02/14/2022 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Join IndivisibleNWI for a Town Hall with U.S. Congressman Frank Mrvan via Zoom on
Thursday, Feb 17, 2022, 6:00 PM Central Time 
Register in advance for this meeting:
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In Indiana the legislature is only in session for one more month. Check out Hoosier Action, Indiana Coalition for Public Education, Women4Change, and Hoosier Environmental Council for important legislative updates on bills important to each group.

We urge you to contact your representative and senator about bills important to you. Write, email, and call. Some organizations also offer an easy way to contact your legislator—those opportunities are noted below. Using your own words is always the best way to influence your legislator so if you use an organization’s call to action, add some of your own sentences. Better yet, use their call to action and then write, email and call also. The more we all bombard our legislators, the more likely they will pay attention. There are some terrible bills this session, from controlling what and how teachers teach to book banning to women’s health issues to permitless carry to imposing more voting restrictions. It’s a short session so we all need to act now!

Many bills are still in committee. You can click on the name of the committee in the description to see the agenda and when the bill will be heard. You can click on ‘members’ on the left of the page to contact the chair and members of the committee.

Bills that have garnered the most attention are described below. More bills are described on our web page. Some bills being considered are good—and will likely pass into law. They are also described on the web page.


February 28 is the last day for Senate bills to have a reading in the House and March 1st is the last day for readings of House Bills in the Senate. The session comes to a full close on March 14th.” (Women4Change)

Bills that have passed the Senate and are now being considered in the House.

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. This is a stand your ground law. This is a dangerous policy; pointing a firearm does not deescalate a confrontation. referred to Committee on Courts and Criminal Code

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 Referred to Committee on Courts and Criminal Code
Senate Bill 8 Nonprofit bail funding. Referred to Committee on Courts and Criminal Code

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) Referred to the Committee on Courts and Criminal Code

Senate Bill 17 Material harmful to minors
This bill exposes librarians to a level 6 felony on the charge of providing materials deemed inappropriate by some parents or members of the community. Of course these very materials may be valued by others. Assigned to Committee on Education in the House.

Senate Bill 331 – Education savings accounts expansion (another form of voucher)
This bill sets up the framework to expand and build the program. Education Savings Accounts and other forms of voucher provide public funding for private schools and does financial harm to traditional public schools where over 90% of Hoosier children attend. (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) Referred to the House Committee on Education.

Senate Bill 2 (amended) – Virtual instruction and tuition support
The bill addresses reimbursement to school corporations for virtual instruction. An amendment was added in committee to include language formerly in HB 1252 to create a new form of Education Scholarship Accounts for remediation. Remediation is good – but the proposed Education Scholarship Accounts have very little accountability for how the money is actually spent. Voted out of Education committee and referred to the Ways and Means Committee. (Indiana Coalition for Public Education)

Senate Bill 121 School bus arm violation enforcement
Would allow police to ticket the registered owner of a vehicle that unlawfully passes a stopped school bus, regardless of who was driving the vehicle when the violation occurred. The penalty would be a class B infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. (NWI Times) referred to Committee on Roads and Transportation

Senate Bill 269 Regulation of Dams (HEC opposes)
Would reduce the number of dams in Indiana that are regularly inspected and maintained.  Dams that are not maintained and fail cause property damage, flooding, and potentially even loss of life.  Indiana’s dams are aging with more than half being more than 50 years old. Because of climate change, Indiana is receiving more precipitation and more of it is arriving in extreme storms. Referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

Senate Bill 382 Various tax matters Recently passed the Senate with language that would cut taxes on various tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, some cigars and some forms of oral/smokeless tobacco. It will now be considered by the House. (Indiana Cancer Action Center) We support the Lake and Porter County Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalitions. This is very concerning and the exact opposite of what we have been working on in recent years – to raise taxes on deadly tobacco products. Cheaper tobacco products are a gift to Big Tobacco companies at the expense of our state’s health! This bill has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee in the House. It’s easy to take action using the auto generated letter from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Committee on Ways and Means

Senate Bill 5 Reciprocity
Provides for reciprocity for healthcare workers in Indiana and was amended to include the six professions that were already in Indiana code for reciprocity. Passed out of the Committee on Public Health and was referred to Ways and Means Committee.

