Vol. 108 2024 No. 1 (Jan/Feb)

GR Summit: Bridging The Gap

The Importance of the Short Session

The Indiana General Assembly’s 2024 session will be brisk, likely bordering on frantic at times. This year, the Legislature is engaged in what is affectionately known as a “short session,” a characteristic of even calendar years.

Indiana operates on a biennial budget system, meaning that during odd years, fiscal leaders meticulously craft a comprehensive two-year operating budget. In these budget years, the legislative calendar unfolds over nearly four months, with a deadline set for the end of April to finalize all legislative activities.

Before 1970, these budget years were the only times the General Assembly convened. There were no “short sessions” in even-numbered years. This meant that if an issue surfaced after the legislature adjourned, Hoosiers had to wait nearly two years before lawmakers could address the matter.

Lawmakers addressed the predicament by voting in 1970 to create a session for the “off years.” This session was specifically designed to tackle unresolved issues lingering from the budget session or “long session.” The term “short session” is aptly coined, given the compressed two-month timeframe in which the General Assembly has to accomplish a myriad of legislative activities.

This year’s short session adheres to this pattern, commencing Jan. 8 and concluding — or adjourning “sine die” — March 14, with a concerted effort to wrap up proceedings even earlier than that nine-week timetable. The intensity of a short session is highlighted by the limited three-week window lawmakers have to advance bills through the committee process.

Following the eventful 2023 “long session,” the Speaker of the House dubbed this year’s short session a “transition session.” Having made significant strides in healthcare, housing and education last year, the General Assembly aims to allow those laws to mature and evaluate their effectiveness. Consequently, this session is anticipated to involve incremental changes to existing policies.

This year, education will take center stage, primarily focusing on reading proficiency. The Speaker aspires for Indiana to lead the nation in student proficiency by 2027.* Additionally, workforce discussions will build on last year’s House Enrolled Act 1002, particularly regarding work-based learning initiatives. From the IBA perspective, the GR team is aware of several issues that will generate concern depending on how they are drafted, and will generally be on the defense against problematic legislation. This year, the IBA team will attempt to address the issues with several recent Indiana Supreme Court rulings and will focus more broadly on tort reform for the industry.

Fortunately, the short session provides a timely opportunity to address these critical issues. Many stakeholders agree that having an annual opportunity for legislative action is vital to ensuring the formulation of sound public policy.

* The 2023 National Assessment of Educational Progress ranked Indiana’s 4th graders and 8th graders slightly above the national average for reading proficiency. The NAEP is conducted every year by a division of the U.S. Department of Education. The 2023 NAEP showed Indiana’s score dropped slightly compared to their performance in 2019, which may be attributed to learning loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dax Denton, Chief Policy Officer, Indiana Bankers Association

Dax joined the IBA in 2008 and, as of April 2023, also serves as executive director for the Indiana Mortgage Bankers Association. Away from the office, he serves on the Boy Scouts Crossroads of America Council Board. Dax graduated from Indiana University, the IBA Leadership Development Program and the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin.

Ross Teare, Vice President – Government Relations, Indiana Bankers Association

Ross joined the IBA in October 2021. He analyzes issues, reviews legislation, builds relationships with policymakers and enhances IBA’s grassroots advocacy. Ross also heads up the IBA’s BankLEAD internship program and efforts to grow banking programs at Indiana colleges. He graduated from Butler University and the IBA Leadership Development Program.