8/16/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Join us for our August meeting via Zoom on Thursday, August 19 at 6pm central time. We’ll talk about voter registration, what we are doing and what you can do. Learn about voting rights legislation before Congress and where it stands now. Learn about redistricting and gerrymandering in Indiana. Learn about vaccines in NW Indiana, too. Let us know what you want to do with Indivisible NWI and what you want Indivisible NWI to do.  Hear our speaker, Michaela Spanburger from Better Ballot Indiana, talk about Ranked Choice Voting, what it is and how it makes voting better for everyone. Join us via Zoom this Thursday at 6:00. Just click on this link

Republican lawmakers just finished a round of meetings seeking public input to redistricting. The final meeting in Indianapolis was packed. People want fair maps. We must continue to pressure our lawmakers to do just that. Public input is essential to let our lawmakers know that we want fairly drawn maps that allow voters to choose their representatives and not the other way around. Republicans are on track to draw maps that keep and increase the number of seats they hold, making representation even more disproportionally republican even though Indiana is only slightly more republican than democratic. At the congressional level only two seats are held by democrats and those seats may be at risk. We must continue to demand transparency and accountability. Once a draft of the maps has been drawn, demand that lawmakers once again meet with the public for their input. Then demand an additional two weeks before they are brought up for a vote so that the public has time to review the maps and provide input.
Find  your representative and senator and contact them: 

Not only is 2022 just around the corner, but democracy itself stands on the brink, requiring action at every level of government. For the first time in a long time, progressive changes are possible, but not without work. If you’re ready to jump into action and volunteer with Indivisible NWI, email our president, Kim Eldridge at kimeldridgeevents@gmail.com


Lawmakers involved in Indiana’s upcoming redistricting process faced criticism Friday from Hoosiers who demanded more public involvement. (The Statehouse File)

Hoosiers must speak out for transparency in the map making process. Once the district maps have been drawn, they must be shared with the public in another series of public meetings that encourage public input into the process. Then Hoosiers must have at least two weeks to review the maps before they are enacted. If such steps aren’t taken, then the series of public meetings by state republicans will be meaningless, just a publicity show. Indiana has some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country and unless the process changes, many Hoosiers will continue to be disenfranchised and unrepresented. Voter turnout will continue to languish toward the bottom of all the states and politicians will continue to choose their voters. Read more by Rima Shihad, executive director of Women4Change in the South Bend Tribune.

“Hoosier Democrats are basically powerless in the shaping of the new maps forged by super majority Republicans unless somehow, some way they can create compelling public opinion that changes old Statehouse habits.” (Howey Column, News and Tribune) The only way to make change is to continually contact our state reps and senators. Let them know what you think! Read more about Indiana’s history of gerrymandering and more at News and Tribune.

American voters are largely united in their opposition to partisan gerrymandering, according to recent polling conducted ahead of the upcoming once-per-decade redrawing of state voting maps. “Nearly 9 in 10 voters oppose the use of redistricting in a manner that aims to help one political party or certain politicians win an election, the nonprofit anti-corruption group RepresentUs found.” (The Hill


Enacted — Signed by the President

H.R. 3325: To award four congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

H.R. 1002: DEBAR Act of 2021

In Congress this past week:

Passed the House and Senate, goes to President Biden for him to sign or veto

H.R. 1448: Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act
Passed Senate without amendment by Voice Vote so not individual record of votes was taken.

Passed the Senate, goes to the House next for consideration

INVEST in America Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill addresses provisions related to federal-aid highway, transit, highway safety, motor carrier, research, hazardous materials, and rail programs of the Department of Transportation (DOT). This bill has been passed in the House and the Senate, but the Senate made changes and sent it back to the House on August 10, 2021.”
Causes: “This bill has been amended to serve as the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan infrastructure bill known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In its original form, the bill was House Democrats’ $715 billion surface transportation and water infrastructure package, which passed the House on a largely party-line vote. In its current form, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would provide a total of $1.2 trillion in funding for infrastructure projects around the country including roads, bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, the electric grid, water systems, and broadband. Further, it would reauthorize numerous existing programs and authorize new programs related to surface transportation and water resources. It would provide $550 billion in new spending over five years; offset some of that spending without raising taxes and increase the deficit by $256 billion over a decade according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — although proponents of the bill suggest that the deficit impact may be smaller or non-existent due to offsets the CBO can’t score.” The vote was 69-30 with both Indiana senators voting nay.

