7/05/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

We need national fair election laws. Some states, including Indiana, have draconian laws that make voting difficult, especially for those in heavily democratic and diverse urban areas. (Center for Public Integrity) More states are passing laws not only to make voting difficult, especially in heavily democratic communities, but to give control of election results to partisan lawmakers. The For the People Act, which would have reformed election laws across the country, failed to move forward for debate in the Senate. But that was just round one. All republican senators voted against fair elections, even to just debate the best way to do that. The For the People Act is being revised. (Reuters) In the House the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is being tweaked and will be brought to the House floor for a vote some time this summer. Democrats want to make voting easier and more fair for all Americans so that our government is truly representative of the people. Now that the Supreme Court has decimated the Voting Rights Act even more (see below), preserving voting rights through the courts is unlikely to succeed. Congressional action is imperative.

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.



New independent research  found that Indiana’s current electoral maps are more tilted in favor of one party than 95% of all the maps enacted in the United States over the last 50 years, and Indiana’s bias is worse than those of its neighboring states of Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois.  (Indy Politics)
Over the past ten years the public has not been engaged in the redistricting process. Because the census data won’t be released until September, the legislature will come back into session in the fall with only redistricting on its agenda. Normally map drawing is thrown in at the end of a session and the public is barely aware it is happening. This year can be different with more vocal public input. Indiana Common Cause through the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission has been working to do just that. (Herald Bulletin)
“While gerrymandering — or in its less manipulative connotation, redistricting — may sound like it’s a game played by powerbrokers, its results have real-life implications for the lives of Hoosiers. A decade of single-party control has resulted in a legislature more conservative and more rural than the public it represents and prone to passing laws that can run counter to the wishes of an increasingly metropolitan population.” Many democrats, knowing their votes don’t count in their heavily gerrymandered republican district, just don’t vote. “…Voter turnout – a key measure of any state’s civic health – has continued to fall in Indiana in relation to that in other states. Despite a sharp increase in the 2020 general election, the state ranked only 43rd when compared to the rest of the nation.” (Indiana Citizen)

The truth matters

COVID variants pose a real danger to the unvaccinated, even those who have been previously infected. Variants, including the Gamma from Brazil and Delta from India are infecting even those who have recovered from COVID. These variants are more infectious and possibly more deadly than earlier versions of the disease. They are also becoming more prevalent in the U.S., mostly in areas with low vaccination rates. Monoclonal antibody treatments have not been very effective against these variants. Fully vaccinated people are protected. (CNN Health)

Check out this short video from Politifact on how to talk with vaccine skeptics and a link to answers to common questions about the vaccines.


Enacted, passed both chambers and signed into law by the President

S.J.Res. 13: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission relating to “Update of Commission’s Conciliation Procedures”.

S.J.Res. 15: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency relating to “National Banks and Federal Savings Associations as Lenders”.

S.J.Res. 14: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review”.

H.R. 2441: Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021

Passed the House, goes to the Senate next

H.R. 3684: INVEST in America Act
GovTrack.us: “…the bill extends FY2021 enacted levels through FY2022 for federal-aid highway, transit, and safety programs; reauthorizes for FY2023-FY2026 several surface transportation programs, including the federal-aid highway program, transit programs, highway safety, motor carrier safety, and rail programs; addresses climate change, including strategies to reduce the climate change impacts of the surface transportation system and a vulnerability assessment to identify opportunities to enhance the resilience of the surface transportation system and ensure the efficient use of federal resources; revises Buy America procurement requirements for highways, mass transit, and rail; establishes a rebuild rural bridges program to improve the safety and state of good repair of bridges in rural communities; implements new safety requirements across all transportation modes; and directs DOT to establish a pilot program to demonstrate a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee to restore and maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and achieve and maintain a state of good repair in the surface transportation system.” The vote was 221-201. Indiana representatives Mrvan and Carson voted yea; all other Indiana reps voted nay. View the vote.

H.R. 567: Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership Program Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “To establish an interagency program to assist countries in North and West Africa to improve immediate and long-term capabilities to counter terrorist threats, and for other purposes.”
Passed 395-15. All Indiana reps voted yea except Banks who did not vote. View the vote.

