You can make a difference
Join us for our next public event, What’s Next! Next Steps After An Open Letter to the Democratic Party on Thursday, March 2 at 6pm at the Merrillville Library.
Now it’s time to plan actions we can take to bring about the change that’s needed.
Please register for this important meeting on March 2.
Come and add your voice as we start important “working groups” to take those next steps forward! Want to be involved? Want to make a difference? Want change in Indiana? Add your voice. Register here.
And remember, our group is comprised of those from Porter, Lake, LaPorte Counties, as well as a few others who join us. Open to all!
Indiana legislators are poised to pass bills that impinge on the freedoms our children have to read and learn and that teachers and librarians have to teach and build good quality collections. Others restrict voting and bail. None of these bills have become law so please contact your legislators–call, email and write–and do that often.
If you think your voice doesn’t matter, please note that Senate Bill 386 has likely died after protests against it. The bill would have compelled teachers to teach a limited curriculum devoid of diversity, acceptance of differences, and accurate American history.
Bills that require your action:
House Bill 1608 Sexual orientation and gender identity instruction
“More than four hours of “We say gay!” chants echoed through the Indiana Statehouse Monday as hundreds rallied against a bill that would prohibit Hoosier educators from talking about “human sexuality” through 3rd grade.
The latest draft of the proposal also targets transgender students by prohibiting school employees from using a name or pronoun that is inconsistent with a student’s sex without a parent’s written consent.
Schools would additionally be required to notify parents if a student requests to change their name or pronouns…Private schools were also carved out of the latest draft of the bill.”
“The bill advanced along party lines 9-4 to the full House. The chamber must approve the bill and send it to the Senate by Feb. 27, or it dies.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Contact your representative.
SB 12 Material harmful to minors
Rather than locally addressing issues over content, the bill would open teachers and librarians to criminal prosecution over educational materials. The bill would remove existing legal defenses schools and school libraries may use when locally determining educational materials. The Indiana State Teachers Association makes it easy to take action. Click here to let your legislator know what you think of this bill. Passed the Judiciary Committee 7-4 and goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
This bill opens “the door to criminal prosecutions of educators for providing books about so-called controversial topics.” NWI Senator Niemeyer is a co-author of this terrible bill. “They’re in these libraries; these books are available,” said Republican Sen. Rick Niemeyer…“The only thing I can think about, to do something about this, is get these books out of their libraries, especially for the young kids.” Residents, school staff and librarians testified against this bill, noting that procedures are already in place to object to material in a library. They objected to criminal prosecutions of librarians for material in collections that some view as valuable literature and others as inappropriate. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Take action with the Indiana State Teachers Association, but also contact your senator—email and call. They need to know that a majority of Hoosiers oppose this bill.
House Bill 1428 School board elections
From Common Cause Indiana: This bill would create a hodge-podge of ways that school boards are elected across the state, because it turns the decision over to “local control”. So, in some communities the races would be non-partisan, in some the school boards themselves could decide to have partisan races, and still another option would be to have a local referendum on the issue.
Common Cause has made it easy to take action. Click here. For talking points in opposition to partisan school boards, go to the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.
House Bill 1334 Absentee voting
“Indiana Republicans endorsed a new attempt Wednesday to toughen laws on mail-in voting that opponents argue would unnecessarily add hurdles for people seeking to cast election ballots.
The House elections committee voted 9-4 along party lines to advance the proposal that would require voters submitting a paper application for a mail ballot to include a photocopy of their driver’s license or at least two identification numbers, such as their 10-digit driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.” (News and Tribune) Goes to the House floor for a vote.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 Limitation on right to bail
This bill changes the Indiana Constitution and “would let judges deny bail to anyone they deem “a substantial risk to the public,” as long “the proof is evident, or the presumption strong.”” Opponents argue that the “new language is simply too open-ended. It does not define what constitutes a substantial risk to the public, and it does not describe how the determination is to be made. For many people, anyone accused of a crime is a substantial risk. In fact, an activity that poses a substantial risk to the public might be a good general definition of criminal behavior. Under Senate Joint Resolution 1, therefore, the relevant question could be whether anyone is entitled to bail.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 34-15. View the vote. “Because SJR 1 seeks to change Indiana’s Constitution, two successive general assemblies must approve it: this session, and after a new legislature takes office in 2025.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) The House has not yet voted on this resolution. Contact your representative.
