2/14 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

On Thursday, February 25 at 5:30 join Indivisible NWI as we host Indiana Vote by Mail. We welcome Barbara Tully from Indiana Vote By Mail. She will speak on what we all need to know about Vote By Mail and how we can get involved. Bring your questions Learn about this important initiative.

Contact your MOCs to demand they support COVID relief, HR1, which will provide comprehensive reform to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders, and HR 51, Washington DC statehood: https://indivisible.org/demand-your-senators-support-our-february-recess-asks 
Scroll down for easy access to your senators and representative.

Read what’s next with Indivisible and how you can be involved: The Indivisible Guide to what’s next: https://indivisible.org/democracy-guide

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

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:

This past week in Congress:

S. 35: Officer Eugene Goodman Congressional Gold Medal Act
On Friday the Senate announced that Officer Eugene Goodman would be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his heroic actions on Jan. 6. (Revell, Eric. “Senate Votes to Award Officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for Bravery During Capitol Riot.” 12 February 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46923-senate-votes-award-officer-eugene-goodman-congressional-gold-medal-bravery-capitol-riot.)

On Saturday the Senate voted 57-43 to acquit the former president of charges that he incited the insurrection on Jan. 6. (Herman, Josh. “Trump Acquitted of ‘Incitement of insurrection’.” Causes. 13 February 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46926-trump-acquitted-incitement-insurrection.)

President Biden responded with a statement from the White House. He pressed an obligation to the truth, “…each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”

Click each for statements from McConnell and Schumer, and a run-down of the events of Saturday, culminating in the vote.

Trump may be stopped due to his own pending and future legal charges against him. But take note that the verdict offers future presidents impunity. That is the lesson the GOP has passed on to the rest of us. (Mathis, Joel. “Future presidents will remember Trump’s impunity.” The Week. 13 February 2021: https://cutt.ly/vkVRrVr.)

The Senate continued hearings for President Biden’s cabinet picks. Only seven have been confirmed so far. See who’s been confirmed, who is nominated, and the votes taken so far. (Jin, Beatrice. “Joe Biden’s Cabinet: Who’s in, and who voted against them.” Politico. 11 February 2021: https://www.politico.com/interactives/2021/joe-biden-cabinet-members-confirmations-list/)

The House and the Senate will be in recess until February 22. Some work will be addressed, including continuing to draft the coronavirus relief package. For the week ahead, see Causes.

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

In other news:

On Friday the CDC issued guidance for reopening schools. (“Strong evidence in-person schooling can be done safely, CDC says.” NBC. 12 February 2021: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/strong-evidence-person-schooling-can-be-done-safely-cdc-says-n1257672.)

President Biden signed an executive order rescinding emergency funding for the border wall. ( Beitsch, Rebecca. “Biden terminates Trump emergency order used to construct border wall.” The Hill. 11 February 2021: https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/538406-biden-terminates-trump-emergency-order-used-to-construct-border-wall?rl=1.)

Interviews with 19 police officers who were on the scene Jan. 6 reveal horrifying details from their perspective. ( “I Don’t Trust the People Above Me”: Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection.” ProPublica. 12 January 2021: https://cutt.ly/xkLx4Zf.)

A special open enrollment period on HealthCare.gov, allowing Americans to sign up for a new health insurance plan subsidized by the federal government will begin on Monday Feb. 15 and last until May 15. An estimated 30 million Americans have no health insurance, with an estimated 4 million who would qualify for free coverage and many more who would qualify for assistance. (Scott, Dylan. “Biden just took his first step to expand health coverage.” Vox. 28 January 2021: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/1/28/22254075/joe-biden-executive-orders-health-care-obamacare-enrollment.)


Many of the bills below strip away environmental protections, gun control, public school funding and local control. Contact your representative and senator to let them know you oppose these bills:

Environment Bills of particular concern:

SB 389 — Anti-Wetlands Bill 2021 
Hoosier Environmental Council: SB 389 would eliminate protection of state wetlands in Indiana. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management testified to the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee that Indiana has already lost 85% of its original wetlands and that of the wetlands remaining, 80 – 90% are state wetlands which would be in jeopardy if this bill passes. The other 10 – 20% of Indiana’s remaining wetlands are federally protected. Wetlands are vital to a healthy ecosystem and water resources. They provide water purification and critical wildlife habitat. Wetlands act like giant sponges in the landscape absorbing 1 – 1.5 million gallons of water per acre which reduces flood risk. Contact your representative to let him or her know you oppose this bill.
Talking points: Would jeopardize over 80% of Indiana’s wetlands
Wetlands are extremely important and provide wildlife habitat, reduce flood risk, purify water, and more.HB 1436 – Would Undermine DNR’s Ability to Protect Floodways
Hoosier Environmental Council: HB 1436 would require any state agency, which includes the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), to pay the attorney fees incurred by a party that successfully challenges an agency enforcement or permitting decision. The bill would also require DNR to grant floodway construction permits unless it can prove, instead of the applicant, that the proposed construction would not adversely affect the floodway, pose an unreasonable safety hazard, or have a detrimental effect on fish and wildlife. This bill has passed the House. Contact your state representative and urge him/her to oppose HB 1436. 