H.Res 503: Establishing the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
Passed 220-190. Indiana representatives Mrvan and Carson voted yea. All other Indiana voted nay except Banks who did not vote. View the vote.

H.R. 2225: National Science Foundation for the Future Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill reauthorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) through FY2026 and authorizes programs and activities at the NSF.” Passed 345-67. All Indiana reps voted yea except Banks and Pence. View the vote.

H.R. 3593: Department of Energy Science for the Future Act
GovTrack.us: “To provide guidance for and investment in the research and development activities of the Department of Energy Office of Science, and for other purposes.” Passed 351-68. All Indiana reps voted yea except Banks and Pence. View the vote.

H.R. 391 Global Health Security Act of 2021
Causes: “This bill would direct the president to create a Global Health Security Agency Interagency Review Council to implement the Global Health Security Agenda. The Global Health Security Agenda is an initiative launched by nearly 30 nations to address global infectious disease threats. Read details of the bill at Causes. The vote was 307-112. All Indiana representatives vote yea except Banks and Pence. View the vote.

H.R. 2662 IG Independence and Empowerment Act
Causes: This bill would “address issues related to Inspectors General (IGs) and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) Integrity Committee. The CIGIE committee is responsible for investigating allegations of wrongdoing by IG offices.” Read details of the bill at Causes. The vote was 221-182. Representatives Mrvan and Carson voted yea. All other Indiana reps voted nay except Banks who did not vote. View the vote.

H.R. 3005 To direct the Joint Committee on the Library to replace the bust of Roger Brooke Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the United States Capitol with a bust of Thurgood Marshall to be obtained by the Joint Committee on the Library and to remove certain statues from areas of the United States Capitol which are accessible to the public, to remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from display in the United States Capitol, and for other purposes.
Causes: “This bill would direct the removal of a bust of a Supreme Court justice who authored an opinion upholding slavery from display in the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber, in addition to the removal of statues depicting individuals who joined the Confederacy or otherwise defended slavery, segregation, and white supremacy from Statuary Hall. It would authorize appropriations as may be necessary to carry out this legislation.” Read details of this bill at Causes. The vote was 285-120. Indiana representatives Mrvan, Carson, Hollingsworth and Spartz voted yea. All other Indiana reps voted nay, except Banks who did not vote. View the vote.

The Senate was in recess last week and both the House and Senate are now in recess. The House will resume committee hearings on July 12, They will return for floor work July 19 for a two week work period before the August recess. The Senate will return July 12. No votes are expected in the week ahead. Read more at Causes.

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


“…the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Thursday cut back on a landmark voting rights law in a decision likely to help Republican states fight challenges to voting restrictions they’ve put in place following last year’s elections. The court’s 6-3 ruling upheld voting limits in Arizona that a lower court had found discriminatory under the federal Voting Rights Act. It was the high court’s second major decision in eight years that civil rights groups and liberal dissenting justices say weakened the Civil Rights-era law that was intended to eradicate discrimination in voting.” (Associated Press)
“Justice Elena Kagan ripped her conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court on Thursday in a blistering 41-page dissent, accusing them of ignoring the legislative intent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as well as the high court’s own precedents.” (The Hill)

The Court “ruled in favor of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity on Thursday, holding that a California law that requires nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors to state regulators was unconstitutional. The ruling is likely to have far-reaching ramifications, potentially upending disclosure laws across the country and making it far easier for deep-pocketed interests to pour money into political causes anonymously.” (Mother Jones)

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on residential evictions imposed last year to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic, dealing a setback to landlords who had challenged the policy.” (Reuters)

Supreme Court passed on a transgender bathroom challenge, leaving a lower court’s ruling in place. The decision was “seen as a major victory for transgender student rights, especially as a number of conservative states pass laws to challenge them”. (Politico)

