You can make a difference
Join us on us on Wednesday, April 28th at 6pm as we cohost a panel discussion with new Indiana Democratic Chair Mike Schmuhl and the new Vice Chair, Myla Eldridge. Learn about the candidates’ visions for the future and share your thoughts with the new leadership. The event will be moderated by Sarah Vitale, Chair of Muncie Resists, and Destiny Wells, Member of Hoosier Women Forward, Class 3. Register here.
Call Governor Holcomb and urge him to veto
Senate Engrossed Act 389 Wetlands
Repeals the 2003 wetlands protections bill. It was amended in the House, but still rolls back what critical protections for wetlands. This bill incurred bipartisan objections and Governor Holcomb has expressed concerns about it.
By phone at 317-232-4567; By mail: Office of the Governor, Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797;
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
Election laws recently passed in Georgia and other states serve to restrict voting for Black Americans, other minorities and people with lower income by make voting for these groups more difficult. Yet republicans maintain that such laws are necessary to ensure election security. In truth these laws which will ensure more crowded voting conditions and fewer opportunities to cast votes will hurt election security. Under those circumstances, technological failures and interference are more likely to succeed. When more people vote by mail and vote early, there are fewer lines and congestion on the days voting occurs. Read more at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg noted that racism shaped some of the nation’s highways. Republicans have scoffed at this notion. Yet many predominantly Black communities have been purposefully decimated by infrastructure design. Read more at Politifact.
The data is overwhelming that the three vaccines in use in this country are highly effective. Yet some conservatives have charged that because the CDC still recommends vaccinated people wear masks under some circumstances, vaccines must not really work. Thorough studies show that these vaccines are amazingly safe and effective, even against known variants. Read more at Politifact.
Guns and police reforms
With the conviction of Derek Chauvin there is relief and an acknowledgment of crime. It seems like a good start—maybe a turning of a corner, BUT there’s so much more to do and that needs to happen and minds that need to change. Still, a handful of people who were at the murder scene and stepped up to record and testify may have made all the difference. Each of us has to step up—and keep it up.
Read a summary of the trial of Derek Chauvin at Politico.
Following the trial of Derek Chauvin…the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus released a statement on the guilty verdict. “This historic decision paves the way forward for our country and our criminal justice system. The future is at our feet, we need […] (Black Legislative Caucus reacts to Chauvin verdict—The Statehouse File)
Trauma. If there is one word that can approximate what African Americans are experiencing — en masse — it is trauma. Trauma comes from a Greek word that means “wound.” (Larry Smith, Indianapolis Recorder)
The shooter in Indianapolis was able to legally purchase two assault guns ahead of the murders, in spite of Indiana’s red flag law, which was invoked last year and resulted in the removal of a shotgun from his home. Read more at CNN.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said gaps in the state’s “red flag law” essentially negated efforts to keep guns out of the hands of accused FedEx shooter Brandon Hole. (Fox 59)
Gunman in Indiana FedEx massacre bought rifles legally after psychiatric detention WSAU News
Prosecutor: FedEx mass shooter never appeared at Indiana ‘red flag’ hearing, even after mom … KTLA The “red flag” legislation, passed in Indiana in 2005 and also in effect in other states, allows police or courts to seize guns from people who show …
A Sikh civil rights organization called on law enforcement Tuesday to investigate whether a former FedEx employee who fatally shot eight people—four of them Sikhs—at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis last week had any ties to hate groups. (IBJ)
In the House
The House on Tuesday rejected a Republican resolution to censure Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) for saying that “we’ve got to get more confrontational” about police brutality against African Americans. The vote was on strict party lines with no defections. Democrats were outraged by republican hypocrisy given their silence over their own representatives, let alone four years of inciteful comments from the White House and others. “House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) cited the examples of Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Greene and described each as a “mess.” “Clean up your mess, Kevin. Sit this one out. You’ve got no credibility here,” Jeffries said.” Read more at The Hill.
Passed the House
HR 1996 SAFE Banking Act of 2021 Causes: This bill “would allow marijuana-related businesses in states where their businesses are legal to access the banking system. It would also protect banks that do business with marijuana firms from prosecution under federal law by providing a safe harbor for banks and credit unions to do business with legal, legitimate marijuana businesses.” Read details at Causes. Passed 321-202. See the vote.
HR 51 Washington, D.C. Admission Act Causes: “This bill would create a state known as the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth (after George Washington & Frederick Douglass) from the eight hometown wards of the District of Columbia. This 51st state wouldn’t have any jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave consisting of the U.S. Capitol premises, principal federal monuments, federal buildings and grounds, the National Mall and other federal property; those would stay under federal jurisdiction. In all respects, the new state of Washington, D.C. would be equal to all other states. Its residents would have the same citizenship rights as taxpaying Americans, including two senators and one House member to begin with.” Passed 216-208. See the vote.
