01/24 Weekly Legislative Update

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Donate to or volunteer at Food Bank of NWI

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

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


In Congress this past week:

An informative series from Axios documents events in the Trump White House from the election to his final departure. This is very important reading, especially as we approach the beginning of his impeachment trial.(Swan, Jonathan and Zachary Basu. “Off the Rails.” Axios. 21 January 2021: https://www.axios.com/off-the-rails-episodes-cf6da824-83ac-45a6-a33c-ed8b00094e39.html

It was a day of firsts when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as the 46th President and the 49th Vice-President of the United States on Wednesday. (“’Never been more optimistic’: speeches, songs and celebrations cap Biden’s inauguration day – as it happened.” The Guardian. 20 January 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2021/jan/20/joe-biden-inauguration-donald-trump-impeachment-kamala-harris-washington-covid-coronavirus-live-updates.)

Listen and/or read the transcript to President Biden’s inaugural address. (“President Joe Biden Delivers Inaugural Address.” Causes. 20 January 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46802-president-joe-biden-delivers-inaugural-address.)

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace called President Biden’s inaugural address, … a great speech.” Wallace said. “I’ve been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961 — John F. Kennedy, ‘ask not.’ I thought this was the best inaugural address I ever heard.” The Fox News anchor also called for those in the media to particularly take note of Biden’s comment that “there is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit, and each of us has a duty and a responsibility … to defend the truth and defeat the lies.” (Morrow, Brendon. “Fox News’ Chris Wallace calls Biden’s speech the ‘best inaugural address I ever heard’.” Yahoo News. 20 January 2021: https://news.yahoo.com/fox-news-chris-wallace-calls-182800862.html.)

In Congress this past week:

On Wednesday the Senate flipped blue as Raphael Warnock was sworn in as Georgia’s first African American Senator; Jon Ossoff was sworn in as Georgia’s first Jewish Senator; and Alex Padilla was sworn in as California’s first Hispanic Senator. (Rogers, Alex. “ 3 new Democratic senators sworn in, flipping control of the Senate.” CNN Politics. 20 January 2021: https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/democratic-senators-swearing-in/index.html.)

Avril Haines was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday as the Secretary of National Intelligence, the first woman ever to hold the position. The vote was 84-10. (Revell, Eric. “Know a Nominee: Avril Haines to Be Director of National Intelligence.” Causes. 20 January 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46804-know-nominee-avril-haines-director-national-intelligence.)
Braun: Nay Young: Yea
See the vote.

Lloyd James Austin was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on Jan. 22 by a vote of 93-2. He is the first African-American to hold the post.
Braun: Yea      Young: Yea
See the vote.

H.R. 335: To provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces.
Passed the House and Senate and signed into law by the President on Jan. 21. See the vote in the House. See the vote in the Senate.

Senator Hawley was dissatisfied with DHS nominee Alejandro Mayorkas’ answers to his questions about enforcing the law surrounding building the border wall, although Mayorkas said he would follow the law. Hawley also cited his objection to Mayorkas’ support for immigration reform. (Beitsch, Rebecca, “Hawley delays quick confirmation of Biden’s DHS nominee.” The Hill. 19 January 2021: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/534868-hawley-delays-quick-confirmation-of-bidens-dhs-nominee.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) failed to reach a deal on Tuesday on organizing a 50-50 Senate as a fight over the filibuster threatens to drag out the talks for days, disagreeing over the continuence of the fillabuster, which McConnell wants to keep and Schumer does not. The Senate will remain virtually in limbo until an agreement is reached. (Carney, Jordain. “McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag.” The Hill. 19 January 2021: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/534951-mcconnell-schumer-fail-to-cut-power-sharing-deal-amid-filibuster-snag.)S. 13: A bill to establish an advisory committee to make recommendations on improvements to the security, integrity, and administration of Federal elections.
GovTrack.us: “A committee has voted to issue a report to the full chamber recommending that the bill be considered further.”

The week ahead

The Senate will hold hearings and votes on cabinet nominees. They will also receive the Article of Impeachment. The House is not expected vote on any legislation because they are on a district work period. They will hold several committee hearings. (Revell, Eric. “Senate to Confirm More of Biden’s Cabinet Nominees.” Causes. 24 January 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46821-senate-confirm-biden-s-cabinet-nominees.)