Read through many more bills below–and the proposed budget and then make your voice heard.
House Bill 1001 State budget
House Republicans released their proposed budget on Friday.
“Indiana taxpayers would more than double their spending on the state’s “school choice” voucher program under the latest budget proposal released Friday by House Republicans.
Expanded eligibility for the Choice Scholarship program — which allows families to receive vouchers to attend private schools — would raise the income ceiling to 400% of the amount required for a student to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program, equal to about $220,000.”
In addition, public health spending will be increased, but by far less than Governor Holcomb and the Governor’s Public Health Commission requested.
And the proposal would speed up income tax cuts for Hoosier taxpayers.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
It’s unclear what state senators will do with this huge proposed increase in public funding for private schools, funding without accountability or transparency. For one thing, that’s the opposite of what Mishawaka Sen. Ryan Mishler said state lawmakers should do in the current legislative session. Instead, the powerful Republican senator threatened to hold up new state spending on the voucher program — and advised parents to “beware” of non-public schools” Michlser chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and has yet to bring the Senate bill to increase the scholarship and voucher program. His comments about requiring accountability for private schools that accept vouchers brought a rebuke from House Republican leaders. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Democrat amendments were defeated. “The House’s proposal is the first draft of a two-year state budget that must still be approved by the Senate and the governor.
A final version of the budget is expected by the end of April.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Passed the House and Senate, goes to Governor Holcomb next
Senate Bill 2 Taxation of pass through entities
“This bill would let certain pass-through entities, like limited-liability corporations and S Corporations, deduct all state tax payments on their federal tax returns.” Passed unanimously in both chambers. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Passed the House
House Bill 1177 Handgun training for teachers
“Indiana House Republicans approved a bill Tuesday that would begin a state-funded handgun training program for teachers that critics argue would wrongly encourage more guns in classrooms across the state.” (Associated Press) Passed 71-24. View the vote.
House Bill 1528 Transition to teaching
This bill “would allow Hoosiers in an alternative teacher certification program to apply for up to $10,000 under the Next Generation Hoosier Educators scholarship program.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously and goes to the Senate next.
House Bill 1449 Twenty-first century scholars program
This bill “would automatically enroll eligible Hoosier students in the 21st Century Scholars program — a statewide grant program that funds student attendance at two- and four-year schools.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 92-1.
Senate Bill 402 Reading standards and curriculum
This bill “would define the “science of reading” and require schools to adopt such curriculum.
The “science of reading” is defined…as the successful integration of concepts such as phonics, vocabulary and comprehension in reading.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously.
House Bill 1002 Education and workforce matters
This bill “would create career scholarship accounts for students to be used for job training with organizations other than their high schools. (Chalkbeat Indiana) House Republicans say this bill will “reinvent high school” by allowing students to meet graduation requirements through career experience. [It] gives students state-funded scholarship accounts to spend on workforce training outside their schools. (Chalkbeat Indiana) Passed 70-25.
HB 1138 Preschool & Childcare Facility Water Testing
This bill would require childcare centers and preschools to test their drinking water for lead and to take action if lead is found. Passed unanimously
House Bill 1568 Prescription for hormonal contraceptives
This bill “would allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control to people 18 and older without an appointment. That includes contraceptive patches, as well as birth control pills and rings.”
(Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 86-12. View the vote.
House Bill 1116 Various election matters
This bill denies “anyone convicted of a felony vote fraud offense [the right] to cast a ballot for 10 years…Both sides agree that voter fraud cases are very rare and the provision likely won’t be used often. It would only impact crimes committed after June 30.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 73-24. View the vote. Of note is that nearly two-thirds of the Indiana House believes that individuals who commit treason, insurrection or conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government still should be permitted to cast a ballot in the Hoosier State. The chamber voted 64-26 to reject an amendment to this bill that would have done that. So non-existent felony fraud convictions prohibit the right to vote, but not treason. (NWI Times)
Passed the Senate
Senate Bill 292 INPRS investments
This bill “codifies a finances-first investment policy already adopted internally by the Indiana Public Retirement System, known as INPRS. The bill…could saddle INPRS with some more administrative workload and costs, according to an updated fiscal analysis.
