01/16/2022 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Martin Luther King Jr Day is Monday, and CNN has provided a list of 5 meaningful things you can do to honor Dr. King and his legacy.These five things aren’t limited to the day. For those of us who are being cautious during this unending pandemic, there are many virtual opportunities. Transcribe historical documents for the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian. Check out the volunteer opportunities from Americorps. Download the series of lesson plans from The King Center. (You don’t need to be a teacher; just choose ‘other’.)
Donate to organizations working year-round to support the social justice causes Dr. King dedicated his life to. Read other ideas at CNN.

Bills are moving quickly through the statehouse. Some bills are good, but many are not and have already been adamantly opposed during committee hearing testimony. Many bills still under consideration are described below under ‘Indiana’. Some groups have made taking action in favor or against bills easy:

Take action with the Hoosier Environmental Council by reading through their Bill Watch 2022 recommendations and contacting your legislators.

Hoosier Action lists legislative priorities for you to consider and contact your lawmakers. Their links include scripts along with contact info: hoosieraction.org/call

Everytown has calls to action against permitless carry (House Bill 1077 and Senate Bill 14) and against a stand your ground law, Senate Bill 143. They are championing a safe storage of firearms bill (Senate Bill 228)

Other bills that need our attention:
House Bill 1001 takes action to allow the Governor to end the public health emergency. BUT it also prohibits vaccine mandates–a move opposed by businesses and the Chamber of Commerce.

House Bill 1134 places restrictions around how teachers talk about issues like race, religion and politics, among other things.

House Bill 1040 would require students to be taught that concepts like “socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems” are “incompatible with the concepts of freedom upon which the United States was founded,” 

House Bill 1182 would “require school board candidates to identify with a political party and include that designation on the ballot.

Read details of these bills and others below and Contact your representative and senator.


Passed the House, goes to the Senate next

H.R. 5746: NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2021
This bill was passed in both the House and Senate, but the House made changes and sent it back to the Senate. It is now called H.R. 5746: Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and serves as a vehicle to allow debate of the voting rights bills without the threat of republican filibuster to prevent such debate. It does not, however, change the rules of the Senate which require 60 votes for passage. These rules—which allow the minority party to filibuster—will prevent passage of these bills since there is no republican support for either of the two voting rights bills. The only way these bills can pass with a simple majority is for a united democratic caucus to vote to at least make a carve out of the filibuster to allow passage of the voting rights bills by simple majority. This rule change is opposed by Senators Manchin and Sinema and all 50 Senate Dems must agree.
Passed 220-203. View the vote.

Passed the Senate, goes to the House next

S. 3451: A bill to include certain computer-related projects in the Federal permitting program under title XLI of the FAST Act, and for other purposes.
Passed by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 450: Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021
Passed by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

S. 2201: Supply Chain Security Training Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “A bill to manage supply chain risk through counterintelligence training, and for other purposes. Passed by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.”

S. 2520: State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2021
GovTrack.us: “This bill provides for collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as corporations, associations, and the general public, regarding cybersecurity.” Passed by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

Passed in the House and the Senate, but the Senate made changes and sent it back to the House.

H.R. 2471: Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill revises reporting and strategy requirements related to recovery and assistance efforts for Haiti.” Passed by Unanimous Consent so no individual record of votes was taken.

Failed passage in the Senate

S. 3436: Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Implementation Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to require the imposition of sanctions with respect to entities responsible for the planning, construction, or operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and their corporate officers and to apply congressional review under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act to the removal of sanctions relating to Nord Stream 2, and for other purposes.” Senators Braun and Young voted yea. Failed of passage in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 55 – 44. View the vote.

The week ahead in Congress

“The Senate is expected to hold votes this week on Democrats’ plan to eliminate or weaken the chamber’s legislative filibuster despite lacking enough support among Democratic lawmakers to succeed, while the House will consider legislation to automatically enroll eligible veterans into the VA healthcare system.” (Causes) Read more about the week ahead including committee hearings at Causes.