Passed the House and now being considered in the Senate:

House Bill 1077—Permitless carry—
Passed the House over the opposition of several major law enforcement organizations. Supporters argue the permit requirement undermines Second Amendment protections by forcing law-abiding citizens to undergo police background checks. Referred to Committee on Judiciary

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. referred to Committee on Health and Provider Services

House Bill 1002 Various tax matters
This bill cuts individual income tax from 3.23% to 3.0%, repeals the utility receipts and utility services taxes, eliminates the 30% minimum floor on new business personal property (BPP), creates a state income tax credit for that BPP currently taxed, makes Indiana standard a single direct tax (eliminated double direct sales tax), and a few other minor changes. (Southwest Indiana Chamber)
Referred to Committee on  Tax and Fiscal Policy

House Bill1134 Education Matters
The bill prevents teaching “that any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individuals’ sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation.” The bill would require teachers to upload learning materials used in class, so that parents could review what kids are learning. It would also give parents the ability to opt their kids out of learning certain topics. It also contains a provision that would create a committee on curriculum at schools that includes both parents and teachers. 
Referred to the Education and Career Development committee. The Indiana State Teachers Association makes it easy to let your Senator know what you think of this bill: https://www.ista-in.org/our-advocacy/ista-advocacy-center.
Indiana educators are planning a series of gatherings at the state house in Indianapolis to protest a bill that teachers said would “fundamentally” change their jobs. (Indiana teachers plan to ‘pack the house’ in opposition of controversial education bill – wdrb.com)

House Bill 1041 Participation in school sports
Excludes trans women and girls from school sports teams. Assigned to Education and Career Development committee in the Senate. (Women4Change)

House Bill 1251-Creation of adjunct teachers
Allows schools to hire and certify their own “adjunct” teachers outside of collective bargaining. (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) Allows for uncertified and unqualified teachers to be hired at the expense of educational professional. Referred to Committee on Education and Career Development.

House Bill 1003 Nursing programs and licensing matters
This bill “allows nursing programs to make significant changes that resulted in vigorous debate in Senate Health committee Wednesday. It allows two-year nursing programs to substitute clinical hours with simulation hours and have as few as zero fulltime faculty, something stakeholders insist “jeopardizes the integrity of nursing in Indiana.” Currently the state limits how quickly programs may increase enrollment – and those limitations will be relaxed for programs producing high pass rates. Chairman Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) repeatedly maintained the changes are optional and programs may continue their current practices, however, programs such as Ivy Tech are free to take advantage of the new measures which reduce the requirement of full-time faculty from 51% to 0. Stakeholders voiced concerns regarding the competency of nursing students who obtained their clinical experience through simulation, “Simulation was to be a tool.  It can never replace clinical hours. It is not the same as a human being. Students need to see, smell, and hear everything – which they cannot with simulation,” said Carol Poag, a USI doctorate nurse, “Nursing is a profession, not a trade school. Please do not devalue my profession by lowering your standards.” In the end, committee members voiced their concerns, but in light of the current nursing shortage, conceded their votes 10-0. (Southwest Indiana Chamber

House Bill 1107 Various education matters
Changes the burden of proof in special education due process matters from the parents to the school. 
Referred to Committee on Education and Career Development.

Hoosier Environmental Council opposes:
House Bill 1100 — Agency oversight and rulemaking procedures 
Would limit Indiana state agencies’ ability to adopt timely and appropriate state standards to protect public health and the environment.  (Hoosier Environmental Council) referred to Committee on Commerce and Technology.

