09/27/2022 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference

Join us for our next in-person event on October 27, 5-7:30 at the Merrillville Library, 1919 81st Ave, Merrillville
Meet and hear from Destiny Wells, the Democratic candidate for Indiana Secretary of State and Martin Del Rio, Veterans Advocate. The Indiana Secretary of State race is a Democratic must win for all Hoosiers who value the freedom to vote and election fairness. Hear why this race has become so important. Hear, too, what is being done for veterans in Indiana and around the country, what challenges veterans face and what more needs to be done.
Register here. Bring a friend–& a vet!
Get to know Destiny with this short video and at her campaign website.

Indivisible NWI is proud to have endorsed Congressman Frank Mrvan for re-election. Frank needs all of us to work to ensure his re-election. Check out volunteer opportunities here.

Early voting in person begins Oct. 12. Times and locations are posted for our NWI counties are posted here. You can view your full ballot on https://indianavoters.in.gov/ or  www.indianavoters.com. You can also go to Vote 411, which is a one stop site for elections information from the League of Women Voters. Ballotpedia Indiana also links to the most prominent races on your ballot with links to candidate information and websites. Finally, here’s a nice easy breakdown of voting in Indiana from Indiana Capital Chronicle.

Saving Democracy and our freedoms depends on people voting. Yet Indiana’s voter turnout lags significantly behind other states, even in 2020 when Indiana experienced a record high turnout. Executive Director of Common Cause Indiana Julia Vaughn said “voters could be discouraged, saying Indiana’s election laws make voting more difficult than other states. 
“Certainly things like the passage of (the abortion ban) over the objections of thousands of voices – that doesn’t help. People feel very powerless and it’s hard to convince them otherwise when they see all this evidence in front of them,” Vaughn said.
Something to keep in mind and repeat as needed, from Julia Vaughn:
“If our vote wasn’t so meaningful, if it wasn’t so impactful, there wouldn’t be this whole group of people trying to suppress it and trying to make it harder to vote.”

(Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Enacted, signed into law by the President

H.R. 5754: Patient Advocate Tracker Act


Passed the House and Senate, President next

S. 169: Artistic Recognition for Talented Students Act

S. 3895: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2022

S. 3157: Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act

H.R. 4693: Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021

H.R. 6899: Russia and Belarus SDR Exchange Prohibition Act of 2022

S. 1098: Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act

S. 516: Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act

Passed the House, Senate next

“The House on Thursday moved four policing and public safety bills over the finish line after last-minute opposition from progressive members, capping off months of negotiations between progressive and moderate Democrats.” (The Hill)
The four bills follow:

H.R. 6448: Invest to Protect Act of 2022 
GovTrack.us: “This bill directs the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services within the Department of Justice to award a grant to a local or tribal government that employs fewer than 125 law enforcement officers. Grant funds may be used for various activities, including to purchase body cameras, provide de-escalation training, and improve recruitment and retention.” Passed 360-64; all Indiana Reps voted yea. View the vote.

H.R. 4118: Break the Cycle of Violence Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes federal grant programs and related entities to support violence intervention initiatives. Specifically, the bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants for coordinated community violence intervention initiatives in communities disproportionately impacted by homicides and community violence.” Passed 220-207 with Indiana Reps Mrvan and Carson voting yea and all others voting nay. View the vote.

H.R. 8542: Mental Health Justice Act of 2022 
GovTrack.us: “This bill creates a grant program for states, tribal entities, and local governments to train and dispatch mental health professionals to respond, instead of law enforcement officers, to emergencies that involve people with behavioral health needs.” Passed 223-206; Indiana Reps Mrvan and Carson voted yea and all other Indiana reps voted nay. View the vote.

H.R. 5768: VICTIM Act of 2022 Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods Act of 2022
GovTrack.us: “This bill directs the Department of Justice to establish a grant program for state, tribal, or local law enforcement agencies or prosecuting offices (or groups of tribal agencies or offices) to establish, implement, and administer violent incident clearance and technological investigative methods.” 
Passed 250-178 with 30 republican votes, although none from Indiana. Reps Mrvan and Carson voted yea. View the vote.

H.R. 302: PPSA Act of 2021 Preventing a Patronage System Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill prohibits executive agency positions in the competitive service from being placed in the excepted service, unless such positions are placed in Schedules A through E as in effect on September 30, 2020. ” Passed 225-204 with Indiana reps Mrvan and Carson voting yea and all others voting nay.

