03/07/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus has issued recommendations to legislative leadership to protect their physical safety, to address recent racist actions in the House, and systemic racism in general. The Sierra Club has a petition you can sign to urge leadership to endorse and institute these actions. Read more and sign the petition here.

Please contact your state representative about

Please contact your state senator about

  • House Bill 1005 School 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..” More details at ICPE.
  • House Bill 1001 State Budget  Although Governor Holcomb proposed increasing public school funding, this budget is diverting a third of the money appropriated to school vouchers.
  •  House Bill 1369 Firearms Matter would allow handgun carry without a permit.
  •  House Bill 1577, Telemedicine and abortion-related services. Women4Change: “This bill would allow mental health providers to not participate in abortion-related practices or procedures based on ethical, moral, or religious beliefs. 

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.

On February 25  Indivisible NWI welcomed Barbara Tully from Indiana Vote by Mail. We learned a lot about this important process that has led to a significant increase in voter turnout and a significant decrease in voter suppression in many states. We also learned about the legislative process in Indiana and how and when to let our lawmakers know our opinions. Learn more and view the video of the event at https://indivisiblenwi.org/2021/02/vote-by-mail/

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/

The truth matters.

Fact checks

The big lie is back
We all want our politicians to work to make lives better for everyone. But the big lie that never went away is being pushed to the forefront of news again. Trump and his many congressional allies are repeating the lie that he won the election. He didn’t. Over 60 lawsuits, Trump’s own attorney general and the Supreme Court concur. Congress—and those at all levels of government—need to work for the American people in support of democracy and to enact legislation that helps build better lives. Read more at USA Today. An analysis of the election and the effects of lies and disinformation on the election and its aftermath is available from the National Task Force on Election Crisis.

In an interview on Feb, 28 and making it’s way around social media circles, Trump claims he ordered 10,000 national guardsmen and that Nancy Peolosi rejected having the troops. Trump did not order 10,000 national guardsmen that Nancy Pelosi then rejected. Read more at Politifact

Mike Pence says that HR 1 would result in millions of illegal immigrants being allowed to register to vote. The goal is to register more eligible voters. The bill does not change the law that only citizens are allowed to register and to vote. Read more at Politifact.

Read more about the Republican furor over the six Dr Seuss books that will no longer be published due to racist depictions at the Associated Press. It has nothing to do with Democrats and all to do with a private company making a marketing decision. And it’s only six books, not any of the early reader books that helped transform easy readers and early literacy for beginning readers. Read more about this ‘controversy’ and about the Potato Head announcement at Politifact.

Texas governor Abbott claims that illegal immigrants are being released by the Biden Administration and are spreading COVID in Texas. The governor has refused funding to test immigrants, rejecting DHS’s agreement with the Texan local authorities that would enable the very testing of migrant families. In addition asylum seekers have tested positive at a lower rate than the overall Texan population. Read more at CBS News and Forbes.

Check out the lies and rumors of the week, fact-checked, from the Associated Press.


In Congress this past week:

Passed the Senate

HR 1319 American Rescue Plan, passed the Senate on Saturday with no Republican support. Read details of the bill, including changes from the House version from Causes. Goes back to the House for a vote on the Senate version.
Read about improvements to the ACA that flew under the radar of Republicans, but will likely significantly increase the number of insured Americans and is supported by most business and medical groups.
Read how the bill will decrease child poverty by 50% at USA Today.

S. 164: Advancing Education on Biosimilars Act of 2021
Govtrack.us: “A bill to educate health care providers and the public on biosimilar biological products, and for other purposes.” The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 578: FASTER Act of 2021
Govtrack.us: “A bill to improve the health and safety of Americans living with food allergies and related disorders, including potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis, food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, and eosinophilic gastrointestinal diseases, and for other purposes.” The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

On March 2 Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce and Cecilia Rouse was confirmed as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors. On March 1 Miguel Cardona was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Read more at Politico.

Passed the House

H.R. 1: For the People Act: Reforming Campaign Finance, Government Ethics and Voter Protection Laws
Causes.com: “This bill — the For the People Act — would seek to reduce money’s influence in politics, restore ethics and integrity to government, and strengthen voting laws. The bill is divided into three divisions focused on Election Access, Campaign Finance, and Ethics.” Each section is described in detail at Causes. See the vote.

