You can make a difference
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 they have not yet received 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 greatly expand education scholarship accounts—universal school choice. This bill passed through the Senate Education Committee and has been assigned to the Appropriations Committee.
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education lists several compelling reasons to oppose this legislation that would provide public funding for private schools:
The Indiana State Teachers Association has made it easy to take action. Let committee members and your elected officials know you oppose universal choice.
SB 188 would require school board candidates to designate a political affiliation on the ballot. It has been scheduled for a hearing in the Committee on Elections. Contact your senator. SB 188 would require school board candidates to designate a political affiliation on the ballot. It has received a hearing in the Committee on Elections. It has not received a vote and if it doesn’t it will die in committee. Contact members of the committee to let them know you oppose this bill. Partisanship has no place in our children’s education. Ask Sen. Jon Ford, the Election Chair, and Sen. Greg Walker, the Ranking Member of the Election Committee to let the bill die. Do not bring SB 188 back for a vote. Making school boards a partisan governing body does not serve the education of our children or the smooth running of our public schools. That should be the focus of electing school board candidates not assuaging voters who simply want to vote for a party. Find contact information for this committee here.
Many other bills this session require action from all of us. Read about them under ‘Indiana”. Some are good bills–contact your elected official to urge their support. Several are very troubling–particularly in education and the environment. Contact you representative and senator to let them know how you want them to vote. We can make a difference. Find your legislator here.
“President Joe Biden met Wednesday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in search of a path to lifting the nation’s debt ceiling — and averting the potential for an economic catastrophe.
They emerged from the hourlong session agreed on at least one thing: It could’ve gone worse.
“The president and I had a first good meeting — I shared my perspective with him, he shared his,” McCarthy told reporters afterward. “No agreements, no promises, except that we would continue this conversation.”
In a statement, the White House called the meeting a “frank and straightforward dialogue” that represented the first of many conversations.” (Politico)
“Today [Feb. 1] is a big one for House GOP investigators. The top two panels on that front — Oversight and Accountability, and Judiciary — are holding their first hearings. Here’s what to look out for.” (Punchbowl News)
Read and see what happened in Judiciary here; and Oversight here.
“House Financial Services Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) criticized committee Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and other committee Republicans for eliminating the first diversity and inclusion subcommittee.” (Dodd Frank Update)
Passed the House, Senate next
H.R. 159: To implement merit-based reforms to the civil service hiring system that replace degree-based hiring with skills- and competency-based hiring, and for other purposes.
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 422 – 2
H.R. 300: Settlement Agreement Information Database Act of 2023
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 425 – 0
To find and contact your Members of Congress: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
In other news
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) told colleagues on Tuesday he is stepping down from his assignments on the Small Business and Science Committees, according to five sources — including two House GOP members…Santos issued a statement Tuesday afternoon confirming that he is recusing himself from the committees.” (Axios)
“Twenty Republican state attorneys general sent a letter to U.S-based pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS on Wednesday, telling both companies their plans to distribute abortion pills through the mail are “both unsafe and illegal.” In the letter, the coalition wrote that federal law prohibits anyone from using the mail to send or receive any drug that will “be used or applied for producing abortion,” referring to the Comstock Act of 1873.