H.R. 8326: Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act
GovTrack.us; ““To amend title 13, United States Code, to improve the operations of the Bureau of the Census, and for other purposes…The bureau may not include in the census any subject, type of information, or question that was not submitted to Congress. Passed 220-208 with Indiana reps Mrvan and Carson voting yea and all others voting nay except Rep. Spartz who did not vote.

H.R. 2988: Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act of 2021 
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes, modifies, and expands certain whistleblower protections for federal employees, including with respect to petitions to Congress, whistleblower identity, and protected disclosures.” Passed 221-203 with Indiana Reps Mrvan and Carson voting yea and all others voting nay.

H.R. 1456: Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022
GovTrack.us: “This bill reauthorizes through FY2024 and modifies operations of the Peace Corps.”
Passed 290-125 with Indiana Reps Mrvan, Carson and Buschon voting yea; all others voted nay except Rep. Hollingsworth who did not vote.

Passed under Suspension of the Rules:

H.R. 6265: CAPTAGON Act
: “To require a strategy by the United States Government to disrupt and dismantle the Captagon trade and narcotics networks of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

H.R. 6846: Corruption, Overthrowing Rule of Law, and Ruining Ukraine: Putin’s Trifecta Act

H.R. 7240: READ Act Reathorization Act of 2022

H.R. 7338: Russia Cryptocurrency Transparency Act

H.R. 8453: Upholding the Dayton Peace Agreement Through Sanctions Act

H.R. 8503: Securing Global Telecommunications Act

H.R. 8520: Countering Untrusted Telecommunications Abroad Act

Agreed to by Voice Vote; no individual record of votes was taken:

H.R. 7566: NTZ Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes an enhanced penalty—an additional prison term of up to five years—for certain human trafficking offenses that occur in a school zone or on or within 1,000 feet of a premises on which a school-sponsored activity is taking place.”

H.R. 7181: Human Trafficking Prevention Act of 2022 Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill prohibits the federal government from compelling journalists and providers of telecommunications services (e.g., phone and internet companies) to disclose certain protected information, except in limited circumstances such as to prevent terrorism or imminent violence.”

H.R. 6353: National Service Animals Memorial Act


Failed cloture:
S. 4822: DISCLOSE Act of 2022 Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act of 2022
GovTrack: “This bill addresses campaign finance, including by expanding the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals, requiring additional disclosures of campaign expenditures, and requiring additional disclosures regarding certain political advertisements.” “This bill is provisionally dead due to a failed vote for cloture on September 22, 2022. Cloture is required to move past a Senate filibuster or the threat of a filibuster and takes a 3/5ths vote. In practice, most bills must pass cloture to move forward in the Senate.”
“Every Republican present voted against the measure, while every Democrat voted for it…political spending by groups that don’t disclose their donors increased from $5 million in 2006 to more than $1 billion in 2020. In addition, political spending by billionaires has increased from $17 million in the 2008 election to $1.2 billion in 2020.” (The Hill)

Passed the Senate with changes, back to the House

H.R. 5641: SPEED Recovery Act Small Project Efficient and Effective Disaster Recovery Act
GovTrack.us; “This bill increases to $1 million the threshold for eligibility for assistance for what qualifies as a small project…,thereby allowing more recovery projects to proceed under simplified procedures.”
Passed Senate with amendments by Unanimous Consent.

Passed the Senate, House next

S. 4552: Extension of Authority to Acquire Innovative Commercial Items Act of 2022
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

S. 4553: Extension of Department of Homeland Security Other Transaction Authority Act of 2022
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

S. 4899: A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to Remedy election revocations relating to administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
Passed without amendment by Voice Vote.