House Bill 1063 De novo judicial review of certain agency actions
Would allow more undue industry influence of Environmental Agency decision-making. Would alter the standards that govern the way a trial court reviews the decision of an administrative agency.
(Hoosier Environmental Council)  Referred to Committee on Judiciary

House Bill 1354 Requirements for SNAP participants
Changes SNAP requirements to make it more difficult for families to participate.(Hoosier Action) Referred to Committee on Family and Children Services

Voting rights:
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. (KPC News)
This bill will also add “small printers to thousands of electronic touch-screen voting machines is being criticized by voting rights groups as relying on ineffective and outdated technology.
The Indiana League of Women Voters, Indiana Vote by Mail and other groups argue that the state should end the use of all such machines and have all counties use paper ballots that voters mark before they are scanned for counting. The voting rights organizations said in a letter Thursday to legislators that the printer technology relies on lightweight thermal paper that is easily damaged and lets voters see only a portion of their ballot at a time through a small window. They call the estimated $2,600-per-machine price tag “an extraordinary cost for a poor solution.” “For less money, Indiana could outfit all its counties with paper ballots for all elections and brand-new, updated tabulating scanners and assistive ballot marking devices that provide voters with a durable, auditable record of their votes that can be used in post-election audits and recounts,” the letter said.: (WFYI)

Women’s rights:
House Bill 1217 Healthcare providers “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…” A final provision creates mandatory reporting requirements including the name and address of the pregnant person who had been coerced, but not that of the person(s) who coerced them. Assigned to Judiciary committee in the Senate. (Women4Change)

Better and good bills under consideration:
House Bill 1093 Education matters
Clarifies that charter schools cannot offer financial incentives. Provides that the state board of education shall assign to a school or school corporation (including adult high schools) a “null” or “no letter grade” for the 2021-2022 school year. Read more about this bill and the controversy that prompted it at Chalkbeat Indiana. Passed unanimously in the House and is being considered in the Senate.

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) Assigned to Committee on Appropriations

House Bill 1093 – Education matters
Includes Null/No Letter Grade for 2021-2022 school year language and prohibits certain parties from incentivizing enrollment by offering an item of monetary value. (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) Referred to Committee on Education and Career Development

House Bill 1079 defines consent within 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. Hearing scheduled for Tuesday Feb. 15 in Corrections and Criminal Law committee. You can find testimony about this bill by Women4Change advocate here. (Women4Change)

House Bill 1081 and Senate Bill 155 alter the definition of a “protected person” in cases of human trafficking to refer to “an individual who is less than 14 years of age at the time of the offense but less than 18 years of age at the time of trial” and “increases the penalty if the human trafficking victim is less than 18 years of age.” This bill also ensures that a person charged with human trafficking cannot claim the victim gave consent or that they were unaware the victim was under 18. A final provision states that police “must report human trafficking investigations to the attorney general within 30 days after an investigation begins.” SB 155 Passed out of Corrections and Criminal Law committee. (Women4Change)

House Bill 1137 defines the time range under which protective orders will stay in effect. This includes orders that are effective for “(1) two years after the date of issuance; or (2) indefinitely after the date of issuance if the respondent is required to register as a lifetime sex or violent offender and the petitioner was the victim of the crime that resulted in the requirement that the respondent register as a lifetime sex or violent offender.” Assigned to Judiciary committee in the Senate. (Women4Change)

House Bill 1196 – provides a path for prospective solar owners to be able to install rooftop solar in neighborhoods governed by a homeowner association that may have restrictions or prohibitions against rooftop solar. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

House Bill 1313 – Screening Children for Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning permanently damages a child’s developing brain leaving them with lower intelligence and a higher risk of attention deficit and behavior problems. Currently, around 2,000 Hoosier children per year are lead poisoned. That is a burden for those children, who won’t achieve their full potential, and an economic loss for society.

HB 1313 would require medical providers to offer lead testing for children 9 to 72 months who have not previously been tested.  The requirement would expire at the end of 2026.  This would establish 3 years of universal testing which would give the state data to better define which children are at the greatest risk. (Hoosier Environmental Council) Referred to Committee on Health and Provider Services

Senate Bill 187 – Wake Boarding and Wake Surfing (HEC supports)
Wake boats create large wakes even at slower speeds. If they are close to shore, the large wake can cause shore erosion and damage piers. In shallow water, the wake can churn up bottom sediments which encourages overgrowth of algae and harms aquatic fish and plants. Now in the House Committee on Natural Resources. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

House Bill 1181 Youth offender boot camps and inmate calling services
Eliminates the state’s juvenile youth offender camp. Passed unanimously out of the Senate Family and Children Services committee Monday after previously passing unanimously through the House Chamber. (News and Tribune)

House Bill 1140 a postpartum and pregnancy medicaid expansion bill has passed out of committee and now moves to the Senate floor.