In other news

A federal judge ordered Indiana to continue federal unemployment benefits. State law  requires Indiana to procure all federal insurance benefits to residents. So far whether or not other states that have discontinued benefits will have to reinstate them is unknown. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: aid for workers who aren’t normally eligible for unemployment insurance. It covers freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and part-time workers. Most states that have discontinued federal benefits are discontinuing PUA also. These governors have claimed that the supplemental money prevents workers from filling open positions, but job searches haven’t picked up in the states that already ended benefits. The White House has said states can make their own decisions and that the federal government cannot intervene. Also, according to the Department of Labor, if you turn down a suitable job, you can be denied unemployment benefits. Some states are offering financial incentives to workers who find jobs. (CNET)

New York prosecutors on Thursday unveiled the first charges in their grand jury investigation into the Trump Organization, charging the former president’s company and its chief financial officer (CFO), Allen Weisselberg, with tax-related crimes. (The Hill)

“With shootings surging in many places across the country, at least 10 states this year have enacted so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” laws. They vary state-by-state but most are meant to pre-empt tighter gun control measures that could come from the Biden Administration.” (NPR)

“The Biden administration will share tens of millions of US Covid-19 vaccines this summer to countries around the globe, in addition to the 80 million it has already allocated, White House Covid-19 response director Jeff Zients said Thursday.” (CNN)

In a rebuke to 157 voting members of the Florida Legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night vetoed a measure that would have paved the way for tens of thousands of juveniles to get their criminal records erased after completing a behavioral program. (Tampa Bay Times)

Climate scientists are expressing alarm about a record shattering heatwave that spread across U.S. states and Canada last week and has killed hundreds. (Axios)


Federal agency blocks Indiana’s Medicaid work requirements WTHR
The work program required Healthy Indiana Plan members to report 20 hours of work, volunteer, school and other activities every month, or risk losing …
Federal Agency Blocks Indiana’s Medicaid Work Requirements – U.S. News & World Report

Feds Dismiss Indiana Special Education Investigation WFYI
The federal government recently dismissed an investigation into the Indiana Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights earlier this year opened aninvestigation citing “disturbing reports” from parents of students with disabilities who said their children were forced into “one size fits all” remote learning programs.

A federal judge is temporarily blocking a new Indiana law – Senate Enrolled Act 251 – aimed at teachers unions. It was set to take effect Thursday and would require teachers to sign language that unions believe is unconstitutional and anti-union.  (WFIU)

Federal judge blocks Indiana ‘abortion reversal’ law – Associated Press

Gov. Holcomb filed notice that he plans to appeal a ruling forcing Indiana to resume federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Benefits ended June 19 and it’s unclear when they will resume. (WISH TV)

Hoosiers living in eight of Indiana’s nine congressional districts would see their federal tax burden go down if the Democratic-controlled Congress enacts Democratic President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan. (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Lawsuit Challenges Indiana University’s Mandate Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination NPR
Indiana University is among the more that 500 colleges in the U.S. requiring that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine for fall semester. But a new lawsuit is challenging the university’s mandate.

New laws go into effect in Indiana WNDU-TV
Let’s break down some of the major bills passed by lawmakers, and signed by Governor Holcomb. A new Indiana police reform law starts today.

A new Indiana law goes into effect Thursday that makes employers and not schools responsible to register minors under the age of 18 who want to work. The measure, Enrolled Senate Act 409, also eliminates the need for minor-employee work permits.  (Inside Indiana Business)

Gov. Holcomb extends Indiana’s COVID-19 emergency through July Fox 59
The state’s public health emergency was extended until at least the end of July as Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed the 16th renewal of that order that he first issued in March 2020 as concerns about the coronavirus spread across the country. Holcomb’s order pointed out that Indiana’s fully vaccinated rate of 48% among those ages 12 and older ranks the state 38th in the country — and that 98.5% of new COVID-19 infections are among unvaccinated people. The coronavirus “remains a threat to the health, safety and welfare of all residents of Indiana,” the order said.

A top Indiana health official who helped lead pandemic response is stepping down The Indianapolis Star Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and one of the key players in the state’s pandemic response, …
Indiana Social Services Agency Leader Leaving for New Job – U.S. News & World Report
Indiana social services agency leader leaving for new job – Associated Pres sLeadership Change at FSSA – Inside INdiana Business

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