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

In other news

“The United States Mint said Monday it has begun shipping quarters featuring the image of poet Maya Angelou, the first coins in its American Women Quarters Program.” (NBC News)

” Biden administration has approved a third major solar project in California, part of a continued drive to achieve carbon-free electricity generation nationwide by 2035″. (The Hill)

“The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a pair of rulings in cases related to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates, striking down a vaccine-or-test requirement for private sector employers with at least 100 workers, and upholding a mandate for healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid unless granted a religious or health exemption.” (Causes)

“U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Sunday that the Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large workplaces was a “setback for public health.”” (The Hill)

Starting Saturday, Jan. 15, private insurers will be required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home rapid tests per month per insured person, according to a new Biden administration rule. People will have the option of buying tests at a store or online, then seeking reimbursement from their health insurance provider. Insurers are being incentivized to work with pharmacies and retailers to develop plans to cover the cost of the tests with no out-of-pocket cost to customers, but those programs will not be immediately widespread. (WTHR)

The White House has announced that people will be able to order free COVID-19 tests from COVIDTests.gov starting on Wednesday, January 19th. (The Verge)

The Biden administration threatened to rescind millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid for Arizona, accusing the state of using the funds to undermine efforts to stop the spread of the virus. (CNBC)

“General Electric Co. is suspending implementation of the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers while another industrial heavyweight, Honeywell International Inc., will stick to its policy… The other rule that applies to federal contractors remains in limbo after it was blocked by a federal judge last month. GE, which has a number of government contracts, stopped rolling out a vaccine requirement under that measure following the December court decision.” (Bloomberg)

“Scientists warn that omicron’s whirlwind advance practically ensures it won’t be the last version of the coronavirus to worry the world. Every infection provides a chance for the virus to mutate, and omicron has an edge over its predecessors: It spreads way faster despite emerging on a planet with a stronger patchwork of immunity from vaccines and prior illness. That means more people in whom the virus can further evolve.” (Associated Press)

Members of the far right are already agitating to launch impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden if the GOP is in power in Congress next year. Some leading Republicans want to spotlight former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. And key House and Senate Republicans are vowing to probe the security failures surrounding last year’s January 6 attack on the US Capitol — and turn the attention to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (CNN)

“Kevin McCarthy is signaling he’ll institutionalize key Trumpian priorities if he takes over as House speaker next year — aggressive tactics targeting undocumented immigrants, liberals and corporate America.” (Axios

Hundreds of Texans seeking to vote by mail in the upcoming March primary elections are seeing their applications for ballots rejected by local election offices trying to comply with stricter voting rules enacted by Texas Republicans last year. (Texas Tribune)

“The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map Friday, saying Republicans violated the Ohio Constitution by drawing districts that favored GOP candidates. Lawmakers have 30 days to redraw the map which could have given Republicans as much as a 12-3 advantage in a state that voted for President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, twice.” (Columbus Dispatch)

“The Republican National Committee (RNC) alerted the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) on Thursday that it plans to require GOP presidential nominees not to attend debates run by the commission going forward.” (The Hill)

“The Justice Department brought seditious conspiracy charges Thursday against the leader of the Oath Keepers and other members of the right-wing group…The indictment contains the first sedition charges that have been brought in the wake of the riot and mark a significant escalation in prosecutors’ efforts by drawing a connection between the physical acts of mayhem that day with the broader effort by former President Trump’s supporters to obstruct Biden from taking office.” (The Hill)

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he will not cooperate with a request from the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot, hours after the panel asked the California Republican to voluntarily provide information, including details about former President Donald Trump’s state of mind during the Capitol attack and in the weeks after.” (CNN) Fact check what McCarthy said about Jan. 6.

“The Travis County District Attorney’s Office (TSCDO) in Texas has found that state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) violated the state’s public records law by refusing to release his texts from the time when he was in D.C. for a Trump rally on the day of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.” (Talking Points Memo)


Next week is the last week for bills to get hearings before switching chambers. If bills are not heard this week, they will die.

Senate Bill 167 Education Matters
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray announced that this bill has “no path forward” and that it will no longer be considered. “The bill was the subject of a nearly eight hour public hearing during the Senate education committee’s first meeting this year. The bill would have required schools to create parent-led curriculum review committees. It would have also placed restrictions around how teachers talk about issues like race, religion and politics, among other things. The announcement comes after a House committee made changes to and advanced its version of the bill earlier in the week…It’s unclear what the Senate’s decision means for the future of the House bill.”  (WFYI)

House Bill 1134 Education Matters
This House version of the above bill passed out of committee. It is nearly identical to SB 167.(WVPE)
The hearing for this bill was held on Monday and drew opposition testimony from a number of educators, among them Scott Miller, superintendent of the School City of Hammond. He “emphasized that addressing “sensitive topics” in the classroom is necessary to help young people learn how to evaluate the truth. Attempts to keep students from learning about dissenting ideologies, he continued, “will only end up driving our youth straight to those ideologies.”
Miller said he believes the legislation stems from “fear that diverse perspectives on our country’s founding will lessen the strength and patriotism of our young people.”
“Addressing that fear by attempting to chill classroom discussion and silencing certain worldviews will only further divide our children,” he said.” (Indiana Public Media)