Last month, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion finding that mailing abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol does not violate the Comstock Act and said the U.S. Postal Service is legally allowed to deliver prescription abortion drugs even in states that have curtailed access to abortion.” (The Hill)
“The Justice Department is going after Google, the internet search and advertising colossus, in what could be one of the most important antitrust cases ever. The DOJ, joined by eight states, today filed a lawsuit that alleges the tech giant has illegally monopolized the market for online advertisements for years.” (Politico)
“Live Nation/Ticketmaster came under fire from Democratic and Republican senators today in a Capitol Hill hearing, as executives at the conglomerate accepted blame for their ticketing process’s breakdown during the sale of Taylor Swift tickets last November.” (Politico)
“Amazon’s surprise decision to shut down its AmazonSmile donation program has left thousands of its nonprofit beneficiaries disappointed and concerned about finding ways to replace the funding.” (Associated Press)
“The FBI is conducting a search of President Joe Biden’s home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Wednesday as a special counsel investigation into his handling of classified material begins in earnest. “Today, with the President’s full support and cooperation, the DOJ is conducting a planned search of his home in Rehoboth, Delaware,” Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer wrote in a statement.” (CNN) At the completion of the search Bauer said that no documents with classified markings were found. (CNN
The FBI searched President Joe Biden’s former think tank office in Washington in November after his team notified the National Archives that they found classified documents there, according to a Justice Department official and another source familiar with the matter. The Justice official told CNN that a warrant wasn’t used to conduct the search, which was done with the consent of Biden’s legal team. The White House and Biden’s legal team did not previously disclose the FBI’s November search, in contrast to a search conducted by the bureau earlier this month at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. (CNN)
“The Justice Department has taken possession of a “small number” of documents with classified markings that former Vice President Mike Pence found in his Indiana residence earlier this month, according to Greg Jacob, the custodian of Pence’s White House records.” (Politico)
“The FBI searched President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday and located additional documents with classified markings and also took possession of some of his handwritten notes, the president’s lawyer said Saturday. The President voluntarily allowed the FBI into his home, but the lack of a search warrant did not dim the extraordinary nature of the search.” (Associated Press)
“The Roadless Rule, established in 2001, is intended to help keep wild spaces in our national forest system free from roads and logging. In 2020, the Trump administration stripped Roadless Rule safeguards from 9.2 million acres in the Tongass, the largest forest in the national forest system.” (Environment America)
“Covid tests and treatments may no longer be free to all after the federal government’s emergency declarations end in May. But most people still won’t have to pay for Covid vaccinations, according to two reports released last week by KFF, a nonprofit health think tank. The White House announced Monday that it would let the national and public health emergencies related to the Covid pandemic expire on May 11. The former has been in place since March 2020 and the latter since January 2020.” (NBC News)
“The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25 percentage points on Wednesday at its first meeting of the year, its eighth straight rate hike since it began a program of tightening borrowing costs last year in an effort to bring down inflation.” (CNN) “The latest hike is the smallest since the Fed started raising interest rates last year at the fastest pace in decades, culminating in four 75-basis points hikes in a row. Now with prices coming down and the economy growing at a slower pace, the Fed is slowing down the tempo of its rate increases.” (The Hill)
“Oil giant ExxonMobil reaped a record $55.7bn in profit last year as oil prices surged following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…A White House statement on Tuesday called it “outrageous that Exxon has posted a new record for Western oil company profits after the American people were forced to pay such high prices at the pump amidst [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s invasion…
“The latest earnings reports make clear that oil companies have everything they need, including record profits and thousands of unused but approved permits, to increase production, but they’re instead choosing to plough those profits into padding the pockets of executives and shareholders,” said White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan.” (BBC)
“Wages and salaries for civilian workers increased by 1% in the fourth quarter and by 5.1% for the year ending in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quarterly Employment Cost Index released Tuesday.
This reflected a slowdown from the third quarter, when wages and salaries increased 1.3% quarter over quarter. For the year ending in September, wages and salaries were up 5.1%.” (CNN)
“The war on inflation may be far from over, but the economy has reached a key, little-noticed milestone: Workers’ wage gains are finally outpacing the rise in consumer prices.” (Politico)
“A gunman killed seven people at two agricultural businesses in Northern California, plunging the state into mourning again in the wake of its third mass killing in eight days.” (Associated Press)
“A gunman killed 10 people and wounded 10 others at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect in the fifth mass killing in the U.S. this month.” (The Hill)
“Memphis authorities released video footage Friday showing Tyre Nichols being beaten by police officers who held the Black motorist down and repeatedly struck him with their fists, boots and batons as he screamed for his mother and pleaded, “’I’m just trying to go home.” The video is filled with violent moments showing the officers, who are also Black, chasing and pummeling Nichols and leaving him on the pavement propped against a squad car as they fist-bumped and celebrated their actions. The footage emerged one day after the officers were charged with murder in Nichols’ death. The chilling images of another Black man dying at the hands of police renewed tough questions about how fatal encounters with law enforcement continue even after repeated calls for change…Speaking at the White House, President Joe Biden said Friday that he was “very concerned” about the prospect of violence and called for protests to remain peaceful. Biden said he spoke with Nichols’ mother earlier in the day and told her that he was going to be “making a case” to Congress to pass the George Floyd Act “to get this under control.” The legislation, which has been stalled, is meant to tackle police misconduct and excessive force and boost federal and state accountability efforts.” (NewsNation)
“President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the U.S. will send Ukraine a battalion of 31 M1 Abrams tanks, the Army’s premier main battle tank, in a significant show of support for Kyiv in its fight against Russia.” (Politico)
Senate Joint Resolution 1
“Indiana’s Senate on Thursday approved a constitutional change that 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.”
Currently, people accused of all offenses except murder and treason have a right to bail.
