Weekly Legislative Update 01/21/2023

You can make a difference

Although the 2022 midterms were generally successful for the Democratic Party and for democracy itself, here in Indiana that was not the case. In fact, more Republicans were elected to state office than were there during the last cycle. The Steering Committee has worked to present a document to those ‘in charge’ in the Democratic Party with suggestions we believe will make the Party stronger and lead to more democratic and  progressive wins. You may read the letter on our website here.
Join us on Thursday January 26 at 6pm at the Merrillville Library, 1919 W. 81st Ave in Merrillville to meet and discuss this letter and our next steps. Please register here.

Two local Democratic state officials, Senator Rodney Pol and Representative Pat Boy have introduced legislation in their respective chambers to tackle the coal ash crisis by demanding complete clean-up and closures of toxic coal ash sites. These sites are leaking into our water supplies and threatening our health and quality of life.. Senate Bill 399 and House Bill 1190 have been referred to committee where the first step is to ensure they each receive a hearing. These bills will not pass unless they receive a hearing, and you can help! Contact your legislators today, and take action by contacting the Senate and House Environmental Affairs Committees to get these bills heard! See Just Transition NWI for links to committee members and sample templates. They’ve made it easy to take action.

Senate Bill 305 “would make extend education scholarship accounts—universal school choice– to all Indiana students. The bill could gain approval from the Senate Education Committee next week.
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education lists several compelling reasons to oppose this legislation that would provide public funding for private schools:

  • No public oversight
  • No student standards for accountability
  • No protection from extremism
  • No criminal background checks
  • No funding relief for public schools

“Vouchers are bad for public schools, which lose funding as students choose private schools. They are bad for the state, which wastes money on tuition assistance that many parents don’t need. They are bad for communities, which may lose the cohesion and pride that strong public schools can provide. Most importantly, they are bad for children. Vouchers are premised on the myth that private schools provide a high-quality education. Often that’s not true.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
The Indiana State Teachers Association has made it easy to take action. Let committee members and your elected officials know how you want them to vote on universal choice.

Are you thinking about running for a local government office?
Join Purdue Extension-Lake County next Wednesday for a free candidate training! This training is open to anyone who is interested in running for a local office and will focus on the process of running, requirements, and the positions up for this year’s primary election.
Wednesday, January 25 | 5pm – 7pm
Purdue Extension – Lake County | Crown Point
To register call 219-755-3240


Congress was not in session last week.

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

In other news

“House Republicans’ installation of some of their most incendiary conservatives on the Oversight Committee is sparking an unexpected feeling inside the White House: unbridled glee. The panel tasked with probing Biden policies and actions, as well as the president’s own family, will be stocked with some of the chamber’s biggest firebrands and die-hard Trumpists — including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) — ideal figureheads for a White House eager to deride the opposition party as unhinged.” (Politico)

“A group of GOP Wyoming state lawmakers want to end electric vehicle sales there by 2035, saying the move will help safeguard the oil and gas industries…Fifteen other states, meanwhile, including New York and California, have moved to ban gas-powered vehicle sales. The last clause of the bill instructs Wyoming’s secretary of state to send a copy of the bill to the California governor, who has backed his state’s ban on gas-powered vehicles throughout his governorship.” (The Hill)

“The latest front in the Republican civil war is set to erupt in the otherwise quiet state of Indiana. Party officials and insiders are girding for an increasingly nasty primary battle for an open Senate seat between Rep. Jim Banks, who has declared, and former Purdue University president and former two-term Gov. Mitch Daniels, who appears increasingly poised to join the race. Daniels is expected to announce his intentions soon, according to one GOP senator. The ensuing fight could open years-old fault lines between the establishment and Trumpist wings of the party.” (Politico)
This could be a crowded race. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb and former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels have all expressed some level of interest in running for the seat in the deep red state.” (Punchbowl News)
Congressman Banks says his top three priorities will be China, the national debt and combating what he labels as “wokeism”.  (Indy Politics)