Some say that investing using environmental, social and corporate governmental factors is simple risk-management, while others say it threatens returns and discriminates against certain businesses.” A similar bill in the House has stalled. It goes much further in prohibiting investments in ESG entities and could cost retirees millions. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 40-7. View the vote.
This bill that “would have given Indiana renters more options to deal with negligent landlords was gutted by a Senate committee last Wednesday. The measure now takes the entire issue to a summer study committee.” The revised bill passed 37-9. View the vote. (WFYI)
Senate Bill 1 Behavioral health matters
“This bill “would provide all Hoosiers with a mental health helpline, mental health professionals to arrive on the scene of a crisis, and facilities to offer aid.” (WNDU) Passed unanimously
Senate Bill 274 Tax exempt properties
Buildings would have to be owned by a nonprofit entity and registered as an ongoing care retirement community or licensed as a health-care facility.
Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis said about this bill: “But here’s the danger … In Indiana, to be considered a not-for-profit, all it takes is for you to file articles of incorporation.” (The Statehouse File) Passed 34-14. View the vote.
Senate Bill 321
“The bill would define first-aid and emergency standards for schools and school nurses and require they be published on the Indiana Department of Education website. It would also take health and immunization records off of high-school transcripts.” Passed unanimously. (The Statehouse File)
SB 327 Gary Community Schools
It would set up procedures for a new five-person governing body for Gary schools. Over five years ago, the Indiana legislature took control of the schools due to crumbling finances. Senator Melton of Gary expressed disappointment with this bill and said it needed to further to allow local control, control Gary is ready to have. (The Statehouse File) Passed 40-9. View the vote.
Senate Bill 404 Access to transcripts
“The bill declares that if an individual is making a good effort to pay down their debt, then the [public or private] institution must give them their transcripts even if they haven’t paid off the complete amount they owe. “ (The Statehouse File) Passed 47-2. View the vote.
Senate Bill 180 Allocation of wastewater utility costs
“Senate panel on Thursday approved a bill that would let utility companies ask the state for permission to pass some wastewater infrastructure costs to regular water ratepayers.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Passed 44-2. View the vote.
Senate Bill 134 Retail sale of dogs
“Indiana’s senators approved a bill Wednesday blocking cities and town from banning the retail sale of dogs by state-approved sellers. It was a win for a frustrated national pet store chains but went against the wishes of animal welfare advocates.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 29-18 and goes to the House next. View the vote.
Bills still moving through their respective chambers
Senate Bill 398 School property taxes
“Beginning in 2024, districts would need to share any revenue from local property taxes earmarked for operating expenses that’s above the average they received from 2021 to 2023 with charter schools in the same or contiguous counties…The bill would require charter schools to hold public hearings on their budgets, and to set up operations funds to receive referendum dollars, which would only be available for a list of qualified expenses related to buildings, transportation, and technology.
Opponents of the bill said it would be inappropriate to direct more public money to schools that don’t have measures of accountability like publicly elected school boards. They also said charter schools have access to funding sources that are unavailable to traditional public schools — such as federal and state grants, philanthropic support, and assistance from the city of Indianapolis, for example. This bill is in the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee where it received a hearing but not a vote so far. You can contact members of the committee by clicking here on the committee page and then on ‘Members’ on the left of the page. If your senator is not on the committee, contact them here.
Senate Bill 486 Education matters
“Some teachers and unions argue part of Senate Bill 486 would further erode teachers’ collective bargaining rights. The bill’s supporters say it’s a “deregulation bill” that will empower administrators and educators. The bill cuts several chunks out of Indiana’s education code, including the removal of several training and evaluation requirements that have long been applied to educators statewide. Many, but not all, of the proposed changes are controversial.” (WFIU) Passed out of the Appropriations Committee 104 and now goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
House Bill 1447 Education matters
“This bill addresses third-party surveys and evaluations given to K-12 students. Under the bill, schools would be required to provide parents with at least two separate notices, giving them the chance to opt their child out of such surveys. Schools must also post a copy of the survey on their website, according to the bill.” Passed the Education Committee 7-4 and goes to the House floor. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
House Bill 1591 Education matters
ISTA and other education groups…opposed [this bill] due to a provision that could open up the state’s Choice Scholarship school voucher program to children in pre-K, as young as age 5.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously out of the Education Committee to the House floor.
