5/02/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

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

Twenty-one states, including Indiana, have a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, the federal minimum. Senator Manchin has said that most states have a minimum wage that is higher that the federal minimum. 40% of states have the federal minimum wage, resulting in many people and families living below the poverty line. (Poltifact)

President Biden’s approval rating at 100 days in office is hovering between 52 and 58% with higher marks for his coronavirus response and lower for migration at the southern border. Conservatives have charged that his approval rating is the lowest in history. Not only is that false, but Trump had the lowest approval rating at 100 days by far. (Politifact)

President Biden’s ambitious climate proposals aim to cut greenhouse emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels. Conservatives have falsely claimed that Americans will only be allowed to eat four pounds of meat per year under the proposals. The claim stems from a 2020 article about American meat consumption and has nothing to do with Biden’s proposals. Read more at Politifact.

The city of Long Beach conducted a toy a book drive for migrant children. Among the books was one children’s book written by Kamala Harris. Conservatives in media and online have charged that migrant children are being given these books at taxpayer expense. That is a lie. One book was donated and the Vice-President was unaware of the donation. (Politifact)

Healthy young people do get COVID. Joe Rogan used his podcast to reach millions with his advice that healthy young people do not need to take the vaccine. While some young people become serious ill, most do not, but all can spread the virus to those more vulnerable to serious illness. The only way for the pandemic to end is for everyone to be vaccinated. Read more at Politifact and more in depth at CNN.

Kevin McCarthy is now downplaying events at the Capital, his phone call with Trump, and Trump’s response. These statements come after he acknowledged Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection on the House floor in mid January. Read more about his efforts to rewrite history at Politico.


“The state legislature is responsible for drawing the lines for their own elections. Often representatives “pack,“ concentrate the opposing side’s power to a single district, or “crack,“ dilute an opposing side’s supporters across multiple districts, their opponents’ support to make it easier for them to win. This is an issue for both parties and can lead to feelings of disenfranchisement amongst the public.” Saint Mary’s Assistant professor Ranjan Rohatgi is serving on the Indiana Redistricting Commission. The Commission has conducted many virtual public sessions across the state to take public testimony on what redistricting criteria should be. Politically balanced maps will be drawn based on that criteria and presented to the General Assembly by All in for Democracy. The General Assembly is under no obligation to consider these maps, but these efforts will at least force more transparency and public awareness about redistricting than Indiana has had in the past. Read more at The Observer.

Several states have already filed lawsuits over the census and redistricting and we can expect many more. Such lawsuits are the only weapon proponents of fair districts have unless Congress passes HR 1 (S 1), which has provisions against gerrymandering and HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which will restore the requirement that states have pre-approval for redistiricting from the Justice Department to ensure there is no discrimination. This provision of the Voting Rights Act was stuck down by the Supreme Court. Read more at Politico.

Guns and police reforms

Advocates of banning sale of assault rifles to civilians always argue that nobody in the public needs one of these weapons of war. They are wrong. Brandon Hole needed an assault rifle. In fact, he needed two. (Brandon Hole killed 8 people in Indianapolis on April 15.) (Jack Colwell, South Bend Tribune)


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

H.R. 2630: Extending Temporary Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act
GovTrack.us: “To amend the Temporary Reauthorization and Study of the Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act to extend until October 2021, a temporary order for fentanyl-related substances.” The vote in both chambers was by Voice Vote so no record of individual votes was made.

Passed the Senate

S. 914 Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021
Causes: This bill would create and reauthorize $35 billion in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects from FY2022 through FY2026. A breakdown of its various provisions can be found at Causes. It passed with only two nays—Senators Lee and Cruz.

Senate Bill S. Joint Res. 14
Causes: “This resolution of disapproval would repeal the Trump administration’s regulation that loosened restrictions on oil and gas companies to curtail methane emissions due to leaks during production, processing, transmission, and storage…Congress has the authority to overturn rules within 60 legislative days with simple majority votes in both chambers along with the president’s signature under the Congressional Review Act. If this resolution were enacted, future similar rules couldn’t be enacted without Congressional approval.” For more details see Causes. Both Indiana senators voted nay. See the vote.

S. 848: Consider Teachers Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 in order to improve the service obligation verification process for TEACH Grant recipients, and for other purposes.” The bill was passed by unanimous consent and so no record of individual votes was recorded.

On Thursday the Senate joined the House in recess. The Senate will return May 10 and the House May 11. Read more about the week ahead at Causes.

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

In other news:

President Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress. He outlined his legislative goals that would expand the social safety net on a scale not seen in decades. He also urged police reform and voters rights legislation while striking an optimistic note about the success of America’s democracy over autocracy. Read more at the Associated Press. Read a summary of the American Families Plan at Causes and key quotes and moments from the speech here.
Read summaries and commentaries of the speech at NPR.

Read a summary of President Biden’s promises and accomplishments during his first 100 days at the Associated Press.

“The number of unaccompanied migrant children held in jail-like conditions by US Customs and Border Protection dropped nearly 84% in the span of a month…The average time that kids are in CBP custody is now 28 hours, compared to 133 hours “ at the end of March. Read more at CNN Politics.

Letters from an American: “In a hearing…before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee charged with investigating technology and information warfare, cyber policy and national security expert Dr. Herb Lin of the Hoover Institution told lawmakers that in the modern era we are not formally at war, but we are not at peace either…His warning comes two days after the power of warfare waged with disinformation once again became a top story in the U.S. On Wednesday, federal officials executed a search warrant on the home and office of Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani”. Read the background into Guiliani’s dealings with the Ukranians here.