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


President Biden issued 30 executive orders in the first 3 days of his Presidency. (Sulliven, Kate, Christopher Hickey and Sean O’Key. “Here are the 30 executive orders and actions Biden signed in his first three days.” CNN Politics. 22 January 2021: https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/politics/joe-biden-executive-orders-first-week/index.html.)

Read a summary of the immigration bill the President has sent to Congress. (“FACT SHEET: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System.” Biden-Harris Transition. 21 January 2021: https://cutt.ly/qjNbNPb.)

In other news:

In one of it’s last actions, Trump’s state department charged China with genocide. (Revell, Eric. “U.S. Declares China is Committing ‘Genocide’ Against Uyghur Muslims.” Causes. 19 January 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46792-u-s-declares-china-committing-genocide-uyghur-muslims-xinjiang.)

Trump’s final pardons included one for Steve Bannon,who is accused of fleecing many Trump supporters who donated to a fund to build the wall—a fund that Bannon never used for that purpose. (LaMire, Jonathan, Eric Tucker and Jill Colvin. “Trump pardons ex-strategist Steve Bannon, dozens of others.” AP News. 19 January 2021: https://apnews.com/article/steve-bannon-trump-pardons-broidy-66c82f25134735e742b2501c118723bb.) 

States are reporting shortages of vaccine causing tens of 1000s of vaccine appointments to be cancelled. (Hill, Michael and Jennifer Peltz. “States report vaccine shortages and cancel appointments.” AP News. 19 January 2021: https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-vaccine-update-f1b8967b6a077d89d21134f4eac069f6.)

Enjoy a review of the Trump presidency from a distinguished professor of economics at Ball State. (Hicks, Michael. “Michael Hicks: A recap of Trump’s presidency.” The Hawey Politics Indiana. 21 January 2021: https://howeypolitics.com/Content/Columns/Columns/Article/Michael-Hicks-A-recap-of-Trump-s-presidency/10/20/25465.)

Dr Fauci contrasted President Biden’s approach to the virus compared with Trump’s. He praised the use of science to form policy and acknowledged that lack of a science based approach and lack of transparency led to more deaths than would have happened otherwise. (Stracqualursi, Veronica. “Fauci says lack of candor from Trump administration ‘very likely’ cost lives.” CNN. 22 January 2021: https://cutt.ly/ejVEmQW.)

Trump and a DOJ lawyer plotted to remove the acting director of the DOJ in a scheme to pressure Georgia to overturn the election results. (Kelly, Caroline. “New York Times: Trump, lawyer plotted to oust acting attorney general, undo election results.” ABC News. 23 January 2021: https://6abc.com/donald-trump-election-result-2020-jeffrey-clark-georgia/9935061/.)

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump pressured the DOJ to bring a case of election fraud to the Supreme Court. They refused because there was no case to bring. (Mena, Kelly. “Wall Street Journal: Trump pressured DOJ to file a case with Supreme Court to overturn election results.” CNN Politics. 24 January 2021: https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/23/politics/trump-department-of-justice-supreme-court-election-results/index.html.)

Fair elections:

President Biden issued two executive orders that are expected to impact Trump proposed changes in census reports that would have affected redistricting efforts to favor Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites. Citizenship and immigration status will not be reported so that all people living in the country will count toward redistricting. States will also not get citizenship data needed to remake political maps according to block-level citizen voting age population, redistricting not according to total population, but according to voting eligible adults in a population. (Lo Wang, Hansi. “Biden Administration Tables Trump’s Citizenship Data Request For Redistricting.” 22 January 2021: https://www.wboi.org/post/biden-administration-tables-trumps-citizenship-data-request-redistricting#stream/0.)

An explanation of the changes Trump tried to make to the counting was provided by NPR. ( Lo Wang, Hansi. “A National Fight Over Who Is Counted In Voting Districts May Arise From Missouri.” Npr. 06 November 2021: https://www.npr.org/2020/11/06/931908064/a-national-fight-over-who-is-counted-in-voting-districts-may-arise-from-missouri.)


Impact of Indiana Statehouse week-long closure Fox 59
Indiana State Police, Governor Eric Holcomb, and legislative leadership decided to close it for the week due to threats of potential violent inauguration …

Pandemic Unemployment relief delayed in Indiana  WISHTV.com
Peterson says someone from Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development told him to keep filling a claim. “She told me don’t worry about it, just ..

