2/21/2021 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. Sign up here

Please encourage your state representative

  • To protect our remaining wetlands and oppose SB 389.
  • To oppose criminalizing peaceful protests. Senate Bill 198 creates a new crime, conspiracy to commit rioting
  • To oppose House Bill 1369 Firearms Matter that would allow handgun carry without a permit.

Please encourage your state senator

  • To oppose SB 353 Various Election Laws Matter that would prevent any change to Indiana’s already draconian election laws while imposing others.
  • To oppose House Bill 1367 School corporation disannexation It is a controversial bill that allows white students to transfer out of a diverse school corporation into a nearly all white one.

As you read through the state legislation below, become involved by contacting your state representative or senator to tell them your support for or against. Make your voice heard. Many of the bills being considered this year seek to wrest control from local to state control, decrease gun control, favor private over public school funding, and remove environmental controls and regulations.

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

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:

Coronavirus Relief 
A key House Committee has released the 591 page coronavirus relief bill, the result of the work of several committees that nearly mirror’s President Biden’s proposal. A House vote on the bill is expected by the end of the week. (Luhby, Tami and Katie Lobosco. “Here’s what’s in the House Democrats’ stimulus relief plan including direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person.) ABC Eyewitness News. 20 February 2021: https://abc7ny.com/stimulus-update-third-check-democrats-covid-relief-bill-biden-plan/10356610/.)

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. A comprehensive immigration reform bill was introduced in the Senate. See Causes for details. (Revell, Eric. “Democrats Introduce Biden-Backed Immigration Bill With Pathway to Citizenship.” Causes. 19 February 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46958-democrats-introduce-biden-backed-immigration-bill-pathway-citizenship.)

Hr 5 Equality Act
Govtrack.us: “To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”
This bill passed the House in 2019 with bipartisan support, but was never brought up by Speaker McConnell in the Senate. Re-introduced Feb. 22. A vote is expected in the House next week.

H.Res. 42: Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to fine Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner who do not wear masks in the Capitol
GovTrack.us: “Rule change would fine House members $1,000 for each day they don’t wear a mask inside the Capitol.”

Talks are underway in both chambers to allow earmarks, which haven’t been used in a decade. (Revell, Eric. “Democrats Plan to Revive ‘Earmarks’ for Spending Bills – Do You Support the Move?. Causes. 17 February 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46945-democrats-plan-revive-earmarks-spending-bills-do-support-move.)

H.R. 546: Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act
GovTrack.us: “To regulate monitoring of electronic communications between an incarcerated person in a Bureau of Prisons facility and that person’s attorney or other legal representative, and for other purposes.”

The week ahead in Congress

The House is expected to vote on HR 546, HR5 and possibly the COVID relief bill by the weekend. The Senate is expected to hold votes on President Biden’s cabinet nominees and hold hearings on others. For more about the week ahead, see Causes. (Revell, Eric. “House to Take Up COVID Relief Package & ‘Equality Act’ While Senate Confirms Cabinet Nominees.” Causes. 21 February 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46964-house-take-covid-relief-package-equality-act-senate-confirms-cabinet-nominees.)

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

In other news:

Nearly 1700 well known brands have been funding misinformation sites. These include Disney, Walmart, Proctor & Gamble, AT &T, New Balance, Michaels, Harvard, AARP, and the American Cancer Society. Newsguard first reported the funding; most of these companies may not be aware they are financing. The ads are purchased through progammatic advertising, automated purchases of online ads based on various algorithms. Companies avoid purchasing such online ads on sites that publish hate speech and pornography and could use the same process to avoid buying ads on sites that promote lies and conspiracy theories. (Duff, Patricia and Tom Rogers. “The Funding of False Facts—Advertising Money is Fueling Conspiracy Theories.” Newsweek. 18 February 2021: https://www.newsweek.com/funding-false-factsadvertising-money-fueling-conspiracy-theories-opinion-1569967.)
(Skibinski, Matt. “How some of the world’s largest brands funded the misinformation behind the Capitol riot.” Newsguard. https://www.newsguardtech.com/special-report-advertising-on-election-misinformation/.)

The Congressional Budget Office projects near record U.S. National Debt, amid support by most economists for Biden’s CVID relief bill. (Revell, Eric. “CBO Projects U.S. National Debt to Exceed GDP in 2021 for First Time Since the End of World War II.” Causes. 19 February 2021: https://www.causes.com/articles/46961-cbo-projects-u-s-national-debt-exceed-gdp-2021-time-end-world-war-ii.)


