02/07/2022 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Save the Date: IndivisibleNWI Townhall with Congressman Frank Mrvan
2/17 at 6 pm central
Zoom link/ event to come

Many Indiana bills of note are described below. They have passed their originating chamber and will now be heard in the opposite chamber. Please contact your representative about Senate bills and contact your senator about House bills concerning legislation important to you to let them know how you want them to vote.


School. library and teacher organizations have strongly opposed Republican-backed bills mandating that classroom materials be vetted by parent review committees, placing restrictions on teaching about racism and political topics. and allowing felony charges against a librarian for having what a parent or community member deems inappropriate. The Indiana State Teachers Association makes it easy to take action on HB 1134 and HB 1072. Click here, fill out the form and add a few words of your own.

HB 1134, Education Matters
Would wrest control over curriculum away from teachers and impose limitations on how American history—and some world history—can be taught. Under threat of being fired, a teacher cannot engage in discussions that could lead to a student feeling uncomfortable. So teaching history and issues that could lead to discussions about racism, for example, would be very limited or not taught at all.

Senate Bill 17 Material harmful to minors 
This bill allows librarians to be charged with a level 6 felony on the charge of providing materials deemed inappropriate by some parents or members of the community; these very materials may be valued by others. Passed 34-15. View the vote.

House Bill 1072 School referendum levies
Under this bill school corporations must distribute a portion of revenue from referendums to charter schools in the same area. This bill would have the largest impact on Gary and Indianapolis, cities that contain the largest populations of charter school students in the state. (Indiana Coalition for Public Education)

House Bill 1251 Various education matters and Senate Bill 356 Teacher matters
Versions of legislation to create part time teacher permits passed each chamber. These bills would help address teacher shortages while allowing unqualified people to teach Hoosier children. These bills could impact salaries for licensed full time teachers along with the quality of education of Hoosier students. (Fox 59) The vote in the House was 73-17. View the vote. The vote in the Senate was 31-18. View the vote.

Senate Bill 331 is an education savings accounts expansion–another form of voucher–public funding for charter and private schools that “does financial harm to traditional public schools where over 90% of Hoosier children attend.” (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) Passed 37-12. View the vote.

House Bill 1041 Participation in School Sports
Bans transgender women and girls from participating in K-12 school sports that match their gender identity, despite opposition from activists who argue it’s unconstitutional, sexist and bigoted. The bill would prohibit students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls. But it wouldn’t prevent students who identify as female or transgender men from playing on men’s sports teams. The bill would additionally establish a civil action for violations, and schools wouldn’t be subject to liabilities for complying with it. Democrats argued that the bill is “discriminatory” and “harmful to kids.” They also contended that the Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy that requires transgender girls who want to play sports to show they’ve completed hormone therapy, and that their muscle mass or bone density is typical of other girls the same age. The vote was 66-30 vote, largely along party lines. (Associated Press) View the vote.

Other bills that passed despite opposition and now go to the Senate or House:

House Bill 1077—Permitless carry
Passed the House over the opposition of several major law enforcement organizations. This bill would allow individuals, including those who would not have passed a background check, to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public. The vote was 64-29. View the vote.

Let me get this straight: Parents are more concerned about books than they are guns?  (Oseye Boyd, Indianapolis Recorder)

House Bill 1116 Electronic voting machines
Prohibits many Hoosiers who currently satisfy one of the statutory excuses to qualify for a mail-in absentee ballot from voting by mail if they are capable of casting an in-person ballot during the 28-day early voting period. The previous rule was that the voter couldn’t vote in person on election day. A voter cannot qualify for a mail in ballot unless they certify, under penalty of perjury, they are unable to get to an early voting site during the entire time early voting is available. This bill ensures that mail-in voting will become significantly more rare than it already is. Indiana already ranks 46th among 50 states in voter turnout. Democratic legislators noted that many of the state’s 92 counties have just one early voting location that may be difficult to get to or open just a few hours a week. This bill will make voting even more difficult and will ensure that turnout remains low. “State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, suggested Republicans may end up harming themselves, since recent elections show most Hoosiers vote Republican and under this measure conceivably every mail-in ballot could be challenged, and possibly not counted, until election officials verify the voter was unable to cast an early ballot.” (KPC News)
Passed the House 62-28 and goes to the Senate next. View the vote.

House Bill 1217 Coerced abortion.
Requires that a pregnant woman seeking an abortion must be informed that a coerced abortion is illegal. Provides that certain medical personnel must inquire with a pregnant woman seeking an abortion whether the abortion is coerced. Requires certain medical personnel who believe that an abortion is coerced to offer the pregnant woman information on certain services, the use of a telephone, and an alternative exit from the health care facility. Makes it a Level 6 felony if a person knowingly or intentionally coerces a pregnant woman into having an abortion. Mandates reports of a coerced abortion to law enforcement. Makes it a Class C infraction if a reproductive health facility knowingly employs a mandatory reporter who violates the mandatory reporting statute. Passed 73-18. View the vote. Opposed by the the League of Women Voters. Take action easily here.

