State Rep. Ed DeLaney explains why you should be very, very afraid of House Bill 1316

May 9, 2018 Ed DeLaney

INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) today issued the following statement about House Bill 1316, one of five measures set to be considered by the Indiana General Assembly during a special session that begins Monday (May 14):

“In the days and weeks leading up to May 14, we have been assured time and again by the Indiana House Speaker, among others, that this special session will deal only with the same bills that were not acted on during the last night of the regular session back in March. This suggests that these bills deal with matters that already have been thoroughly discussed by legislators.

“In other words, nothing to worry about here.

“Oh, really? Let us talk about House Bill 1316, which contains many, many different things. It’s the kind of legislation I like to call a dump truck, and one of the things dumped in it began life as House Bill 1039.

“In that original form, filed by State Rep. Wes Culver (R-Goshen), it was designed to make college savings accounts (commonly known as 529s) more attractive by allowing contributors to invest more money up front.

“Sounds fine, but when we discussed HB 1039 in committee, concerns were raised about the potential impact of the Trump Tax Plan on 529 accounts. It seems that the federal law now gives a tax break for contributions going to K-12 schools, not just higher ed. As we talked about the implications of this change, it was decided that perhaps the best thing to do would be to have this entire matter studied over the interim.

“That version of the bill passed the House. The Indiana Senate went a step further by explicitly barring the use of 529 accounts on K-12 while the study was under way. House members never got a chance to consider any version of HB 1039 with this change, and it would seem that the matter had died.

“Until it didn’t.

“Come the final days of the regular session, House Bill 1316 ended up containing language on 529 accounts. In fact, the language allowed the accounts to be used for K-12 tuition expenses in non-public schools. How did it get there? Who put it in there? Who knows?

“A conference committee report on HB 1316 was passed by the Senate. Most accounts timed the debate on that bill at 23 seconds. However, the House never took action and the report and the bill died.

“Until it didn’t.

“HB 1316 is alive again. It contains the mutated version of the 529 account plan that appeared in the final days of the regular session.

“Why does all this matter?

“In terms of policy, 529 accounts are a solid device to use state tax credits to encourage college savings and reduce student loan debt. Any effort to divert the savings to non-public K-12 would seem to be an idea worthy of thoughtful debate and consideration and fine-tuning…all of the things that were missing when the idea appeared in HB 1316 in the regular session’s final days.

“In Monday’s special session, we are being asked to vote on this new form of state support for non-public schools without any committee hearings, amendments, or even an estimate of the fiscal impact of this idea.

“If this is an example of the kind of ‘transparency’ that the House Speaker is talking about, I would suggest that Monday’s special session isn’t going to be very transparent…or special, for that matter. If this is the kind of thing we’re going to be voting on, what other horrors are in these bills, just waiting for the kind of discovery that comes when the barn door is closed and the horse is wandering into the next county?

“In other words, there may be everything to worry about here.”