9/07/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

The recently enacted Texas law SB 8 outlaws abortion before most women know they are pregnant. The only exception is a “medical emergency.” Its method of enforcement is a workaround of the Constitution making it less likely the courts will effectively step in. Many states will likely adopt a similar law, outlawing a right that the Supreme Court has upheld for decades. Enforcement by private citizens is a way for states and localities to adopt any law that infringes on any of our rights. The House is set to bring up a bill that codifies a women’s right to abortion. The voting rights bills that must pass will die in the Senate because of the filibuster. They are  HR 1  (S1) The For the People Act and HR 4  The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. We must demand that President Biden become more involved, putting pressure on Senators to eliminate the filibuster and pass these essential bills. 
Contact President Biden: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/;  1-202-456-1414 (Switchboard) 1-202-456-1111 (Comments)
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.

Read more about the Texas bill and its impact across the country below.

Redistricting action from Common Cause Indiana:

Please call the top four legislators involved in redistricting today. Tell them Hoosiers deserve adequate time to consider the new district maps and that their plan to unveil and pass their maps over a couple of weeks in late September doesn’t give us enough time.  

Tell the legislature to show us the maps immediately after Labor Day! Tell them, when it comes to redistricting – we need time and transparency so show us the maps next week!            

Speaker of the House Todd Huston: 317-232-9677
President Pro Tem Rod Bray: 317-232-9416
Chairman Jon Ford: 317-232-9517
Chairman Tim Wesco: 317-232-9753

Here’s an idea of what to say: Hi, this is [NAME] and I’m calling because I’m concerned that the General Assembly is not conducting the map-drawing transparently or giving the public enough time to participate. Please release your proposed district maps to the public immediately after Labor Day.

We are in a time crunch and we must act now to demand fairly drawn maps! 

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

The courts, women’s rights and all constitutional rights:

“A sharply divided Supreme Court on Wednesday night refused to block a Texas law [SB 8] that bans most abortions, leaving the country’s most restrictive abortion measure intact. Just before midnight, the court denied an emergency request from abortion providers to block the law, issuing a 5-4 ruling with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three liberal justices in dissent. The majority, citing procedural complexities, said abortion providers had failed to make a persuasive case for the court to step in but added that the challengers had raised “serious questions” about the law’s constitutionality…The five conservative justices who comprised the majority added that their ruling did not seek to resolve questions about “the constitutionality of Texas’s law” or foreclose future lawsuits over the measure.” (The Hill)

President Joe Biden on Thursday lambasted the Supreme Court’s decision not to block a new Texas law banning most abortions in the state and directed federal agencies to do what they can to “insulate women and providers” from the impact…Biden said his administration will launch a “whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision” and look at “what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”…He said women should be protected from “the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.” Biden, who has come under pressure from Democrats to expand the size of the Supreme Court, has ordered a review of the court that is due next month…Texas lawmakers wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion, other than the patient. Other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible.” (Associated Press)

“By a vote of 5-to-4, the court’s most conservative members upheld, for now, a Texas law that, in effect, bans abortions after about six weeks. But almost as important as the result was how the court reached its decision — without full briefing and arguments before any court.” By the day after the ruling “state legislators in Florida and elsewhere announced plans to introduce copycat legislation in their states.” (NPR)

Read more about the law and organizations that are working to support women and their rights in Texas at Causes.

Texas law SB8:

  • No abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—typically 6 weeks. The pregnancy clock starts by counting back to the beginning of the person’s last menstrual cycle, although irregular periods mean someone might not realize they are pregnant until 30 or 40 days, which is just shy of the six-week deadline.
  • The law provides an exemption for broadly defined medical emergencies, but does not include any exemptions for rape or incest. Texas law defines a medical emergency as a “life-threatening physical condition.” There is no exception for a fetus who will not survive after birth.
  • Any physician treating miscarriage would have to document that a test for fetal heartbeat was given.
  • The law leaves enforcement of the law to private citizens, empowering them to sue anyone they believe may have “aided or abetted” someone getting an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. In a successful lawsuit, the plaintiff would receive at least $10,000 and be reimbursed for legal fees. If the plaintiff loses, the defendant cannot recover any costs incurred in their defense. Lawsuits may be filed even if someone suspects another may intend to help a patient procure an abortion.
  • The law is muddy about whether or nor a plaintiff would be able to access a patient’s medical records as part of their lawsuit.
  • It may be possible that a lawsuit can be brought against someone who helps a patient go to another state.
  • Confusion surrounding the bill and its enforcement is meant to intimidate women.
    (The 19th)

What the law mean for rights guaranteed under the Constitution:“Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf observes that the public-enforcement provision of the law could have some ugly consequences. “The creation of a kind of Stasi,” he says, in reference to the communist-era secret police in East Germany. “An East German-type society in which everybody is informing on everybody else.”” (NPR)

“[The Supreme Court] decision to allow Texas’ empowerment of culture war vigilantes achieves a goal long held by “states rights” fundamentalists: a return to the days when state and local lawmakers could impose their preferred “morality” on their citizens–and not-so-incidentally decide which citizens were entitled to equal rights– without the pesky interference of the federal government… Texas’ ploy opens a door to civil strife far removed from the abortion wars. State legislatures can now turn private citizens into “enforcers” of pretty much any goal–and not just conservative ones. The decision effectively approves a federalism on steroids, and the unraveling of the “United” States.” (Sheila Kennedy, “A Perfect Storm”)

“The new anti-abortion law in Texas is not just about abortion; it is about undermining civil rights decisions made by the Supreme Court during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The Supreme Court declined to stop a state law that violates a constitutional right.” (Letters from an American)

Here’s what’s happening and is likely to happen in other states to restrict abortions from Axios.