S. 610: Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes grants and requires other activities to improve mental and behavioral health and prevent burnout among health care providers.”
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 812: A bill to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization, and for other purposes.
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 812: A bill to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization, and for other purposes.
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 1031: A bill to require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on disparities associated with race and ethnicity with respect to certain benefits administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 1041: RENACER Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to advance the strategic alignment of United States diplomatic tools toward the realization of free, fair, and transparent elections in Nicaragua and to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to protect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the people of Nicaragua, and for other purposes.” Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 1917: K–12 Cybersecurity Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “A bill to establish a K-12 education cybersecurity initiative, and for other purposes.”
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

“Democrats pushed a $3.5 trillion framework for bolstering family services, health, and environment programs through the Senate early Wednesday, advancing President Joe Biden’s expansive vision for reshaping federal priorities just hours after handing him a companion triumph on a hefty infrastructure package. Lawmakers approved Democrats’ budget resolution on a party-line 50-49 vote, a crucial step for a president and party set on training the government’s fiscal might on assisting families, creating jobs and fighting climate change. Higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations would pay for much of it. Passage came despite an avalanche of Republican amendments intended to make their rivals pay a price in next year’s elections for control of Congress.” (Associated Press)

The week ahead in Congress

After the Senate voted on $3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation plan, it adjourned for recess and isn’t expected back until September 13. The House left for its recess July 30, but will be back in session Aug. 23 to consider the budget reconciliation. Moderates and progressives in the House, however, disagree about the timetable for voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation resolution. The House is also expected to take up voting rights legislation this week. After this week, the House will again be in recess, this time until September 20. 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

“On Sunday morning, the Taliban successfully reached Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, following an accelerated sweep across the country, with the militant group quickly taking hold of the final government-controlled holdouts within the last week.” (Vox)

As the US finished its withdrawal this month, the Taliban moved incredibly quickly as the Afghan army fled — a stunning repudiation of US intelligence, which had believed the Afghan government could hold for six to 18 months. (Politico / Lara Seligman)

Chaos has ensued in Kabul as people are desperate to flee the country, fearing the Taliban will take revenge on people who helped the US government and women who gained positions of prominence in Afghan society. (AP / Joseph Krauss)

In remarks on Monday, President Biden stood behind his decision to withdraw troops as he did.

President Biden said “he stands “squarely” behind the US exit from Afghanistan….He said that despite the “messy” pullout, “there was never a good time to withdraw US forces”.” (BBC)

Read a short history of the war in Afghanistan over four presidencies and why President Biden made the right decision at Slow Boring by Matthew Yglesias.

Indivisible isn’t a foreign policy organization, so experts from organizations focused on resettlement and Middle East issues are your best guides on specific calls to action: Win Without War offers strong progressive foreign policy analysis, the Women’s Refugee Commission is doing important work to support evacuating targeted Afghans, and IRAPHIAS and LIRS (among many other worthy orgs) support people once they’re evacuated.

Causes.com lists organizations that are working to help Afghanistans.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti has left almost 1,300 people dead, thousands injured, and hospitals overwhelmed, as the country now braces for a tropical storm. (Reuters / Laura Gottesdiener)

“July 2021 has earned the unenviable distinction as the world’s hottest month ever recorded, according to new global data released today by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “In this case, first place is the worst place to be,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded. This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe.”” (NOAA)

“The percentage of American families with kids who report not having enough to eat fell dramatically after the first child tax credit payments were distributed last month, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.” (Politico)

“Twenty-six states, largely Republican-led, had cut at least some unemployment benefits, saying the benefits were keeping people from looking for work. Mounting evidence, however, suggests that the policy gambit hasn’t yet paid off. According to a report from Homebase, a payroll management firm, employment fell 0.9% in states that cut benefits between mid-June and mid-July–but rose 2.3% in states that kept them.” (Causes)

“The Biden administration announced Friday that it is extending the pause on federally-held student loan payments through January 31, 2022, for the final time. The pause initially began in the spring of 2020 pursuant to the bipartisan CARES Act, was extended on two occasions by the Trump administration, and President Joe Biden extended through September 2021 shortly after taking office.” (Causes)

“In a significant win for progressives and housing rights advocates, President Biden…announced a new 60-day moratorium on evictions, effectively extending the nationwide moratorium that the federal government had allowed to expire three days prior. The move has saved countless families, at least temporarily, from getting kicked out of their homes—just as the Delta variant ravages communities across the country…This moment could not have happened without Cori Bush.” Read more at Mother Jones.
“A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Friday allowed the Biden administration’s revised eviction moratorium to remain in place, but acknowledged the moratorium faces an uncertain legal future.” (CNN Politics)

“The Treasury Dept. announced Sunday that it has begun using the “extraordinary measures” at its disposal to fulfill the federal government’s financial obligations and prevent a default after it reached the end of the debt limit suspension on Sunday, August 1st.” (Causes)

The Biden administration has approved the largest permanent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as food stamps, to more than 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels. (AP / Ashraf Khalil and Josh Boak)

“Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memo Monday saying he will ask the president to approve making COVID-19 vaccines a requirement by mid-September.” (CBS News)

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is…resisting any changes in the state’s policies toward Covid-19 even as the Delta variant spreads wildly in the Lone Star State. (Cases are up more than 200% in Texas over the past 14 days, according to The New York Times.) On Wednesday, Abbott doubled down on his do-nothing strategy; “Lockdowns are wrong during the course of a pandemic” he said, promising that “there will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates” in the state.”

