Weekly Legislative Update 1/14/2023

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.

We shared a letter with all of you from Indivisible National and co-founder Ezra Levin. They have put forth important new strategies to ensure important progressive wins. You can read the letter here and link to the new Indivisible Guide here.

The Indiana 2023 Legislative session began January 9. Scroll down to ‘Indiana” to read about legislative priorities and some of the bills that have been filed.



“Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)’s rocky road to the House Speakership came at a steep price. After 15 ballots, the most since the Civil War, McCarthy narrowly sewed up support only after agreeing to most of the procedural and policy demands of 20-some-odd members of the far-right bloc of House Republicans, the Freedom Caucus. Disputes over the rules often reflect a party’s ideological rifts. But intense fighting over the rules this time was actually a fight over the House Republicans’ agenda and who will control it in the new Congress. On that score, members of the far-right, anti-establishment Freedom Caucus won big.” (Brookings)

“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday notified Congress that the U.S. will reach its statutory debt limit next Thursday. After that, the Treasury Department this month will begin “taking certain extraordinary measures to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations,” Yellen wrote in a letter to new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif…The Treasury “is not currently able” to estimate how long those emergency actions will allow the U.S. to pay for government obligations, she wrote…“Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability,” Yellen wrote.” (CNBC)

Passed the House

(“A simple resolution is used for matters that affect just one chamber of Congress, often to change the rules of the chamber to set the manner of debate for a related bill. It must be agreed to in the chamber in which it was introduced. It is not voted on in the other chamber and does not have the force of law.–GovTrack.us)

H.Res. 11: Establishing the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party
GovTrack.us: “This resolution establishes in the House of Representatives the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, which is comprised of not more than 16 Members appointed by the Speaker (7 of whom shall be appointed in consultation with the minority leader). The resolution authorizes the committee to investigate and submit policy recommendations concerning the status of the economic, technological, and security progress of the Chinese Communist Party and its competition with the United States.” The vote was 365-65 with all Indiana reps voting yea. View the vote.

H.Res. 5: Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Eighteenth Congress, and for other purposes
GovTrack.us: “This resolution establishes the rules of the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress by adopting and modifying the rules from the 117th Congress.
Specific changes include allowing for (1) a single Member to call for a vote to remove the Speaker, and (2) the termination of or a salary reduction for a federal official or cuts to a specific program through amendments to appropriations bills.
Additionally, the resolution requires that
Sponsors identify the single subject that each bill focuses on, bill text be available at least 72 hours before floor votes, and a three-fifths majority of House Members approve tax rate increases.
It further requires the House to vote on particular legislation, including bills that address (1) Internal Revenue Service funding, (2) sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China, and (3) establishing committees to investigate U.S.-Chinese competition and the weaponization of the federal government.
The resolution also (1) prohibits considering legislation that increases, without corresponding cuts to, mandatory spending in set budget windows; (2) eliminates the rule that provided for automatic passage of a joint resolution to suspend the debt ceiling upon passage of a concurrent resolution on the budget; and (3) nullifies regulations that extend collective bargaining rights to certain congressional employees.
The Congressional Budget Office must include in its cost estimates for major legislation macroeconomic effects (e.g., changes in economic output and employment).
The resolution also establishes new and reauthorizes and modifies existing commissions, offices, and committees. For example, it establishes a subcommittee to investigate the coronavirus pandemic and modifies the operation of the House Ethics Committee and Office of Congressional Ethics.”
The vote was 220-213 with all Indiana reps voting yea except Reps Mrvan and Carson who voted nay. View the vote. Note that these rules have decimated the House Ethics Committee. (NPR)

H.Res. 12: Establishing a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government as a select investigative subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary.
GovTrack.us: “This resolution temporarily establishes in the House of Representatives the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which is comprised of not more than 13 Members appointed by the Speaker (5 of whom shall be appointed in consultation with the minority leader).
The subcommittee must investigate matters related to the collection, analysis, dissemination, and use of information on U.S. citizens by executive branch agencies, including whether such efforts are illegal, unconstitutional, or otherwise unethical. The subcommittee must make a final report of its findings by January 2, 2025, and terminates 30 days after filing that report.”
Passed 221-211 with all Indiana reps voting yea except Reps Mrvan and Carson who voted nay. View the vote.

