5/16/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Our democracy is under attack, but can be rescued by Congressional passage of legislation that will help guarantee every American easy access to the ballot box. State legislatures across the country are working to strip that access from people of color and those with low income. the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, The For the People Act (HR1 & S1) and Washington D.C. Statehood will assure that all voters have equal access to voting and equal representation in Congress.
John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,  HR 1 S1Washington D.C. Statehood

Contact our senators:
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

Find your representative and contact him or her.

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

By embracing Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen, republicans are doing all they can to sew the seeds of doubt among the American electorate that democracy as a form of government can work. We are heading toward a republican autocratic government. Other countries are watching as democracy seems to be failing in this country. It is up to each of us to vigorously speak up and out individually and in any platform we can to fight for our democracy and call out the truth. Here’s the truth: As the result of a legitimate democratic election, our government is finally working for the people, and a majority of Americans agree. Read a great and brief analysis from Heather Cox Richardson.

Read Liz Chaney’s defiant speech from the House floor on Tuesday addressing the republican allegiance to the big lie and its threat to democracy.

Micah Pollak, a professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest, said plenty of studies have shown that unemployment benefits are not, by and large, keeping people from taking jobs. Instead, it boils down to wages.  (Indiana Public Media)
Several republican led states are opting out of federally enhanced unemployment benefits, claiming falsely that people are refusing jobs to collect. President Biden has discounted that reasoning while at the same time directing the Dept. of Labor to issue new guidelines for the benefits that require people to accept a reasonable job offer or lose benefits. Now that vaccines are widely available, people cannot turn down jobs due to COVID concerns. The government is moving forward with details of distributing aid to states and in particular child care providers to make returning to the job force more doable. Read more at CNN Politics.
Touting the misleading republican line was Indiana’s Senator Braun:
U.S. Senator Mike Braun told Fox Business that the expanded benefits need to be tossed in order to get the economy fully moving again.  (WIBC)
“A new report pushes back on that narrative and shows that actually, it’s more likely low wages offered by businesses that are causing workers to want to quit.” (TruthOut)

January 6 was a violent insurrection in an attempt to overthrow our government at the behest of the president. Republicans are doubling down on minimizing the  insurrection of January 6. The uprising happened in full view of all Americans who saw and still know how violent and threatening it was. Read details at AP News.


In the House

Lawmakers are moving ahead with a bipartisan commission to investigate the events leading up to the attack. That plan has the backing of the GOP’s top negotiator on the issue, though not House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is still arguing that the panel’s scope should expand beyond the Jan. 6 attack. Read more at Politico and also about a proposed bill to strengthen security at the Capital.

Passed the House

H.R. 2547 Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act
Causes.com: This bill “would strengthen protections for small business lending, ensure fair debt collection, advocate on behalf of consumers with student and medical debt, end debt collection harassment and abuse, and create guardrails for consumers against private debt collectors.” A breakdown of its various provisions can be found at Causes. The vote was 215-207. View the vote.

H.R. 1065 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Causes.com: “This bill would prohibit employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable accommodations for job applicants or employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Its provisions would apply to private sector employers with 15 or more employees and public sector employers.” Read details at Causes. The vote was 315-101. View the vote.

H.R. 2877: Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “To amend the Public Health Service Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop best practices for the establishment and use of behavioral intervention teams at schools, and for other purposes.” Passed 323-93. View the vote.

Stalled in the House

H.R. 1629: Fairness in Orphan Drug Exclusivity Act
Last Action: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Failed by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 250 – 168 (Roll no. 134).
Explanation: This bill is provisionally dead due to a failed vote on May 11, 2021 under a fast-track procedure called “suspension.” It may or may not get another vote.

In the Senate

Senators McConnell and Schumer each testified at The Senate Rules Committee meeting about S1, the For the People Act. Each charged that the other party with pushing undemocratic legislation. The meeting ended with a vote to advance the legislation that resulted in a 9-9 deadlocked vote. (Causes) and CNN Politics)

Passed the Senate

S. 593: Alaska Tourism Restoration Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to restrict the imposition by the Secretary of Homeland Security of fines, penalties, duties, or tariffs applicable only to coastwise voyages, or prohibit otherwise qualified non-United States citizens from serving as crew, on specified vessels transporting passengers between the State of Washington and the State of Alaska, to address a Canadian cruise ship ban and the extraordinary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Alaskan communities, and for other purposes.” This bill passed by voice vote and so no record of individual votes was taken.

See the week ahead in the House, Senate, and in committees at Causes.

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

In other news:

President Biden issued more executive orders reversing the former administration’s orders.

  • “President Biden on Friday revoked a 2019 proclamation signed by then-President Trump that prevented immigrants from obtaining visas unless they proved they could obtain health insurance or pay for health care.” (The Hill)
  • “Biden rescinded a pair of executive orders tied to the creation of what former President Donald Trump envisioned as a “National Garden of American Heroes,” one of which was signed on Jan. 18, just days before Trump was set to leave office.” (Politico)
  • The President also revoked “another Trump executive order issued last summer that sought to protect monuments in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests. The order threatened to hold back federal funding for state and local governments that “fai[l] to protect” monuments and called on the Justice Department to prioritize prosecution of those who harmed monuments.” (Politico)
  • Also revoked was another executive order targeting large social media companies, which the former president and fellow Republicans argue discriminate against conservative speech online. (Politico)

President Biden and his administration have condemned the surge in violence between Israel and the Palestinians. Read details and a history of the region at Causes.

