12/20 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference:

Control of the Senate will depend on the results of the two runoff elections in Georgia.

Help flip the Senate by getting involved in the Georgia Senate races to help elect Jon Osoff and Raphael Warnock.
Check out ways to help through Indivisible, including opportunities to phone bank.

If you are able, one of the best ways to help is to donate:

New Georgia Project

Black Voters Matter

Indivisibles in GA

and/or to the candidates’ campaigns:
Raphael Warnock
Jon Osoff

Let’s do our part to help alleviate food insecurity, which is especially dire during these times.

Donate to or volunteer at Food Bank of NWI
Food Bank of NWI received a $100,000 donation to match money contributed so that each contribution will be doubled, now through Dec. 31. To help  provide 1/2 million meals throughout NW Indiana, go to 1/2 Million Meal Match, https://secure.qgiv.com/event/1mmm/ .
More about efforts of Food Bank of NWI to alleviate hunger this holiday season: https://foodbanknwi.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2020/11/Hope-For-The-Holidays-Flyer.pdf.

For a list of local food pantries: https://www.foodpantries.org/st/indiana

Meals on Wheels, NWI: https://mownwi.org/


In Congress

Coronavirus relief

A coronavirus relief bill will likely pass Sunday or early Monday. A remaining sticking point over Federal Reserve emergency lending powers has been resolved. (Taylor, Andrew and Christopher Rugaber. “Agreement likely Sunday on nearly $1 trillion virus aid bill.” AP News. 20 December 2020: https://apnews.com/article/ap-top-news-pat-toomey-coronavirus-pandemic-75064ab1007dde0a1411c204df83e888.)
McConnell announced Sunday evening that a deal has been reached among congressional leaders for a bill that will fund the government until Oct. 1 and provide about $900 billion in coronavirus relief. Votes may come by midnight; or another brief stopgap measure to fund the government may be passed. (Carney, Jordain. “Congress clinches sweeping deal on coronavirus relief, government funding.” The Hill. 20 December 2020: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/531074-congress-gets-sweeping-deal-on-coronavirus-relief-government-funding.)

Passed Senate

S. 2032: Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to expand research on the cannabidiol and marihuana.”
Passed the Senate on Dec. 15 and goes to the House next. The vote was by Voice Vote so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 3152: Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to require the Federal Communications Commission to incorporate data on maternal health outcomes into its broadband health maps.”
The bill was passed in a vote in the Senate on Dec. 15. It goes to the House next. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 1387: Consider Teachers Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 in order to improve the service obligation verification process for TEACH Grant recipients, and for other purposes.”
The vote was by Voice Vote so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 2513: Reporting Efficiently to Proper Officials in Response to Terrorism Act of 2019
GovTrack.us: “This bill requires the primary government agency investigating an act of terrorism to submit to Congress an unclassified report within one year after the agency completes its investigation.
Passed the Senate Dec. 16. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 5036: Secret Service Overtime Pay Extension Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to amend the Overtime Pay for Protective Services Act of 2016 to extend the Secret Service overtime pay exception through 2023, and for other purposes.”
The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 3287: CFO Vision Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “The bill requires the government-wide financial management plan to include actions for improving financial management systems, strengthening the federal financial management workforce, and linking performance and cost information to budget decision-making.
Passed the Senate Dec. 16. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

H.R. 4704: Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to institutions of higher education (or their consortia) to support multidisciplinary, fundamental research with potential relevance to suicide, including potential relevance to prevention and treatment.” Passed the Senate with changes and so was sent back to the house. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 481: Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2019
Govtrack.us: “This bill directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to award grants to states and tribal organizations to install carbon monoxide alarms in (1) the homes of low-income families and older adults, (2) facilities that commonly serve children or older adults, and (3) student-housing units at public universities.
The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 1782: Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act
Govtrack.us: “This bill requires institutions of higher education (IHEs) that participate in federal student aid programs to share contact information for suicide prevention resources with students.”
The vote was by voice vote so no record of individual votes was made.