HB 1191
Hoosier Environmental Council: Strips local authority by dis-allowing a city, county or state institution from banning energy resources it views as unhealthy. This bill has passed the House. Call your senator to oppose.

Education Bills of particular concern:

HB 1005 – School choice matters
Indiana Coalition for Public Education: “This is a very broad sweeping bill with a number of impacts on public schools as well as private voucher programs. It also creates Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) which allows taxpayer funded unsupervised homeschooling. This is one of the House Republicans top 5 priority bills. Bill author is Chairman Behning (Education Committee) and he has said this bill will pass out of the house.”

SB 412 – Indiana personalized education grant program
Indiana Coalition for Public Education: “Similar to education savings account. Parents or emancipated eligible student (defined as special education or foster care) can receive an annual grant amount of ADM that would have otherwise gone to public school. This is essentially a 100% voucher and doesn’t need to be used at an accredited school. Essentially a homeschool. Can use for “related” educational expenses. Programs like this that have been allowed in other states have been subject to widespread fraud and abuse (e.g. Disneyland trip for entire family is educational, big screen TVs are necessary, etc.).”

SB 413 – Education matters
Indiana Coalition for Public Education: “This bill authorizes a school board to transfer operating funds from tax revenue to charter schools based on ADM of the charter school compared to total of public school. Recall that last year legislation passed that allowed school corporations to share with charters, this bill mandates that a public school share a referendum with a charter school. Any foster child can get voucher. Amends maximum amount for every eligible student for choice scholarship to 90% of state tuition support. Does away with the categories for different levels based on income. This is regressive in terms of impact on community. Gives same type of financial support to wealthy families as to impoverished families. Also includes a hold harmless for performance on statewide assessments.”

Other bills of concern:

House Bill 1369
Statehouse File: Repeals the state law requiring a license to carry a handgun. “Nearly 30 people testified at the hearing Wednesday, representing groups that included law enforcement, firearms instructors, public defenders, mothers and gun rights activists.” The Public Policy Committee is expected to take action on the bill next week.

: This bill would “tie the hands of local governments from shifting money away from public safety agencies. [It] easily passed a Senate committee.”

ACLU: This bill “would remove Indianapolis’s control over its local police department by instating a five-member, state-appointed board to oversee the Indianapolis metropolitan police department.”

SB 394
ACLU: This bill “would…strip civilian oversight of local police departments by placing all authority for the department’s policies and procedures under the chief of police.”

SB 311
ACLU: This bill “would allow an officer to disregard the use of force continuum and would prohibit any local ordinance that restricts the use of force option provided by this statute.”

Senate Votes To Override Holcombs Veto Of Tenant-Landlord Legislation WFYI
Eddie Melton (D-Gary) said that bothered him. “With no opportunity for the public to participate, or listen, or offer their voice or perspective in the …This is another move by the state legislature to revoke local control.
Senator Melton’s response to the override of the governor’s veto: Melton responds to senate override of governor veto, https://www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/melton-responds-to-senate-override-of-governor-veto/
Last session, the General Assembly passed SEA 148 which preempted the ability of local units to regulate many specific aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship  This week, the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto 30-17, with the commitment to pass a trailer bill (SB 150) which would strike the catchall language prohibiting local units from regulating any aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship. This bill still “significantly limits the ability of local units to address landlord-tenant issues in communities.” AIM Legislative Summary

Passed the Senate

Property tax amnesty plan wins unanimous Senate approval nwitimes.com
Eddie Melton, D-Gary, the sponsor, said if the amnesty program becomes law — and a county council chooses to participate — the county likely would …

SB 10 regarding maternal mortality
Statehouse File: “The maternal mortality review committee, a committee that looks at the mental health and mortality rate of pregnant women in Indiana, proposed in the bill that mental health records be released without the patient’s consent. The bill also discusses determining if a performed abortion has anything to do with maternal mortality or mental health.”

Southwest Indiana Chamber: This bill “is an attempt to ensure more Hoosier students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).”

SB 202
Statehouse File: “Allows loved ones to visit family members in long-term care facilities.”

Passed the House

SB 1
Statehouse File: “The Indiana House on Thursday passed legislation providing businesses, health care providers and other entities protection against lawsuits over COVID-19 exposure.
SB 1, passed earlier by the Indiana Senate, was approved in a 72-21 vote in the House. Because the bill was amended before passage in the House, it will now return to the Senate for review.”

HB 1123
Southwest Indiana Chamber: Allows “the General Assembly to call itself back into an emergency session should a Governor declare a state of emergency in the future.”

HB 1176
Statehouse File: The bill gives a “clearer definition as to what consent is. It also clarifies that posing as someone’s consensual partner is rape, even if consent is given.”

HB 1562 
Statehouse File: “Permits a resident of Indiana the right to petition for adoption of a child less than 18 years old in any county as long as they meet one of two conditions.”

