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General Assembly

House backs curbs on nursing home space

– The Indiana House on Monday narrowly approved a one-year moratorium on construction of nursing home space.

The 55-40 vote sends Senate Bill 173 back to the Senate, which passed it originally as a much longer five-year moratorium.

The bill will go to a conference committee in the final days of the session to finalize negotiations.

The moratorium would not affect assisted-living centers, but is meant to put some brakes on the nursing home market. Supporters pointed out new facilities have saturated the market and occupancy in the state is about 70 percent with thousands of empty beds.

Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, opposed the measure, saying that new operators are making money in the industry – a sign the free market is working.

“I just think a moratorium is honestly too big a step,” he said. “The data doesn’t support it.”

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said he used to be skeptical but the new facilities are cherry-picking the private-pay clients needed for existing operators to remain open.

He said the long-term care market isn’t really a free market because government pays for 80 percent of the residents since they are on Medicaid and Medicare.

“The existing owners and operators need to know if they spend money investing in older existing facilities they are not going to do that only to find that the higher-payer portion of the mix goes out to the edge of town to the new facility that is shinier and newer but may not actually provide a better level of care,” he said.

Hunting, fishing shields win OK

The Indiana House voted 79-16 Monday to protect the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife in the Indiana Constitution.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 already passed the Senate in the same form, so the process is over for the year. Proposed constitutional amendments don’t go to the governor.

Another legislature will have to pass the measure in 2015 or 2106 to allow Hoosiers to vote on it in the 2016 general election.

Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, said the bill will stop “extremist” anti-hunting groups from interfering with Indiana public policy on the matters.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said the legislation is misleading because the General Assembly can still act on hunting and fishing laws.

“So you have the right to hunt and fish and harvest wildlife unless the General Assembly says you don’t,” he said. “Then what real protection is that?”

He said the measure is simply a popular political statement.

House backs new abortion clinic regs

The Indiana House voted 88-9 to tweak existing regulations on abortion clinics.

The biggest change is that doctors who perform abortions must now file in writing with the state what hospital they have admitting privileges with or information on a backup doctor that has local admitting privileges.

The backup doctors are not performing abortions.

The admitting privileges requirement has been state law for several years but previously the state did not verify compliance.

Senate Bill 292 requires the information on privileges or a backup doctor to be submitted to the Indiana State Department of Health. But language added redacts identifying information from public record. This protects backup physicians from possible harassment.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill or accept the changes and send it to the governor.