H.R. 2610: Fraud and Scam Reduction Act
Govtrack.us: “This bill expands activities to address mail, telephone, and internet fraud, particularly such scams targeting older adults, Indian tribes, or tribal members.”
Passed the Senate with changes and sent back to the House. The vote was by voice vote so no record of individual votes was made.

Passed House:

S. 1694: To require the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to add recommendations and inform other relevant agencies of information relating to the principle of due regard and the limitation of harmful interference with Apollo landing site artifacts, and for other purposes.
GovTrack.us: “The bipartisan One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act would require all U.S. government licenses related to space include requirements preserving the Apollo landing sites.”
Passed the Senate by in July. Passed the House Dec. 16 with changes so this bill was sent back to the Senate. The vote was by voice vote so no record of individual votes was taken.

Passed House and Senate, President next

S. 2216: TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act
Causes.com: “This bill, known as the TEAM Veteran Caregivers Act, would provide training, counseling, mental health services, respite care, and monthly stipends to veterans’ caregivers under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers and those participating in the Program of General Caregiver Support Services. 
Passed the House Dec. 16. See the vote. Passed the Senate by voice vote on Nov. 16; there was no record of individual votes taken.

S. 3312: Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “This bill authorizes the Department of Justice to award grants for state and local correctional facilities to provide clinical services for people with serious mental illness who need post-release mental health services.”
The bill was passed by both chambers in identical form. It goes to the President next who may sign or veto the bill. The vote was by voice vote so no record of individual votes was made.

H.R. 7105: Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “To provide flexibility for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in caring for homeless veterans during a covered public health emergency, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a retraining assistance program for unemployed veterans, and for other purposes.
The bill was passed by both chambers. It goes to the President next who may sign or veto the bill. The vote was by voice vote so no record of individual votes was made.

H.R. 221: Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism as an ambassador-rank official, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, 
Passed the Senate with changes on Dec. 16 and sent back to the House. Passed by unanimous consent so no record of individual votes was taken.

H.R. 4356: Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill revises the conditions allowing a service member to terminate a commercial mobile, telephone exchange, Internet access, or multichannel video programming service contract at any time after the date the service member receives military orders to relocate for at least 90 days to a location that does not support such contract.”
Passed the Senate by voice vote on Dec. 15; there was no record of individual votes taken.

H.R. 8810: National Landslide Preparedness Act
GovTrack.us: “To establish a national program to identify and reduce losses from landslide hazards, to establish a national 3D Elevation Program, and for other purposes.”
Passed both chambers in identical form. The vote was by unanimous consent so no record of individual votes was taken.

H.R. 6100: STOP FGM Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “To amend title 18, United States Code, to clarify the criminalization of female genital mutilation, and for other purposes.”
Passed the House on Sept. 21 by voice vote and the Senate on Dec. 15 by unanimous consent, so no record of individual votes was taken.

H.R. 7259: Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill authorizes the holder of an acceleration certificate awarded under the Patents for Humanity program to transfer the certificate to another party.”
Passed the House on June 25 by voice vote and the Senate on Dec. 15 by unanimous consent, so no record of individual votes was taken.

H.R. 8354: Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “To establish the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and for other purposes.”
Passed the House on Dec. 8. See the vote. Passed the Senate on Dec. 15 by unanimous consent, so no record of individual votes was taken.

H.R. 6435: Combating Pandemic Scams Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “This bill requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in consultation with relevant agencies, to inform the public about mail, telemarketing, and internet scams related to COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019). The FTC must establish a national database for such information and must also disseminate information on how to report COVID-19-related scams to the appropriate agency.”
Passed both chambers in identical form. Vote was by unanimous consnet so no record of individual votes was taken.

S. 212: Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2020
Govtrack.us: “A bill to amend the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act of 2000, the Buy Indian Act, and the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to provide industry and economic development opportunities to Indian communities.”
The bill was passed by both chambers in identical form.The vote was by Voice Vote so no record of individual votes was made.