Proponents — some prosecutors and Republicans — contend that Senate Joint Resolution 1 would prevent repeat criminals from committing additional alleged offenses while out on bail. Opponents — mostly defenders, Democrats and civil rights advocates — say it’s rife with potential for abuse…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.
Then, it would go to ballot in 2026. A majority of Hoosiers would need to support SJR 1 for it to take effect.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
As the nationwide legislative assault on trans children continues, Indiana lawmakers have introduced a trio of bills that would severely restrict LGBTQ+ students’ rights to privacy.
House Bill 1608 Sexual orientation and gender identity instruction
Would ban discussions of “gender fluidity; gender roles; gender stereotypes; gender identity; gender expression; or sexual orientation” at the kindergarten through third grade levels. It is patterned after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. (Them)
Senate Bill 413 Parental rights in education
This bill “would ban mentions of LGBTQ+ people in classrooms up to the 12th grade level. The bill would also bar schools from establishing policies that would prevent parents from accessing their students’ records, and policies that would ban teachers from informing parents about their students’ “social emotional, behavioral, mental, or physical health.” (Them)
SB 354 Education matters
The proposed legislation would require schools to notify parents if a student “has conflicted feelings” about gender identity, or if they change their name, attire, or pronoun “in a manner that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex at birth.” Schools would need to disclose that information to parents within 10 days. (Them)
ACLU has called the above three bills “the slate of hate.” (Them)
SB 39 Equal educational opportunity
This bill would extend the state’s anti-discrimination education statutes to protect students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Them)
The above four bills have been referred to the Education Committee; none have yet been scheduled for a hearing.
SB 188 School corporation governing bodies
This bill would require school board candidates to designate a political affiliation on the ballot. Has been scheduled for a hearing in the Committee on Elections. Contact your senator.
SB 327 Gary Community Schools
This bill would return the Gary School Corporation to local control with an elected school board rather than continue under state control. Scheduled for a hearing tomorrow, Feb. 2 in the Appropriations Committee.
SB 35 Financial literacy
This bill would require all Indiana students — beginning with the Class of 2028 — to take a personal finance course before they graduate from high school. Passed the Senate 47-2 and moves to the House.
SB 380 Various education matters
This bill would place restrictions on high school graduation waivers and doubles down that schools can have dress codes. Still in committee.
The following two bills seek to improve Indiana’s dismal literacy rates among younger students. Two bills would increase training and classroom support to help educators address those declining literacy rates, especially in elementary and middle schools. Both bills passed unanimously out of the committee and will now be considered by the full House chamber. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
HB 1558 Science of reading
This bill creates a $20 million Science of Reading Grant Fund to place literacy instructional coaches in elementary schools, increase science of reading training for teachers, and help incorporate science of reading curriculum in local and statewide schooling requirements. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
HB 1590 Various education matters
The measures require that starting in the 2024-2025 school year, the State Board of Education and Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) would be required to adopt academic standards for reading that are based on the science of reading. The bill also requires teachers to show proficiency in science of reading instruction and to obtain a science of reading certification in order to be licensed to teach in an elementary school. Trained literacy coaches would specifically be tasked with helping teachers at schools where fewer than 70% of students pass the IREAD exam. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
SB 340 Imagination library
This bill would “offer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to all Hoosier children statewide. Under the program, all children in Indiana would be mailed a free book once a month from birth until age 5.
Currently, 56 providers offer this program in some Indiana towns and counties.” Still in committee, (Fox 59)
SB 305 Indiana education account scholarship program
“Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would further expand school choice for Hoosiers but rolled back certain provisions that would have made the program universally accessible. The bill to widen eligibility for the state’s education scholarship accounts advanced 8-5 from the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, joined Democrats in voting against the measure. It now heads to the Appropriations Committee, where further deliberations will tackle the ongoing questions about how much the program will cost and who will be allowed to take part. GOP senators who support the bill, said it would give families more options and ensure that students who don’t qualify for the program now — but want to — can participate. Still, critics say they’re concerned about how much universal education scholarship accounts would cost and whether the state can afford to fund all students who are eligible to participate. Democrats maintain, too, that the program expansion would pull additional dollars away from already cash-strapped public schools.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Environment and climate crisis
From Hoosier Environmental Council:
If you care about our parks, natural spaces, and wildlife habitat, please join in this effort by calling and/or emailing Representative Jeff Thompson (R- Lizton) and his fellow members of the House Ways and Means Committee and asking that land conservation be prioritized in the budget. When you call or email your representative, here are some talking points you can use.