House Bill 1294, the bill to unshackle pregnant inmates, has now passed out of Senate committee and moves to the Senate floor for a vote.

House Bill 1112
Increases what Indiana Medicaid pays for private ambulance runs to match the higher rates paid by the Medicare health insurance program for senior citizens. Passed unanimously out of committee to advance to the full chamber. (Longview-News Journal)

Senate Bill 230 Enforcement of habitability standards
This bill would empower renters and make homes safer. Referred to Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures

In other news

“According to the Indiana Department of Health, more than half of K-12 students in Gary schools have not gotten all their required shots, compared to 26.4% of students statewide.

MDWise, Edgewater Health, Walker Medical, the Gary Health Department and ISDH are trying to close that gap by hosting a “Back on Track” vaccine event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at Edgewater Health at 1100 W. 6th Ave. in Gary. All routine childhood vaccinations, such as for measles, mumps, rubella, polio and HPV, will be available, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 and older. Wellness checks and COVID-19 tests will also be available…Parents and caregivers can sign up online on Edgewater Health’s website at edgewaterhealth.org. Registration is encouraged but not required. Children younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult with valid identification. Insurance is not required, but if children are covered by health insurance, that information must be given.” (NWI Times)

“Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston has resigned from a six-figure job with The College Board, the operator of the SAT and Advanced Placement courses.

The move comes after progressive activists raised concerns on social media about Huston’s support for legislation that would restrict what teachers can teach about race and racism — while serving as The College Board’s senior vice president for state and district partnership.” (Chalkbeat Indiana)

Unemployment has fallen to all-time lows in Northwest Indiana after the workforce shrunk noticeably during the coronavirus pandemic.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Pete Visclosky returned to public service Wednesday as chairman of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, leading the first meeting since Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed the former congressman to the airport’s governing board.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

In a deal worth at least $720 million, Eli Lilly and Company says it will supply the U.S. government up to 600,000 thousand doses of a drug for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in certain high-risk patients.  (WIBC)

What has been a solid Red map of Indiana counties on the state COVID dashboard changed slightly this week with four northern Indiana counties (Lake, LaGrange, Pulaski and Adams) improving a step back to the Orange designation. (News and Tribune)

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


The truth matters

We all want a return to some semblance of normalcy and in fact the trucker protest in Canada was supposedly aimed at ending the disruption they claimed vaccine requirements made on their lives. Instead their protest is disrupting the lives of many, many others. Truckers blocking transportation to and from Canada are actually few in number and are represented by fringe far-right, conspiracy theorists who are being organized and urged on by fake Face Book accounts originating in other countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Romania, among others. They are being cheered by Republican lawmakers and Fox News who are urging a similar protest in the U.S. They are embracing lies about the virus, the pandemic, vaccines and democratic governments. This protest has cost both countries—and workers—billions of dollars so far by halting the supply chain. They are not supported by most citizens in either country. (The Guardian), (NBC) and (CNN)


Passed the Senate and House, President next

HR 4445 Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021
This bill invalidates arbitration agreements that preclude a party from filing a lawsuit in court involving sexual assault or sexual harassment, at the election of the party alleging such conduct. Passed the House 335-97. Reps Baird, Pence and Hollingsworth voted nay. All other Indiana reps voted yea. View the vote.

S. 583: Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions Act of 2021
Passed the House 426-5. All Indiana reps voted yea. View the vote.

