01/10/2022 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

It’s time to be terrified. We will lose our democracy unless all of us step up to defend it.

The future of our democracy is murky at best. “There’s that 36-page coup d’etat Powerpoint titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 Jan” that President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows gave to the House Jan. 6 Committee.
The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman writes that “Trump’s next coup has already begun.” According to Gellman, “If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.”
Veteran GOP operative Steve Schmidt describes “the obvious edge of the abyss into which we are staring. A great crisis isn’t just at hand, it is underway. We are living through its early days.”
NBC’s Meet The Press Daily observes: “Today prominent GOP candidates are running campaigns based on waving the bloody shirt of a stolen election. Sixty percent of the party’s voters believe the blood is real when it’s actually fake. Republicans in several states are trying their best to make sure those local officials who protected the election from false fraud claims won’t be there next time.”” (Howey Politics)
Supporters of the big lie, including January 6 perpetrators are infiltrating politics at the local level, including running for offices that are responsible for counting votes. (NBC News)

Be terrified on the state level also. Several bills under consideration, one close to being passed, will remove our individual freedoms to be healthy and raise a well informed and educated populace. These bills would outlaw vaccines imposed by any entity, and allow students to not wear masks regardless of the circumstances. Education bills would essentially prohibit the teaching of factual American history, with schools under threat of parental lawsuits for any perceived violation. Another will create political school boards, requiring elected officials to declare a political party, something never done before in Indiana and only done in three other states. Last year’s failed bill that would have allowed permitless firearm carry is expected to pass. And that’s just the first week. Read details below and Contact your representative and senator!

The Indiana State Teachers Association has made it easy to contact your state rep and senator about two of the education bills: https://www.ista-in.org/our-advocacy/ista-advocacy-center

Common Cause Indiana has an easy way to contact your representative about HB1182, the bill that would create politicized school boards.


Senate Bill 167 Education Matters
Read a good synopsis of the long hearing yesterday over this proposed education bill, Indiana’s response to CRT. It’s opposed by educators, including the Indiana State Teachers Association and Indiana Public Schools Superintendents. It allows individual citizens to sue in civil court for any perceived violations of the eight “divisive topics.” (The Indiana Citizen)

Proponents and opponents squared off Wednesday over a sweeping bill to regulate how Indiana schools teach about race and racism.  (Chalkbeat Indiana)

“State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said he fears the measure, if enacted, could lead to even more divisiveness if students feel their life experiences are ignored or minimized by their teachers, or used as fodder by activist students hoping to catch teachers breaking the law. “There’s a lot to unpack here,” Melton said. “Just because a part of my history makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.” “If we truly want to help our children, look after their well-being and promote their mental health, there’s much more targeted and beneficial legislation we could be considering than a bill to censor what students can learn in school.”” (NWI Times)

Republican state senator Scott Baldwin “has backtracked on his shocking instructions to a history teacher during [this] legislative hearing…not to criticize Nazism or fascism to his students”…saying “We need to be impartial.” He also said he wasn’t “discrediting” Nazism. Baldwin emphasized that it’s fine to discuss the existence of the “isms,” like fascism and Nazism. But “we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those ‘isms,’” Baldwin uttered his jaw-dropping instruction at a legislative hearing on state Senate Bill 167, which would require schools to form committees including parents to review all curricula. It would also prohibit schools from teaching a variety of concepts related to sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color and national origin as part of an assault on critical race theory.” (Yahoo News)

A similar plan to the above, House Bill 1134, is scheduled for a hearing Monday at the House Education Committee.

House Bill 1040 Education Matters 
Provides that a school corporation or qualified school may not provide instruction that socialism, Marxism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems are compatible with the principles of freedom upon which the United States was founded. Provides that a parent of a student or an emancipated student who attends a school corporation or qualified school may opt out of a face mask or face covering requirement… Provides that the governor, a state agency, a local health board or local health officer, or a school corporation or qualified school may not require a student of a school corporation or qualified school to quarantine against COVID-19 or other communicable disease if the student is asymptomatic.  Provides that the governor, a state agency, a local health board or local health officer, or a school corporation or qualified school may not require, as a condition for employment, enrollment, attendance, or participation in a school corporation or qualified school or in a school extracurricular activity, a student to be immunized against COVID-19 or other communicable disease.

