11/29/2021 Weekly Legislative Update

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The truth matters

While using science to help guide this country through the pandemic, Dr Anthony Fauci has been relentlessly criticized by many republicans. Some Republicans, including Senators Cruz and Rand Paul, have accused Fauci of lying to Congress when he denied in May that the National Institutes of Health funded “gain of function” research — the practice of enhancing a virus in a lab to study its potential impact in the real world — at a virology lab in Wuhan, China. Cruz has urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Fauci’s statements.”
There is no link of U.S.-funded research to the emergence of COVID-19. NIH has repeatedly maintained that its funding did not go to such research involving boosting the infectivity and lethality of a pathogen.
When asked…whether Republicans might be raising the claims to make him a scapegoat and deflect criticism of Trump, Fauci said, “of course, you have to be asleep not to figure that one out.”” (Associated Press)

Enacted, signed into law by the President

H.R. 2093: Veterans and Family Information Act

H.R. 2911: VA Transparency & Trust Act of 2021

S. 108: A bill to authorize the Seminole Tribe of Florida to lease or transfer certain land, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1510: To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress a report on the use of cameras in medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Congress was in recess last week; the Senate is back in session beginning Monday and the House Tuesday.

This week in Congress

  • In the House a number of bills may be considered under Suspension of the Rules, Suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills. View these bills at GovTrack.
  • “Congress has until December 3rd to enact another stopgap funding bill to avoid a partial government shutdown. Democrats and Republicans have yet to agree on funding levels for the full fiscal year 2022, so another short-term continuing resolution (CR) is likely to be enacted.”
  • Lawmakers may need “to raise the national debt limit again before the end of December, as the most recent $480 billion hike enacted in October might not be enough to sustain the federal government’s obligations through the end of the year. Republicans have insisted that Democrats raise the debt limit on their own through reconciliation given their ongoing push to enact a partisan $1.7 trillion social spending plan, and the Senate GOP is reportedly negotiating with Democrats on a streamlined vote-a-rama process for debt limit reconciliation measures.”
  • The Senate will also  resume consideration of the National defense authorization act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022. 
  • Build Back Better Act, is now being negotiated among Senate Democrats; a vote is expected before Christmas. (Causes)

Read more about this week in Congress, including committee hearings at Causes.

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

In other news

“The US was listed as a “backsliding democracy” for the first time in an annual report on the state of global democracy from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a Stockholm-based organization.” The report said, “Significantly, the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale.” (Insider)

“President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered a record 50 million barrels of oil released from America’s strategic reserve, aiming to bring down gasoline and other costs, in coordination with other major energy consuming nations including India, the United Kingdom and China.” (Associated Press)

The courts
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at a press conference after Wednesday’s guilty verdict in the case of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, “We got a lot more battles to fight, but this was an important battle today. … Brunswick, Georgia, will go down in history as the place that criminal justice took a different turn…
Let the word go forth all over the world, that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the Deep South stood up in a courtroom and said that Black lives do matter.” (Newsweek)

“Today’s verdict upholds a sense of accountability, but not true justice,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said in a statement after the verdict was announced. “True justice looks like a young Black man not having to worry about being harmed— or killed —while on a jog, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life,” he added.”
“President Biden said Arbery’s killing is a “devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country. ” “My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans,” he added.” (Axios)

A jury ordered 17 white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay more than $26 million in damages Tuesday over the violence that erupted during the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. (Associated Press)

“The justices will hear arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.” (The Hill)

“A ruling that overturned Roe and the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey would lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.” (Associated Press)

“Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world raced Friday to contain a new coronavirus variant potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent.” (Associated Press)
“The B.1.1.529 [Omicron] variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021…This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs [Variants of Concern].” (World Health Organization)
“The variant…has about 50 mutations, more than 30 of which are on the spike protein that allows the virus to bind to human cells. The spread of the new variant is still in its early stages, and it’s not yet clear how severe an infection would be to a vaccinated person.” (CNBC)