Go to All in for Democracy for a brief review of what is at stake when Indiana legislators redraw our federal and state congressional maps. See too the General Assembly’s redistricting schedule. Contact your legislators and ask they vote for fair maps and create a transparent process that allows us time to give critical constituent feedback to our legislators.
View the webinar about drawing fair maps. Learn about how fair maps are drawn. If you want, participate in the fair maps drawing contest.

Editorial: When will Indiana lawmakers make time for fairness? – South Bend Tribune
“When Indiana legislators gather later this month to draw legislative and congressional district lines, they should have the words of concerned Hoosier voters asking for transparency and openness, for fairness in the process, ringing in their ears…The redistricting process in Indiana allows legislators to pick their voters rather than the other way around.” Although republican legislators held public meetings asking for input into the process, they apparently have no plans to use that input or to even hold any meetings once the maps are drawn so that the public can see them and provide input.

The truth matters

“The refugee resettlement program has been mired in red tape for years, preventing thousands of Afghans from being resettled in the United States…But refugee advocates say chaotic withdrawal was years in the making, a result of squandering a 20-year window to resettle Afghan refugees — particularly those who aided the U.S. war effort…With better resettlement efforts earlier, advocates say tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of Afghans could have been out of harm’s way, and there might not have been any need for mass evacuations… “Under Trump, we had an administration committed to not only reducing the number of refugees that could enter [the U.S.], but then also hollowing out the refugee resettlement system itself — to severely weaken it,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “Now, Afghans who helped our military are facing the very consequences of that.” (Center for Public Integrity)

Passed the House and Senate and signed into law by the President

H.R. 5085: Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Returning Americans Act
Passed the Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent
Read more about the law and its passage in the Senate at Causes.

The week ahead in Congress:

The House is in recess until Sept. 20 and the Senate is in recess until Sept. 13. Democrats will negotiate their spending package off the floor. Members of Congress are preparing to consider appropriations for fiscal year 2022 to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September when they return. The Senate has no committee meetings scheduled. In the House Committees will hold hearings on expediting rental assistance and marking up the portions of House Democrats’ reconciliation bill. (Causes)

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

In other news

“Two primary anchors of the government’s COVID protection package are ending or have recently ended. Starting Monday, an estimated 8.9 million people will lose all unemployment benefits. A federal eviction moratorium already has expired.” (Associated Press)

“Labor unions represent a larger percentage of U.S. workers than at any time in the past five years, as the pandemic took its biggest bite out of non-unionized jobs.” (Axios)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Friday released its jobs report for August 2021, which found the U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs and the unemployment declined by 0.2 percentage points to 5.2%. The report falls short of the Dow Jones forecast. The report comes after about 1 million jobs were added in each of the last two months, and means the U.S. economy has recovered about 75% of jobs lost during the pandemic with 5.3 million left to be regained. (Causes)

“Wage growth was very strong, with earnings rising 0.6% in a single month, or 4.3% on a year-over-year basis. The unemployment rate also continued to decline, hitting a new pandemic-era low of 5.2%…The Federal Reserve was watching this report closely to see whether the economy would prove resilient enough that it could take its foot off the accelerator, in a process known as tapering. The August jobs number now makes any tapering this year much less likely.” (Axios)

“A new state law will soon let most Texans carry handguns in public without going through training or having to get permits. Gov. Greg Abbott lauded the so-called “constitutional carry” legislation and other firearms bills when he signed them into law…But some Texas law enforcement officers fear that removing restrictions to carrying handguns could increase crime rates while putting officers and residents in danger.” (Texas Tribune)

Voting rights and elections

“Former congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is launching a new voter registration tool on Thursday, which will allow eligible Texans to register to vote right at home by deploying volunteers to their houses when requested.” (Axios)

The courts
A Colorado grand jury indicted three police officers and two paramedics involved in the August 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was stopped by police while walking home from a store, placed in a carotid hold and then injected with ketamine, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday. (CNN)

A district judge in Texas has issued a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life, blocking the anti-abortion group from suing abortion providers employed by Planned Parenthood under the state’s strict new abortion law, according to a copy of the order provided by Planned Parenthood. (CNN Politics)

“As students and staff return to school, the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 has caused cases, hospitalizations and death rates to soar across the country…Contrary to research early in the pandemic, children are just as likely to become infected as adults…This can be attributed in part to vaccine availability in people 12 and older, but in cities like San Francisco, where vaccination rates are 19.6% points higher than the national average of 52.4%, children admitted to hospitals fit a consistent profile. “We are finding that our older pediatric patients have not been vaccinated. In the case of younger pediatric patients, their parents have not been vaccinated,” said Suzanne Leigh, a representative at UCSF Benioff’s Children Hospital.” (CNN)

Racism and Black Health Outcomes: The Black Mortality Gap, and a Century-Old Document
“The age group most affected by the inequality was infants. Black babies were more than twice as likely as White babies to die before their first birthday…“[N]ever in the country’s history has Black health come close to equality with that of Whites.” Read a brief and riveting history of health care for Black Americans—from post slavery days to now at The Marshall Project.