Passed the Senate and the House

The House followed the Senate in voting to override the governor’s veto of SEA 148 ; the legislation strips away local control over landlord-tenant relationships. (Associated Press. “Indiana lawmakers force through ban on local rental rules.” Fox 59. 17 February 2021: https://fox59.com/news/politics/indiana-lawmakers-force-through-ban-on-local-rental-rules/.)
Southwest Indiana Chamber: “To address the Governor’s concerns, lawmakers are moving “follow-up” bills, SB150 and HB1541, in both Chambers to eliminate the offending eight little words the Governor deemed overly broad: “any other aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship.” Opponents have argued that these bills still tilt the balance of power too far toward landlords.”
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

Signed into law

SB 1
Statehouse File: Senate Bill 1, passed earlier by the Indiana Senate, was approved in the House, but amended and sent back to the Senate where it passed. The bill provides businesses, health care providers and other entities protection against lawsuits over COVID-19 exposure. See the vote

Passed the Senate

Senate Bill 198 creates a new crime, conspiracy to commit rioting. Substantial criminal penalties will be imposed on protesters if the protests turn violent or incur $750 or more in damage. (Smith, Brandon. “Bill To Raise Penalties On Rioters Clears Indiana Senate.” Indiana Public Media. 17 February 2021: https://indianapublicmedia.org/news/bill-to-raise-penalties-on-rioters-clears-indiana-senate.php.)

Senate Bill 251 woud make joining a union more difficult for school employees.
The Indiana House will soon weigh in on whether teachers need extra steps to authorize union dues taken from their paychecks, but it comes after the bill passed the Senate in an unusual way  (WFYI)

Senate Bill 5 Appeal of local health enforcement actions
Allows businesses ordered closed by local health authorities to appeal the decision. (Indiana Senate bill could let local businesses challenge COVID-19 shutdowns Indiana Daily Student
The Indiana Senate approved a bill Feb. 8 that could allow Indiana small businesses to appeal to stay open if shut down by a public health order.

SB 220 
Southwest Indiana Chamber: This bill “provides the first increase to Workers Compensation benefits since 2016…The bill would increase the benefits by 2% a year for 3 years beginning July 1, 2021.”

Passed the House

House Bill 1367 School corporation disannexation It is a controversial bill that allows white students to transfer out of a diverse school corporation into a nearly all white one. Members who spoke out against the bill saying it was racist were booed and jeered by republican lawmakers. (Shrake, Alexa. “Booing, jeering, hallway altercations mar House debate on school district boundaries bill.” The Statehouse File. 18 February 2021: http://thestatehousefile.com/44466/booing-jeering-hallway-altercations-mar-house-debate-on-school-district-boundaries-bill/.) See the vote.
A statehouse debate over where kids should go to school turned into a walkout and then a confrontation over race and discrimination.   (WTHR)
“But in what passes for thought today in conservative circles, being called a racist is a much greater offense than being a racist.” (Krull, John. “ Commentary: Lawmakers behaving badly, again.” Statehouse File. 19 February 2021: http://thestatehousefile.com/44474/commentary-lawmakers-behaving-badly-again/.)
“After a truly revolting episode in the Indiana Statehouse, a recent quote from Sacha Baron Cohen seems particularly apt. Cohen was quoted as saying “If you’re protesting against racism, you’re going to upset some racists.” ” (Kennedy, Sheila. “The Appalling Indiana Statehouse…” 20 February 2021: https://www.sheilakennedy.net/2021/02/the-appalling-indiana-statehouse/.)

House Bill 1005, School Choice Matters passed despite a letter from a bipartisan group of former state school superintendents in a plea to not take yet more money from public schools and their teachers to enact a bill that primarily favors wealthy families. (Weddle, Eric. “Former Ed Chiefs McCormick, Ritz & Reed Criticize Voucher Expansion Legislation.” WFYI. 15 February 2021: https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/former-ed-chiefs-mccormick-ritz-and-reed-criticize-voucher-expansion-legislation.)  See the vote.

House Bill 1383 Civics Education
Civics education would be required in middle and high school. (Today’s Indiana fourth-graders would have to take a civics course in middle school, under a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Indiana House.  (WIBC)   See the vote.

HB 1485 Voting matters
Women4Change: “This bill specifies when firearms are allowed on voting sites and clarifies who is allowed to use them. It also details the duties of poll watchers, as well as details other polling place regulations.” More details at LegiScan    See the vote.

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. See the vote.

HB 1381 
Southwest Indiana Chamber: This bill “establishes statewide standards for the siting of wind and solar energy generation including rules for minimum setback from neighbors, restricting access to the sites, ground cover and required clean up, and several other items. Local government can establish more relaxed rules, but cannot be more restrictive.” See the vote.