Our Indiana parks and natural spaces are a Hoosier treasure. In fact, outdoor recreation adds nearly $13 billion annually to our Indiana economy and provides employment to 107,000 Hoosiers. Use of the parks has grown dramatically since the pandemic and at the same time, wildlife habitat is shrinking. Please include investment in land conservation in your 2023-2025 budget.
HB 1138 Preschool and child care facility drinking water
This bill will help reduce young children’s exposure to lead. Read the full text of HB 1138.
Authored by Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Indianapolis) and co-authored by Rep. Mike Aylesworth (R-Hebron) and Rep. Sue Errington (D- Muncie), HB 1138 would require childcare centers and preschools to test their drinking water for lead and take action if lead is found. Lead is toxic especially for young children.
This bill has not yet been scheduled to receive a hearing. Contact the Chairman of the House Environmental Affairs Committee, Rep. Alan Morrison (R- Brazil), and ask him to give HB 1138 a hearing.
HB 1304: Watercraft registration renewal fee
This bill will increase funds available for DNR’s Lake and River Enhancement grants. HB 1304 would increase funding for the DNR’s Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) program by modestly raising the share of boat registration fees dedicated to this program. LARE protects fish and aquatic wildlife by reducing nutrient and sediment pollution. Currently in the Committee of Natural Resources. If your representative is on this committee, let them know you support this bill. See committee members here. (Scroll down the page for the list of members)
SB 221: Energy audit of state government campus
SB 221 would require the Indiana Department of Administration to issue a contract for an energy audit of the Indiana Statehouse and Indiana Government Center. This bill is the first step to addressing the Statehouse’s energy efficiency which looks to save taxpayer money and reduce the state government’s greenhouse gas emissions. SB 221 passed out of Senate Utilities and was reassigned to Committee on Appropriations.
SB 33: Solar panel and wind power equipment disposal study
This bill would direct the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission (IURC) to conduct a study on the decommissioning (removal and retirement) and disposal of solar panels. SB 33 supports responsible development and proactively addresses recycling, decommissioning, and disposal of solar and wind systems. Passed the Senate unanimously and moves to the House.
SB 91: CFO inspections
This bill will improve oversight of large animal feeding operations and change their inspections from every 5 years to every year. Factory farms contribute nutrient pollution into our waterways and noxious gases into the air. SB 91 requires the owner and operator of a confined feeding operation to submit annual reports to IDEM concerning their operation and any manure storage structures resulting from the operation. In addition, IDEM will conduct an annual onsite inspection to verify information contained in the report. This legislation will help hold factory farms accountable and reduce the level of pollution caused through these operations.
HB 1190: Coal combustion residuals surface impoundments
This bill will improve the safety of coal ash disposal. Authored by Pat Boy. Has been assigned to Environmental Affairs Committee, but has not yet received a committee hearing.
HB 1218: Environmental scrutiny before property transfer
This bill will help reduce the number of failing septic systems and thus help protect Indiana’s waterways. Has been assigned to Environmental Affairs Committee, but has not yet received a committee hearing.
HB 1305: Wake boarding and wake surfing
This bill will reduce the negative impacts wakeboats can have on lakes. Assigned to Natural Resources Committee and scheduled for a hearing Feb. 1.
HB 1219: PFAS biomonitoring
This bill will track exposure to PFAS chemicals among firefighters. Passed unanimously out of committee.
SB 242 DNR best floodplain mapping data
This bill would interfere with efforts to reduce flood risk in Indiana and to protect floodplains. It would repeal part of the Indiana Flood Control Act that requires local floodplain administrators to use the best available floodplain maps when considering a permit for construction in a floodplain. Read more about SB 242. Passed 40-5 and now goes to the House. View the vote. Read more about this bill and it’s environmental and financial impact at Indiana Capital Chronicle.