The Indiana State Teachers Association has made it easy to contact your state rep and senator about the education bills: https://www.ista-in.org/our-advocacy/ista-advocacy-center

HB1182 School Board Elections 
Provides that for school board offices, each candidate’s affiliation with a political party or status as an independent candidate must be stated on the ballot.
House Elections Committee will hear HB1182 early this week. “This legislation would require all candidates for local school boards declare a political party affiliation. If passed, it would enact a major policy change in the way that schools are governed at the local level…We’ve never had partisan school board elections in our state and the practice is rare – only three states currently require candidates to declare a party…In 2017 the republican General Assembly voted to eliminate the partisan election of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. They said this was necessary, because education was becoming too political. We can certainly argue that since that time, public education has gotten even more political. Now is not the time to introduce partisanship at the local level by requiring partisan school board elections.” (Julia Vaughn, Common Cause Indiana)
Common Cause Indiana has an easy way to contact your representative about this bill.

House Bill 1077 Firearms Matters
An Indiana House committee heard Wednesday from supporters and opponents of proposed legislation that would eliminate the requirement of licenses to carry handguns, a proposal that stopped short of passage in the Indiana General Assembly last year. The bill is opposed by the Indiana State Police. The state firearms death rate is 15.3% of total deaths.
The committee approved the bill in a 9-3 vote along party lines. (The Indiana Citizen)

House Bill 1001 Administrative authority; COVID-19 immunizations
Republican lawmakers advanced this bill out of committee that would severely limit Indiana workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements, arguing it is time to rely on personal responsibility and protections such as immunity from a previous infection. The bill would force businesses to grant COVID-19 vaccination requirement exemptions without any questions and block similar immunization rules set by state universities.
It rejects an appeal from the state’s largest business organization to leave such decisions up to employers and strikes against Indiana University’s student vaccine mandate that a U.S. Supreme Court justice let go into effect.
It also passed as ICU beds are full of the unvaccinated, record numbers of children with COVID have been hospitalized, and the state’s own state health commissioner has become infected for the second time. The bill allows employees to claim vaccine exemption for any reason, including prior infection.  (AP Indiana) An estimated 15,000 Hoosiers have become reinfected with COVID-19. (WANE) It passed out of committee with on a 7-4 vote. (Fox 59) A final vote in the House is expected early this week. (WISH TV)
View testimony from business representatives speaking against this bill. Highlights of what they said include:

  • Vaccinated employees are leaving rather than working alongside the unvaccinated.
  • Group life insurance—companies are seeing the highest death rates ever seen across all these types of insurance companies, affecting mainly the 18-64 age groups; death rates are up 40% over what they were pre-pandemic. They believe actual death rates from the pandemic are understated among this age group
  • There has been an uptick in disability claims—those with long covid or those who have been unable to get health care they need because of the strain COVID has placed on healthcare.
  • Not allowing businesses to impose vaccine mandates will cost more for employers; insurance companies are already adding premium loads in counties with low vaccination rates.
  • Companies are incurring higher costs from employees who are sick, have long term disability or have died.
  • Productivity is strained. Especially in manufacturing where in person is essential, if even one person gets COVID that link in the chain breaks and they can’t get the product out.
  • Suppliers—lack of material flow to companies because of COVID.
  • The unvaccinated are misinformed and responding to lies about the vaccines. They don’t recognize value of the vaccine.
  • Long haul is affecting as many as 20% of those who have contracted COVID and is especially prevalent among the unvaccinated. This affects disability and challenges work force participation.

House Bill 1027 
Would cut the income tax rate for everyone, dropping it from 3.23% to a flat 3%.
Indiana House Republicans are proposing broad business and individual tax cuts even as the state’s Republican governor and state Senate have been cautious about taking major action this year.  (AP Indiana)

Senate Joint Resolution 3
Directs Congress to call a constitutional convention under Article 5 of the Constitution of the United States for the purpose of proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to fix the membership of the United States Supreme Court at nine justices. Approved by the committee. A joint resolution is not binding on Congress.

Senate Bill 115 School Employee Misconduct
This bill would require staffing companies, temp agencies and contractors to share employee background check information with schools (WRTV)

Crime package of proposed bills
Senate Bill 6 Bail for violent arrestees
Defines “violent arrestee” and “minimum bail amount”, and requires: (1) a court to review the probable cause affidavit or arrest warrant before releasing a violent arrestee on bail; (2) bail to be set following a hearing in open court; and (3) a violent arrestee released on bail to pay 100% of the minimum bail amount by cash deposit. Prohibits a third party who is not a close relative of the violent arrestee from posting bail for the violent arrestee.

Senate Bill 7 Marion County crime reduction pilot.
Establishes the Marion County crime reduction board (board) as part of the Marion County crime reduction pilot project. Allows the board to approve interoperability agreements between law enforcement agencies to expand the jurisdiction, duties, and responsibilities of law enforcement agencies operating in downtown Indianapolis.