Parts of the country have declared a state of emergency as gas shortages erupted after the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline. Read details at CNN Business.

The family of Andrew Brown, who was fatally shot by police in North Carolina, has seen a little more of the video footage from police cams. They will continue to fight to see it all—and to have it released publicly. Andrew Brown was unarmed and was killed as police were trying to execute a warrant. Read more at CNN.

Leaked video revealed that Heritage Action, a dark money, deeply conservative group that is a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, has been leading a massive campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access, which has been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa. (Mother Jones)

One million more people have signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act since President Biden enacted a special enrollment period in mid February. (CNN)

“A federal bankruptcy judge dismissed an effort by the National Rifle Association to declare bankruptcy on Tuesday, ruling that the gun rights group had not filed the case in good faith. The ruling slams the door on the NRA’s attempt to use bankruptcy laws to evade New York officials seeking to dissolve the organization. In his decision, the federal judge said that “using this bankruptcy case to address a regulatory enforcement problem” was not a permitted use of bankruptcy.” (NPR)

National Nurses United issued a statement vehemently objecting to the new CDC guidelines for wearing masks, “Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.” Read more at Axios.

Although the border crisis appears to be improving slightly, and better than during the Trump administration with more transparency, there still continue to be disturbing reports about children in holding facilities. Read more at AP News.

In the fall Texas schools opened with few recommended precautions taken. Preliminary results have been published of a study that examined this pre-emptive opening of schools and its affects on cononavirus spread. So far results show a substantive link between these openings and the number of COVID cases and deaths. (nber.org)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that inflation rose in April by 0.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis after a 0.6% increase in March. Over the last 12 months, “headline” inflation rose by 4.2% ― the largest 12-month increase since September 2008. Read more at Causes.


The General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto of Senate Enrolled Act 5, Local health departments; public health emergencies.

This bill provides that if a local order addresses an aspect of a declared emergency addressed by an executive order, the local order may be less stringent than the executive order to the extent permitted by the executive order. Provides that if a local order addresses an aspect of a declared emergency that is not addressed by an executive order or if a local order addresses an aspect of a declared emergency more stringently than an executive order, the local order may not take effect, or remain in effect, unless the local order is approved by the county legislative body (in the case of a county health department) or by an ordinance adopted by the city legislative body and approved by the mayor (in the case of a city health department) Read comments from the governor and legislative leadership at Indy Politics.
The vote in the Senate was 36-10. See the vote. The vote in the House was 59-30. See the vote.

Three bills that expand resources to aged-out foster kids are now law–from TheStatehouseFile.com.

Hammond mayor McDermott is suing in U.S. District Court to overturn the judicial merit selection system that has been picking judges in the county over the past five decades. The mayor “labels the current nonpartisan appointment of criminal, civil and juvenile court judges as racially discriminatory and a violation of the state constitution and federal voting rights law…He also is challenging the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly’s new law that tweaks the judicial merit selection system to give Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, also a Republican, even more say in picking Lake judges.” (NWI Times)
A  federal lawsuit filed by the Democratic mayor of Hammond and a Lake County attorney argues that Indiana’s judicial nominating system that appoints judges in the state’s four most diverse counties is racially discriminatory.   (Indiana Lawyer)

Indiana lawmakers release summer study topics WTTV CBS4Indy
INDIANAPOLIS— Indiana lawmakers are digging deep this summer on some of the biggest challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
See more about summer study committee topics that might lead to legislative action in 2022 at the Statehouse File.

Gov. Eric Holcomb  Tuesday signed an executive order mandating Hoosiers requesting unemployment benefits from the state to be actively seeking full-time work starting on June 1.  (Indy Politics)

Advocates for nursing home residents say they worry a new Indiana law expanding COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers will effectively block many lawsuits over neglect and substandard treatment that weren’t caused by the pandemic.  (Indiana Public Media)

Big Tech Gears Up for All-Out War With Indiana AG KABC
One month after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita launched an investigation into whether the five “Big Tech” companies have intentionally limited consumers access to certain content…

The city of Gary has temporarily hired three individuals from a cybersecurity firm to assist its information technology department with the restoration of several of the city’s servers following a ransomware attack, a city spokesman said.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Prompted by an end to state takeovers and other consequences for low performance, Indiana schools likely will also see a change in how the state measures their success.  (Chalkbeat Indiana)

Purdue University is strongly encouraging their students to get a coronavirus vaccine, but not requiring them to do so for the upcoming fall semester.  (WIBC)

Indiana Sees Big Cost Jump With New Prison Medical Contract WFYI
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana could pay about 50 percent more a year for prison medical services with a new contractor picked by state officials.

Racial inequity in healthcare in Indiana is getting a pass in the case of a Black doctor who complained of subpar care while hospitalized at IU North in Carmel with coronavirus and later died. An outside review panel concluded that her care did not contribute to her death. They did conclude, however, that she suffered from a lack of cultural competence from those who treated her. IU North “acknowledged a “lack of empathy and compassion” was shown in the delivery of her care.” A small number of staff members will be put on administrative leave while they undergo diversity training. Read more at AP News.

The city of Mishawaka is trying to set up a COVID-19 assistance program for local restaurants with unused federal money it has for coronavirus-related help. (South Bend Tribune)

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