H.R. 1333 NO BAN Act
Causes: This bill “would limit the president’s authority to impose limits on entry to the U.S. on the basis of religion. It would also establish a process for the president and relevant federal agencies to undertake entry bans, details of which can be found at Causes.” Passed 218-208. See the vote.
H.R. 1573 Access to Counsel Act of 2021
Causes: This bill ”would require that access to legal counsel or another “interested party” be provided to specified persons during inspection upon their entry to the U.S. at ports of entry or deferred inspection sites.” Passed 217-207. See the vote.
In the Senate
Passed the Senate
S 937 COVID 19 Hate Crimes Act
Causes: “This bill would seek to address the rise of hate crimes and violence, including those against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), by designating a Dept. of Justice (DOJ) employee to help with expedited review of hate crimes that have been reported to federal, state, local, or tribal law enforcement. The Attorney General would be required to designate a person for this role within a week of this bill’s passage. A breakdown of its other provisions can be found at Causes. Passed 94-1; both Indiana senators voted yea. Josh Hawley was the lone nea.
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general in a narrow 51-49 vote after Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined with Democrats in support of President Joe Biden’s Justice Department nominee. She is the first woman of color and the first civil rights attorney to hold the post. Read more at CNN Politics.
The House held its last floor vote of the month on Thursday. Committees will hold remote hearings next week before the chamber recesses for a two-week district work period.
The Senate will meet this week and will mostly be considering nominees. Read more about the week ahead in Congress at Causes.
To find and contact your Members of Congress: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
In other news:
The White House on Tuesday formally declared its support for a House bill that would grant statehood to Washington, D.C., saying it would provide the residents of the District with “long overdue full representation in Congress.” “Democrats would need the support of at least 10 GOP senators in order to advance a D.C. statehood bill without getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster. Even if Democrats changed the rules to require a simple majority — something they don’t currently have the support to do — only 44 Democratic senators have signed on in support of a statehood bill in the Senate.” D.C. has a population of more than 700,000 (more than Wyoming or Vermont), and it represents an increasingly diversifying electorate nationwide (if D.C. were a state, it’d be the only majority-minority state in the country). None of those people have voting representation in the House or Senate. The way the Senate was designed caters to the shrinking conservative base, and it’s time to expand representation to reflect the true needs of the people. (Indivisible)
At the virtual climate summit President Biden announced that the U.S. will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% by the year 2030, and far more ambitious goal than previously set. Read more at Axios.
The Supreme Court has broken with previous rulings and precedents to rule that juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole. Read more in The Guardian.
“The Federal Trade Commission can’t force companies that engage in wrongdoing to pay back consumers or give up ill-gotten profit, the Supreme Court held Thursday, dealing a huge blow to the agency that could hamper its antitrust and privacy cases.” (Politico)
“The Supreme Court…turned down a bid by Republican state attorneys general to revive former President Trump’s “public charge” rule. The rule, which Biden administration formally rescinded last month, tightened restrictions on poorer immigrants seeking U.S. Residency.” (The Hill)
The Supreme court has agreed to take up a major second amendment case. (The Hill)
The General Assembly adjourned on Thursday after passing the two year budget. After census data is released, they will reconvene in late August or early fall to draw new district maps. Please stay informed about redistricting. Indiana is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country; state republicans will again draw maps that unfairly and overwhelmingly favor republicans. The current super majority republican General Assembly does not reflect the political makeup of the state, which is more evenly split along party lines. District maps have and will split the democratic vote to retain republicans in the supermajority for another ten years. We must make our voices heard. Maps that guarantee republicans their safe seats serve no one because they have no need to answer to anyone, republican or democrat. Read more at All in for Democracy, Common Cause Indiana, Women4Change and League of Women Voters.
Passed both chambers and goes to Governor Holcomb to sign or veto:
House Engrossed Act 1001 State budget
The budget passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Read more at The Statehouse File. See the vote in the Senate. See the vote in the House.
The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) announced the estimated funds that public school districts across the state will receive as part of the third round of federal stimulus dollars (American Rescue Plan Act). Together, these school allocations total nearly $1.8 billion. (Indy Politics)
A final version of the state budget for the next two years includes increased funding for teacher pay, broadband and mental health. Last week after the General Assembly learned of the revenue forecast that brought in $2 billion more than expected, the budget proposal was adjusted to make use of that extra money. (The Statehouse File) and (updated from The Statehouse File.)
Environmentally, the budget will make an historic $25 million investment in open space protection and a $60 million investment in trails development. (Hoosier Environmental Council)
Read what’s good and bad in the budget from Democratic Senate Minority Leader Taylor.
Read a summary of the budget here.
Read what various elected officials and interest groups think about the 2021 Legislative session (Indy Politics)
Engrossed Senate Bill 5 Local health departments; public health emergencies
This bill requires any local public health order that is more stringent than one issued by the governor must be approved by an elected county or city board. It also creates a procedure allowing the public to appeal enforcement actions such as citations, fines or an order to close a business. Gov. Holcomb has said he was concerned about the proposed limitations on local health officials. (NPR WFYI)
Vote in the House. Vote in the Senate.
