4/18/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

SB 389 Wetlands has passed the General Assembly and goes to Governor Holcomb to sign or veto. This bill repeals the 2003 wetlands protections bill. It was amended in the House, but still rolls back critical protections for wetlands. This bill incurred bipartisan objections and Governor Holcomb has expressed concerns about it. The Senate voted 31 to 19 (votesheet) to concur with the House version of SB 389.
TAKE ACTION: Please thank your state senator and representative if they voted against SB 389. See the votesheets. You can find your senator and representative at http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/
Please contact Governor Holcomb urging him to veto SB 389.
By phone at 317-232-4567
By mail: Office of the Governor, Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797
By email: govholcomb@gov.in.gov

Join Indivisible NWI for these important townhalls next week:

Wed. April 21: Townhall with State Senator Karen Tallian -Updates from the Statehouse
5:30 PM  Register here: https://indivisible.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAkc-2grDsqHtEyEY-kCpuxmmWAadH22_92 

Saturday April 24: Townhall with US Congressman Frank Mrvan -How American Rescue Plan funds will be allocated in NW IN. 
10:00 AM  Register here: https://indivisible.zoom.us/meeting/register/

To date there are nearly 400 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

Major League Baseball has moved the All-Star Game to Colorado where voting is much easier for everyone than it is in Georgia. Republicans have decried businesses and corporations who have objected to Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws that target minorities. In particular, republicans claim Georgia’s new laws make voting easier than it is in Colorado because Georgia has a few more days of early voting than Colorado. Colorado already ensures that all voters have easy access to the voting booth because voting by mail is easy there and most people vote by mail. In addition, Colorado allows election day registration, while in Georgia, registration closes about a month earlier. Colorado also makes greater use of dropboxes than Georgia. (Politifact)

Providing care to transgender youth can be life-saving. Many states have passed or are considering legislation that bans such care, saying that such decisions are too complex for a minor to make. Yet studies show that medical intervention reduces depression, anxiety and risk of suicide among transgender youth. Read more at The Conversation.


Passed the House and Senate and goes to the President next.

H.R. 1868: To prevent across-the-board direct spending cuts, and for other purposes.
GovTrack.us: “The bill continues to exempt Medicare from sequestration until December 31, 2021. (Sequestration is a process of automatic, usually across-the-board spending reductions under which budgetary resources are permanently canceled to enforce specific budget policy goals.) The bill also specifically applies certain modified payment limits to rural health clinics that temporarily enrolled in Medicare during the public health emergency or that applied to enroll by December 31, 2020; and preserves higher Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments for public hospitals in California under forthcoming payment methodology changes.”

S. 578: FASTER Act of 2021  GovTrack.us: “Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 or the FASTER Act of 2021
This bill expands the definition of major food allergen for purposes of certain food-labeling requirements to specifically include sesame. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services must report on certain information related to food allergy research and data collection activities.”

Passed the House

HR 1195 Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act
Causes: This bill would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a federal workplace violence prevention standard requiring healthcare and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect employees from violent incidents in the workplace. Compliance with the new standard would be required for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities as a condition of their Medicare provider agreements.” Read more details at Causes. The vote was 254-166. See the vote.

H.R. 1215: Fraud and Scam Reduction Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill expands activities to address mail, telephone, and internet fraud, particularly such scams targeting older adults.” Passed 396-13. See the vote.

H.R. 1460: Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “This bill directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to award grants to states and tribal organizations to install carbon monoxide alarms in the homes of low-income families and older adults and facilities that commonly serve children or older adults. Such carbon monoxide alarms must comply with specified standards.” Passed 204-158. See the vote.

H.R. 172: United States Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Act of 2021
Passed 381-37. See the vote. Goes to the Senate next.

H.R. 446 Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act
Causes: This bill “would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report on and increase awareness of scams targeting older adults.” Passed 413-8. See the vote.

H.R. 941 TRANSPLANT Act of 2021
Causes: This bill “would reauthorize the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, the “Be The Match” National Registry, and the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI),” Passed 415-2. See the vote.

H.R. 1762: Protecting Indian Tribes from Scams Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), after consultation with Indian tribes, to report on unfair or deceptive practices that target tribes or tribal members. The FTC must submit the report to Congress and make it publicly available. Further, the FTC must update its website to include information for consumers and businesses on identifying and avoiding unfair or deceptive practices that target tribes or tribal members.” Passed 408-10. See the vote.

H.R. 1502: Microloan Improvement Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “This bill revises the microloan program through which the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides, through designated intermediaries, certain financial assistance to small businesses.” Passed 397-16. See the vote.