House Bill 1040 Education matters
This bill would require students to be taught that concepts like “socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems” are “incompatible with the concepts of freedom upon which the United States was founded,” in grades six through 12. This bill would also allow parents to opt their students out of face mask or vaccine requirements, and mandates that schools cannot require students or teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or another communicable disease. (Indiana Public Media)

House Bill 1182 School board elections
Would “require school board candidates to identify with a political party and include that designation on the ballot. Candidates would be able to list themselves as “Independent” if they don’t identify as either a Republican or Democrat. The bill does not limit the number of candidates from each party who could be included in those races. The bill’s author, Rep. J.D. Prescott (R-Union City) said he believes the change would give voters more insight into candidates’ beliefs and character. Everyone who testified at the bill’s first hearing Tuesday opposed the bill.” (Indiana Public Media

House Bill 1001 Administrative authority; COVID 19 immunizations
This bill would “prohibit employers from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine unless employers also offer religious and medical exemptions. They also would have to offer weekly COVID-19 testing as an alternative at their expense.
During Thursday afternoon’s debate, House Republicans added a provision to expand the bill’s protections to prohibit COVID vaccine requirements in any contract, bid or agreement after March 31.
The debate comes as Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, nearly all of which involve unvaccinated patients, are breaking records. Data from the Indiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard show the state set a new record of 3,467 hospitalizations on Monday. By Tuesday, the latest day for which data were available, that number had risen to 3,488.” (WISH TV)
“The Indiana House scrapped a proposal to raise unemployment insurance taxes as a penalty to employers unwilling to grant vaccine exemptions. But, they still want Hoosiers who are fired for vaccine status to be eligible to draw benefits from a pot of money funded by all Indiana employers.”  (WFYI)

Senate Bill 3 Administrative authority
The Indiana Senate’s version of the above legislation to enact administrative tools to end the state’s public health emergency passed in committee unanimously on Wednesday, with backing from business and health care leaders. Unlike the House bill it does not address vaccine mandates.  (IBJ)

House Bill 1372 Dispensing ivermectin
Indiana bill would prohibit providers from discouraging use of ivermectin for COVID-19 – WLWT
“The bill would allow a physician or advanced practice registered nurse to allow a pharmacist to dispense ivermectin. Additionally, the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, the Indiana State Board of Nursing and the Indiana Board of Pharmacy may not deny, revoke, suspend or take disciplinary action against physicians, nurses or pharmacists who issue ivermectin to people. The bill also states that a pharmacist must provide each recipient of ivermectin with an information sheet that includes the importance of follow-up care and health care referral information. “Nothing on the information sheet may discourage the recipient from using ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19,” the bill said.” (WLWT)

House Bill 1077 Firearms matters
Would allow gun owners to carry without a permit, passed the House Tuesday, 64-29. (WTHR)
The proposal loosening Indiana’s already lenient firearms restrictions passed on a largely party-line vote despite the opposition of several major law enforcement organizations.  The bill would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun except for reasons such as having a felony conviction or having a dangerous mental illness. (Associated Press)

Senate Bill 14 Firearms matters
Similar to HB 1077.
This bill allows anyone, 21 or older, unless otherwise prohibited, to carry loaded concealed handguns in public. (https://everytownresearch.org/report/permitless-carry-carrying-a-concealed-gun-in-public-with-no-permit-and-no-training/)

Senate Bill 228 Acquisition and storage of firearms
This bill would require safe storage of firearms and background checks on all gun sales.

Senate Bill 143 Self defense
Specifies that “reasonable force” includes the pointing of a loaded or unloaded firearm for purposes of self-defense and arrest statutes.

Senate Bill 329 prohibits the expansion of vote by mail and absentee voting.

House Bill 1079 defines consent to Indiana laws on sexual assault and provides victims with ability to demonstrate a lack of consent. It further expands existing elements of rape to include rape by impersonation as a specific charge. Passed out of committee and headed to the House floor.

Senate Bill 309 requests the general assembly convene an “initiated session” to consider legislation to restrict abortion under the following circumstances: 1) the Supreme Court overrules the core provisions of Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton or Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 2) the Supreme Court affirms the 15 week ban in Dobbs v. Jackson or 3) a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion is adopted.

