4/11/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Contact your state representative about:

SB 389 Repeals state regulated wetlands law
There is good news and bad news on the wetlands bill, SB 389. The good news is that the House Environmental Affairs Committee significantly amended SB 389 on April 7 so that it protects most wetlands. The bad news is that some wetlands will lose protection in this version. Unfortunately, the wetland de-regulation faction of lawmakers at the Statehouse is strong so if this committee version does not pass, the bill will revert to a repeal of Indiana’s wetlands law or a near-repeal and Hoosiers will lose 80% of Indiana’s remaining wetlands. Please join the Hoosier Environmental Council in calling on our state representatives to:

1.) Support the amendment to replace SB 389 with a Wetland Task Force

2.) If the Wetland Task Force amendment fails, support the House Environmental Committee version of SB 389. The committee version, but no further!

3.) Oppose Amendment 19 to SB 389 or any other anti-wetlands floor amendments.

4.) Oppose the Senate version of SB 389

See more details at https://www.hecweb.org/…/water…/protecting-wetlands/

SB373 Carbon credit programs
This bill has been substantially altered in the House Natural Resource Committee. and is no longer viewed as a positive environmental bill because it creates a voluntary carbon market; instead it is an opaque program that could have environmentally disastrous effects on unsuspecting property owners. In fact, the carbon market has been stripped from the bill and turned into a study.
From the Citizens Action Coalition:
A dangerous amendment was added to the bill which threatens Hoosier property values, health, water supplies, and environment. 
SB373 now does the following:

  • Forces Hoosier property owners to allow dangerous, highly-pressurized carbon dioxide waste captured from dirty manufacturing facilities to be stored long-term underneath their properties without their consent.
  • Grants eminent domain to private corporations with no requirement that they compensate private property owners for condemning their property.
  • Insulates the polluters from any liability associated with any problems which can occur as a result of storing highly pressurized carbon dioxide waste underground.This bill passed through committee and will be heard on the House floor next week.

To date there are 361 restrictive voting bills circulating through state legislatures across the country. Contact your Senator to support the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and D.C. statehood.
Todd Young: (202) 224-5623; To email: https://www.young.senate.gov/contact/email-todd
Mike Braun: (202) 224-4814; To email: https://www.braun.senate.gov/contact-mike

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

Elections should be easy to vote in and hard to buy off. Republicans might say “election integrity,” but by opposing democracy reform, their actions yell “voter suppression.” We need the For the People Act (HR 1 and its companion bill, S 1 ) to make elections fair and government transparent.

S1 (HR1) is a sweeping elections reform bill that is urgently needed to make elections secure and fair and voting accessible to all citizens. Republicans have charged many accusations about the bill that are not true. The bill will make it easier for all voters to request an absentee ballot. Republicans have charged that everyone will be mailed a ballot without verifying their identity. Many states already mail ballots to their registered voters, but this bill does not require all states to do so. ID requirements set by the states will remain. (Politifact)
S1 does not ban ID requirements to vote, but states will need to provide a way for voters without such ID to vote. Republicans say that voters won’t have to have ID to vote, but they will still need that. (Politifact)
16 year olds can pre-register to vote when they turn 18. It does not, as republicans charge, allow 16 year olds to vote. (Politifact)
Only United States citizens are allowed to vote. Republicans charge that illegal immigrants will be allowed to vote under S1. Federal and state criminal laws that prohibit noncitizens from voting or registering to vote will still be enforced. (Politifact)
This bill would restore voting rights to felons who have been released from prison. S1 will not, as republicans charge, allow prisoners to vote. Many states already do restore voting rights to the incarcerated once they have served their terms and have been released from prison. This bill would extend these voting rights across the country. (Politifact)
H.R. 1 would require all states to have independent redistricting commissions. Many states already have politically balanced redistricting commissions. Republicans charge that the federal government would take take over redistricting in the states. The states would oversee the appointment of the commission in their state, not the federal government. (Politifact)

The American Jobs Plan builds back better by addressing infrastructure, an issue that has historically enjoyed bipartisan support up until now. Republicans are complaining that this legislation is far too broad, encompassing social programs that have nothing to do with infrastructure. Think again. Mirriam Webster defines infrastructure as  “…the system of public works of a country, state or region; also the resources (such as personnel, buildings or equipment) required for an activity.” Read more at Politico Nightly.


Congress has been in recess. Both chambers will reconvene next week.