Siding with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a Dallas judge could not enforce local mask mandates. (Dallas Morning News / Krista M. Torralva)

“Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has issued an executive order threatening to cut funding from school districts that defy a statewide ban on classroom mask mandates. He’s now suggesting his office could direct officials to withhold pay from superintendents who impose such rules anyway” (Associated Press).

Some states are instituting mask mandates for all government employees, including police officers and school staff; others are prohibiting such mandates, even as more children than ever are being hospitalized with Covid. Read more at Axios.

“Still, the vaccines are very effective. The evidence continues to show the vaccines reduce the virus’s rate of spread, delta or not. Even when a vaccinated person is exposed to the coronavirus, the chances of hospitalization and death are near zero. In fact, experts said, the vast majority of breakthrough cases are likely to produce no symptoms whatsoever.” ( Vox) All this contradicts some of the media hype surrounding the outbreak in Provincetown, MA where vaccinated people became infected. BUT out of 1000 cases there were 7 hospitalizations (some unvaccinated) and zero deaths. Before vaccines there would have been at least 100 hospitalizations and 10 deaths. Read more at Vox.

“One of the great recent puzzles in economics has been the absence of inflation, particularly in the years after the Great Recession. Some recent research explains why inflation has been so muted for so long. This work also suggests that inflation will be of diminishing concern in the future. Those conclusions will be hard for many to swallow, so let me explain.”  (Michael Hicks, Ball State University)


Although Indiana gained population since the last census, most of that growth has been in Central Indiana. See a breakdown of population gains and minuses by county. (Indy Politics)

The population of Northwest Indiana largely held steady over the past decade, but the distribution of residents in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties has shifted significantly, according to 2020 U.S. Census data released Thursday.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

“The state deserves an attorney general who stays above the fray of partisan hackery or chasing of shadows.” (NWI Times editorial)
Valparaiso University responded quickly to Rokita’s request for information about the university’s Confuscious Institute, which he has asserted is teaching Communist propaganda. The University said, “Valparaiso University does not and would not support any kind of endeavor that furthers or promotes communist ideology as doing so would conflict with its Christian mission and purpose and its strong support of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects the freedom of speech and religion.” Despite his reasoning that this is all to provide transparency, he is curiously opaque about why he has instituted this investigation. (NWI Times)

“Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday refused to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19… The court’s newest justice rejected the plea without even asking the university for a response or getting her colleagues to weigh in. Justices often act on their own in such situations when the legal question isn’t particularly close. Barrett handles emergency matters from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which includes Indiana.” (NWI Times)

“A federal judge ruled…that several of Indiana’s laws restricting abortion are unconstitutional, including the state’s ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions.”  (AP Indiana)
“The Indiana attorney general’s office has started an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that several state laws restricting abortion are unconstitutional, including the state’s ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions.”  (Tribune Star)

“U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its longstanding precedent that legalized abortion nationwide. The Hoosier lawmakers joined the vast majority of their Republican colleagues in Congress on a brief in a case that threatens people’s access to abortions.” (Indiana Public Media)

The Indiana Supreme Court has denied Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s emergency petition to halt a trial court from continuing proceedings in the governor’s lawsuit against the Legislature. (IBJ)

Gov. Eric Holcomb remains clear – he will not reimpose any statewide COVID-19 restrictions. That’s as the state and country are in the midst of a new wave of worsening COVID-19 conditions.  (WBAA)

Indiana hospitals see increase in COVID-19 patients; nearly all are unvaccinated  WISHTV.com
Indiana hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients and…the majority of these patients are young and unvaccinated. According to Dr. John Christenson, from Riley Hospital for Children, more than 80% to 90% of COVID-19 infections in Indiana are now caused by the Delta variant.

FACT FOCUS: Indiana doctor’s speech spreads COVID falsehoods  Bellefontaine Examiner
An Indiana doctor’s recent appearance at a small community school board meeting northeast of Indianapolis has racked up tens of millions of views across social media this week, with users falsely claiming it included facts about COVID-19 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal government don’t want you to hear. In reality, Dr. Dan Stock’s 6-minute speech to the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation in Fortville, Indiana, on Aug. 6 was loaded with falsehoods about the disease and the vaccines used to fight it.

Indiana’s unemployment benefits system has continued to struggle with resolving appeals of payment denials, leaving the state with among the country’s worst appeals backlogs. (AP Indiana)

The vast majority of Indiana is covered by a new federal eviction freeze after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a moratorium targeting counties hardest hit by COVID-19.  (Indy Star)

Indiana is not a good neighbor. It’s a deadly neighbor, exporting guns to gangs in Chicago, where every weekend and on many weekdays, too, a blizzard of bullets threatens and often kills little kids as well as intended gang target  (Jack Colwell, South Bend Tribune)

The gun used to kill Chicago police Officer Ella French during a traffic stop Saturday was bought in a sham purchase by an Indiana man on behalf of another man, who was in the car French and her partner pulled over before they were shot, federal prosecutors allege.  (Chicago Tribune)

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