Senate Bill 165 Noncompliant prosecutor.
Permits the attorney general to request the appointment of a special prosecuting attorney if a prosecuting attorney is categorically refusing to prosecute certain crimes, and establishes a procedure for the appointment of a person to serve as a special prosecuting attorney to prosecute cases that the county prosecuting attorney is refusing to prosecute. Opponents of the proposal argue that it undercuts the discretion of prosecutors as to how they use their limited staffs and budgets. (Associated Press) Passed 37-11.View the vote.

HB 1354 a bill which changes SNAP requirements to make it more difficult for families to participate.(Hoosier Action)

Hoosier Action notes that these two bills will lead to more Hoosiers unnecessarily remaining in jail just because they can’t afford bail:
Senate Bill 6 Bail for violent arrestees Passed 36-11. View the vote.
Senate Bill 8 Nonprofit bail funding. Passed 32-14. View the vote.

House Bill 1100Agency oversight and rulemaking procedures
This bill would limit Indiana state agencies’ ability to adopt timely and appropriate state standards to protect public health and the environment. Opposed by Hoosier Environmental Council. (Hoosier Environmental Council) HB1100 limits future Administrative Agency emergency orders to no more than 180 days in length and establishes required reviews by the Attorney General before they are final. It also requires that agencies adopting new rules take at least one old rule off the books. (Southwest Indiana Chamber) Passed 61-29. View the vote.

House Bill 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. Such decisions include rulings of the Office of Environmental Adjudication (OEA) and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that are charged with reviewing administrative appeals of IDEM and DNR permitting and enforcement decisions. Under current law, a party who seeks judicial review of an OEA or NRC ruling has the burden of proving that the decision is unlawful. Opposed by Hoosier Environmental Council. (Hoosier Environmental Council) Passed 74-17. View the vote.

Senate Bill 179 Automated traffic control system pilot program
Would substitute speed cameras for police officers at four “pilot” highway work zones, let speeding motorists off with a warning for a first violation and impose just a $75 fine for the second and a $150 fine for each subsequent violation with no risk of losing their license. This legislation could make highway work zones less safe and open the door to speed camera enforcement throughout Indiana. Under current law, a motorist who exceeds the reduced speed limit in a highway work zone by even one mile per hour can be stopped by police and fined $300 for a first violation, $500 for a second violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation — along with facing the possibility of losing their driver’s license. The vote was 35-14. View the vote.

Not all bad
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. (Women4Change) Passed 86-3. View the vote.

House Bill 1294 establishes legal standards for how jails and prisons can use restraints on pregnant incarcerated people and creates a reporting mechanism to document all occasions where restraints are used in Indiana prisons. (Women4Change)  Passed 92-0

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. (Women4Change) Passed 86-3. View the vote.

House Bill 1140 Expands the Medicaid income eligibility requirements for pregnant women, extends additional postpartum coverage from 2 months to 12 months, and removes the Medicaid limitations for pregnant women for pregnancy related services. (Women4Change) Passed 86-1. View the vote.

 House Bill 1214, a bill to allow eviction expungements, passed unanimously. (Hoosier Action)

Senate Bill 266 Department of child services review of base rate.
Establishes a process by which a child caring institution, group home, secure private facility, or licensed child placing agency may request a review of base rates and other cost based rates approved by the department of child services (department). Requires the department to give special consideration to approval of costs that are proven by a residential treatment provider to have been previously approved by the department. Intent is to increase pay of child care providers. Passed unanimously

In other news

“A total of 48 incumbent Indiana legislators seeking reelection — 37 in the House and 11 in the Senate — faced neither primary nor general election opponents as of Friday’s end of candidate filing.
With all 100 House seats and 25 of the 50 Senate seats up for election this year, that means that well over a third are uncontested at this point.
That will change in the coming months. Indiana election law allows party officials to fill vacancies on the general election ballot after the primaries; typically, some but not all of the vacancies are filled by the deadline for doing so, which this year is July 5.
Candidate filing began in the office of the Indiana Secretary of State on Jan. 5 and ended at noon Friday, followed by the posting of the final list of candidates.” (The Indiana Citizen)

Here’s the final list of federal and state candidates who have filed in contested races for Indiana’s May primary.  (Indy Politics)

Michael Griffin hopes he can live up to a Latin saying that translates to “the work proves the craftsman.”  Griffin, 62, longtime Highland clerk-treasurer, was elected by a Lake County Democratic caucus Saturday to fill the vacancy left by the retirement earlier this year by 1st District state Sen. Frank Mrvan.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

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


Passed the House, goes to the Senate next

H.R. 4521: America COMPETES Act of 2022
Causes: “would aim to bolster U.S. economic and technological competitiveness through investments in manufacturing, research, and innovation. It would aim to accelerate U.S. production of semiconductors, strengthen supply chains, and expand research capacity while supporting labor standards and human rights. It would also enact a number of other provisions, such as extending a healthcare coverage tax credit and fostering research related to coral reefs. A breakdown of its various provisions can be found at Causes. The Senate side bill is S. 1260: United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, but the House has made changes to that bill to incorporate supply chain issues, inflation and climate change. Passed the House 222-210. Representatives Mrvan and Carson voted yea; all other Indiana reps voted nay. View the vote.

