The Indiana General Assembly’s 2021 Legislative Session is closed, and AARP Indiana’s Legislative Team secured several victories for the 50+ once again.
This year’s legislative session provided both new and old challenges. We navigated advocating for older Hoosiers in the virtual environment – providing testimony digitally, working the phones, and sitting behind screens to get the job done. Familiar foes returned intent on undoing progress on issues like mass transit.
Let’s outline a handful of AARP Indiana’s legislative victories and what it means for the 50+ and their communities.
Transit – SB 141 defeated, HB 1191 language removed
Bus rapid transit – a critical mobility resource for older Hoosiers from Indianapolis transit provider IndyGo – was under legislative attack this session. SB 141, and later, language in HB 1191 would have jeopardized the expansion of speedy, reliable bus travel in the state capitol. At one point, the legislation would have prohibited planned dedicated lanes for public buses in Indianapolis, and at another, legislation would have required IndyGo to repay companies like Citizen’s Energy for moving utilities as a result of construction projects. Both actions would have put IndyGo in dire financial straits, but AARP members and our Legislative Team, voiced their strong opposition to these moves, and neither will get anywhere near Governor Holcomb’s desk.
HB 1001 – The Budget
AARP Indiana’s Legislative Team fought for several funding priorities this session. Included in this budget are $250 million for broadband grants. Several line items were not guaranteed to stay at last fiscal year’s funding levels, but with some cajoling and other factors like revenues being better than expected and a larger-than-normal influx of federal dollars, millions were retained for critical services. The Indiana Community and Home Options to Institutional Care for the Elderly and Disabled (CHOICE) Program, the Public Mass Transit Fund, Adult Protective Services, Adult Guardianship, and Adult Guardianship Services all maintained their funding levels.
SB 292 – Public Health Facility Reporting
SB 292 codifies the state’s system for nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases and deaths. This data is made available to the public through an online dashboard. We’re not through the pandemic yet, and it is critical that this layer of transparency remains in place.
SB 352, SB 359, SB 377, HB 1449 – Broadband
Three senate bills and one house bill aim to help expand access to high speed Internet across the state. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that people of all ages count on high speed Internet. Students need it to attend school and complete assignments. Older Hoosiers need it for telehealth. Expansion of broadband will help alleviate isolation and enhance access to healthcare across the state.
SB 276 – Powers of Guardian After Death
SB 276 gives state-appointed guardians more latitude to help bring matters to a close when their protected persons die. Under prior state law, their purview was greatly limited when a ward passed away.
This legislation allows a guardian to be considered and take control much faster when it comes to legally requesting an autopsy, executing the disposition of a protected person’s body, and making other final arrangements, including funerals and other ceremonies. It is an unfortunate truth that some Hoosiers who are under guardianship do not have a surviving or willing and able spouse, power of attorney, or other person close to them to handle end-of-life matters with efficiency and dignity. These are situations in which guardians can be a much-needed mercy, and SB 276 enables them to help sooner.
HB 1191 – Energy Matters
As renewable energy options become more readily available to the public, there could be a push to mandate what utilities are suitable for the home. As an example, a municipality could ask that homeowners switch from a combination of electricity and natural gas to power their abodes to electricity on its own. While greener options are great for the climate, not all older adults can afford to switch or pay higher energy bills. HB 1191 bans this type of municipal mandate, protecting Hoosiers 50+ that are unable to generate additional income.
HB 1468 – Various Health Matters
One aspect of HB 1468 addresses the coronavirus pandemic. It allows for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines and that the guidelines governing these actions will stay in effect.
SB 3 – Telehealth Matters
SB 3 expands access to telehealth services by removing barriers that would otherwise prevent some individuals from utilizing this option for health care, particularly those living in rural communities. It also specifies that requirements cannot be imposed concerning the “originating site” for telehealth, which allows the “originating site” to be wherever the patient is in the state, including their home, a long-term care facility, or elsewhere. It also expands the application of the telehealth statute to include additional licensed practitioners and broadens the telehealth definition by removing telephone and audio-only exclusions. This improves access for people living in areas without sufficient high-speed Internet service and those who may not be able to afford or use devices that allow video technology.
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