Passed the House, goes to the Senate next 

Concurrent resolutions:
(“A concurrent resolution is often used for matters that affect the rules of Congress or to express the sentiment of Congress. It must be agreed to by both the House and Senate in identical form but is not signed by the President and does not carry the force of law.”–GovTrack.us)

H.Con.Res. 3: Expressing the sense of Congress condemning the recent attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches
GovTrack.us: “This concurrent resolution condemns recent attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches and calls on the current presidential administration to use appropriate law enforcement authorities to support their safety.” Passed 222-209 with all Indiana reps voting yea except reps Mrvan and Carson who voted nay. View the vote.

H.R. 22: Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill prohibits the sale and export of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to China. Specifically, the bill prohibits the Department of Energy (DOE) from selling petroleum products (e.g., crude oil) from the SPR to any entity that is under the ownership, control, or influence of the Chinese Communist Party. Further, DOE must require as a condition of any sale of crude oil from the SPR that the oil not be exported to China.” Passed 331-97 with all Indiana reps voting yea. View the vote.

H.R. 23: To rescind certain balances made available to the Internal Revenue Service
GovTrack.us: “This bill rescinds certain unobligated amounts made available to the Internal Revenue Service by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 for (1) its enforcement activities and operations support, (2) the efile tax return system, and (3) funding the U.S. Tax Court and certain Department of the Treasury tax agencies.” Passed 221-210 with all Indiana reps voting yea except Reps Mrvan and Carson who voted nay. View the vote.
Please note that this bill is not the end of Republicans’ battle to allow rich tax cheats to continue to cheat and to deprive the government of lawful revenue. In addition, this bill would have added over $100 billion to the national debt. (The Hill) They may well achieve their goal with the annual budget.
“It is easy to write off as mere symbolism the House vote to rescind nearly all the $80 billion IRS funding increase Congress approved last year. After all, the bill passed by House Republicans will be ignored by the Democrat-controlled Senate. And it would be vetoed by President Joe Biden if it miraculously got to his desk. But that House vote to slash $71 billion from the agency’s budget over the next decade is far from the end of the story. It more likely is just the first skirmish in a battle that could well result in substantial cuts in the IRS’ $12.319 billion budget by the end of 2023, limiting its ability to enforce the tax laws and to make life easier for honest tax filers.” (Forbes)

H.R. 26: Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes requirements for the degree of care a health care practitioner must provide in the case of a child born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion.”
The vote was 220-210 with all Indiana reps voting yea except Reps Mrvan and Carson who voted nay. View the vote.

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

In other news

“President Joe Biden is now facing a special counsel investigation after Obama-era classified files were found at his private office in Washington and his home in Delaware. Former US attorney Robert Hur will lead the probe into the handling of the documents from when Biden was vice president…There are now two special counsels investigating potential mishandling of classified documents by two presidents. Special counsel Jack Smith has been overseeing the probe into possible mishandling of documents by Trump and his team, as well as their potential obstruction…And while there are some similarities between the two investigations, there are also key differences. Both investigations are examining how sensitive government materials ended up somewhere they simply weren’t supposed to be. But at this early stage, it appears that Biden’s team was far more cooperative with investigators than Trump’s team has been. 
For example, Biden’s lawyers say they notified the National Archives on the same day in November that they found the classified documents at his private office in downtown DC. Archives officials picked up the material one day later without incident. Itwas the Archives that alerted Trump to his missing documents – and then Trump spent months haggling over their return. His team then only partially complied with a June subpoena demanding the return of all documents, and his lawyers falsely asserted in a sworn affidavit that all the documents were given back.” (CNN)
“Two presidents. Two tranches of classified documents. Two special counsel investigations. But the similarities in the cases between President Biden and President Trump appear to take a sharp divide when it comes to important elements of the law prohibiting the mishandling of state secrets.” (The Hill)
Read about Biden’s final days in the Vice-Presidency and what could have led to the inadvertent retention of classified documents at CNN.