Funding the government
“With government funding running out on Feb. 18, it’s clear that Congress will need to pass a short-term stopgap spending bill to avert a shutdown. Even if Republicans and Democrats are able to get a “topline” spending number very soon – the first step toward a deal – Congress will still need to buy more time to finish work on an omnibus package covering all 12 annual bills. Those packages can be thousands of pages long. (Punchbowl News
Today Congressional leaders released a short-term spending bill, buying three more weeks to lock in an expansive government funding deal. (Politico)

A bipartisan reform of the Electoral Count Act is expected soon. It will clarify the Congress’ and the Vice-President’s role in certified electoral votes and declaring the winner of the Presidential election. This bill does nothing to protect voting rights in the states but may garner enough republican votes to pass. Read more about the bill at Causes.

The week ahead in Congress

Funding for the government runs out in two weeks. In the Senate a bipartisan agreement on full-year appropriations for the rest of fiscal year 2022 is still being negotiated. If an agreement isn’t reached this week, then a short-term continuing resolution may be brought to the floor. Approval of judgeships is on the agenda for the week also. “The House starts its week Monday with the consideration of a bill restricting the use of forced arbitration in settling sexual assault and harassment claims. Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to be focused on bills to sanction foreign individuals found to be complicit in violating the human rights of LGBTQ people and to strengthen the financial position of the U.S. Postal.” Read more about the week ahead and expected committee hearings in both chambers at Causes.

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

In other news

“Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against former President Trump at his first impeachment, filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging Trump’s eldest son, as well as adviser Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies, conspired to intimidate him into not testifying and retaliated against him after he did so anyway.” (The Hill)

“Pfizer on Tuesday asked the U.S. to authorize extra-low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5, potentially opening the way for the very youngest Americans to start receiving shots as early as March.” Two doses were found to be effective for 6 month-2-year-olds, but not in older preschoolers. Pfizer is currently testing a third dose, but the FDA urged Pfizer to apply now. Currently 2 doses would be administered 3 weeks apart with a potential third dose after 2 months of the second.” (Associated Press)

“A Chalkbeat review of over a dozen polls since this summer found that support for masking in schools consistently outstrips opposition among parents and the general public.” (Chalkbeat)

The economy
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Friday released its jobs report for January 2022, which found the U.S. economy added 467,000 jobs and the unemployment rate increased slightly by 0.1 percentage point to 4.0% as more people looked for work. The report exceeds the Dow Jones forecast of 150,000 jobs and a 3.9% unemployment rate.
With January’s gains, the U.S. economy has recovered about 87% of jobs lost since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employment in December was revised up by 311,000 from +199,000 to +510,000. Employment in November was revised up by 398,000 from +249,000 to +647,000.” (Causes)
Read details and a breakdown of each jobs sector at Causes.

Hourly wages were up 5.7% over a year ago. President Biden’s first year in office saw 6.6 million jobs added. (Reuters)

“Officials nationwide have raced to enact new laws and introduce new policies meant to shape how students discuss the nation’s past — and its present. Many of these efforts have attempted to ban critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism. In some states, lawmakers have tried to restrict antiracism training or the teaching of what they call “divisive concepts.” But on the opposite end, other states are adding ethnic studies courses or incorporating more about people of color into their learning standards.” Nonetheless 36 states have proposed or enacted laws to restrict “education on racism, bias, the contributions of specific racial or ethnic groups to U.S. history, or related topics” while only 17 states have worked to increase the same. See the troubling chart at Chalkbeat.

“The Supreme Court on Monday put on hold a lower court ruling that Alabama must draw new congressional districts before the 2022 elections to increase Black voting power. The high court order boosts Republican chances to hold six of the state’s seven seats in the House of Representatives.” (Associated Press)

On Sunday Trump said that former Vice President Pence had the authority to overturn the election.
In a speech to the Federalist Society Pence said, “The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” Pence said. “And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.” (Business Insider)

January 6
“In a resolution formally censuring GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the Republican National Committee on Friday described the events surrounding the January 6, 2021 insurrection — which have been at the center of a House probe — as “legitimate political discourse.”” (CNN)

President Biden is still fostering diplomacy while at the same time threatening sanctions along with a show of military force. On Wednesday he moved 2,000 U.S.-based troops to Poland and Germany, while shifting 1,000 from Germany to Romania. For a succinct and clear explanation of America’s response to the Ukraine-Russia situation, see Politico Nightly.