HB 1397
Southwest Indiana Chamber: This bill is “designed to increase participation in work-based learning, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship and increase STEM, hands-on classes for HS students.” Passed unanimously

HB 1007
Southwest Indiana Chamber: “This bill increases “public health funding. The bill establishes the IN It for Health grants so that community organizations can apply for grants to tackle various health initiatives.” See the vote.

HB 1396
Southwest Indiana Chamber: This bill “is a comprehensive bill overhauling several regulations for the sale of alcohol.” See the vote.

Under consideration

House Bill 1369 Firearms Matter
Statehouse File: “A bill to repeal Indiana’s licensing requirement to carry a handgun cleared a House committee Monday.”
Indiana bill to repeal licenses to carry handguns advances WISHTV.com
Haan said Indiana already has a permitting system that works. “When we remove that permitting system what we’re doing is we’re removing law …

SB 353 Proof of Citizenship has been renamed.  SB 353 Various Election Laws Matter.  
All the language of the first bill was dropped, and it was totlly rewritten and passed Monday in the Senate Elections Committee along party lines. 

  • Prohibits the Indiana election commission from: (1) instituting, increasing, or expanding vote by mail or absentee vote by mail; and (2) changing the time, lace, or manner of holding an election.
  • Prohibits a person from providing an absentee ballot application with the driver’s license number or last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number already printed on the form.
  • Requires an applicant for an absentee ballot appication to include the driver’s license number or last four digits of the individual’s Social Security number.
  •  Prohibits the governor from changing, during a declared disaster emergency, the time, place, or manner of holding an election. 

On February 15, Senior Counsel Ami Gandhi and Indiana resident gave testimony before the Indiana State Elections Committee urging lawmakers to reject the proof of citizenship requirement in Senate Bill 353. The requirement was stripped from the bill later that day. (“INDIANA’S MODERN-DAY POLL TAX DEFEATED.” Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. 17 February 2021: https://www.clccrul.org/blog/2021/2/17/indianas-modern-day-poll-tax-defeated) Although the bill no longer requires proof of citizenship, it is still a very restrictive elections bill. It passed out of committee and will be heard on the Senate floor next week. (Menge, Margaret. “Indiana bill would stop governor and election commission from postponing an election, expanding absentee voting.” The Center Square Indiana. 17 February 2021: https://cutt.ly/Ik7yoXE.)

SB 110
ACLU Indiana: “This bill would require the Indiana law enforcement training board to establish a law enforcement misconduct data base, which would give the public access to information on disciplinary actions against law enforcement officers. The transparency in officer misconduct data would allow for more accountability for police violence.” Passed committee and will be herd on the Senate floor next week.

SB 389 
Hoosier Environmental Council: This bill “would eliminate protection of state wetlands in Indiana.”

SB 311 Use of Force and Self-Defense
U.S. Courts Legislative Updates: “The bill provides the following regarding a county, city, or town (unit): (1) Allows an officer to use force options that are not in the unit’s use of force policy in certain circumstances in which deadly force is justified. (2) Allows an officer to disregard the order mandated in a use of force continuum and decide what force option to use based upon the officer’s determination of what is reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances. The bill also prohibits a unit from adopting an ordinance, resolution, or policy that prohibits or restricts an officer from using a force option as provided in (1) and (2).”

SB 200 Noncompliant Prosecuting Attorney
U.S. Courts Legislative Updates: “The bill permits the attorney general to request the appointment of a special prosecuting attorney if a prosecuting attorney is categorically refusing to prosecute certain crimes and establishes a procedure for the appointment of a person to serve as a special prosecuting attorney to prosecute cases that the county prosecuting attorney is refusing to prosecute.”

HB 1200 Human Trafficking
Women4Change: “This bill would provide extra protections for victims of human trafficking that were under 18 years old at time of offence.”

HB 1577 Telemedicine and abortion related services.
Women4Change: “This bill would allow mental health providers to not participate in abortion related practices or prodcedures based on ethical, moral, or religious belief. It also limits abortion-related telemedicine services.”

House Bill 1449 Broadband Development

Senate Bill 141 The Anti-Transit Bill
Hoosier Environmental Council: “This bill “would harm transit service in Marion County by reducing funding needed to fully build out IndyGo’s two new rapid transit corridors and provide expanded local bus service to neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis.”

SB 373 Protecting forests, wildlife habitats, and soils through investments in carbon markets
Hoosier Environmental Council: “This bill would generate new revenue for two state programs that help sequester carbon – President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust and Clean Water Indiana.”