The Biden administration on Wednesday again renewed the Covid-19 public health emergency, a provision that gives the administration authorities to respond to the pandemic as cases are again on the rise. (CNN)

“The U.S. Department of Education unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would overhaul a federal student loan income-driven repayment plan, and, if implemented, could help millions of low-income borrowers… Under the proposed rule, undergraduate borrowers would only be required to pay 5% of their income toward their loans, which would be down from the 10% required under the current income-driven repayment plan. The proposed rule would also amend the “Revised Pay As You Earn” federal plan to offer zero monthly payment plans to any borrowers who make less than $30,600 a year and any borrower in a family of four who makes less than $62,400. “The proposed regulations would also ensure that borrowers stop seeing their balances grow due to the accumulation of unpaid interest after making their monthly payments,” according to the Department of Education’s website. The department’s goal is to implement the program this year, officials said. However, rule making can be a lengthy process, which can even take longer if there are legal challenges. Public comment will be open on Wednesday for the proposed rule.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“The Pentagon is considering providing back pay to former service members who were discharged for refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine, now that the mandate has been repealed, according to a spokesperson. The Defense Department formally rescinded the mandate in a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday, after lawmakers directed the Pentagon to do so in the annual defense policy bill that passed into law in December. The military had already stopped discharging troops who refused the shot.” (Politico)

“Lawmakers in at least three states this year have filed legislation meant to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for individuals as old as 26…” (The Hill)

The economy
“For the first time in nearly three years, inflation fell on a monthly basis. Consumer prices decreased by 0.1% in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday in its Consumer Price Index. The last time prices were lower than the previous month was May 2020. The closely watched inflation gauge also showed that year-over-year prices continued to cool last month, slowing to 6.5%, from 7.1% in November. It’s the smallest annual increase since May 2021.” (CNN)

“U.S. consumers are becoming more confident that price pressures will ease considerably over the next 12 months, with a survey on Friday showing their one-year inflation expectations falling in January to the lowest level since the spring of 2021.” (Reuters)

Former POTUS
“A federal judge rejected former President Trump’s motion to dismiss a civil sexual assault lawsuit that a woman who has accused him of rape in the 1990s filed against him, ruling that the law that authorizes her to sue is allowed under the New York Constitution.” (The Hill)

“The Trump Organization was hit with $1.6 million in fines Friday when a New York judge sentenced it for running a 15-year tax fraud scheme that prosecutors said top executives at the company orchestrated out of pure greed.” The fine was the maximum allowed under New York law. (NBC News)

Gun control
“The Biden administration has finalized a new rule to tighten restrictions on stabilizing braces for firearms that can convert pistols into rifles. The Justice Department said in a release on Friday that it submitted its rule to the Federal Register, clarifying that manufacturers, dealers and individuals must comply with laws regulating rifles when) they use stabilizing braces to convert pistols to rifles with a barrel of less than 16 inches, which are known as short-barreled rifles.” (The Hill)

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed New York to enforce a Democratic-backed gun control law adopted after the justices last year struck down the state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home in a landmark ruling that expanded gun rights.” (Reuters)

“Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a statewide ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines Wednesday night, after the state Senate and House approved the legislation.” (CBS)


“Beginning Sunday, Indiana’s income tax rate will drop to 3.15% from 3.23% as part of an effort by the Republican-controlled General Assembly to combat inflation…” (NWI Times)

“Hoosier parents of children younger than age 6 can expect to be asked in the new year if they want their child tested for potential lead exposure. A new Indiana law obligates all health care providers to offer lead testing to their young patients, ideally at their 1-year or 2-year child checkups, or as close as possible to those appointments.” (NWI Times)

Governor Holcomb gave his State of the State address Tuesday. Read highlights at Indiana Capital Chronicle.

