2024 Legislative Session Wrap-Up
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2024 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

2024 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

From the Desk of AIRW Executive Director, Kristin Bean

In this article, we share our 2024 Legislative Session wrap-up highlights, notes, and information as it pertains to Indiana’s Water and Wastewater Industry. We will also share some highlights from our work on the national level, alongside the lobbyists with National Rural Water Association.

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2024 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

2024 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

From the Desk of AIRW Executive Director, Kristin Bean

Thursday, May 2, 2024

The 2024 Legislative Session of the Indiana General Assembly addressed a range of issues. Lawmakers revealed their priority goals and bills for the session's outset, commencing on January 8. This year's session concluded late in the evening of Friday, March 8. Sessions in even-numbered years are typically briefer, as longer budget-making sessions occur in odd-numbered years. The General Assembly passed the state's two-year budget during the previous session, held from January 9 to April 28, 2023. Many bills become effective on July 1 of the passing year, although specific legislation may have immediate effect or a different effective date, as specified. You can find the full list of bills signed by the Governor here.

Republican leaders in both chambers were largely successful in passing their legislative agendas this year. You can read the Senate’s press release here and review the House’s accomplishments here.

Below are our wrap-up highlights, notes, and information on what bills did and didn’t pass as it pertains to Indiana’s Water and Wastewater Industry.

AIRW Highlights:

  • This year, I undertook the process of becoming a registered lobbyist, marking a significant milestone in our association's efforts to maintain a strong presence at the Statehouse. With this new status, I have been able to actively advocate for our association's interests and ensure that our voice is heard among policymakers. This expanded role has allowed me to forge valuable connections, stay informed about legislative developments, and effectively represent our members' concerns in the political arena.
  • In mid-February, I had the honor of representing AIRW by testifying before the Senate Utilities Committee in support of HB 1206. This bill aimed to grant rural and small utilities the option to vote by absentee ballot when deciding whether to opt in or out of the jurisdiction of the IURC. I am pleased to share that this bill has successfully passed into law and is currently in effect.
  • Our Deputy Director (Lorean Johnston) and I recently had the pleasure of attending the AIM Legislative Dinner, an event that proved to be invaluable for networking. It offered us a unique opportunity to not only reconnect with several of our current Utility and Associate members but also forge new relationships with key legislative contacts.
  • We also participated in Kentucky Water Day at The Kentucky State Capitol to connect with our colleagues at the Kentucky Rural Water Association and gather inspiration for a potential legislative event for our members. I strongly feel that such an event would greatly benefit our membership! Kentucky Water Day serves as a platform for utilities and legislators to meet, exchange insights, and discuss industry concerns and initiatives. Impressively, the event saw participation from nearly 95% of the state's legislators and 70 utility representatives from across Kentucky.
  • This year, AIRW's Board of Directors acknowledged the crucial role of our legislative endeavors, prompting our association to collaborate with Bose Public Affairs Group (BPAG), a prominent lobbying firm with a strong presence at the Statehouse, established relationships with lawmakers, and extensive legislative expertise. The value delivered by Bose Public Affairs Group has been outstanding and will remain pivotal in future years to prioritize industry legislation within our association.
  • In early February, the Alliance leadership team, including five members of our Board of Directors, represented us exceptionally well at the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C. During this annual event, we engaged in productive discussions with our congressional delegation. The Rally provides a unique platform for us to amplify our voices and influence the policies and funding decisions that impact our Indiana communities. We've significantly revamped the Rural Water Rally Report that we share at our meetings, and you can check it out here! Additionally, I have penned an article about the Rally in the latest edition of the Hoosier Pipeline – you can find it here!
  • We're actively implementing another legislative initiative at AIRW: the formation of a Legislative Committee! This committee will consist of members from various utilities across the state, representing both small and large entities. Additionally, we'll appoint a Chairperson from our Board of Directors. We'll convene virtually on a regular basis during session and as required outside of them. This committee will serve as a forum to gather feedback on the potential impacts of specific bills on our members, address concerns, and collaborate on crafting legislation that could be advantageous to our members.

Some Industry Hot Topics & Notes:

PFAS Language Held This Year

During conference committee, efforts by some lawmakers to reintroduce manufacturer-friendly language altering Indiana's definition of PFAS chemicals were unsuccessful. Initially passed by the House (HB 1399), the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee Chairman did not vote on the original bill after hearing it due to concerns that the proposal was premature. The same language resurfaced briefly in a conference committee report for House Enrolled Act 1329, but the final version of the bill omitted the PFAS language. Representative Jim Pressel, the bill's author, hinted at opposition from Senate Republicans. Supporters argued that the PFAS definition change was necessary to safeguard certain essential products, while critics warned of potential mislabeling and health risks associated with PFAS exposure.