H.R. 1280: George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021
Govtrack.us: “To hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies.” See the vote.

The Senate will likely vote on Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to be secretary of housing and urban development and Judge Merrick Garland to be attorney general. Read more about upcoming legislature and committee meetings and hearings at Causes.

See bills and resolutions on the House and Senate schedules for the coming week at govtrack.us.

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

In other news:

The 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the peaceful march for voters rights across the Edmund-Pettus bridge that was met with deadly police violence, was observed mostly virtually this year and without several civil rights icons who have died, including perhaps most notably, John Lewis.  Read more at NPR.

We still need HR 1, but President Biden issued an executive order “expanding voting access in what the White House calls “an initial step” in its efforts to “protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process.” His administration acknowledges that Congress will have to address the voter suppression laws being proposed and enacted in state legislatures across the country. Read more at CNN Politics.


Bills of note being considered in the Senate:

House Bill 1001 State Budget
Although Governor Holcomb proposed increasing public school funding the budget is diverting a third of the money appropriated to school vouchers. Read more at Fox 59.

HB 1123 would proscribe the powers of the governor and the General Assembly in states of emergency.
Read more at AIM Indiana.
This bill would allow a 16-member group of legislative leaders to call lawmakers into an emergency session at any time after the governor has issued any statewide emergency order if the Legislature isn’t currently meeting. The state constitution gives the governor — not the Legislature — the authority for calling a special session. Read more at Fox 59.

House Bill 1369 Firearms Matter
Effective March 30, 2022: (1) Repeals the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana See the vote. Read more about this bill at WTHR.

House Bill 1485, Voting matters, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Elections. This bill details the duties of poll watchers and outlines several polling place regulations. It passed the House with bipartisan support.

HB 1006  passed unanimously in the House to praise from most state police entities.
The bill provides money for training, a process for officers who bend or breakthe rules, punishment for officers who turn off their body camera to hide misconduct, requires de-escalation training and bans chokeholds except in life-or-death situations.
The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus IBLC member and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Greg Taylor praised the bill. Read more at Fox 59.

 HB1004 will be heard before Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.  The bill establishes the Hoosier hospitality small business grant program, which will provide funding to accelerate economic recovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more at Southwest Indiana Chamber.

HB1007 requires the Indiana State Department of Health to prepare a plan to improve the health of residents of the State of Indiana and establishes a grant program to support public health initiatives was debated in committee on Wednesday. Read more at Southwest Indiana Chamber.

House Bill 1005 School 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..” More details at ICPE.

House Bill 1381
Controversial renewable energy bill moves to Indiana Senate Fox 59
INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to wind and solar farms, Indiana lawmakers are trying to strike a balance between property rights and the rights of your neighbors… this bill establishes state standards for wind and solar power, giving locals some say in how it’s approved but not complete authority.

HB 1033 removes the existing residency requirements for city police officers, who under current law must reside within 50 miles of the city in which they work. Read more at AIM Indiana.

HB 275 Establishes a property tax amnesty program. Authored by Senator Melton.
Bills of note being considered in the House

Senate Bill 389 will repeal wetlands protections.
Mythbusting on SB 389: https://www.hecweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Mythbusting-on-SB-389.pdf

SB 407 would proscribe the powers of the governor and the General Assembly in states of emergency. Read more at AIM Indiana.
This plan would limit a statewide emergency order to 60 days unless the Legislature votes to endorse it, which could force the governor to call a special session if lawmakers have adjourned for the year. Under the state constitution only the governor has the authority to call a special session. Read more at Fox 59

HB 1004 creates grants for small businesses. Many small businesses do not meet the profitability requirement and so wouldn’t be eligible. Hope is that the senate will amend the bill to make the grants avilable to more businesses. Read more at Fox 59.

Senate Bill 373 Carbon Credit Programs would encourage farmers and woodland owners to participate in markets for the sale of carbon offsets, and also expand investment in new public forestland, by providing new opportunities for private investors to buy Indiana-generated carbon offsets. Read more at Hoosier Environmental Council.