Read bills that will be considered in the House and confirmations that will be considered in the Senate at Causes.
See legislation that is trending and coming up.
See the week ahead for committees.

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

In other news:

President Biden issued six executive orders concerning guns.  

The Justice Department will propose a rule within 30 days to close a regulatory loophole that allows ghost guns, which lack serial numbers, to be purchased without a background check. 
The administration also plans to “tighten regulations on the kind of stabilizing braces for pistols used in last month’s Boulder, Colorado, shooting that left 10 people dead.”
Five federal agencies “are directed to make changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible.”
Justice Department has been directed “to publish model “red flag” legislation for states that want to enact such laws that enable courts to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms if they may hurt themselves or others.”
The Justice Department has been directed “to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking, which the ATF has not done since 2000.”
The NRA called the measures “extreme.”
White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice said that more executive actions should be expected.

The president also announced that David Chipman is being nominated as the director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Chipman is an ATF veteran who currently serves as an adviser for the gun control advocacy group named for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

A $5 billion investment in community violence intervention programs over eight years is part of the president’s infrastructure plan. (USA Today)

President Biden unveiled his $1.5 trillion 2022 budget proposal. It calls for massive boosts to low-income schools, public health programs and fighting climate change, with a slight increase in Pentagon funding. Read more at Politico and the White House.

President Biden issued an executive order  empaneling a 36 member commission to examine possible reforms to the Supreme Court and federal judiciary, Read more at Politico.


Vetoed by the governor:

HB 1123 Legislative oversight of certain fiscal and emergency matters
“The bill would establish a new process for the General Assembly to call itself into a 40-day emergency session to consider legislative action in response to a gubernatorial declaration of a statewide emergency. That limits a governor’s authority to impose long-lasting emergency restrictions such as mask rules and business closures…” (AP News) Read details at NWI Times.

Signed into law by the governor:

Senate Bill 6, State house monument to suffragists

Senate Bill 81 Training for investigators of sexual assault cases,
This bill will create a standardized training program for professionals who investigate sexual assault cases.

House Bill 1384 Civics education
This bill outlines a plan for creating standardized civics education in Indiana.

HB 1177 Strategic plan on dementia

HB 1033 Residency of police officers and firefighters
Revises residency requirements for members of police and fire departments to require that members: (1) have adequate means of transportation into the jurisdiction served by the member’s department; and (2) maintain telephone service to communicate with the department.

HB 1564 Secretary of Education
Organizes and corrects statutes, as required by P.L.8-2019 (HEA 1005-2019), concerning the state superintendent of public instruction. Makes changes, as applicable, from the state superintendent of public instruction as an elected position to the secretary of education as an appointed position. 

HB 1156 Prohibition on microchipping employees

HB1197 Hoosier Spirit II Designated State Aircraft bill

For a full list of bills signed or vetoed so far by the governor see https://www.in.gov/gov/newsroom/2021-bill-watch/.

Passed both chambers; going to Governor Holcomb to sign or veto:

SB 263 Religious activities as essential services
This bill would allow religious activities to be treated as essential passed Tuesday in the House. It says that state and local governments cannot put more restrictions on religious gatherings than on other essential businesses. (Statehouse File)

SB 198 Rioting
This bill allows the state to withhold funding to cities that fail to protect public monuments and memorials from vandalism, part of an attempt by republican lawmakers to deter protests that have elevated since the death of George Floyd. It also increases penalties for rioting, vandalizing monuments, blocking emergency vehicles and violating curfews. (WLFI)

SB 251 Deduction of dues to exclusive representative
This bill would have teachers opt in to union membership every year while being informed of their right to not join the Indiana State Teachers Association. School districts would have to confirm their decision by email. Passed out of committee. (Indy Politics) Critics say this bill “is an attempt to weaken the state’s largest teacher union…The legislation mandates that school districts have to  each year before deducting union dues from their paycheck. During the process, teachers must be reminded in large, bold font of their right not to join the union.” (WFYI)

House Bill 1479 Early voting
This bill  gives the circuit court clerk permission to establish voting sites on the third Saturday before an election, allowing for more opportunity to cast early ballots.” (Women4Change)

SB 3 Telehealth Matters
Prohibits the Medicaid program from specifying originating sites and distant sites for purposes of Medicaid reimbursement. Prohibits the use of telehealth to provide any abortion, including the writing or filling of a prescription for any purpose that is intended to result in an abortion.

Bills still under consideration

(Tuesday, April 13th is the deadline for House bills to pass the Senate and deadline for Senate bills to pass the House.)