House Bill 1116
“Hoosiers convicted of felony vote fraud offenses wouldn’t be able to cast a ballot for 10 years under a bill passed 6-4 by the House Elections Committee Wednesday.” The bill moves to the House floor for a vote. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Senate Bill 292 INPRS investments
This bill directs the INPRS board, in accordance with its fiduciary duties, to make investment decisions “with the primary purpose of maximizing the target rate of return on the board’s investments.” Passed through committee 8-2 and will next be heard on the Senate floor. (NWI Times)
SB 7 Physician noncompete agreements and referrals
This bill that would prohibit new non-compete agreements for physicians this session. Passed out of committee 9-3 (WVPE)
SB 259 Sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products
Referred to Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy where it has not yet received a hearing.(Women4Change)
HB 1137 Equal pay; wage disclosure protection
Provides that it is unlawful practice to: (a) discriminate pay based on sex; (b) discipline or interfere with any employee or other person who inquired about, disclosed, or discussed the employee’s wages; (c) require wage nondisclosure as a condition for employment, or (d) require an employee to sign a waiver or other document denying them the right to disclose wage information. Referred to Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions where it has not yet received a hearing, (Women4Change)
SB 252 Long acting reversible contraceptives
Allows for LARCS to be transferred between Medicaid recipients Referred Committee on Health and Provider Services where it has not yet received a hearing (Women4Change)
SB 311Abortion Reestablishes the licensure of abortion clinics, changes statutes regarding when abortions may be performed; removes eight-week limitation for abortion-inducing drug Referred to Committee on Health and Provider Services where it has not yet received a hearing (Women4Change)
HB 1568 Prescription for hormonal contraceptives
Allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense oral and patch hormonal contraceptives. Provides that pharmacists who oppose contraceptives on moral or religious grounds are exempt from prescribing them. Referred to Committee on Health and Provider Services where it has not yet received a hearing. (Women4Change)
SB 153 Pharmacist contraceptives prescriptions
Allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense oral and patch hormonal contraceptives. Requires healthcare plans to provide coverage for contraceptives and certain services. Grants exemption for nonprofit religious employers. Referred Committee on Health and Provider Services where it has not yet received a hearing (Women4Change)
HB 1066 Sexual health education
Provides that if schools provide education on human sexuality or sexually transmitted infections, the school must provide comprehensive sexual education, using appropriate instructors. Referred to Committee on Education where it has not yet received a hearing (Women4Change)
HB 1364 Elements of Rape
Provides that a person commits rape if the other person submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct under the belief that the person committing the act is someone the victim knows, other than the person committing the act, and the belief is intentionally induced by artifice, pretense, or concealment. Referred to Committee on Courts and Criminal Code where it has not yet received a hearing (Women4Change)
HB 1131: Redistricting Commission
Establishes a redistricting commission to create, hold hearings on, receive public comment on, and recommend plans to re-draw general assembly districts and congressional districts. Provides appointment of 4 commission members by legislative leadership.
Referred to Committee on Elections and Apportionment where it has not yet received a hearing (Women4Change)
SB 1 Behavioral health matters
This bill “aims to establish better mental health resources for Hoosiers, allocate funds to maintain a helpline and expand access to behavioral health services.” Still in committee (The Statehouse File)
HB 1121 Sale of companionable animals and SB 134 Sale of companionable animals
These two bills, one in the House and one in the Senatate and nearly identical would block local communities from enforcing outright bans on the retail sale of pets, drawing pushback from animal advocates. Petland is the driving force promoting these bills. These bills have received hearings but have not yet passed out of committee. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
To find and contact your Indiana legislators: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/
In Other News
“The Indiana Supreme Court has declined to take a second case involving Indiana’s near-total abortion ban — sending the matter through the usual lower court process instead. Attorney General Todd Rokita had asked to bypass the Indiana Court of Appeals after a Marion Superior Court judge granted a second preliminary injunction against the ban, this one based on a controversial religious freedom law…This is the second case involving the ban. Earlier this month, the five Supreme Court justices heard a case against the ban based on liberty and privacy rights. They have not issued a ruling. The new abortion ban was in effect for just a week in September before a Republican judge in Owen County issued a first temporary injunction in a separate ACLU lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of the law based on liberty and privacy protections. The decision put the ban on hold while Indiana Supreme Court justices weigh the case. Under that injunction, the state’s previous abortion law stands — allowing abortions up to 20 weeks.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
“Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced on Tuesday that he will not run for the Senate in his home state, dealing a recruiting blow to Republicans who had hoped he would enter the race.” (The Hill)
Jennifer McCormick, who served four years as Superintendent of Public Instruction for Indiana as a Republican, confirms on Facebook she is considering a run for governor in 2024 as a Democrat. (WISH-TV)
“East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. made official their announcements to seek re-election…Mayor Copeland faces a well-known opponent in the May 2 Democratic Party primary in North Township Trustee Adrian Santos.
So far Mayor McDermott will be running unopposed.
In Merrillville, Clerk-Treasurer Kelly White Gibson filed her papers to run for a second term as the town’s executive officer. She will face Joseph P. Petruch in the Democratic primary. Petruch is a former town police chief.
In Chesterton, Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Udvare is running for reelection this spring. ” The deadline for filing for the 2023 spring primary is early February. (NWI Times)