House Bill 1609 Workforce development matters
This bill “would allow the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to award a diploma to adult learners who demonstrate high school level skills through a competency-based test. DWD is charged with creating that assessment.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously out of the Education Committee to the House floor.
House Bill 1637 Teacher education programs
This bill would “increase certain scholarship amounts in an effort to attract more students into teaching — particularly black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) The bill passed 20-1 out of the House Ways and Means Committee and now goes to the House floor for a vote.
Senate Bill 8 Prescription drug rebates and pricing
This bill “would require the entities to pass on rebates they receive from drug manufacturers to the patients buying medications. PBMs are third-party administrators of prescription drug programs that negotiate discounts or rebates with manufacturers for their clients, usually insurers or pharmacies.
But testimony differed about why prices were so high, whether due to the PBMs or the manufacturers themselves, and who would benefit under the proposal.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed through committee 10-1 and will be voted on the Senate floor.
Senate Bill 415 Admissibility of statement by juvenile in custody
“Police officers across Indiana would be explicitly prohibited from lying to juveniles during interrogation under legislation being shaped by the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.
State Sen. Rodney Pol Jr., D-Chesterton, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 415, along with state Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, the chairman of the committee…Under his plan, a statement made by a person under age 18 in police custody for an alleged delinquent act would be inadmissible in court if a police officer communicated to the child false information regarding evidence, or false or unauthorized statements relating to penalties or leniency.” (NWI Times) Passed unanimously through the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee to the Senate floor.
House Bill 1085 Tax increment financing
Under this bill “The popular economic development tool used by Hoosier cities and counties, known commonly as TIF districts, will face additional scrutiny.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed Ways and Means Committee 14-6 and is being considered now on the House floor.
In other news
Workers at a Starbucks in Valparaiso voted to make the coffee shop on LaPorte Avenue the second unionized Starbucks in Indiana, in a bid to preserve their benefits and secure better pay and working conditions. (Times of Northwest Indiana)
“New Secretary of State Diego Morales is working alongside his brother-in-law, who filled a newly created position that comes with a six-figure salary…Shawn Grady, Morales’ brother-in-law, is the new co-director of the Auto Dealer Services division of the agency. Previously, the division had one director and a deputy director that had a combined salary of $207,350.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Congress is in recess but House Republicans continue to move forward on several fronts in their investigations of the Biden administration. Multiple committees are active along multiple lines of inquiry: “House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) has been active in demanding documents and communications as part of multiple probes”, mostly into Hunter Biden and Biden family business dealings Deadlines for compliance are the end of February and early March. Education and Workforce Committee has issued several letters seeking information from the Labor Department…Financial Services Committee is investigating the timing of federal criminal charges against Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan has fired off a number of subpoenas under his “weaponization of the federal government,” including to Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Chris Wray and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona about school board protests. He also sent subpoenas to heads of tech corporations about their content moderation policies. (Punchbowl News
“Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) will leave Congress in June to take over as the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, his office announced on Tuesday.” (The Hill)
“On Monday, the Senate confirmed Cindy Chung to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, making her the first Asian American to serve on that court. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 54-45 to make Gina Méndez-Miró a district court judge in Puerto Rico; the nomination passed a key test vote that indicates she has the necessary support to be confirmed and will become Biden’s 100th confirmed judge…And with the Republican-controlled House offering few areas of common ground legislatively, the Senate for the next two years could turn into a factory for judicial confirmations.” (NBC News)
In other news
“President Joe Biden swept unannounced into Ukraine on Monday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a defiant display of Western solidarity with a country still fighting what he called “a brutal and unjust war” days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.” (Associated Press)
“A day after his surprise visit to Kyiv, Biden used a strongly worded address in neighboring Poland to praise allies in Europe for stepping up over the past year and to send a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire.” (Associated Press)