H.R. 1002 DEBAR Act of 2021
Causes: This bill “seeks to ensure that bad actors cannot register to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance. It would authorize the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to bar an entity from registering to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances under certain circumstances. Specifically, the DEA would be authorized to temporarily or permanently bar the registration of an entity that meets or has met any condition for suspension or revocation of its registration and is unfit to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance.” Read details of the bill at Causes. Passed 411-5. See the vote.

H.R. 7 Paycheck Fairness Act
Causes: This bill “would revise existing enforcement mechanisms to prevent wage discrimination based on gender.” Read details of the bill at Causes. Passed 217-210. See the vote.

Resolutions passed. The passage in either chamber is the end of the legislative process.

S.Res. 22: A resolution reaffirming the partnership between the United States and the Republic of Ecuador and recognizing the restoration and advancement of economic relations, security, and development opportunities in both nations.

S.Res. 37: A resolution expressing solidarity with the San Isidro Movement in Cuba, condemning escalated attacks against artistic freedoms in Cuba, and calling for the repeal of laws that violate freedom of expression and the immediate release of arbitrarily detained artists, journalists, and activists.

S.Res. 36: A resolution reaffirming the strategic partnership between the United States and Mongolia and recognizing the 30th anniversary of democracy in Mongolia.

See the week ahead in Congress legislatively and in committees at Causes.

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


President Biden announced that U.S. Troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11 and that the withdrawal will begin on May 1, in line with the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban. Some US troops will remain to protect American diplomats, though officials have declined to provide a precise number. Read more at CNN Politics.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a sweeping new array of sanctions meant to punish Russia for its hacking of federal agencies and election interference. (NBC News)

President Biden is increasing the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. soon after reversing a decision to keep the historically low cap of 15,000 set by Trump. People from countries banned by Trump will be admitted and the number allowed will be announced by May 15. (USA Today)

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

In other news:

Agreements have been reached with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to help curb migration to the U.S. These countries will put more troops on their own borders to prevent migration into their countries on the way to the U.S.. (CNN Politics)

In the 45th mass shooting since the killings in Atlanta in March and 147th this year, at least 8 people were killed by a 19 year old gunman who then shot himself. His mother had warned in March 2020 that her son was going to commit suicide by cop. He was interviewed by law enforcement and a shotgun was removed from the home. Read more at CNN.

Meanwhile Indiana state republican leadership along with Indiana’s two senators offered thoughts and prayers, while Indiana democrats called for gun reform. Such reform is very unlikely at the state level where Senate Resolution 39 just passed. It declares that the Indiana Senate opposes “any punitive taxes, fines, confiscations, restrictions, or prohibitions concerning lawful firearms, accessories, or ammunition.” It passed with all republicans voting in favor, along with Hammond democrat Frank Mrvan. (NWI Times)


The end of the session and redistricting

The session will likely end on Wednesday April 21 after the passage of the budget. When census information is released to the state, the legislature will be called back into session to vote on new district maps. The super majority republican assembly has rejected calls to form an independent nonpartrisan commission to draw the maps, preferring to retain republican control that has resulted in an outsized republican majority when compared to the political breakdown across the state.
“Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said he expected public hearings would be held around the state and that the Legislature’s election committees would meet to discuss the maps before bringing all lawmakers back for votes on the new districts.” (Fox 59)
Redistricting with fair maps is essential for creating fair elections in Indiana. Indiana is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Republicans have drawn maps to create districts where democratic voters will never be able to elect a candidate of their choice. Democrats have been either packed into one district or spread throughout other districts so their vote is meaningless. The result is a super majority republican legislature in a state that is only slightly majority republican. In addition, only two congressional seats in the state are democratic. Here in district one there is a good chance that the new district will be drawn to dilute this once solid democratic district so that it could flip republican in the 2022 election. The Indiana state constitution leaves little legal recourse to change gerrymandering in this state. There are, however, several groups working to pressure the general assembly into considering maps that are fair. The hope is that public awareness and the resultant pressure put on lawmakers can bring change.
The Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission sought public input into fair maps earlier this year and will work to create these maps. Then the maps will be presented to the legislature by All in for Democracy. The legislature has no obligation to consider these maps, but the process may pressure them into bowing to public pressure to consider maps that are fairly drawn, maps that allow voters to choose their elected representatives, not gerrymandered maps that allow politicians to choose their voters.
Read more at All in for Democracy, Common Cause Indiana and League of Women Voters.
Read about how gerrymandering is a national threat to democracy that could easily usher in a Putin era of republican minority autocratic rule at the Guardian.