HB 1001 Budget
With an infusion of cash from the American Rescue Plan, republicans have increased parts of the budget, including for education. Senator Melton is urging that more be devoted to public education and teacher salaries. Private school voucher expansion and education savings account program have been scaled back in the Senate version of the budget. Senator Tallian urged republicans to consider reinstating a cigarette tax, noting that the Chamber and other groups favored such a tax to help improve Hoosier health. Read more at NWI Times.
The budget scales back the increases in the voucher program that were in the House budget, but still increases it to levels criticized by public school educators. The budget more significantly guts the House proposed education savings account program. House leaders, however, have promised to fight for more money for private schools in the final budget. The final budget will be negotiated by House and Senate leaders before the end of the session on April 21. Read more details at Chalkbeat Indiana and at the Statehouse File.
Senate Republicans dedicated more money for mental health resources and students living in poverty in their version of the 2-year $35.8 billion budget Thursday.  (South Bend Tribune)
Community and Home Options to Institutional Care for the Elderly and Disabled (CHOICE) program began in 1987. Since then, CHOICE has served tens of thousands of Hoosiers and their family caregivers. It allows people who require just a few hours of care each day to remain in their homes with part time assistance, rather than being forced prematurely into round-the-clock nursing facilities.
The Governor’s budget proposes to cut CHOICE nearly $5,000,000 in each of the next two years. Learn more at Citizens Action Coalition.
Senate democrats proposed amendments to address shortfalls in money for public education and cuts in the CHOICE program. They were voted down. Read more details here.

Senate Bill 353 Various election matters
A legislative committee has overhauled a contentious proposal to require Indiana voters to submit identification numbers with mail-in ballot applications. The original version required ID to be submitted with mail in ballots and also prohibited the State Elections Commission from changing anything about an election, even during a national emergency. (AP Indiana) The bill now moves to the House floor. Read more details at the Statehouse File.
Read criticism of the bill from Eli Lilly:
Proposed Indiana voting law change faces corporate criticism Fox 59
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One of Indiana’s most prominent corporations, Eli Lilly, is criticizing an Indiana proposal that opponents maintain will make mail-in  voting more difficult by requiring voters to submit identification numbers with their ballot applications. .. According to Eli Lily, This bill “serves only to confer acceptance of the widespread falsehood that there is something to be questioned about the outcome of last year’s election…This effort and others like it, albeit using different language, only serve to perpetuate the narrative that the 2020 election outcome was flawed or compromised in some way.” (Fox 59)

Senate Bill 353 Absentee ballot applications
This bill has been passed and adopted by the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment. 
The House Committee on Elections and Apportionment made changes to the bill which removed confusing, strict restrictions on absentee ballot applications and the Election Commission’s ability to allow for more voting opportunities. (Women4Change) Read more about the bill including Attorney General Todd Rokita’s lie about widespread election fraud in Indiana. (An analysis by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, records 43 cases of election fraud in Indiana since 2003. In that time, more than 21 million Hoosiers have voted in statewide general elections alone. That would be a voter fraud rate of .0002 percent–WFYI )

SB 5 Local health departments; public health emergencies.
“The bill would allow health departments to issue an order less restrictive than a statewide public health order, but it provides that orders more restrictive than a state order would require approval by local elected officials, which would mean approval by either a county executive or approval by both a city legislative body or mayor. The bill also calls for moving health order appeals from the court system to city and county boards. The Indiana Public Health Association and Indiana State Association of County and City Health Officials presented a virtual conference Friday with a panel of health experts to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 5.The bill has passed through the Indiana House and Senate and is heading to conference committee to work out differences between the Senate and House bills.

Senate Bill 336 Business personal property tax exemption
Recently approved by the House, this bill raises the threshold below which small businesses do not have to pay taxes on machinery and equipment. Sent back to the Senate with amendments; the Senate dissented. (Inside Indiana Business)

SB 389 Repeals state regulated wetlands law
Hal Slager proposed an amendment that retains most state wetland regulations while clarifying the definitions of different types of wetlands, including exempting ephemeral streams created by rain or snow runoff from the definition of an isolated wetland. It also largely exempts cropland and most field tile maintenance from wetland permitting, and shrinks the size of new wetlands that must be created in exchange for filling or draining an existing wetland — but never below 1 to 1. The original bill repealed a wetlands law, eliminating all protections of state regulated wetlands. State data show that Hoosiers had already drained 85% of Indiana wetlands. Draining the rest would likely lead to substantial flooding in addition to the loss of natural wildlife. The amended bill passed unanimously out of committee and will be debated on the House floor. If it passes the House it will need to go back to the Senate. Read the proposed amendment. (NWI Times) Read more at the Statehouse File and Indiana Environmental Reporter.