S. 4900: A bill to reauthorize the SBIR and STTR programs and pilot programs, and for other purposes.
Passed without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

S. 4885: Kevin and Avonte’s Law Reauthorization Act of 2022
Passed by Unanimous Consent

This week in Congress

Due to Rosh Hashanah, “the House is out of session on Monday and Tuesday. The Senate is out Monday but has a high-profile vote Tuesday on the legislative vehicle for a short-term government-funding bill. Federal agencies run out of funding on Friday…” The hold up is Sen. Manchin’s permitting reform proposal that Sen. Schumer pledged to attach to the Continuing Resolution to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. But Manchin’s measure is opposed by Republicans who don’t want to give Manchin a win and by some Democrats who think it will lead to more oil and gas drilling. (Punchbowl News)

The House may vote on legislation to ban stock trading by members and senior staff before it adjourns. (Punchbowl News)

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

In other news

“A federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Friday from parents that accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of stifling their free speech, saying the group misunderstood a memo addressing increased harassment against schools.” (CNN)

“An especially right-wing panel of the already conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down an astonishing opinion on Friday, effectively holding that the state of Texas may seize control of content moderation at major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.” Read a succinct explanation of this law in contrast with established first amendment rulings at Vox. This law may be struck down by the Supreme Court, but for now all social media in this country can be controlled by the Texas government. ( Vox)

“The Department of Justice unveiled 47 charges related to an alleged $250 million scheme in Minnesota that affected a federal child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Axios)

“U.S. House Republicans…outlined the legislation they’d try to enact if voters give them back control of that chamber following the November midterm elections.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) It was short on details and long on innuendos and lies. 
“Covering just a single page, it presents vague aspirations—many of which Biden has already put in place—but focuses on the radical extremes of the MAGA party while trying to make those extremes sound mild.
The so-called “Commitment to America” calls for a strong economy, a safe nation, a free future, and an accountable government…
But the first topic—making the economy strong—is a paraphrase of what the Biden administration has been doing… The Republicans call for fighting inflation and lowering the cost of living, making America energy independent, bringing down gas prices, strengthening the supply chain, and ending the country’s dependence on China.
This is quite literally the platform of the Democrats, but while the Republicans offer no actual proposals to contribute to these goals, Biden has taken concrete steps to address them.”  (Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American) For important Democratic talking points, please read her whole post. 

“The Federal Reserve made history on Wednesday, approving a third consecutive 75-basis-point hike in an aggressive move to tackle the white-hot inflation that has been plaguing the US economy.
The supersized hike, which was unfathomable by markets just months ago, takes the central bank’s benchmark lending rate to a new target range of 3%-3.25%. That’s the highest the fed funds rate has been since the global financial crisis in 2008.” (CNN)

Gun violence
“October 1 marks five years since the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, when a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas on a crowd of about 22,000 people attending a music festival, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds of others. There have been more the 2,500 mass shootings in the US since then, according to the Gun Violence Archive — including the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.” (CNN)

Former POTUS
“In a stark repudiation of Donald Trump’s legal arguments, a federal appeals court on Wednesday permitted the Justice Department to resume its use of classified records seized from the former president’s Florida estate as part of its ongoing criminal investigation.” (Associated Press)

“The senior federal judge tasked with reviewing the materials seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate sharply questioned the former president’s attorneys Tuesday during their first hearing in his courtroom. Judge Raymond Dearie repeatedly challenged Trump’s lawyers for refusing to back up the former president’s claim that he declassified the highly sensitive national security-related records discovered in his residence.” (Politico)

“New York’s attorney general is suing former President Trump and his three adult children, alleging business fraud…She said she’s referred the alleged federal law violations to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District for New York and the IRS.” (The Hill

“Former President Donald Trump held a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, over the weekend, “during which there were many bizarre moments, including what many observers have noted appears to be echoes of the propaganda put out by adherents of the deranged and occasionally deadly QAnon conspiracy theory,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said Monday night, “propaganda that Trump has repeatedly and unequivocally shared in recent weeks on his social media accounts.” People who study QAnon don’t find Trump’s overt embrace of the baseless conspiracy theory to be a laughing matter. “These are people who have elevated Trump to messiah-like status, where only he can stop this cabal,” Georgia State University professor Mia Bloom told The Associated Press last week. “That’s why you see so many images (in online QAnon spaces) of Trump as Jesus.” As Trump asserts his dominance in the Republican Party and faces increasingly perilous legal threats, “his actions show that far from distancing himself from the political fringe, he is welcoming it,” AP reports. “Trump’s recent postings have included images referring to himself as a martyr fighting criminals, psychopaths, and the so-called deep state,” and he reposted an image last week of him wearing a Q lapel pin behind the phrase “The storm is coming.” “(The Week)

“Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys are fighting a secret court battle to block a federal grand jury from gathering information from an expanding circle of close Trump aides about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, people briefed on the matter told CNN.” (CNN)

January 6
The January 6 Committee will hold its final public hearing before the election on Wednesday at 12pm central time. The select committee hasn’t announced a witness list or topic for this session. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the select committee, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the hearing could be “potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings. But it too will be very thematic. It will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election.” (Punchbowl News)


“An Indiana judge on Thursday blocked the state’s abortion ban from being enforced, putting the new law on hold as abortion clinic operators argue that it violates the state constitution.” (Associated Press)

“It is the height of irony that the new GOP-backed abortion restrictions could be undone by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA caused massive controversy in 2015 because conservative groups and some Hoosiers wanted to use it to justify discrimination, specifically against gay and lesbian Hoosiers who they disagreed with based on religious beliefs…The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is challenging the near-total abortion ban under RFRA, alleging that some faiths don’t believe that life begins at conception as the law provides.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Seventeen years ago, the Indiana Supreme Court dodged the question of whether the Indiana Constitution contains a right to privacy, and, correspondingly, the right of a woman to choose to continue or terminate her pregnancy.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

The underlying fight on abortion is about privacy, and specifically whether a woman can make private medical decisions that the government shouldn’t be part of.  (Niki Kelly, Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“The Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal late Thursday night that seeks to throw out an injunction on the state’s near-total abortion ban.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“More than 850,000 Hoosiers could see at least some of their federal student loan debt forgiven through President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“More female than male Hoosiers registered to vote or updated their voting information in Indiana following the leak of the Dobbs’ decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in May. The trend mirrors a national surge of women registering to vote after learning about the ruling that would overturn abortion access to millions of women, including those living in Indiana. But Indiana’s numbers aren’t as dramatic as elsewhere…Julia Vaughn, the executive director of Common Cause Indiana, observed that Indiana consistently ranks near the bottom of states in terms of voter turnout, even after reporting a new 65% high in the 2020 general election. “More than anything else, Indiana’s got a turnout problem,” Vaughn said. “We need to certainly work to bring new people into the system but more than anything else we’ve got to work on turning out those folks who have been registered and who – for whatever reason – have chosen not to participate.”” (Indiana Capital Chronicle

Indiana education officials will soon launch a new online dashboard that seeks to increase transparency around school performance data.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Indiana Sen. Mike Braun is telling fellow Republicans he intends to run for governor in 2024, a move that would open up a GOP-held seat in what’s become a reliably red state, according to two people familiar with the matter. (Politico)

Upcoming legislative session
“Democrats and Republicans on a recent budget panel showcased different approaches to Indiana’s next two-year spending plan — from saving and paying down debt to one-time vs. ongoing investments. Indiana’s revenues continue to outperform projections, bolstering swollen coffers as stakeholders prepare to draft the 2023 budget amid ongoing inflation and economic concerns. The state’s savings account held over $6 billion earlier this year before a summer special session sent $1 billion to Hoosiers for an automatic taxpayer refund. Indiana writes its two-year budgets in odd-numbered years during four-month sessions, with the next scheduled to begin in January. Republicans, who hold the supermajority, seemed intent on keeping excess spending low, even with such high reserves, while Democrats urged investing during a panel discussion last week before the Governmental Affairs Society of Indiana.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Indiana lawmakers are weighing options for an improved statewide records system that would make it easier for local law enforcement to share crime statistics and information about offenders.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Lawmakers considered the advantages and shortcomings of legalizing certain cannabinoids Tuesday, potentially as a precursor to legalizing the plant itself for recreational use. But the research offered frequently conflicted and the committee abruptly ended, with discussion expected to continue next month.
Over the course of four hours, committee members from the interim health committee heard testimony for and against legalization, from veterans using it to treat chronic pain to prosecutors worried about unintended consequences. Though called to study the legalization of Delta-8, a cannabinoid, committee testimony largely centered on legalization of marijuana medicinally or for recreational use, which three of Indiana’s neighboring states allow.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle

“Indiana lawmakers are ready to take another stab at legislation allowing unauthorized immigrants to obtain driving training, a non-identification driver’s card and automobile insurance. The concept earned bipartisan interest and support Tuesday from lawmakers on an interim study committee, as well as an eclectic array of speakers.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

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