Senate Bill 9 Electronic monitoring standards.
Establishes standards, including staffing minimums and notification time frames, for persons and entities responsible for monitoring individuals required to wear a monitoring device as a condition of probation, parole, pretrial release, or community corrections. Makes conforming amendments. Provides that a defendant commits escape if the defendant disables or interferes with the operation of an electronic monitoring device. (Under current law, the defendant commits the offense by removing an electronic monitoring device.) Requires a court to revoke the bail of a defendant who commits escape.

Senate Bill 10 Marion County violent crime reduction pilot.
Establishes the: (1) Marion County violent crime reduction pilot project; and (2) Marion County violent crime reduction pilot project fund; to identify violent crime reduction districts in Marion County and to provide grants for overtime and additional law enforcement services in the violent crime reduction districts. Defines “violent crime reduction district”.

Click here to see all of the bills that have been filed and posted online.

In other news

Governor Holcomb “announced his 2022 Next Level Agenda, which focuses on strengthening the state’s economy and focusing on areas that support that growth, including workforce training expansion, improving early childhood education efforts, advancing infrastructure projects, and increasing access to public health services.” (IN.gov)
Indiana democrats were generally optimistic about Holcomb’s priorities, especially as opposed to republicans in the general assembly. “Governor Holcomb’s legislative agenda is a refreshing divergence from the priorities we’ve seen from legislative Republicans, rather than the divisive, culture war type of bills we’ve seen filed, he seems keen on improving early learning and public health outcomes for Hoosiers,” said [House Democratic Leader] GiaQuinta. (WIBC)

“Indiana fiscal leaders found out the state was flush with cash on Thursday – more than $3.3 billion more than anticipated – creating what is expected to be a $5 billion surplus next year.” Top republicans are calling for tax cuts. Gov.Holcomb said, “Today’s revenue forecast is great news and gives us a lot to consider in the months ahead. We’ve been very careful with how we’ve used fiscal resources to this point. And with constantly changing circumstances, we should evaluate all the information before adjusting or adding to our existing commitments.” (Howey Politics)

The political arm of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly has contributed more than $30,000 to the campaigns of some of those in Congress who voted against certifying the Electoral College results last January, after pledging to suspend such contributions in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.  (Indy Star)

The leaders of the House and Senate are warning nearly two dozen Indiana hospital systems and health insurers their prices better drop to something closer to the national average, and soon, or else legislation to statutorily reduce prices will be on the way.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

A new organization of business leaders has formed to advocate for the legalization of adult use of cannabis in Indiana. Indiana Cann argues that the potential tax revenue could bring $171 million into the state if it were to adopt Colorado’s tax policy.  (WFIU)

The multistep process of replacing retiring Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David began Monday when Chief Justice Loretta Rush announced applications now are available for the rare opening on the five-member judicial panel.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

The Indiana National Guard has been mobilized to help at Riley Hospital for Children, where doctors and nurses are struggling to care for a large wave of youths with COVID-19.  (IBJ)

The state has issued updated guidelines for schools with the recommendation that all students and staff be masked throughout the school day. (Updated K-12 Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine)

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


This week in Congress from Causes:

“Congress will be operating at full capacity this week as House lawmakers will return to the Capitol this week from recess for their first floor business of 2022.”

The Senate:
“The Senate convenes Monday when it’s expected to resume consideration of nominees after last week’s session was cut short due to inclement weather. 
The Senate is expected to consider legislation to impose sanctions on companies involved in Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany. Additionally, a vote on changing Senate rules to eliminate the legislative filibuster may occur, although it’s unlikely to succeed. It’s unclear when either of these votes will be held.
Committees will hold hearings on the federal COVID-19 response with a focus on new variants; the domestic terrorism threat one year after January 6th; and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s re-nomination.”

The House:
“Expect votes on a bill to expand eligibility for post-9/11 G.I. bill educational benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserves, in addition to a bill to extend NASA’s authority to lease its unused properties for up to 10 years.
Committees will hold hearings on Capitol security since January 6th; the implications of electric vehicle investments for agriculture and rural America; and the impact of continuing resolutions on the Dept. of Defense.”
Links to the hearings in both chambers are on Causes

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

In other news

January 6
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed…This was an armed insurrection. Here is the truth, the former president of the United States of America has spread a web of lies because he values power over principle and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy.” “You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.”- President Biden, in a U.S. Capitol address commemorating the denouncing the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection this morning. (Howey Politics) and (CNN)

Watch President Biden’s fiery speech on January 6. Read the full text.