Passed the general assembly, goes to Governor Holcomb to sign or veto

SB 389 Wetlands
Repeals a 2003 wetlands protections bill. Was amended amid objections, but democrats say that the bill, “while less extreme than the original legislation moved by the Senate — is a step “backwards” and noted that the latest changes to the legislation still rolls back what opponents say are critical protections for wetlands.” The House version passed the Senate. (Fox 59) and (AP News)

House Bill 1008
Statehouse File: “This bill establishes the student learning recovery grant program and fund to help students who have fallen behind in their education due to the pandemic. The bill appropriates $150 million from the state general fund, which will be given out in grants for which local schools, universities and other organizations could apply.”

HB 1453 Judicial selection in Lake and St. Joseph counties
The Statehouse File: The Indiana State Bar Association said the bill “would allow the governor to select the majority of members of the judicial nominating commission, and the appointees would not be required to have any legal training or connection to the legal community….The ISBA released a statement in February saying that the bill “unnecessarily discards a working system and replaces it with one primarily overseen by the executive branch, without counsel from those who interact with the court on a daily basis.”

HB 1577 Abortion matters
The Statehouse File: This bill “covers several aspects of abortion, was debated during its concurrence reading in the House Wednesday. The bill requires parents to get their signatures notarized after they sign a permission slip for their minor child to get an abortion.”

HB 1225 Opioid treatment programs.
This bill requires an opioid treatment program to obtain prior authorization from the division of mental health and addiction (division) for patients receiving more than 14 days of opioid treatment medication from an opioid treatment program unless otherwise prescribed by the division

HB 1283 Urban agricultural zones
The measure authorizes municipalities to designate urban agricultural zones that may be exempt from property taxes as an incentive to attract new or low-resourced farmers to raise crops inside city limits. (KPVI)

HB 1266 School efficiency.
This bill provides that, not later than October 1, 2021, the department of education (department) shall issue a request for information for the purposes of exploring potential opportunities to improve the efficiency of noninstructional school services.

HB 1305 Medicaid reimbursement for children’s hospitals
Passed unanimously in both chambers. (NWI Times)

House Enrolled Act 1372
This bill was approved Thursday by both the House and Senate, shifts the statutory adjournment deadline for the General Assembly from April 29 to Nov. 15 — for this year only because they will need to reconvene to draw new district lines once census data is released in August or September. (NWI Times)

All bills that have reached the governor’s desk and have been signed or vetoed.

Veto Overridden by the General Assembly:

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.

Still under consideration:

SB 373 Carbon credit market, carbon sequestration, and federal mandates
This bill would “create a state-sponsored carbon market, allowing companies looking to offset their carbon footprint to pay for greenhouse gas reduction efforts.” This bill was originally supported by environmentalists, but was then amended to the outcry of environmental groups and property owners. The amendment would “provide immunity to an Indiana company slated to begin the nation’s largest carbon dioxide storage project in 2023.” They will inject carbon emissions underground. Passed the House 65-30. (Fox 59) and (Southwest Indiana Chamber)
Read details of the amendment at the Hoosier Environmental Council.

HB 1001 Budget
Passed the Senate and will go to the House and likely a conference committee where lawmakers will work to resolve differences between the two chambers on funding levels involving education, public health, infrastructure and other issues.
One of the most contentious parts was funding for school vouchers private schools, criticized as unfair to public schools.

Some of the funding included in the budget:

  • $110 million to pay off debts, saving $10 million in interest
  • $250 million for broadband access across Indiana
  • $150 million to make up for student education loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • $100 million to the Family and Social Services Administration to address mental health concerns after a spike in mental health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Read more about the budget at the Statehouse File.

SB 353 Absentee ballot applications
The Statehouse File: “This bill would require either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number when applying online to vote absentee…Senate Bill 353 was amended in committee, which took out the language that restricted a governor from changing the time, date and manner of an election or expanding absentee voting.” The bill goes back to the Senate for review.

HB 1348 Assessment of land used for renewable solar energy production purposes
This bill was amended and a dissent filed by the author of the bill.

HB 1381 Commercial wind and solar standards and siting
Although local control was increased with amendments, this bill remained controversial and has died on the Senate floor. (Courier and Press)

In other news

The seven-member Lake County Council is entitled to control the county’s purchasing and data processing departments, not the three-member Board of County Commissioners that has managed both those departments for decades.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Republican leadership in Indiana may have trouble protecting all their incompetents in the General Assembly. Population shifts may make it impossible for all republican incumbents to be redistricted and keep their safe seats. (WIBC) This may be good news, but frustrating to know without doubt the goals of redistricting for the republican super majority.

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

In other news

The seven-member Lake County Council is entitled to control the county’s purchasing and data processing departments, not the three-member Board of County Commissioners that has managed both those departments for decades.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Republican leadership in Indiana may have trouble protecting all their incompetents in the General Assembly. Population shifts may make it impossible for all republican incumbents to be redistricted and keep their safe seats. (WIBC) This may be good news, but frustrating to know without doubt the goals of redistricting for the republican super majority.