Enacted; signed into law by the President

H.R. 473: To authorize the Every Word We Utter Monument to establish a commemorative work in the District of Columbia and its environs, and for other
GovTrack.us: “This bill authorizes the establishment on federal land in the District of Columbia of the Every Word We Utter Monument in commemoration of the women’s suffrage movement and the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.
No federal funds may be used to pay any expenses for the establishment of the commemorative work.

For a complete list of bills passed by the House or Senate or both chambers or of bills enacted into law this past week see govtrack.us.

The Senate approved along party lines Thomas Kirsch II to be a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to replace Amy Coney Barrett. (Revell, Eric. “Know a Nominee: Thomas Kirsch to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.” Causes. 20 December 2020: https://www.causes.com/articles/46636-know-nominee-thomas-kirsch-seventh-circuit-court-appeals.)

To find and contact your Members of Congress:  https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials 

In Other News

Trump has suggested that discredited conspiracy theorist lawyer Sidney Powell be appointed a special counsel to investigate election fraud in the 2020 election. The appointment must be made by the Attorney General and his own outgoing William Barr has said there was no significant election fraud. Meanwhile, Giuliani has pushed Trump to seize voting machines, a move his own Department to Homeland Security says he has no authority to do. (Lemire, Jonathan, Jill Volvin and Colleen Long. “AP sources: Trump floats Sidney Powell as special counsel.” AP News. 20 December 2020: https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-donald-trump-conspiracy-theories-elections-william-barr-6ff3dbff74aa79ee4d81f9d87b6dce9c.)

Powell has been threatened with legal action by Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado voting machine company that she has targeted claiming they worked with deep state and foreign entities to rig the machines for Biden. They have demanded she retract the “wild, knowingly baseless, and false” allegations she has made; she has not responded. (Rubin, Olivia and Matthew Mosk. “Fired attorney Sidney Powell is back, advising Trump to chart a scorched-earth course.” Yahoo News. 19 December 2020: https://news.yahoo.com/fired-attorney-sidney-powell-back-015804014.html.”)

Trump continues to pursue legal challenges; his team says they will take a Pennsylvania case to the Supreme Court (who is unlikely to hear it). The BBC created a brief descriptive listing of lawsuits, their outcomes, and what could come next. (Horton, Jake. “US election 2020: What legal challenges remain for Trump?” BBC News. 15 December 2020: https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54724960.)

Trump is also considering imposing martial law to force new elections in the battleground states Biden won. (Porter, Tom. “Trump raised the idea of imposing martial law to overturn the election in a White House meeting, according to reports.” Yahoo News. 20 December 2020: https://news.yahoo.com/trump-raised-idea-imposing-martial-120057309.html)
In response, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in a joint statement that there “is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.” (Britzky, Haley. “Army leaders push back on Mike Flynn’s call for the military to ‘re-run’ the 2020 election” Task & Purpose. 18 Friday 2020: https://taskandpurpose.com/news/army-secretary-chief-2020-election-mike-flynn/.)

The  Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Wis. Senator Ron Johnson, held a hearing on Wednesday to give credence to Trump’s lies about election fraud. Offering no proof and not asking any battleground state official to testify, Republican senators ignored multiple court findings that no fraud occurred and continued to make baseless claims that the election was fraudulent. (Cassidy, Christina and Mary Clare Jalonick. “Senate hearing elevates baseless claims of election fraud.” ABC News. 16 December 2020: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/senate-hearing-elevates-baseless-claims-election-fraud-74765212.)

Despite Trump’s blatant attempts to interfere with the electoral count, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris formally became the President-elect and Vice President-elect on Dec. 14 when state electors cast their ballots. (“Electoral college confirms Joe Biden’s victory in presidential election.” The Guardian. 14 December 2020: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/dec/14/electoral-college-joe-biden-donald-trump-2020-election.)
Joe Biden became the president-elect today, with the states giving him 306 votes. All of Indiana’s votes went to Mr. Trump.  (WIBC)

Moments after the electoral college counts were complete, Trump announced that Bill Barr was resigning as Attorney General. (Malloy, Allie et al. “Attorney General William Barr resigns.”
CNN. 14 December 2020: https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/14/politics/william-barr-out-as-attorney-general/index.html.)