Classified docs
“House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) is training his fire on the Penn Biden Center, seeking a wide range of information about who had access to the think tank’s D.C. office, as well as the center’s sources of funding…
Comer is requesting a list of all Penn Biden Center employees, the names of everyone with keycard access to the center, a visitor log of anyone who met with Biden and “all documents and communications related to security at the Penn Biden Center.” Comer set a Feb. 1 deadline for Penn officials to turn over the information he’s requested.
The Oversight chair has been stymied so far in his request for a visitors log for Biden’s Wilmington, Del., residence — where Biden’s lawyers discovered other classified documents — as the president’s legal team said such a list doesn’t exist. Comer is also seeking information on documents related to donations “from China to UPenn and/or the Penn Biden Center from January 20, 2017 to the present” and “all Chinese donors – and the individual amount donated – to UPenn and/or the Penn Biden Center” over the same time period. In addition, the Kentucky Republican is requesting documentation covering how the Penn Biden Center solicited donations…But due to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to appoint a special counsel to look into the matter, many of the requests for information about the documents scandal are likely to be turned down while the DOJ probe unfolds.” (Punchbowl News)

“On the face of it, Republicans are guilty of gross hypocrisy since few of them cared about Trump’s refusal to hand over a much larger trove of classified material – a stance that led to a court-approved search that netted more than 100 documents. But now that Biden is embarrassed by the discovery of a smaller haul, the Republican majority in the House is going into overdrive. House Oversight Chairman James Comer, for instance, said last year that Trump’s situation was not a priority but has been aggressive in targeting Biden.” (CNN)

“Wholesale prices fell 0.5 in December, outpacing an expected decline of 0.1 percent, as inflation continues its six-month downward slide.” (The Hill)

“The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a new program to allow private citizen groups to sponsor refugees from around the world. Under the program, groups of at least five individuals can apply to sponsor refugees to live in the US and help them acclimate to life in the country with the help of a consortium of non-profit resettlement organizations. The program, called the Welcome Corps, was billed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken as “the boldest innovation in refugee resettlement in four decades.”” (CNN)

“The Department of Homeland Security said that “noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, the violation of labor rights, can now access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process. Deferred action protects noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from the exploitive employers.”” (MSNBC)

“The U.S. military’s new, expanded combat training of Ukrainian forces began in Germany on Sunday, with a goal of getting a battalion of about 500 troops back on the battlefield to fight the Russians in the next five to eight weeks, said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” (Associated Press)

“The death toll from a weekend Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 40, authorities said Monday, as Western analysts pointed to indications the Kremlin was preparing for a drawn-out war in Ukraine after almost 11 months of fighting.” (Associated Press)

Gun violence
“At least six people, including a mother and her 6-month-old baby, are dead after an “early morning massacre” Monday that authorities in Goshen, California, said may be related to cartel activity.” (CNN)

“Eight people were shot at a block party packed with more than 1,000 people celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Pierce, Florida, Monday, police said…The incident marks the 30th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Like CNN, the nonprofit defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, not including the shooter. So far this year, the US is averaging about two mass shootings per day. ” (CNN)