Senate Bill 198  Rioting. Indiana lawmakers want to increase penalties for some protests – including those that may cause property damage. Critics say this is just the most recent punitive measure aimed at Black Lives Matter protesters, and Indiana isn’t the only state with this kind of legislation. (WFYI) 

Senate Bill 79, Domestic Battery Enhancement, has been referred to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code. This bill would increase the penalty for domestic battery cases if the offender was previously convicted for strangulation against the same person. This bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support. 

Senate Bill 81, Training for investigators of sexual assault cases, has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety. This bill would create a standardized training procedure for those investigating sexual assault cases. This bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 353, Various election law matters, has been referred to the House Committee on Elections Apportionment. This bill creates several voting restrictions. 

Senate Bill 2 would provide 100% funding to schools offering virtual instruction. Two democratic proposed amendments were withdrawn with the promise by committee chair that the issues would be revisited. The bill is expected to be voted on the House floor next week. If it passes it will go back to the Senate for review and then to the governor for his signature. Read more at The Statehouse File.

SB 352 and SB 377 reprioritize Indiana’s broadband deployment grants to ensure that underserved areas of the state receive the financial support they need to build out broadband infrastructure. Read more at AIM Indiana.

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) Read more at AIM Indiana

SB2  provides for research about learning loss and requesting the IDOE to determine what is adequate funding and reassess the complexity index. It will likely pass the House next week. Read more at Southwest Indiana Chamber.

SB54 aims to improve the rate of filing of the FAFSA application by high school seniors in Indiana.  Read more at Southwest Indiana Chamber.

Read about legislation that has attracted the most interest and attention of the 316 legislative proposals that have made it to the second half of the session.1,031 measures were introduced back in January. Read more at KPVI News 6.

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

In other news

HOPE, which stands for Hoosiers Organized, People Energized, aims to register 100,000 new voters in the next 12 months through off-year voter registration drives, both online and on the ground in historically underrepresented Indiana communities. The initiative launched on Monday. Read more at NWI Times. Even with improved voter turnout in 2020, Indiana remained in the bottom tier of all states. Check out their website at http://www.withhopewewin.com/, Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/withhopewewin and Twitter,

Data show Indiana remains in the bottom-tier of states for voter turnout despite above average participation in last year’s general election.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

The Indiana Department of Correction faces paying more than $500,000 in legal fees in its unsuccessful fight to keep its execution drugs secret.  (AP Indiana)

The state is touting the success and growth of a program designed to help Hoosiers with disabilities save money without losing public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.  (Inside Indiana Business)

Rep. Jim Banks is reshaping the Republican Study Committee to align with the ex-president still ruling the GOP.  (POLITICO)

HUD awards Indiana millions in affordable housing grants WISHTV.com

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded more than $105 million to Indiana communities. HUD says the funding, which come from several different grant programs, will support local affordable housing efforts.

In a YouTube clip, U.S. Senator Todd Young announces his re-election bid for 2022. (Indy Politics) 

Indiana teachers are now eligible for the vaccine, but not through the state. The vaccines for educators will be given through the federal pharmacy program. Governor Holcomb expressed concern about Indiana’s ability to track vaccine doses because of the federal program that will allow teachers to be vaccinated despite their age. The governor said that state eligibility will remain by age and medical condition and that half of all Indiana teachers will be eligible when the age expands to 40 and older. Teachers must register at Kroger, Walmart or Meijer pharmacies that are participating in the federal program and not through Indiana’s vaccine registration site. Read more at Fox 59 and at the The Statehouse File.

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger has resigned, effective immediately. Read more at WISH TV.

Indiana’s average unemployment rate in 2020 – 7.1 percent – increased nearly 4 percentage points compared to the year before. Keep in mind: many economists say, due to problems with data collection, it could be even higher.  (WFIU)

The Indiana State Budget Agency says the state’s General Fund revenues in February came in at just over $1 billion, which is nearly 17% above estimates and 11% higher than actual revenue in the same month last year.  (Inside Indiana Business)

A panel of seven judges has ruled the mayor of East Chicago, and not city council members, sets work schedules for city firefighters. (NWI Times)

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