House Engrossed Act 1191 Energy matters
This bill provides that a county executive or the legislative body of a city or town does not have the power to prohibit: (1) a public utility or department of public utilities from furnishing utility service to a utility customer; or (2) a customer of a public utility or department of public utilities from purchasing, using, or connecting or reconnecting to a utility service; based on the energy source of the utility service. See the vote in the Senate. See the vote in the House.
Senate Engrossed Act 377 Broadband development
This bill directs the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to establish a public broadband portal for individuals to report if their internet service is slower than 25 megabits per second (mbps) for downloads and 3 mbps for uploads. Broadband internet providers then will use the portal to bid on the opportunity to extend service to those individuals. They’ll be eligible for state grants if they can provide connections offering at least 50 mbps downstream and 5 mbps upstream. Read more details at NWI Times.
House Engrossed Act 1449 Broadband development
This bill directs most of the federal broadband funds to schools and rural health clinics currently unable to obtain 1,000 mbps download speeds. Read more details at NWI Times.
House Engrossed Act 1030 Removal of a county elected officer
This bill was inspired by the chronic absenteeism of Democratic former Lake County Recorder Michael B. Brown. The legislation authorizes a county council and board of commissioners to jointly seek to remove a county auditor, treasurer, recorder, surveyor or assessor who fails to be physically present in their office “for a reasonable amount of time each month,” refuses to perform the duties of their office, or charges and collects illegal fees.” (NWI Times)
House Engrossed Act 1190 Overweight truck permits
This bill would open up 120,000 pound truck weights to anyone. See the vote in the House. See the vote in the Senate.
House Engrossed Act 1009 TANF program
This bill would prevent income earned in worker training programs from counting against government benefits. The Senate added to the bill, making it easier for families with children to qualify for a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. The House disagreed with the Senate’s additions and, at the end of the session, the TANF language was taken out of the final bill before passing both chambers almost unanimously. Policy groups say a change is direly needed since Indiana’s benefits reach the fewest families of all Midwestern states. (Indiana Public Media)
House Engrossed Act 1119 School purchases to agricultural programs
This bill gives schools an opportunity to buy food from educational agricultural programs. These are projects involving crops or livestock that students work on as part of their school programs. The bill will exempt schools from documentation and allow students to sell their products. (The Statehouse File)
House Engrossed Act 1287 Water or wastewater service
This bill extends water or wastewater utility service to underserved areas of Indiana. The amendments include the change of effective date to July 1, 2021, and minor changes in the language. (The Statehouse File)
House Engrossed Act144 Good faith estimates
This bill will require health practitioners to provide patients with basic explanations of their bills and why they charge their services in that way. A good faith estimate is a “plain English explanation” allowing patients to fully understand what they are paying for and the reasoning behind it. The effective date was postponed from July 1, 2021 to Jan. 22, 2022. (The Statehouse File)
The above three bills passed unanimously.
House Engrossed Act 1405 Insurance matters
A last-minute amendment was added to this bill that prohibits state and local governments from requiring employees to show “vaccination passports,” or proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The amendment also bars governments from keeping medical records regarding immunization. See the vote in the Senate. See the vote in the House. Read more at The Statehouse File.
Senate Engrossed Act 5 Local health departments; public health emergencies
This bill will limit the authority of county or city health departments by allowing local elected officials to overturn orders or enforcement actions issued during emergencies. Read more at the AP. See the vote in the Senate. See the vote in the House.
Senate Engrossed Act 187 Protection of monuments, memorials, and statues
This bill commands the state police to prioritize monument protection. Read more at NWI Times.
House Engrossed Act 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.
SB 353 Absentee ballot application
This controversial bill died at the last minute over disagreements between the senate and house versions. It would have required an individual to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. That provision was later removed and another added that said to apply for an absentee ballot, voters would be required to provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number, as is required by the Georgia legislation. Also added was a provision that allowed only the Indiana General Assembly to reschedule an election or expand absentee voting as Gov. Eric Holcomb had done after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Indiana was one of the first states to require photo ID and is one of six states that have strict photo ID rules. Read more at The Statehouse File.
IndyGo has gotten a reprieve, for now. (Indy Politics) Two bills that would likely have harmed Indianapolis public transportation have died this session.
All bills that have reached the governor’s desk and have been signed or vetoed.
In other news
Governor Holcomb issued an executive order guaranteeing pregnancy accommodations for employees in state government. A bill to guarantee such accommodations statewide was watered down to say that pregnant employees could ask for accommodations, but employers do not have to comply. Read more at NWI Times.
Indiana will study this year’s ILEARN scores to see how the pandemic affected students. (WIBC)
Hoosier mothers will be able to stay on Medicaid for up to 12 months after giving birth under a new coverage expansion. (WFYI)
Gov. Eric Holcomb lifted the statewide mask order. Experts say the municipalities and counties that have maintained some kind of mask order are helping keep cases and hospitalizations down. (WFIU)