Some young adults who’ve recently aged out of Indiana’s foster care system will get household supplies – and possibly more – from House legislators through a partnership with the IARCA Institute for Excellence.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Indiana’s Supreme Court Justices heard arguments Thursday on whether to lift a preliminary injunction on the state’s abortion ban.  (Indy Politics)
“The ACLU’s lawsuit argues that the abortion ban “will infringe on Hoosiers’ right to privacy, violate Indiana’s guarantee of equal privileges and immunities, and violate the Constitution’s due course of law clause through its unconstitutionally vague language.”
The court challenge is based on the Indiana Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States in June ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee abortion rights.” Read more details of the arguments of both sides at Indiana Capital Chronicle.
“Meanwhile, a second lawsuit, also led by the ACLU of Indiana, seeks to strike down the ban on the basis that it violates Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A Marion County judge is scheduled to hear arguments in this case on Friday.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“The legal saga between Attorney General Todd Rokita and a doctor who provided abortion healthcare to a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim continues after Rokita filed a motion to block the dismissal in order to correct an “error.” A court ruling from that case said that Rokita violated the law during a televised appearance in which he called the healthcare provider an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.” Rokita’s filing called the judge’s order an “erroneous finding.”” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“A lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of a 10-year-old transgender girl has been dismissed, court documents show.” It was dismissed because the girl attends a charter school not operated by Indianapolis Public Schools. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 354” would require schools to inform parents if students request to change their names or pronouns, or generally express questions about their gender identity. Buried in proposed school accreditation legislation…is a provision that mandates teachers and school employees to report to the school if a student indicates that they want to change their “name, attire, pronoun, title, or word to identify the student in a manner that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex at birth.” School employees would also have to report if a student expresses having “conflicted feelings about … or difficulty handling or coping with” their gender identity or gender expression. The student’s parents must be notified with that information within five days, according to the bill.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 305 “would make extend education scholarship accounts—universal school choice– to all Indiana students.
Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday began a contentious debate over whether it should bring universal school choice — and its daunting potential long-term cost — to Hoosier students and parents. Testimony heard in the Senate education committee raised questions about how much universal education scholarship accounts would cost and whether the state can afford to fund all students who are eligible to participate. This would be separate than the state’s voucher program, known as Choice Scholarships. The bill is awaiting committee approval, which could come as early as next week. Senate education committee chairman Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, said several amendments to the measure are likely to be adopted before a vote is held. Indiana’s Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program was created by the General Assembly in 2021 despite pushback from public education advocates who argued that the program lacks oversight and takes money away from traditional public schools.
Currently, ESAs are limited to students who qualify for special education. Families must also meet income limits to participate. The income ceiling is high, however…
But the bill would extend the program to all students, regardless of a student’s educational needs or their family’s income level…increase the ESA grants from 90% to 100% of the per-pupil funding that the state provides to local public schools. That means, on average, a student is eligible to receive about $7,500 per academic year.”
The bill could gain approval from the Senate Education Committee next week.
(Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 399 and House Bill 1190 would tackle the coal ash crisis in Indiana by demanding complete clean-up and closures of toxic coal ash sites statewide, currently leaking into our water supplies and threatening our health and quality of life. They have been referred to their respective Environmental Affairs Committees.

House Bill 1002 “seeks to expand work-based learning in Indiana high schools, like apprenticeships and internships. In addition, the bill would create a framework for students to earn a post-secondary credential before leaving the K-12 system…Paramount to the bill is a provision that would establish accounts for students in grades 10-12 to pay for career training outside their schools…The career scholarship accounts (CSAs) would be similar to Indiana’s ESAs. Students would first be required to create a postsecondary plan in order to qualify for the scholarship accounts…Other provisions in the bill would require IDOE to put in place new diploma requirements by 2024, and ensure that high schools hold career fairs to help students connect with employers and work-based learning providers. 
The CSAs have so far been met with support from business and economic leaders from across the state. Many education officials said they’re on-board with the idea, but they want more clarity around the bill’s fiscal impact. The Indiana State Teachers Association, which opposes the current draft of the bill, said they specifically want lawmakers to ensure that public schools “play a major role” in work-based learning expansion.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Joint Resolution 1 would change the Indiana Constitution restricting the right to bail. The resolution  would edit the constitution to let judges deny bail anyone they deem “a substantial risk to the public,” and at the same standard of proof. 
Prosecutors have said SJR 1 would keep dangerous people off the streets before trial, while critics say it’s too vague and subjective to protect those presumed innocent until convicted.
In Indiana now, only people accused of murder or treason can’t get bail, as long as there’s enough proof.
Advanced out of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Code Committee  to the Senate floor
(Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 179 “would bar people convicted of level one felonies as well as those with certain extra penalties on their convictions from participating in community corrections programming, which is meant to divert felony convicts from incarceration and serve as an intermediate level of penalty between jail and probation, according to the Indiana Department of Correction. Programming includes residential centers, work release, home detention and electronic monitoring.” Advanced out of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Code Committee  to the Senate floor (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1165 and Senate Bill 13
A pair of bills filed in the Indiana Legislature seek to raise the speed limit for large trucks on certain state highways and interstates, but continued pushback from a Hoosier truck drivers group, Indiana Motor Truck Association (IMTA), is likely to keep the measures from becoming law.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1198 would remove stigmatizing language referencing HIV 
“Currently, someone knowingly infected with HIV who donates blood or semen or someone charged with battery could face criminal charges for intentionally trying to infect someone else. [Bill author] McNamara noted the law needs to distinguish between accidentally infecting someone and knowingly trying to hurt someone – the latter would still be a Level 6 Felony in Indiana code.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 33 “would task the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Regulatory Commission with conducting a joint study of how to phase out old solar panels and wind turbines.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The purchase and use of marijuana in Indiana is a crime. But with a new legislative session underway in Indianapolis, several lawmakers have introduced bills to overhaul marijuana laws.  (WLKY)

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