Indiana General Assembly Prepares for the 2017 Legislative Session
The results of the November 8th General Election did not upset the status quo of Indiana politics, as the GOP maintained its hold on the Governor's office with the election of Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb and swept the statewide races for Attorney General (Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill) and State Superintendent of Education (Jennifer McCormick). The Republican caucuses of the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives maintained their supermajorities in both chambers, putting the balance of seats in the Indiana Senate at 41-9 in favor of Republicans (previously 40-10) and the House of Representatives at 70-30 (previously 71-29).
Later this month, state legislators will convene in Indianapolis for the unofficial first day of the 2017 Legislative Session, called Organization Day, to be sworn in and to discuss their legislative priorities for the coming year. Official legislative business will begin in early January 2017 for the "long session" when legislators will meet through the end of April 2017 with the primary goal of crafting the state's biennial budget. Until that time, legislators and legislative staff will work hard through the holidays preparing final drafts of legislation to be filed for introduction in the first few weeks of January.
Legislative leaders have not yet announced the chairmanships of the Standing Committees of the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives, but IAFP staff anticipates that Representative Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove) will remain as the Chair of the House Committee on Public Health. The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee will have new leadership in the 2017 Legislative Session following the retirement of longtime Chairwoman Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis) from the Indiana Senate.
Though we will not know the full scope of health care issues to be considered next year until after the passing of January's bill filing deadlines, IAFP staff anticipates that lawmakers will again consider legislation that would raise the state's tobacco tax and provide funding to tobacco cessation efforts and other public health programs with the aim of lowering the rate of smoking among Hoosiers. Members on the Ways & Means and Appropriations committees will also take into consideration the recommendations of the newly formed Graduate Medical Education Board in their development of the state's budget, as legislators consider opportunities to support expansion of the number of residency training slots across the state.
Further, the General Assembly's interim study committee on health—a committee tasked with reviewing health care matters requiring in-depth review and input from experts—met over the course of the summer and recently submitted its findings to legislative leaders. As a result, legislation may be formally introduced in the 2017 Legislative Session concerning the committee's study topics on neonatal abstinence syndrome and other addiction-related matters, as well as a requirement for hospital workers with direct patient contact to receive certain vaccinations. Renewed efforts to expand the use of telehealth services and to address health care price transparency are also anticipated next session.
IAFP staff will continue to closely monitor any new legislative developments leading up to January and keep you abreast of our efforts to work with legislative leaders as proposals affecting family medicine are discussed in the 2017 Legislative Session.