President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks have not all been without controversy, but most agree it is a diverse, qualified, and experienced group. (Mascaro, Lisa. “Transition stumbles test Biden’s bond with Capitol Hill. AP News. 18 December 2020: https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-race-and-ethnicity-cabinets-coronavirus-pandemic-2d190a54165243adff8b5c2186801671.)

COVAX, created to provide vaccines to poorer countries has had trouble securing cash and doses. Twelve billion doses are expected to be produced next year and 9 billion have been reserved by rich countries. Although most developed countries have signed on to COVAX, the U.S. has not.
(Cheng, Maria. “Poor countries face long wait for vaccines despite promises.” AP News. 14 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/PhFO8UE.)
On Friday the World Health Organization announced 2 billion doses have been secured by COVAX. (Higgins-Dunn, Noah. “COVAX global Covid vaccine program secures nearly 2 billion doses as UNICEF prepares for distribution.” CNBC. 18 December 2020: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/18/covax-global-covid-vaccine-program-secures-nearly-2-billion-doses-for-unicef-distribution.html.)

Republicans are demanding that Rep. Eric Swalwell be removed from the House Intelligence Committee because he had ties to a Chinese spy long ago before he joined Congress. When he was told of her identity, he cut all ties with her and cooperated with authorities. Republican leadership was aware of the incident when he was appointed to the committee back in 2015. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe warned that China has been heavily targeting Congressional members in its intelligence gathering efforts. (Revell, Eric. Should Eric Swalwell Be Removed From the Intelligence Committee Due to His Ties to a Suspected Chinese Spy? Causes. 15 December 2020: https://www.causes.com/articles/46647-eric-swalwell-removed-intelligence-committee-due-ties-suspected-chinese-spy.)

Multiple federal agencies, along with private companies, have been hacked, almost certainly by the Russians. The intrusion is ongoing and will take many months to resolve. (Miller, Maggie and Laura Kelly. “US government caught blindsided over sophisticated cyber hack, experts say.” the Hill. 19 December 2020: https://thehill.com/policy/technology/530934-us-government-caught-blindsided-over-sophisticated-cyber-hack-experts-say.)
The President predictably disputed the significance of the attack and its origin in Russia, blaming the media. (Stracqualursi, Veronica, kevin Liptak and Jennifer Hansler. “Trump downplays massive cyber hack on government after Pompeo links attack to Russia.” CNN Politics. 19 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/shVzbrG.)

A new strain of coronavirus has been identified. It is believed to be more contagious, but no more deadly. (Woodyatt, Amy and Lindsay Isaac. “Boris Johnson backtracks on relaxing Christmas rules after scientists warn new Covid-19 strain is spreading faster.” CNN. 20 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/yhVzLaH.)
The vaccine will still be effective against this new strain. (Donaldson, Kitty. “U.K.’s Hancock Says New Covid Mutation Is ‘Out of Control’.” Bloomberg. 20 December 2020: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-20/u-k-s-hancock-says-new-covid-mutatation-is-out-of-control?srnd=premium.)
In response many countries have issued UK  travel bans, but not the U.S., despite pleas by New York Governor Cuomo. (“Covid: Nations impose UK travel bans over new variant.” BBC News. 20 December 2020:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55385768 ) (“Cuomo Calls for Testing or Ban on British Travelers as COVID Mutation Spreads in U.K.” NBC. 20 December 2020: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/cuomo-calls-for-testing-or-ban-on-british-travelers-as-covid-mutation-spreads-in-u-k/2791753/)

Supreme Court

Trump wants to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count in order to altar the number of representatives and monies allotted to states. After failing in the lower courts, the administration’s case was left undecided by the Supreme Court, who ruled that it was “premature” to rule on the case right now because it is “riddled with contingencies and speculation…” (Totenberg, Nina and Hansi Lo Wang. “Supreme Court Punts Census Case, Giving Trump An Iffy Chance To Alter Numbers.” NPR. 18 December 2020: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/18/946875796/supreme-court-punts-in-census-case-says-its-premature-to-decide-the-issue.)

