), Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indy), Rep. Cherish Pryor (D-Indy), and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) for being champions of the bill.

Encouraging Wins: HEC Assisted our Partners

Win: Ag Gag (SB 101)
The bill as initially proposed would have criminalized the act of documenting animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental and public health violations at industrial livestock operations. Partnering with a coalition of news media, animal welfare, and other groups, we secured amendments that neutered the final bill to simply an enhanced criminal trespass law without overtly implicating whistle-blowers. So, while SEA 101 passed this session, it is not an Ag Gag law.

Other Wins:

  • Fenced Hunting (SB 404) – this bill died in an Indiana Senate floor vote; HEC provided supporting testimony, select lobbying.
  • Recycling (HB 1183) – creates a first ever goal for municipal waste to recycling; HEC provided supporting testimony.
  • HB 1217 – HEC played a role in defeating an effort to remove air permitting requirements from anaerobic digesters.
  • CHP (HB 1143) – creates new incentives for combined heat and power, a key HEC priority; HEC provided public interest support.
  • HR 16 – creates a study committee for wilderness protection; HEC generated grassroots support via enews, social media.
  • HB 1241 – would have removed the main private sector mechanism for brownfield re-development; HEC provided public interest support.

Some Setbacks

Senate Enrolled Act 340, as it was initially introduced, would have allowed industrial users to opt out of Indiana’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), also known as the Demand-Side Management (DSM) program. Language introduced late in the session completely undermined program. The EERS was established under the Daniels administration, and was Indiana’s most significant clean energy program. Known as Energizing Indiana, this innovative, multi-utility energy efficiency initiative has saved more than 1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since its inception on January 2, 2012.

Despite our veto campaign, Governor Pence allowed SEA 340 to become law without his signature on Thursday, March 27th. He has vowed to seek legislation in 2015 to establish a new energy efficiency program to replace Energizing Indiana.

Although we are pleased that our lawmakers recognized the danger of enshrining Right to Harm in the Indiana Constitution, we are discouraged that they passed a statute this year which still provides unprecedented legal protections for factory farms. The new law — SEA 186 — requires environmental regulators, planning and zoning officials, and judges to construe laws and rules in favor of big agri-businesses. The Hoosier Environmental Council will monitor the implementation of this law, to ensure that it is not used to unfairly infringe on the rights of Hoosiers.

The Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment (SJR 9) also passed, though it did not include the troubling Right to Farm language. HEC’s effort to alter the amendment – to safeguard DNR and state endangered species – did not prevail.