“President Biden on Monday described the omicron variant of COVID-19 as a “cause for concern” but not a cause for panic, saying Americans getting vaccinated and getting their booster shots is the best defense against the virus. He also said officials would release more guidance on how they plan to fight the spread of COVID-19 this winter, but promised it wouldn’t include lockdowns…We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day. And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion.” (The Hill)

“More than 90 percent of the federal workforce has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the White House said [last week] on the deadline for President Biden’s federal employee mandate.” (The Hill

“Since September, at least 14 GOP-controlled legislatures have debated bills that would undermine vaccine mandates and passed at least 13 new laws, by Stateline’s count.” (Stateline)

COVID and the courts
“The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a group of health care workers who sought exemptions from their Boston-based hospital’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.” (The Hill)

“A federal court on Monday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers at hospitals that receive federal funding.” (The Hill)

January 6
“The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot is subpoenaing Trump ally Roger Stone and far-right radio host Alex Jones along with others who helped plan and finance the rallies that preceded the attack on the Capitol.” (The Hill)


Upcoming legislative session
Legislators proposed meeting in special session this week to pass a bill that would have curbed COVID mitigation efforts. The bill would have ended the public health emergency and prohibited businesses, organizations and educational institutions from imposing vaccine mandates by forcing them to issue exemptions without questions. Governor Holcomb didn’t support the part of the bill restricting businesses from requiring vaccines. Neither did the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and medical groups. (AP Indiana)  It didn’t pass after the legislature canceled its special session. But expect it to be proposed when the legislature convenes January 4.
For more details about the proposed special session and the hearing that derailed it see Sheila Kennedy, “Speaking of the World’s Worst Legislature.”

Indiana currently sits as one of the top five states with the highest number of anti-abortion provisions passed in 2021. That trend could continue, with Speaker of the House Todd Huston, R-Fishers, indicating last week during a legislative preview that he has placed anti-abortion legislation on his priority list for the 2022 session. (The Statehouse File

‘More urgent than ever’: Indiana lawmaker to propose maternal mortality legislation – IndyStar
Indiana Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, to propose bill to protect mothers after delivering, after IndyStar series on maternal mortality.

Indiana lawmakers considering action to fight worsened drug epidemic – FOX59.com
CDC data shows Indiana saw a 32% spike in overdose deaths during the first year of the pandemic. Indiana lawmakers are looking at ways they can take action this session to curb the rise in overdoses.

Indiana state senator to propose bill studying federal funding’s impact on child care – FOX59.com
A state senator from Bloomington wants Indiana to take a closer look at the impact of federal funding on the state’s child care system.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 4,070 more cases of COVID-19, the highest number of daily cases since mid-September.  (IBJ)

Holcomb to extend Indiana’s public health emergency for 30 days – WISH-TV
Prior to the announcement, the public health emergency was set to expire Dec.1.

“All newly hired city employees will have to show proof of vaccination before their first day of work and all current employees must show proof of vaccination before being considered for a transfer or promotion within city departments, according to two executive orders signed by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.” (NWI Times)

In other news
A week after the St. Joseph County Commissioners approved controversial new district maps that could give Republicans the edge in local elections for the next decade, signs point to a legal fight over the redistricting plan — but the specifics of how a lawsuit might play out remain hazy.  (South Bend Tribune)

Attorney General Todd Rokita is taking his unprovoked battle with Indiana’s local school boards and the state education establishment to the next level…He recently issued a second, expanded edition of his “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that in 54 pages goes well beyond his initial 16-page screed over Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other “Marxist ideologies” that he originally claimed are “consistently being backdoored into Indiana classrooms.”   (Times of Northwest Indiana)
Some religious leaders are condemning Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s latest published remarks discussing Black Lives Matter in schools and issues like critical race theory. They say it’s fanning the flames of division, and ignoring longstanding problems for underserved students instead of empowering families.   (WFYI)

“This past June, I wrote a column about critical race theory. My point can be summed up as follows:  “I cannot overemphasize the fact that CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools. It is taught in a few undergraduate courses but is mainly reserved for graduate school. (I marvel as I watch parents express outrage at the thought of CRT being taught in their kids’ school — especially since virtually none of them can even define it.)”   (Larry Smith, Indianapolis Recorder)

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