HB 1100 Agency oversight and rulemaking procedures
A bill to impose more limitations on state agency rulemaking –also contains controversial “no more stringent than” language. This language would prevent the state from adopting environmental protection or other standards that are deemed “more stringent” than corresponding federal rules, even in situations where Indiana-specific standards are needed to protect Hoosiers and our environment. HEC and our allies have fought back against no more stringent than bills for many years.(Hoosier Environmental Council)

HB 1063 De novo judicial review of certain agency actions
This bill would alter the standards that govern the way a trial court reviews the decision of an administrative agency. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

SB 255 Climate and environmental justice task force
Would establish a Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force that would methodically assess how Indiana can accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the adaptation of the economy to climate change, and the development of a vibrant sustainable economy. TAKE ACTION: Ask your State Senator to convey to Senator Messmer, Chair of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee, that Messmer hear SB 255 and SCR 3 in that committee. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

HB 1334 Property tax deduction for maintaining wetlands
Helps the state’s remaining wetlands by giving property owners a tax break if they preserve the wetlands on their property. 

HB 1378 Preschool and child care facility drinking water.
This bill would require Indiana’s preschools and childcare facilities to test their drinking water for lead and take action if the lead concentration is high.

House Bill 1335 Closure of coal combustion residual impoundments.

Senate Bill 412 Regulation of coal combustion residuals

House Bill 1140 Medicaid coverage for pregnant women.
Repeals the statute specifying Medicaid eligibility for qualified pregnant women. Increases the Medicaid income eligibility requirements for pregnant women. Removes the Medicaid limitation for pregnant women of medical assistance coverage only for pregnancy related services. Extends postpartum Medicaid coverage for pregnant women from 60 days to 12 months beginning on the last day of the pregnancy. Passed out of committee now moves onto the House floor for a vote.

House bill 1169 Department of health matters. 
This bill would destigmatize substance use disorder. Passed out of committee and now moves onto the whole House floor for a vote.

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. Scheduled for a committee hearing next week.

Senate Bill 8  Nonprofit bail funding.
Allows a charitable organization to pay bail on behalf of a defendant if the organization meets certain criteria. Scheduled for a committee hearing next week.

House Bill 1294 Restraint of pregnant inmates.
Scheduled for a committee hearing next week.

House Bill 1002 Various tax matters
Indiana House Republicans are forging ahead with their push for broad business and individual tax cuts even with ongoing skepticism from other GOP leaders in the Statehouse. The House Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to advance the plan after rejecting several changes Democrats argued would do more to help struggling families.  (AP Indiana)

Senate Bill 180 Juvenile court appointed attorney for child
On Monday, an Indiana Senate committee approved a bill aimed at providing a court-appointed attorney in certain types of juvenile cases.   (The Statehouse File)

House Bill 1157 Township budget
This bill would give township boards more say in overseeing township budgets. Passed out of a House committee Wednesday on a unanimous vote.  (WFIU)

Senate Bill 304 Township trustees and budgets
Creates a process for removing trustees from their office.

In other news

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb used his 6th State of the State address to paint an optimistic picture of Indiana and also to provide an update of his 2022 agenda to lawmakers.  (Indy Politics)
Indiana governor says COVID-19 remains state challenge wdrb.com
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb extolled the state’s economic expansion amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the annual State of the State speech Tuesday night while saying many challenges remain from the ongoing health crisis.

Senator Frank Mrvan, a pillar of Northwest Indiana’s state legislative delegation for nearly four decades announced Tuesday he’s retiring from the Indiana Senate, effective immediately.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

IU Health is giving Ivy Tech Community College $8.75 million to expand its nursing programs across the state to address a growing shortage of nurses in health care facilities.  (WFYI)

More Hoosiers currently are hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any time in the 22-month history of the coronavirus pandemic in Indiana.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

In response to the chronic high-volume conditions in the Region’s emergency rooms, hospitals across Northwest Indiana have collaborated to no longer go on bypass until otherwise indicated, officials said.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Friday, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) stood by his comments about not truly trusting the COVID-19 numbers being reported.  (WANE-TV)

Crown Point Community School Corporation is apparently not in compliance with state recommendations for masking and quarantine in schools or it’s own masking policy. (NWI Times)

Dozens are off and running as candidates in the May 3 Democratic Party and Republican Party primaries. Some 76 have filed for county, township and town offices during the first 10 days of filing period. Find a list so far at NWI Times.

“Former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo filed paperwork Friday to run in the May 3 Republican primary election for U.S. House with an eye toward taking on first-term U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, in the Nov. 8 general election.” She supports Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election while saying she will fight for deregulation. (NWI Times)

9th District Congressman Trey Hollingsworth is not running for re-election. He has been named as a likely candidate for Governor in 2024.  (Indy Politics)

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