Indiana’s Camp Atterbury will temporarily house Afghan evacuees as part of Operation Allies Refuge, the Indiana National Guard announced Tuesday.  (South Bend Tribune) The first thousand Afghan refugees should arrive at Indiana’s Camp Atterbury by this weekend.  (WIBC)

Even though legislators will be meeting for an unusual September session, Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray both said they would limit [the September session] to the redrawing of congressional and legislative district maps. That means any abortion law debates wouldn’t happen until the next regular legislative session starts in January. “We’re closely watching what’s happening in Texas in regards to their new pro-life law, including any legal challenges,” Huston said in a statement. “Indiana is one of the most pro-life states in the country, and we’ll continue to examine ways to further protect life at all stages.” (Westport News )

The Supreme Court struck down the Biden Administration’s eviction moratorium last week but local officials say resources still are available for Hoosiers struggling to pay rent.   (WFIU)

Voting-rights group starts map drawing contest for Indiana redistricting – WLKY
A coalition of voting-rights groups is sponsoring a contest for Indiana residents to draw new maps for congressional and legislative election districts …
“The group All IN For Democracy said the contest is aimed at finding “fair” proposed election maps to present to state legislators before they vote in late September on the once-a-decade redistricting based on population shifts from the U.S. Census…The organization is providing an online site where residents can compile maps based on the 2020 census data. Proposals submitted by Sept. 13 will be judged, with the winning map for Indiana’s nine congressional district getting $1,000, with $2,000 for the best districts for the 50 Indiana Senate seats and $3,000 for the fairest map of the 100 Indiana House districts. The group said its judging will be based on how well the maps keep communities of interest together, maintain whole cities and counties in the same district and maximize the number of politically competitive districts.”

Indiana Faith Leaders Say Unfair Redistricting Is ‘Sin’ – WFYI
Indiana faith leaders say that Republican lawmakers drawing unfair legislative maps would be “sin.” Gerrymandering, they argue, is “political and theological idolatry.”

A study published by Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis shows that Black and rural communities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.    (WFIU)

Governor Holcolmb signed a new executive order easing quarantine requirements in schools: “Schools and day cares that have mask requirements that are consistently followed throughout the day do not have to quarantine students, teachers and staff who are close contacts and aren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19.” (WTHR) This order comes as Indiana continues to have one of the highest COVID infection rates in the country. (Axios)

Governor Holcomb is ordering hospitals to put standards in place to determine when they need to put off non-emergency procedures to handle the growing flood of COVID-19 patients.  (WIBC)

Another coronavirus surge is here and, because of the delta variant, it’s stronger than ever.  (WISH-TV)

Indiana’s state and health care officials are raising alarms about increasing pressure the coronavirus is putting on hospitals as patient counts this week more than quadrupled pandemic lows recorded just weeks ago. (AP Indiana) 

CDC: All Indiana counties now labeled ‘red’ for COVID-19 transmission – WISH-TV
CDC: All Indiana counties now labeled ‘red’ for COVID-19 transmission. by: Jacey Crawford. Posted: Sep 3, 2021

All but 4 Indiana counties in higher transmission categories for COVID-19 spread – FOX59.com
The remaining 75 Indiana counties are in the orange category representing “moderate to high” community spread. The change since the end of June is stunning; the …

Indiana schools set a grim new record last week, reporting more new cases of COVID-19 among Hoosier students than at any previous time during the pandemic.  (South Bend Tribune)The state’s latest update on COVID-19 in schools shows 5,529 newly reported student cases – a new record for the second week in a row.  (WFIU)

State health officials have emphasized for months that masks are important and effective to stop COVID-19, but they’ve also been firm in saying they won’t require them. They’re elaborating on why not.  But [State health Commissioner] Box says she can’t understand the fierce resistance to wearing masks. She says there’s persuasive evidence that masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. She points to a North Carolina study which found schools with universal mask requirements slashed the rate of transmission to less than two-percent. (WIBC)

COVID-19 vaccine mandates for hospital employees begin in central Indiana – WRTV
Tuesday marks the beginning of vaccine mandates for our local hospital groups. The deadline to submit proof of vaccination for Franciscan Health begins Tuesday.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) says the federal government has given the company approval to resume shipments and distribution of its antibody therapies bamlanivimab and etesevimab. The company paused shipments in June as they determined the efficacy against the Delta variant of COVID-19.  (Inside Indiana Business) The former chief deputy and general counsel in the Office of the Indiana Treasurer has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against state Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and other individuals and private entities, including Ice Miller LLP, alleging more than $6 million in state contracts have been illegally steered to her campaign donors.  (IBJ)

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