Weekly Legislative Update 2/7/2023

You can make a difference

What’s Next!, our next public meeting will be Thursday March 2 at 6pm at the Merrillville Library. During our meeting in January we discussed our Open Letter to the Democratic Party. We sent that letter along with your responses and comments to significant players within the Democratic Parry. Now it’s time to plan what steps and actions we will take. Together we can bring change to Indiana! Please register here.

NDTC & Indiana Democratic Party Blue Bench Training
Join the National Democratic Training Committee & Indiana Democratic Party on Saturday, February 25th from 9-4 pm ET for a free, in-person Blue Bench training. If you’re running for office, working on a campaign, or working with your local Democratic Party, this training will provide the tools, skills, and insight you need to succeed. Click here to learn more and to register

Take action

House Bill 1116 Various elections matters
This bill would disenfranchise from voting anyone who is convicted of felony election fraud for 10 years. It would affect very few people, but it takes Indiana in the wrong direction in terms of encouraging voting—in a state that is in the bottom 10 in voter turnout. This bill will be heard in Ways and Means on Wed. Contact members of the committee to urge them to vote not to this bill unless language preventing those with felony voter fraud convictions from voting.
Another section that should also be removed pertains to Municipal Redistricting.  The proposed change would not only pertain to Gary, but also any municipality in this State that fails to redistrict.  It provides for the Secretary of State to draw the local maps, thus surrendering the responsibility from the City Council to the State. We need to advocate for the removal of this section too. Find members here.

The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee is reviewing the Governor’s budget request and will vote on the budget as soon as next week. 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. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

SB 242, DNR best floodplain mapping data,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. (Hoosier Environmental Council) This bill has passed the Senate and will be heard in the House. Contact your representative

Read about additional bills of concern, calls to action and talking points from the Hoosier Environmental Council here.

The super majority has waded into the culture wars at the expense of retirees:
House Bill 1008 Pension investments–This bill “mandating that Indiana’s public pension system divest from firms or funds that use certain non-financial investment criteria — a flashpoint in the state’s culture wars — could slash the system’s returns by nearly $7 billion over the next decade, according to a revised fiscal analysis”. This bill’s restrictions and administrative requirements could mean a hefty price tag for the fund and its retirees. The Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Banking Association oppose this bill. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed out of Committee on Financial Institutions 9-4 and referred to the Ways and Means Committee.


Passed the House

H.Res. 83: Providing for consideration of the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 9) denouncing the horrors of socialism, and providing for consideration of the resolution (H. Res. 76) removing a certain Member from a certain standing committee of the Hou
The resolution was passed in a vote in the House. A simple resolution is not voted on in the other chamber and does not have the force of law. Passed 218-209 with Reps Mrvan and Carson voting nay and all othe Indiana reps voting yea except Pence who did not vote..

H.Res. 76: Removing a certain Member from a certain standing committee of the House
GovTrack.us: “This resolution removes Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the Committee on Foreign Affairs.” This vote was agreed to along party lines with all Democrats opposed.

Passed the House, Senate next

H.Con.Res. 9: Denouncing the horrors of socialism
GovTrack.us: “This concurrent resolution denounces socialism and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States.” The vote was 328-86 with Rep. Carson voting nay and all other Indiana reps voting yea except Pence who did not vote. View the vote.
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.

H.J.Res. 7: Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020.
GovTrack.us: “This joint resolution terminates the national emergency concerning COVID-19 declared by the President on March 13, 2020.” Passed 229-197 with Reps Reps Mrvan and Carson voting nay and all other Indiana reps voting yea except Pence who did not vote. View the vote.
A joint resolution is often used in the same manner as a bill. If passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and signed by the President, it becomes a law. 

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

In other news

.“If you’re a single Black man with dependents who claims the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you have a 7.73% chance of being audited by the IRS in any given year. For Americans as a whole, the equivalent figure is just 0.54%… Black Americans at all levels of the income spectrum get audited at significantly higher rates, according to an extremely important new study conducted by Stanford researchers with the cooperation of the IRS…” (Axios)

“The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on orders from President Joe Biden after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America, the latest flashpoint in tensions between Washington and Beijing. Biden wanted the balloon downed on Wednesday but was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground…The presence of the balloon in the skies above the U.S. this week dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions…The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.”(Associated Press)

The economy
“The U.S. economy gained over half a million jobs in January, blowing out expectations, crushing (for now) the idea of a cooling labor market and getting the economics world abuzz about the possibility that this time really could be different… today’s January employment report that showed not only a face-melting 517,000 jobs against expectations of under 200,000, but a slight decline in the pace of wage gains to 4.4 percent annually from 4.8 percent in December.” Declining wage gains is what the Fed is looking for when it raises interest rates to bring down inflation. It’s also possible that inflation really was to some degree transitory as the Fed had said early on, although it has lasted longer than expected. It’s also possible that supply chain problems were a significant cause of inflation.” (Politico)