2023 Session
The legislature opened the 2023 session on January 9.

“Indiana House Republicans have unveiled their legislative agenda for 2023. It includes maintaining a balanced budget, expanding school choice, lowering healthcare costs and allowing child support payments to start at conception. The agenda did not include the Governor’s call for free textbooks; however, Huston says lawmakers are looking at the issue.” (Indy Politics)
You can hear the Speaker here.

Top House priorities include:
“The House Republicans’ budget will continue a years-long push to continue expanding the availability of state dollars for Hoosier students to attend private schools. 
Under Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, which allows families to receive vouchers to attend private schools, the current annual income limit for a family of four is about $154,000 — equal to 300% of the amount required for a student to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program.
Huston said that income ceiling could increase even more this session.

House Bill 1008, Pension Investments, would ensure that Indiana’s public retirement fund investment strategies “remain focused on maximizing returns and not on political and social issues,” Huston said. 
HB 1009 would allow child support payments to start at conception.
HB 1003 and HB 1004 aim to increase competition in both the provider and insurance marketplaces. The measures also seek to require more transparency around prices charged by non-profit hospitals.
HB 1005 earmarks more state dollars to help communities across the state increase access to  affordable housing.
HB 1006, Mental health programs, would ensure individuals with mental health conditions receive treatment in local hospitals, not jails.
HB 1007 would ensure diverse and robust energy plan that is affordable and reliable.”
(Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Top Senate priorities include:
“Indiana’s top Republican senators said their caucus will largely prioritize health care and fiscal responsibility in the 2023 session, leaving out any education-related agenda items.

Senate Bill 3 seeks to form the State and Local Tax Review Commission to study the feasibility of ending Indiana’s income tax and reforming property taxes for Hoosiers.
Senate Bill 2 would change state tax law so LLCs and S Corps can deduct all state tax payments on federal tax returns.
Senate Bill 1 would provide ongoing funding to build out a system of certified behavioral health clinics around Indiana. 
Senate Bill 6 would ensure that insurance claims are paid appropriately based on the location where service was provided. He said the measure would end practices that allow inaccurate billing, saving Hoosiers millions per year on medical bills.
Senate Bill 8 would require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to pass on the rebates they receive for prescriptions to the patients buying the medicines or to all plan members.
Senate Bill 7 would end anti-competitive noncompete clauses and referral incentives for doctors.
Senate Bill 5, creates a “bill of rights” for Hoosier data privacy that would allow consumers to monitor how their data is being used and have it deleted if they wish.
None of the Senate GOP’s priorities center around education, however. That’s despite budget requests from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to inject billions more state dollars into schools.
Republican Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray said education “is the most important thing we do here in the state of Indiana,” but pointed to previous education funding boosts in 2019 and 2021 budgets.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Anticipated property tax hikes for most home owning Hoosiers has prompted discussion and proposed legislation from “mild tweaks to a vast overhaul.” Any changes could pose problems for local governments which are funded primarily through property taxes.
The proposed legislation includes:
Senate Bill 45 — from Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell — would eliminate annual, market-based adjustments to assessed values. The bill is detailed, at 60 pages long. Indiana moved to a market-based system just 20 years ago.
Senate Bill 46 would let county officials provide a credit against property tax liability. It doesn’t give those local governments a way to make up for the lost revenue. Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, authored the bill.
Senate Bill 90, from Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, would freeze property taxes for Hoosiers aged 65 and older who’ve owned their home for at least 10 years. And it would let local governments recover the lost revenue directly from the state’s general fund — a return to a system in which Republican lawmakers have said they’re not interested.
House Bill 1051 would let local units provide an assessed value deduction for longtime owner-occupants of houses with assessed values under $200,000. Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, authored the bill.”
(News and Tribune)