SB 377 Broadband development, SB 352 Broadband development, and SB 359 Broadband projects
The House Utilities Committee passed a swath of broadband bills designed to expand access to underserved areas They will be up for a final vote before returning to the Senate this week. (Citizens Action Committee)

House Bill 1200 Human trafficking
This bill has “been passed by the Senate and returned to the House with amendments. The House has since dissented from the amendments, but no advisors or conferees have been appointed. This bill creates stronger protections for victims of human trafficking, especially for underage victims.” (Women4Change)

HB 1309 Pregnancy accommodation
Indiana legislators are turning aside — for the second straight year — an appeal from Gov. Eric Holcomb for a law requiring more businesses to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant women. Such steps, such as longer breaks or transfers to less physical work, are cast by supporters as ways of improving Indiana’s infant mortality rate, which federal statistics show was the country’s 14th worst in 2018 with 525 infant deaths. But republican lawmakers say that if an employer doesn’t provide requested accommodations, the employee can find another job. (WFIU)

House Bill 1365 Various election matters
“This bill has been rejected by the House after undergoing Senate amendments. The bill will undergo discussion by the two chambers, with Senators Greg Walker (R, District 41), Fady Qaddoura (D, District 30), Jon Ford (R, District 38), and J.D. Ford (D, District 29) acting as Senate advisors and conferees and Representatives Ethan Manning (R, District 23), Zach Payne (R, District 66), Matt Pierce (D, District 61), Timothy Wesco (R, District 21), and Tonya Pfaff (D, District 43) acting as House advisors and conferees. HB 1365 outlines several vote count and voting  policies.” (Women4Change)

HB 1577 Abortion matters
The measure requires Indiana doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment that could stop the abortion process, and bans chemical abortions ordered via telemedicine.
Supporters argue the bill ensures that women who change their minds after taking the first of the two drugs for a medication abortion are provided with information about stopping the process by taking a different drug.
Medical groups say the abortion pill “reversal” process is not backed up by science and that there is little information about its safety. Passed the Senate and goes back to the House for final approval. (AP News)

HB1381 Setting statewide standards for wind and solar siting
“This bill establishes default standards concerning the set of rules a company must follow when trying to invest  in commercial wind and solar in Indiana.  Prior to this bill there has been a patchwork of 92 ordinances and sets of rules for a company to follow when trying to invest in the state.”  An amendment to assess a one-time payment of $3000 per megawatt of capacity from the developer to the local government was proposed and accepted. The bill passed through committee with the support of the local officials that had previously opposed the measure. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for passage before returning to the House.

HB 1348 Assessment of land used for renewable energy production purposes
This bill was amended to direct the use of the income approach to provide a uniform formula for assessments across the state for these types of projects. It passed out of committee and goes back to the Senate. (Southwest Indiana Chamber)

HB 1402 All payer claims data base.
This bill “builds off the 2020 creation of an All-Payer Claims Database that will ultimately provide transparent data for Hoosier healthcare providers, consumers, employers, etc. regarding the cost and quality of healthcare services in Indiana.” (Southwest Indiana Chamber)

 House Bill 1369 Firearms matters
This bill will not get a committee hearing in Senate prior to Thursday’s deadline, in effect killing the measure for the year. Opponents of the measure included the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, and the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, among others, who said that the proposal “has some major flaws” and should not become law. (PD Clarion)

In other news

The Democratic National Committee is putting up a billboard in Indianapolis this week, attacking Sen. Mike Braun and Sen. Todd Young for voting against President Joe Biden’s latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package.   (Indy Star)

Indiana revenue beat the most recent projections for the month of March. (Inside Indiana Business)

An Indiana University official says mandating COVID-19 vaccines for students makes “perfect sense,” but university leaders haven’t decided whether it will become a requirement.  (WFIU)

“The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that the Indiana Department of Workforce Development is getting $100,000 in grants to expand Indiana’s fidelity bonding programs, which support employers that hire workers considered “at-risk” due to prior involvement in the criminal justice system, as well as those in recovery for substance abuse. These workers often face barriers in their attempts to return to the workforce.” (Shelbyville News)

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