By Erica Irish
INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the last three bills of the 2019 legislative session Wednesday, including a massive expansion of gambling and a plan to allow corporations to store carbon dioxide emissions underground.
Early Wednesday, the last day for legislation to be signed, vetoed or allowed to become law without Holcomb’s signature, the governor’s 2019 Bill Watch page listed 290 signed documents and three unsigned.
Two of the bills awaiting his signature — House Enrolled Act 1015 and Senate Enrolled Act 442— were expected to be approved last, given Holcomb’s note at a recent press conference that he wanted additional time to review each measure in-depth.
“I want to make sure I read every word of those particular bills,” Holcomb said to reporters on April 29 in reference to HEA 1015, the gambling bill, and SEA 442, which addressed carbon dioxide emissions storage. “They’re big, major, good economic development bills, but I want to make sure I read them for myself.”
Many stakeholders were anticipating the governor’s answer to HEA 1015, a proposal that drew both negative and positive attention from Indiana’s leading interest groups and policymakers. Now, with Holcomb’s signature, the measure is poised to legalize mobile sports betting and to permit prominent casino operators to relocate and construct casinos in cities like Gary and Terre Haute.
“Gaming is a highly regulated industry that once had little competition, but now does from surrounding states and new technology,” Holcomb said in a press release. “By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers.”
SEA 442 outlines a pilot program for “carbon sequestration,” a process that involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions and injecting the vapors into underground storage structures to limit air pollution, at a proposed ammonia plant set to open in Terre Haute, Indiana. The storage process would be managed by an operator approved by the state.
When Holcomb approved SEA 442, he noted that, while other states have implemented carbon dioxide storage programs in coordination with private businesses, he will “direct the Department of Natural Resources, supported by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, to complete all the diligence necessary and put a regulatory framework in place before naming an operator for the site.”
The third bill signed Wednesday, House Enrolled Act 1007, deals with perinatal care for pregnant mothers struggling with substance abuse. As law, the measure would require the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to establish new initiatives to deliver perinatal services to at-risk mothers, such as by encouraging health providers to verbally screen expectant mothers to refer women struggling with substance abuse to local community programs and rehabilitation. It takes effect July 1.
Between 2013 and 2017, the ISDH reported 3,029 infant deaths, or around 600 infant deaths per year.
Holcomb made reducing Indiana’s infant mortality rate a mission this session during his State of the State address in January, during which he set a goal to transition Indiana to become the best state for infant survival in the Midwest by 2024. He called HEA 1007 a critical step in improving children’s health and wellbeing.
“There are few — if any — things more important than protecting Hoosier babies and improving the lives and health for their mothers,” the governor said.
Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.