Two republicans attended the ceremony on Jan. 6 in the House—Rep. Liz Cheney and former VP Dick Cheney. Most republicans were silent or downplayed the day, many also criticizing and ridiculing democrats. The former vice president said that he is “deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation.”

No Republican senators or other republican representatives attended any commemorative events in Washington D.C.. (Axios)

Karl Rove, one of American conservatism’s most influential architects and a former senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration and political commentator urged Republicans to condemn the Capitol insurrection for the good of the country, to “put country over party.” Rove contested that “true patriotism” required an honest examination of the motives and dangers posed by the insurrection, namely that the rioters were encouraged by Trump to stop the certification of the election with force. “Love of country demands nothing less,” Rove wrote. (USA Today)

On the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, former President Jimmy Carter, in a strongly worded op-ed piece for The New York Times, decried renewed efforts to thwart American democracy. “Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss,” Carter wrote. “Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late.” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

AG Garland delivered an update on the investigations and prosecutions surrounding January 6. He stated, “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.” (Causes)

Congressman Mrvan talked about his experiences on January 6 as well as his priorities for the year ahead. ((Longview News-Journal)

The courts
“A judge sentenced three men to life in prison Friday for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and denied the possibility of parole for two of the defendants, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael.” (USA Today

The court seems poised to reject President Biden’s vaccine mandates. “Conservative members of the Supreme Court on Friday appeared skeptical of Biden administration policies that impose a COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement on broad swathes of the U.S. Workforce.” (The Hill) Read more about the arguments heard and made at CNN.

“While the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to drive up Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations — and the numbers are likely to get worse before they get better — health experts say it’s critical Americans continue safe practices to prevent infections.
An ensemble forecast from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Wednesday predicts that more than 84,000 people could die of Covid-19 over the next four weeks, and cautions “current forecasts may not fully account for the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant or changes in reporting during the holidays.”
The forecast could mean an average of 3,526 Covid-19 deaths per day, up from a current average of 1,251 each day, based on data from Johns Hopkins.” (CNN)

“Hospitalizations of U.S. children under 5 with COVID-19 soared in recent weeks to their highest level since the pandemic began, according to government data released Friday on the only age group not yet eligible for the vaccine.” (Associated Press)

The economy
“2021 will go down in history as a year of record-breaking jobs growth: America added 6.4 million jobs last year, the most since records started in 1939. Every single month brought jobs gains.” (CNN)

“The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent in December, and the U.S. economy added 199,000 new jobs. The economy created a record 6.4 million jobs in President Biden’s first year in office, nearly as many as Donald Trump bragged about creating in his first three years combined”. (Crooked Media)
“A record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November, according to government data released Tuesday morning.  “It’s not understood in the broader public discussion, people aren’t quitting their jobs to leave the labor force they are quitting their jobs to take other jobs,” said Heidi Shierholz, president of the progressive Economic Policy Institute.” (Axios)

“Major U.S. corporations are looking to quietly restore ties with Republicans who objected to certifying the 2020 election results following the Jan. 6 insurrection, believing that they cannot afford to burn bridges with the party that is favored to win back the House in the 2022 midterms…Corporate America often allies itself with Republicans to fight Democratic proposals to regulate private industry and increase taxes on large companies. But Republicans, including McCarthy, have publicly warned that the party won’t be as friendly to corporations that have cut off donations or publicly criticized GOP-led bills to tighten voting restrictions.” (The Hill) Find a list of trade groups and corporations who have resumed funding congressional members who objected to the electoral count at accountable and Citizens for Ethics.

“Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced Sunday he will run for reelection in November, setting up a high-stakes Senate battle in a key swing state.” (The Hill)

“Election officials in Arizona’s most populous county found nearly every conclusion in a partisan “audit” of Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election to be misleading or false, according to an official rebuttal released on Wednesday.” (NBC News)

Cyber Ninjas, the company that led a partisan review of 2020 ballots in Arizona, is closing down following a scathing report by election officials and the threat of $50,000 a day in fines. (NBC News)

And more
Trump has endorsed Hungary’s authoritarian leader for re-election with lavish praise.
“Trump’s endorsement of Orbán is not the first time the former president has backed the political campaign of a populist foreign leader accused of eroding democratic norms and embracing authoritarian governance. Last October, Trump announced his support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s reelection bid.
President Joe Biden, by contrast, has taken a tougher line against Orbán. Ahead of his virtual Summit for Democracy last month, Hungary was the only European Union member state to which the president did not extend an invitation.” (Politico)

“The Biden administration is distributing an additional $4.5 billion in funds to help low-income Americans cover heating costs during a second pandemic winter, with cold-weather states receiving the largest share, according to a state-by-state breakdown released Friday.” (Associated Press)