Major Groundwater Withdrawals - LEAP Project

Both HB 1305 and SB 249, pertaining to the LEAP Project, failed to advance in both the House and Senate Chambers. These identical bills, in their respective chambers, aimed to mandate state-issued permits for significant groundwater withdrawal facilities after public meetings and feasibility assessments. It is probable that no legislative action will occur until the completion of the IFA study.

Wetlands

HB 1383 was signed into law, which continues the process of deregulating wetlands in Indiana in response to the Supreme Court ruling. However, according to an assessment by our lobbying firm BPAG, the bill is not considered to be as detrimental as it could have been. Additionally, Senator Glick's SB 246 has also been signed into law. This legislation offers developers comparable incentives for conserving wetlands, which are defined as "wildlands" under her bill, without further deregulation. Notably, HB 1383 garnered support from the Indiana Builders Association and IDEM.

 

Here are bills we tracked throughout the session that have passed:

You can find the full list of bills signed by the Governor as well as more details on each bill here.

• HB 1108 - Development restrictions on slopes.

This bill prohibits local governments from barring development on slopes of less than 25%, unless the parcel drains to a receiving body of water that is a source of drinking water.

• HB 1122 - Underground facility protection.

This bill decreases the mandatory notification period for conducting an excavation or demolition from 20 days to 10 days.

• HB 1206 - Voting by small water and wastewater utilities.

As mentioned in our highlights above, we provided testimony on this bill, which grants small and rural utilities the option to vote by absentee ballot when deciding to opt in or out of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

• HB 1329 - Local government matters.

This bill prohibits local governments from requiring septic system inspections prior to property transfer, among other things.

•HB 1352 - Inspection of residential onsite sewage systems. 

This bill prohibits local governments from requiring septic inspections unless the manufacturer recommends multiple annual inspections.

• HB 1383 - Wetlands.

This bill alters the procedure for designating and categorizing wetlands, resulting in a decrease in the quantity and percentages of wetlands classified as Class III. Consequently, this change diminishes the level of state regulatory safeguarding and/or obligatory mitigation for affected wetlands.

• SB 5 - Lead water line replacement and lead remediation.

This bill accelerates the timeline to replace Indiana’s lead pipes by enabling utility companies with Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission-approved lead line service replacement plans to work in a more cost effective and timely manner. Essentially, it allows utilities to replace lead service lines on residential property if the owner fails to do so in a timely manner.

• SB 150 - Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

This bill allows the use of Artificial Intelligence technology to be adopted by public entities, including school corporations. It creates a task force to study the impact of AI and make recommendations, as well as identify challenges and best practices.

• SB 206 - Environmental matters.

This bill authorizes the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to use electronic methods for various communications and processes. It allows for electronic delivery of mail, notices, and permit applications, as well as access to documents for public comment. The bill also requires IDEM to make determinations on biomass facility applications within 90 days and removes the exemption from departmental approval for facilities subject to air pollution control permits.

• SB 246 - Assessment of wetlands classified as wildlands.

This bill permits property owners with designated wetlands exceeding 0.5 acre to classify such areas as "wildlands" for the purpose of property tax assessment.

• SB 247 - Water and wastewater utility infrastructure.

This bill streamlines the acquisition process for small water or wastewater utilities by other utilities, expediting the transition.

 

Here are bills we tracked throughout the session that did not pass:

• HB 1060 - Environmental scrutiny before property transfer.

• HB 1085 - PFAS water safety standards.

• HB 1117 - School Grants for Lead Testing and Remediation.

• HB 1180 - Public employers.

• HB 1305 - Major ground water withdrawal facilities.

• HB 1322 - Sales tax exemption for utility service.

• HB 1363 - Elimination of sales tax on utility service.

• HB 1394 - DNR best available flood hazard data.

• HB 1399 - PFAS chemicals.

• HB 1403 - Determining existence and class of wetlands.

• SB 249 - Major ground water withdrawal facilities.

• SB 259 - Local wastewater and clean energy districts.

• SB 271 - Water resource management.

• SB 278 - Utility disconnections and customer data reports.

• SB 288 - Extension of water service to schools.

• SB 295 - Indiana economic development corporation.

 

What’s Next?

With the conclusion of the legislative session, many legislators are now turning their attention to elections and gearing up for interim study committees and next year's budget session. Meanwhile, at AIRW, we're actively setting up our Legislative Committee, strategizing new legislative events, maintaining communication with our lobbying firm (BPAG), engaging in discussions about potential beneficial legislation for our members, and working alongside the National Rural Water Association on federal legislative initiatives, especially as it pertains to important funding for our rural communities.

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