“Biden spoke with [Indian Prime Minister] Modi last week following the announcement that Air India would purchase 220 Boeing-made aircrafts, a deal worth $34 billion. The White House says the agreement could support as many as million jobs in more than 40 states.” (Punchbowl News)
“Russia is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.” (CNN)
“Next month, Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-Ind.) Senate campaign will receive its biggest institutional boost of support to date. On March 28, ten GOP senators — including NRSC Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) — are holding a fundraiser for Banks at the campaign arm’s D.C. Headquarters.” (Punchbowl News)
“Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows has been subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating the former president and his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. Special counsel Jack Smith’s office is seeking documents and testimony related to January 6, and Meadows received the subpoena sometime in January, the source said.” (CNN)
“House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries expressed dismay Tuesday that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Tucker Carlson access to security footage taken during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, calling it “an egregious security breach.” Carlson, a 1/6 truther and one of the biggest proponents of conspiracy theories about the attack, regularly uses his prime time perch to sow doubt about the reality of the insurrection. So it’s clear what he will do with the footage. McCarthy has effectively provided Carlson ink to rewrite the history of that horrible day. Or, to be more clear: McCarthy is effectively Carlson’s accomplice, helping the Fox News talk host mislead the American public about the 1/6 attack.”(CNN)
“Two years after former President Donald Trump’s false claims about widespread election fraud sparked an attack on the U.S. Capitol, more evidence is piling up that those who spread the misinformation knew it was false. On Thursday, the voting machine company Dominion filed court papers documenting that numerous Fox News personalities knew there was no evidence to support the claims peddled by Trump’s allies, but aired them anyway on the nation’s most-watched cable network. The same day, a special grand jury in Atlanta concluded there was no evidence of the fraud that Trump alleged cost him Georgia during the 2020 election. In December, the congressional Jan. 6 committee disclosed that Trump’s top advisers and even family members repeatedly warned him that the allegations he was making about fraud costing him reelection were false — only to have the president continue making those claims, anyway.” (Associated Press)
“Health insurance sign-ups through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) jumped by nearly 2 million during the most recent enrollment period, which ended in mid-January, totaling 16.3 million people. The gains suggest the program known as Obamacare is going strong, despite repeated efforts by Republicans to kill it. It also suggests subsidies provided to the program through two massive pieces of legislation spearheaded by President Biden had an influence. The subsidies were established by the American Rescue Plan in 2021 and subsequently extended through the Inflation Reduction Act. (The Hill)
“The United States said on Friday it had successfully concluded recovery efforts off South Carolina to collect sensors and other debris from a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down by a U.S. fighter jet on Feb. 4, and investigators are now analyzing its “guts.” But U.S. and Canadian authorities also announced they had called off searches for three unidentified objects shot down over last weekend, without locating any debris.” (Reuters)
“The Justice Department is looking to compel an attorney for former President Trump to testify before a grand jury in the case involving the possible mishandling of classified documents, seeking to pierce attorney-client privilege by contending he may have aided in a crime.” (The Hill)
“The FBI has conducted two searches at the University of Delaware in connection with the investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN. The previously undisclosed searches were conducted in recent weeks, with the consent and cooperation of the president’s legal team, the source said. (CNN)
“Gun control groups are raising alarm after a federal appeals court this month said that under the Supreme Court’s new standards, the government can’t stop people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them from owning guns.” (Associated Press)
“Congress, the White House and now the US Supreme Court are all focusing their attention on a federal law that’s long served as a legal shield for online platforms. This week, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on two pivotal cases dealing with online speech and content moderation. Central to the arguments is “Section 230,” a federal law that’s been roundly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for different reasons but that tech companies and digital rights groups have defended as vital to a functioning internet….” (CNN)
Next week the justices will hear challenges to block the Biden administration’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for qualifying borrowers. (The Hill)
“The U.S. believes China may be providing nonlethal military assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine, and the administration worries Beijing is considering sending lethal aid, four U.S. officials familiar with the matter said in an exclusive report Saturday.” (NBC News)