“Attorney General Merrick Garland is quickly negating the Trump administration’s law enforcement legacy…” Read more at Axios.

Preliminary numbers from the census were released Monday, Read what we know about population changes and what we can expect to learn from the census and its impact on redistricting from the Brennan Center.


In a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court has sided with an undocumented immigrant. Authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court said “the Justice Department was violating federal law by not providing immigrants it seeks to deport with a single, comprehensive “notice to appear” with details on the charges and scheduled court appearance.” Read more at ABC News.


Signed into law by the Governor

SB 389 Wetlands
Hoosier Environmental Council: This bill “has passed the General Assembly and has been signed into law.  It will drastically reduce wetland protection.  The final version of the bill eliminates protection of Class I wetlands and significantly reduces protection for Class II.  It allows development of a wetland that was on cropland as long as the land was used for agriculture during the last 5 years or 10 years if it has no federal wetland. It is retroactive to January 1, 2021. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) testified  that Indiana has already lost 85% of its original wetlands. Of the wetlands remaining, 80 – 90% were state-protected wetlands. The other 10 – 20% are federally protected. Wetlands are vital to a healthy ecosystem, provide  critical wildlife habitat. and reduce flooding. They provide a significant economic benefitAdditional wetlands information and list of organizations opposing SB 389.

  • Feb 1 – SB 389 passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 19  (Senate votesheet) with bipartisan opposition.
  • March 30 –  90 organizations sign a letter calling on the legislature to consider other policy options.
  • April 7 – the House Environmental Affairs Committee adopted Amendment 24, which was a compromise that preserved protection of most wetlands.
  • April 12 – The House voted to amend SB 389 and significantly reduce protection of wetlands.
  • April 13 – The House voted 58 to 40  to pass SB 389.  There was bipartisan opposition. Read the House votesheet to find out how your representative voted.
  • April 14 – The Senate voted 31 to 19 (votesheet) to concur with the House version of SB 389, so the bill has passed the Indiana General Assembly.
  • April 26 – a letter calling on the Governor to veto SEA 389, cosigned by more than 100 organizations, was delivered to the Governor’s office.
  • April 29  – the Governor signed SEA 389 into law, despite an unprecedented outpouring of organizational and citizen opposition.”

Please note the vote sheets above to learn how your senator and representative voted. You can find your senator and representative at http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/
Read the joint statement and what we can do next at Hoosier Environmental Council.

Gov. Holcomb signed into law a bill ( HB 1453 Judicial selection in Lake and St. Joseph counties) giving the governor and county commissioners the power, taken away from local attorneys and other elected officials, to appoint all members of the panels that pick nominees for Superior Court judgeships. The law only applies to Lake and St Joseph counties. Superior Court judges are elected in 88 of 92 counties  (South Bend Tribune)

Gov.  Holcomb has signed into law new COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers, despite concerns from advocates of nursing home residents who fear it effectively legalizes many forms of neglect and substandard care. (Engrossed Senate Bill 5 Local health departments; public health emergencies) (Indy Star)

Indiana bill approved to ban government vaccine passports WGN-TV
“The Indiana bill doesn’t place any limits on private businesses. It allows government agencies to continue keeping immunization records for public health administration and provide people with their own immunization records….State or local governments in Indiana will be prohibited from issuing or requiring COVID-19 vaccine passports under a bill approved by state lawmakers.” The prohibition to vaccine passports was added as an amendment to HB 1405.

House Enrolled Act 1166
A Northwest Indiana lawmaker’s plan to save Hoosier property owners from the burden of successfully appealing their tax assessments year after year is set to become law after nearly being derailed amid a firestorm of controversy earlier this month.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

See all bills signed, vetoed or enacted at LegiScan.

Although Indiana lawmakers have temporarily adjourned,  they will come back later this year to draw the legislative maps.  There’s already private chatter going on as to who is going to end up in the same district and possibly running against each other.  (Indy Politics)

In other news

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has filed suit against the Indiana General Assembly over the ability to call a special session. Under HEA 1123, Indiana lawmakers gave themselves the authority to call an emergency session in order to address the Governor’s emergency authority.  Holcomb vetoed the bill, but lawmakers overrode it. In the lawsuit, the Governor says the state constitution clearly, and exclusively, gives him that authority and not the General Assembly.  (Indy Politics). Read more at The Statehouse File.
Attorney General Todd Rokita has said only his office can file such a suit. “But (former Indiana Supreme Court Justice ) Sullivan said he thinks Rokita’s position may violate Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.7…” Read more at The Statehouse File.
Rokita has asked a Marion County court to halt the governor’s lawsuit. (Indiana Public Media)
And another lawsuit over this bill has been filed: Hoosier Citizen Sues Indiana Lawmakers Over Emergency Powers Measure Indiana Public Media Indiana lawmakers have now been sued twice in a week over a law that allows them to call themselves into special session during a public …

Census data show Indiana’s population grew — but not enough to gain a congressional seat The Indianapolis Star
Indiana’s population grew in the last decade, but it wasn’t enough to earn another seat in the House.
Indiana’s population grew about 5% during the past decade to nearly 6.8 million residents and the state held onto its nine U.S. House seats, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday in the first release of data from the 2020 national headcount.  (AP Indiana)

The Governor extended the public health emergency to May 31. (NWI Times)

Recently appointed Secretary of State Holli Sullivan announced Monday she is running next year for a full term as Indiana’s chief elections officer.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)
She has, however, violated election rules already: Indiana’s top elections official admits fundraising error Fort Wayne’s NBC

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