Republican budget writers were receptive to – but not overly enthusiastic about – Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposed budget that was presented to the State Budget Committee on Thursday…The governor’s budget calls for increased spending in education, state trooper pay and economic development of $5.5 billion.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Legislative leaders this week gave no indication they plan to allow legislation on legalizing cannabis to proceed. Lawmakers from both parties have filed legislation to legalize marijuana in some form…Whether such legislation moves forward is another matter. Top-ranking Republicans in the House and especially the Senate, who ultimately control which bills get heard or voted on, have been hostile to such legislation in the past. So far this session, they have given no indication they plan to treat such legislation differently. Gov. Eric Holcomb has repeatedly said he won’t sign any legalization legislation as long as the Drug Enforcement Administration lists marijuana as Schedule I. (WISH TV)

“Indiana’s top Republican lawmakers say they’re holding off on new abortion legislation in the 2023 legislative session — at least for now. But the future is less clear on tangential issues of mail-order abortion pills and contraception.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Lawmakers and businesses alike have long denounced Indiana’s high healthcare prices but haven’t yet penalized any actors. Advocates hope for more in the 2023 session, with an intense focus on the state’s hospitals.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“House Republican leadership appears poised to dive into culture war issues again when session starts in January, setting a target on ESG investing – or environmental-, social and government-focused investing – within the Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS).” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Indiana Senate Republicans want to create a commission to study the feasibility of eliminating the state’s income tax.  (CBS 4)

Legislation advancing at the Indiana Senate may give the Lake County recorder access to $500,000 in money generated by her office whose use sharply is limited by state law.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Attorney General Todd Rokita is splitting with Gov. Eric Holcomb and other fellow Statehouse Republicans by calling for no new education funding in the two-year state budget being crafted by the Indiana General Assembly.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

In other news

“Indiana launched its school voucher program in 2011, supposedly to help children from poor families find alternatives to low-performing public schools. But it quickly morphed into something else: a state subsidy for religious education and an entitlement program for private school parents. Now some legislators and advocates are talking up the idea of “universal vouchers” in which the state would help pay for any student to attend virtually any private school. They’re apparently trying to keep pace with Arizona, which last year became the first state to implement a universal program. But vouchers were a bad idea from the start. Rather than doubling down on an ill-conceived project, lawmakers should better support the public schools that educate nine in 10 Hoosier children. 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. [School vouchers] 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)

“An Indiana Supreme Court decision could have an impact on the cost of solar for Hoosiers across the state. The court ruled in favor of CenterPoint Energy on Wednesday…The Indiana Supreme Court…said that lack of guidance from the legislature means utilities are free to calculate that excess energy in whatever time frame they want — as long as the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approves….Jason Stephenson is with the utility’s regulatory legal group for Indiana and Ohio…Laura Ann Arnold is the president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance also known as Indiana DG. She said the decision will put Indiana consumers and the state solar industry at a “competitive disadvantage.” (Indiana Public Media)

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning has been awarded a $42 million federal grant to be used over three years to improve early childhood opportunities  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Sixty Hoosier children died at the hands of their mother, father, parents’ significant other or caregiver in 2021. That was a 20% increase from 50 deaths in 2020, when the pandemic gripped Indiana.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Tippecanoe County, home to Purdue University, violated state and federal voter registration laws, the Indiana Election Division said in an order adopted late last week. It was a victory for the voting rights groups that filed a complaint in July.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Charlie Brown, D-Gary, was elected leader of the county’s financial governing body [the Lake County Council] Tuesday, with Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, as vice president — both with the support of all five Democratic and two Republican council members.” (NWI Times)

“Portage Township’s assessor ran as a Democrat in November but is now a Republican. Porter County GOP Chairman Mike Simpson shared the news at a standing-room-only swearing-in ceremony on New Year’s Day. “I’m a Christian with Christian values and family values,” Alta Neri said. “I believe the Republican platform represented more of my beliefs than the Democratic Party. They have become too progressive for me.”” (NWI Times)

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