HB 1176, Elements of rape. 
Women4Change Indiana: “HB 1176 would criminalize sexual assault in cases where the perpetrator knowingly deceives the survivor about their identity. In that particular scenario, the survivor does not have the opportunity to consent or not. This bill would make assault of this kind illegal in Indiana, even if the assault did not occur by force.”

HB 1365, Various election matters.
Women4Change Indiana: “The bill proposes a series of vote center and vote count regulations intended to protect against voter fraud and election interference.”

HB 1479, Early voting.
Women4Change Indiana: “This bill allows more time to cast early ballots.”

House Bill 1123
Statehouse File: “…limits local health departments from making stricter regulations than the government by having to get approval from county commissioners or city councils.”

HB 1025 
Southwest Indiana Chamber: Allows “local municipalities with Enterprise Zones to “take over” the required approval of the Zone from the state (all EZ’s are set to expire in 2024) and reconsider them every 5 years. Doing so would mean they forego the state incentives associated with EZ’s, but keep the local property tax deductions.” This bill passed the full House on Monday 93-2 and moves to the Senate for consideration.”

HB 1402
Southwest Indiana Chamber: Last year, the legislature established the All Payers Claim Database (APCD) by identifying the data they wanted to collect and set the RFP to set it up. This year, HB1402, follows on to provide greater definition about the responsibilities of the Administrator and the Advisory Board that will oversee it. The bill also confirms that the APCD must provide a forward facing portal that is free to consumers to be a resource to understand consumers, price, and quality with the ability to compare across several factors including geography, demographics, etc.

Statehouse File: Other bills, whose descriptions can be found on the Indiana General Assembly website, that were passed in the House and move on to the Senate include:

  • HB 1166 Property tax assessment appeals
  • HB 1168 Electric vehicles and advanced technology
  • HB 1198 Adult and juvenile court jurisdiction
  • HB 1256 Juvenile court jurisdiction
  • HB 1227 Thirteenth check and $50 increase payment
  • HB 1353 Property tax exemption for religious use
  • HB 1402 All payer claims database
  • HB 1514 School accountability

HB 1520 Electric utility reliability adequacy metrics

Under consideration

HB 1384
The Statehouse File: This bill “creates the Indiana Civic Education Commission, a task force that will oversee new civic learning responsibilities in middle schools. The bill also includes the stipulation that all middle schools across the state must require one semester of civic learning in sixth, seventh or eighth grade.”

Southwest Indiana Chamber Provides “a 2% increase each year for 3 years to Worker’s Compensation benefits, which have not been increased since 2016.”

HB 1009
Southwest Indiana Chamber: “Phases in an increase in the allowable income for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) up to 50% of federal poverty level.”

Southwest Indiana Chamber: Designed with the intention of making college prep and CTE credits more accessible

Southwest Indiana Chamber: “The bill establishes an appeals process for local health enforcement actions.” 

SB 214 
Southwest Indiana Chamber: “Establishes a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program to encourage the development of affordable/workforce housing.”

SB 353
WIBC: “You would have to prove you are a citizen of the United States to register to vote in Indiana…” If passed it is expected to be challenged by the ACLU.

SB 42
AIM Legislative Summary: This bill “would prevent local governments from reducing their budgets for police, fire, and public safety services unless there is a revenue shortfall.” It “hampers local decision-making regarding funding for public safety services, reduces budget flexibility, and hinders the ability to implement efficiencies and cost savings in the provision of vital public safety services.” It “was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee on Thursday and was held for amendment and vote at a later meeting.”

HB 1305
Statehouse File: “Could reimburse for care at out-of-state children’s hospitals.”

HB 1309, Pregnancy accommodations. This bill has yet to be heard on the House floor. 
Women4Change Indiana: “HB 1309 only allows for women to ask for pregnancy accommodations, which is already legal.” Employers are not required to make accommodations.

BORDER DISPUTE: Activists press for changes in redistricting, but will those in power listen?
Greenfield Daily Reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — Beverly Gard represented Indiana State Senate District 28 for more than two decades, and she got to know the communities she …

Devil is in the details of Hoosier redistricting  Journal Review
INDIANAPOLIS — This year the Indiana General Assembly has two tasks it must complete: Forge a $30 billion-plus biennial budget and draw news …

The Indiana Department of Education is estimating the state will receive $881 million dollars in the second round of federal CARES Act funds earmarked for schools. The IDOE says each school district will receive a part of the funding.  (Inside Indiana Business)

At the end of the sixth week of the Indiana General Assembly, House Republicans unveiled their budget which includes more money for schools and a 50-cent increase in the cigarette tax.  (Indy Politics)

Indiana deaths jumped by 18% during 2020 amid pandemic WKRC TV Cincinnati
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A larger surge of coronavirus deaths in Indiana during December than was initially reported contributed to an 18% jump in the .

Study: Indiana facing obstacles to economic growth  WISHTV.com
INDIANAPOLIS (Inside Indiana Business) — A landmark study from the Brookings Institution suggests while Indiana has had one of the best …

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