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Medicaid expansion makes gains

– The Indiana Senate voted 44-6 Tuesday to approve a bill authorizing the state to negotiate with federal officials for a possible Medicaid expansion using cost-sharing by participants and other non-traditional parameters.

All area senators supported the bill.

Senate Bill 551 now moves to the House, where it remains a possible legislative vehicle to expand Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Hoosiers.

The federal government covers most initial costs, but states would have to pay more for the program in future years.

So far, Gov. Mike Pence and GOP legislative leaders have resisted – instead insisting that the federal government approve use of the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan as a vehicle.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not been receptive to this in the past, declining similar efforts by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Also on Tuesday, Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became the latest to embrace Medicaid expansion despite not supporting the Affordable Care Act.

According to Kaiser Foundation, which tracks health policy, the endorsement brings the number of states onboard to 27.

Abortion drugs

The Indiana Senate voted 33-16 Tuesday to further regulate the use of abortion-inducing drugs.

State law already treats medical and surgical abortion the same when it comes to informed consent and other rules, but Senate Bill 371 also applies physical building requirements of a surgical center to clinics offering the abortion drug RU-486.

The bill affects a Planned Parenthood office in Lafayette.

All area senators supported the bill.

The legislation also requires a doctor to give the woman an ultrasound before dispensing the medication. Some doctors have said this means a vaginal probe as opposed to an abdominal ultrasound due to the early stage of the pregnancy.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, author of the bill, said he has spoken to other physicians who dispute that.

He introduced the measure because of concerns about complications from the drug and his religious convictions regarding the sanctity of life.

State law is implicit on the requirement for an ultrasound for surgical abortion, Holdman said. Planned Parenthood has confirmed ultrasounds are done in those cases.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said Republicans should just be honest about the bill.

“This bill is about making it as difficult and intrusive as possible,” he said. “Then maybe someone will change their mind.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma said the bill will get a hearing in his chamber, though he will try to keep the emotional discussion respectful.

DNA of suspects

The Senate defeated a bill Tuesday to take DNA samples from those arrested for certain major crimes.

Senate Bill 245 received only 16 votes in support after a long discussion about the civil rights of Hoosiers arrested but not convicted of crimes. Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, authored the legislation.

The bill would have taken DNA samples from suspects arrested for burglary, residential entry, a crime of violence, or a sex offense.

A person could seek to have the sample removed if acquitted or the charges are dismissed.

“That pesky constitution does protect us,” said Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange. “This sets us on a path that will again cause us many more troubles than it’s worth.”

Supporters point to unsolved crimes that can be resolved from the DNA evidence.

Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, pointed out that fingerprints are taken from everyone arrested and are never expunged. This is no different, he said. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether such programs are constitutional.

IEDC transparency

The Senate voted 49-1 Tuesday to approve a bill requiring the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to be more transparent about deals it makes to lure new business investment and jobs to the state.

Senate Bill 162 now moves to the House.

It requires the IEDC to make final incentive contracts available to the public more quickly; publish annual incentives and compliance reports going back to 2005; and report the aggregate number of jobs and investment actually created – not promised.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said the bill isn’t everything he has wanted, but he is still working with Gov. Mike Pence’s administration on the issue.

One thing it does not make public is whether specific companies have met promised employment and investment levels.

Members of the business community have argued this could hurt the state’s economic development efforts.

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