Passed the House, goes to the Senate next

H.R. 3076: Postal Service Reform Act of 2022
GovTrack.us: “The bill requires the Office of Personnel Management to establish the Postal Service Health Benefits Program for USPS employees and retirees and provides for coordinated enrollment of retirees under this program and Medicare. The bill repeals the requirement that the USPS annually prepay future retirement health benefits.” For more details see GovTrack.us. Passed 342 – 92. Reps Banks, Baird and Hollingsworth voted nay, all other Indiana reps voted yea. View the vote.
The Senate “doesn’t look like it will be able to take up the legislation until March. House clerks mistakenly enrolled the wrong version of the bill. Which means Schumer filed cloture on the wrong version of the legislation, despite the fact that the House corrected the error during a Friday pro forma session. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is apparently planning to object to an unanimous consent request by Schumer to file a cloture on the new version of the bill… (Punchbowl News)

H.R. 3485: Global Respect Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill imposes visa-blocking sanctions on foreign persons responsible for or complicit in violating the human rights of individuals due to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. The President must report and periodically update a list of foreign persons responsible for such human rights violations and apply sanctions accordingly.”
Passed 227 – 206. Congressmen Mrvan and Carson voted yea; all other Indiana reps voted nay.

H.R. 6617 Further Additional Extending Government Funding Act
Causes: This bill “would extend funding for the federal government at previously enacted levels through March 11, 2022, to prevent a partial government shutdown when the current funding extensions lapses after February 18th.” The vote was 272-162. Reps Mrvan and Carson voted yea; all other Indiana reps voted nay. View the vote.
The stopgap funding bill may run into a snag, however, because of an article in the Washington Free Beacon alleging that federal funds allocated as part of a $30 million grant program under the Health and Human Services Department could be used to purchase crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Office of National Drug Policy Control Director Rahul Gupta and the White House denied this claim. Senators Blackburn, Rubio and other republicans have vowed to hold the legislation. Rubio and Sen. Joe Manchin even introduced a bill on Friday dubbed the PIPES Act (Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems). That legislation would ban the use of federal funds from “being used to purchase illegal drug paraphernalia, such as needles or crack pipes.” There’s already a long-running federal ban on buying needles. So at this point it’s unclear how the matter will be handled with the Friday deadline looming. (Punchbowl News)

This week in Congress

“The Senate returns to D.C. this week with an eye toward sending to President Joe Biden’s desk a stopgap funding bill that would prevent a government shutdown from occurring at midnight Friday. This bill will extend funding through March 11.

Senators are also expected to consider a bipartisan Postal Service reform bill and may take up a Russia sanctions bill if Democratic and Republican negotiators are able to reach a compromise.

Meanwhile, House lawmakers will begin what’s expected to be a two-week break from floor work. While lawmakers won’t be holding floor votes this week, some committees will hold hybrid or remote hearings. Committees will hold hearings on strategies for electric grid resilience and reliability; the Environmental Justice For All Act; and “Why Congress Needs to Abolish the Debt Limit”.” (Causes)

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

In other news

“The spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation is fueling the “heightened threat” environment in the United States, warns the latest national bulletin issued Monday by the Department of Homeland Security.” (CNN)

“The National Archives has asked the Department of Justice to investigate former President Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, according to a source familiar with the matter.” (CNN)

“Three Republican senators are calling on the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero to commit to not certifying the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution, as ERA advocates demand Ferriero publish the amendment before he retires.” (CNN)

The economy

Consumer prices rose 7.5% over the last year, the highest since February 1982.

  • Some of the steepest price rises in January were in the volatile energy space, like a 9.5% rise in the price of fuel oil and 4.2% rise in electricity costs.
  • Prices rose for apparel (1.1%), car insurance (0.9%), and restaurant meals (0.7%).
  • Rents continued pushing upward (0.5% for rental properties, 0.4% for the equivalent rent of homes people own), which creates in effect a floor that keeps inflation from falling.
  • Prices for used cars and trucks, a reflection of ongoing disruptions that have hamstrung car producers, remained a large contributor to the inflation increase. They were up 40% in January, compared to the prior year.

The good news is that this high inflation has come alongside a robust jobs recovery, as data confirmed last week. Wages are not keeping up. Average hourly earnings rose 5.7% over the 12 months ended in January — not as much as inflation. (Axios)