The Supreme Court allowed Kentucky’s order to close school, public and private, to stand because the order will expire at the beginning of the year. (Wolf, Richard. “Supreme Court denies religious school challenge to Kentucky’s expiring COVID-19 restrictions.” USA Today. 17 December 2020: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/12/17/supreme-court-kentucky-can-close-schools-because-pandemic/3814977001/.)


The legislature is planning liability shields for businesses except in the case of gross misconduct. The president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association argues that granting such immunity encourages businesses to behave badly. The governor’s priorities may not be possible without relief for states from congress. The legislature supports bypassing the law limiting school funding to 85% when instruction is online. (AP News. “Indiana COVID Update: IN reports 4,839 new coronavirus cases, 73 additional deaths Indiana lawmakers to push coronavirus lawsuit shield.” ABC News. 19 December 2020: https://abc7chicago.com/indiana-covid-cases-coronavirus-update/8900011/.)
Indiana’s governor and legislative leaders are lining up in favor of giving a legal shield to businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits when the General Assembly returns to action next month.  (AP Indiana)

Legislators are planning to debate changes to the law that’s allowed Governor Holcomb to issue emergency orders during the pandemic.  (WIBC)

Joining the state of Indiana’s pharmacy benefit plan,  award higher salaries to teachers in high-need areas, and allowing townships to help fund schools were among nearly three dozen recommendations by the Governor’s teacher compensation panel.  (Indy Politics)

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Monday suspending jury trials statewide until March 1 because COVID-19 cases continue to surge.  (AP Indiana)

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case arguing the reversal of a lower court’s decision that allowed same-sex couples in Indiana the right to both be listed as parents on the birth certificate of their children.  (South Bend Tribune)

Indiana’s plans to clean up coal ash sites are insufficient, leaving toxins that could further poison drinking water and the environment, according to a report.  (Chicago Tribune)

Governor Eric Holcomb Thursday announced his 2021 Next Level Agenda, which he says is focused on safely navigating out of the pandemic and emerging as a stronger Indiana.  (Indy Politics)

Indiana plans to use the bulk of its remaining federal COVID-19 relief dollars to pay off a federal unemployment loan.  (WFIU)

Indiana fiscal leaders say the revenue outlook for the next two years is better than expected, but they’re cautioning that spending will still have to be conservative.  (IBJ)

Indiana’s revenue is expected to remain stable over the next two years, increasing the chances lawmakers maintain steady funding for schools despite the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus  (Chalkbeat Indiana)

The Federal Transit Administration announced an additional $49.4 million in funding for the South Shore Line’s Double Track NWI project, raising its commitment to the project to $99 million.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Ten states—including Indiana—on Wednesday brought a lawsuit against Google, accusing the search giant of “anti-competitive conduct” in the online advertising industry, including a deal to manipulate sales with rival Facebook  (IBJ)

Thomas L. Kirsch II was surrounded by family Friday afternoon as he took the next step in the meteoric rise of his legal career.  The 46-year-old Schererville resident was sworn into office early Friday afternoon as the newest judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

The Indiana unemployment rate continued to improve in November, decreasing from 5.5% in October to 5% last month, according to numbers released Friday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.  (IBJ)

As Indiana parents keep their children home because of the coronavirus and opt out of online learning, districts are reporting the largest enrollment drops among young children.   (Chalkbeat Indiana)

Congressman-elect Frank Mrvan will serve as co-chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, which represents the interests of the steel industry and steelworkers in Congress.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

To find and contact your Indiana legislators: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/