Indiana politicians are seizing on the upheaval caused by the pandemic to push forward a vast expansion of taxpayer funding for private education, which could cost the state more than $100 million next year. (IBJ)

One in 43 Hoosiers who contract COVID-19 and are over age 65 and not living in a nursing home will die from the disease, experts affiliated with a statewide study on the prevalence of the novel coronavirus said during a webinar Thursday.  (Journal Gazette)

Governor Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State of Address. He talks about education, COVID-19, economic development, and a few other issues.  (Indy Politics)

Gov. Eric Holcomb wants to create a new, regional development initiative that he says will help the state’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  (WFIU)

In his State of the State address Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb called increasing teacher pay a matter of “when,” not “if,” but stopped short of offering a concrete plan for how to make that happen.  (Chalkbeat Indiana)

As legislators start work on a new state budget, there’s more agreement than usual on what it should include, but the parties still have some differences.  (WIBC)

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development will reopen a federal program on Jan. 22 that extends unemployment benefits.   (WFIU)

Indiana plans an overhaul of how senior citizens get long-term health care.  (WIBC)

Nearly one in five child care providers in Indiana say they are likely to permanently close in the future, according to a survey conducted by the Office for Early Childhood and Out of School Learning at the end of last year.  (WFYI)

As the Indiana General Assembly begins its third week of the 2021 session, a plethora of new bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate. 

Many businesses fear lawsuits from individuals who may be exposed to the virus on their property. Senate Bill 1 offers protection to these businesses. A similar bill in the House has also been introduced; both bills have been through the committee stage and are moving toward passage.

Criminal justice reform
In the wake of the events and protests of 2020, criminal justice reform is proving a critical issue. Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, drafted HB 1015 to require a publicly accessible database of law enforcement misconduct listing officers who engaged in misconduct, were suspended without pay, or were demoted or discharged.
HB 1006, a bill requiring Indiana’s law enforcement training board to mandate training in de-escalation, has received more attention and has already moved through a House committee.

Decriminalization of marijuana

Two bills related to the decriminalization of marijuana were filed in the House: HB 1028 and HB 1026. Similar bills have been filed in past sessions but did not advance due to opposition from House and Senate leadership, even though some neighboring states have already legalized marijuana’s use. 
HB 1028, authored by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, would seek to decriminalize possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana or five grams or less of hash oil or hashish by making the violation a Class D infraction. 
The goal of HB 1026 is to establish a program administered by the Indiana State Department of Health, which would supply valid permits for “cultivation, processing, testing, transportation, and dispensing of medical marijuana.” This is Lucas’ third year introducing similar legislation, but as he notes, it has yet to result in a committee hearing.
The full list of bills can be viewed here
(The Statehouse File)

Several bills are aimed at reigning in the governor’s power to create and maintain an emergency order like the one we are under for the pandemic. Currently House Bill 1123 has the most traction to pass. (Carden, Dan. “Indiana lawmakers seek to limit duration of governor’s emergency powers.” The Times NWI. 24 January 2021: https://cutt.ly/qjNhFR8.)
As Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature returned to session, nearly a dozen bills drafted by GOP legislators have sparked debate in the Statehouse over where to draw the line between public health and personal freedom.  (AP Indiana)

Senator Melton has introduced SB 334, urging for an increase in the minimum wage. The governor wants to focus on job training to give people for better jobs. Illinois, Ohio and Michigan all have higher minimum wages while Indiana’s is tied to the federal minimum wage. Senator Melton said that at the very least there needs to be a repeal of the law that prohibits cities and communities from increasing the minimum wage there. (“Push for Indiana minimum wage increase likely stalled again.” 17 January 2021: https://apnews.com/article/legislature-indiana-minimum-wage-1d839c22f6841b834c8c7d063d3a216f)

SB 336 would allow the business personal property tax exemption to be calculated using the assessed value of the property (instead of its acquisition value), resulting in an estimated 52,000 more businesses qualifying for the exemption at a $12M cost to local governments statewide. It would also eliminate the 30% depreciation floor on business personal property acquired after the effective date, resulting in an estimated loss of around $175M to local units once fully implemented. SB 336, authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis), will be heard in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee next Tuesday. (Legislative Summary. AIM (Accelerate Indiana Municipalities. 22 January 2021: https://aimindiana.org/terminal/legislative-summary-january-22-2021/)

Most viewed and most monitored bills from LegiScan: https://legiscan.com/IN

From the State of Indiana, complete list of bills and by subject and resolutions.

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