HB 1191 Barring Local Govt. from Prohibiting Unhealthy Energy Resources
Hoosier Environmental Council: “This bill strips “away the right of local governments to prohibit energy resources and infrastructure that a local government might view as harmful to the public health, such as waste-to-energy facilities and natural gas infrastructure (the latter both because of its climate impacts and because of the health risks of cooking with gas.)”

SB 367 and HB 1469 Hoosier Environmental Council: “Protect Hoosier water resources from coal ash contamination”

HB 1038 Hoosier Environmental Council: “Reduce the risk of failing septic systems contaminating our water”

Southwest Indiana Chamber “This bill “was originally a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. It was amended in Committee to instead define a criminal level for nanograms of THC in your blood as a way to determine Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) status for law enforcement. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials opposed the bill expressing no true way to determine impairment.”

Senate Bill 283: Redistricting
Redistricting of voters districts occurs every 10 years with the release of census data. This year redistricting will occur in the fall due to delays in the census. Indiana is expected to once again draw lines according to partisan guidelines to ensure safe seats for republicans and to disenfranchise democrats. In response, several groups have coordinated to launch a campaign that created a nonpartisan group who will independently draw the district maps. These nonpartisan maps will be submitted to the legislature to at least urge transparency in the process. The goal is to force the Indiana General Assembly to “choose between maps drawn in a transparent manner by a politically balanced group of citizens or the maps drawn in secret by politicians who want to preserve their power.” Indiana voters should choose their representatives and senators; politicians should not choose their voters.
The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) will hold a series of virtual public meetings in January and February of 2021 to take public testimony on what redistricting criteria should guide the map-drawing process and to identify communities of interest throughout the state.
You can become involved:
Sign up to attend a meeting about drawing maps in your district: https://www.citact.org/politics-and-money/campaign/redistricting-reform-2021
Many excellent resources are available from the League of Women Voters, Indiana.
Find information also from Common Cause Indiana and All in for Democracy, who will present the nonpartisan fair maps to the Indiana Legislature.

Solar Energy:
SB 420
Hoosier Environmental Council: “This bill would a.) extend net metering by five years, b.) effectively triple the number of solar owners that can benefit from rooftop solar, c.) increase, by fivefold, the size of the systems that are eligible for net metering, and d.) allow for meter aggregation.”

SB 249
Hoosier Environmental Council: “This bill would extend net metering by two years and would effectively triple the percentage of solar owners who could benefit from net metering.”

HB 1394
Hoosier Environmental Council: “Extends net metering – expressly for schools, cities, and counties – by two years (beyond the planned phase out of net metering in the middle of 2022).”

The Budget

House Bill 1001
Southwest Indiana Chamber: “One major obligation of lawmakers this session is to pass the biennial budget for the State of Indiana. HB1001 appropriates money for capital expenditures, the operation of the state, K-12 and higher education, the delivery of Medicaid and other services, and various other distributions and purposes. Notably, the House Republican budget differs from the Governor’s budget this year in including a 50 cent per pack cigarette tax hike, the first since 2007, and funding to cover the loss in fees if Indiana eliminates gun licenses for Hoosier, as prescribed in HB1369 which passed second reading this week. The budget invests heavily in education, as it increases the value of private school vouchers and eligibility for them, launching an education savings account program for students with disabilities and children of active-duty military personnel who opt out of both public and private schools, and a 30% funding boost for school-based social and emotional health programs. Education stakeholders around the state vehemently oppose the Republican budget, claiming $144M in new money goes to private schools and complain the new budget would “divert significant monies away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana’s teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency, and well-being.”  Republicans returned fire with “We fund students – not school buildings.” ”

The budget will remove state funding for over a dozen career and technical classes, including culinary arts and cosmetology from reimbursement. Representative Tim Brown (R- Crawfordsville) said just because schools wouldn’t get money for those courses if the budget proposal stays, that doesn’t mean they can’t offer the courses.  (WFIU)
Several Career and Technical Education Classes Could Lose Funding In Budget Proposal IPBS
Indiana voucher plan could take 1/3 of school funding boost AP

Status of all bills filed so far from LegiScan.

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

In other news

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Monday that she will step down as Secretary of State.   (Indy Politics)

Members of the Lake County Council are suing the state over forced vehicle emissions tests. Only Lake and Porter counties are required to conduct the tests. (Cross, Lauren. “Lake County council members sue state to toss out vehicle emissions tests.” NWI Times. 19 February 2021: https://cutt.ly/MlpLHLJ.)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is moonlighting as a strategic policy adviser for the health benefits company that has employed him since 2019, his office confirmed Tuesday morning, raising questions about whether the arrangement violates state ethics rules.  (IMPORTANTVILLE)

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