“The world is producing a record amount of single-use plastic waste, mostly made from polymers created from fossil fuels, despite global efforts to reduce plastic pollution and carbon emissions, according to a new report released Monday.” (CNN)


House Bill 1421 Electric generating facility construction
This bill, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), “would allow utilities building new natural gas power plants to access a financing option, known as Construction Work in Progress, or CWIP, that would charge customers for the cost of a new plant before they receive a single electron of power from them…. Bill sponsors and supporters claim the bill would help improve the reliability of the grid by adding more energy sources to it, but opponents said the bill could leave customers paying for nothing and increase the number of Hoosiers facing energy insecurity.” (Indiana Environmental Reporter) Passed the full House71-26 and heads to the Senate.

HB 1499 Taxation of homestead property
“Property owners could get temporary tax relief under a top Indiana lawmaker’s bill that seeks to stymie the impacts of high assessments last spring. A new study projects homeowners’ bills payable this year could increase as much as 15%. That’s more than double what previous reports estimated for the upcoming bills. Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, filed legislation that would temporarily provide a supplemental homestead credit and lower the 1% cap on residential property taxes. He chairs the House Ways and Means Committee [where the bill has been assigned], meaning the bill could get more traction. While it could mean relief for property owners, schools are expected to take on the brunt of the tax burden if Thompson’s policy change takes effect. Between 2024 and 2027 — during which property owners would pay reduced taxes — school corporations are estimated to lose more than $364 million in revenue.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) What could be Hoosiers’ best bet at property tax relief was met with opposition Thursday from education advocates and local government officials who maintained they would take a financial hit if lawmakers approve the proposal.   (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1008 Pension investments
“This bill requires the state’s public pension system to divest from and terminate business relationships with firms or funds that use non-financial “ESG” factors in decisions, such boycotting gun manufacturers and fossil fuel companies. The prohibition is part of a GOP effort to crack down on the environmental, social and governmental framework known as ESG investing. Proponents say House Bill 1008 ensures that managers investing on behalf of the Indiana Public Retirement System make returns-based decisions, and supports businesses in controversial industries who’ve found themselves cut off from financing, insurance and shipping options. Indiana Chamber of Commerce came out against the proposal, with one leader calling it “anti-free market and anti-free enterprise.” The Indiana Bankers Association also spoke against the measure, saying it could preclude some banks from doing business with INPRS.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) This bill “mandating that Indiana’s public pension system divest from firms or funds that use certain non-financial investment criteria — a flashpoint in the state’s culture wars — could slash the system’s returns by nearly $7 billion over the next decade, according to a revised fiscal analysis”. This bill’s restrictions and administrative requirements could mean a hefty price tag for the fund and its retirees. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed out of Committee on Financial Institutions 9-4 and referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

The following two bills are similar to the above House bill, but the House bill goes a lot farther in restricting investments by the INPRS.
Senate Bill 292 INPRS investments
“This bill would require the Indiana Public Retirement System to make investment decisions for its 500,000 members primarily to maximize the rate of return, not to influence any environmental, social or governmental policies — known as “ESG” investing.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed out of committee 8-2 and heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 268 Prohibited pension system investments
This bill “would force the system to divest from its China-related holdings, saying that such investments “risk” Hoosiers’ “security and welfare.”” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously out of committee and reassigned to Appropriations Committee.

More bills under consideration in the Senate
Senate Bill 4 
“The state Senate’s health committee voted 12-0 in support of a bill laying out the responsibilities that local health departments would have if county officials accept a major increase in state funding being sought by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb…The governor’s plan would direct $100 million in the next state budget year and $200 million in the following year toward boosting Indiana’s county public health department funding from its 45th-place national ranking. The state now directs about $7 million a year to county health departments, which are primarily funded by local taxes. Has now been assigned to the Appropriations Committee.” (Associated Press)

Senate Bill 375 Child care assistance
Under this bill “eligibility for On My Way Pre-K would expand from 127% of the federal poverty level, just over $35,000 annually for a family of four, to 200%, or $55,500 annually. Passed unanimously out of the Child and Family Services Committee and was referred to the Appropriations Committee. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 334 Simplified application process for SNAP benefits
“The bill from Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, would simplify the process for Hoosiers ages 60 and older as well as Hoosiers with certain disabilities, extending their eligibility for 36 months with a requirement to report any income changes in that time.” Passed unanimously out of the Child and Family Services Committee and heads to the Senate floor for a vote.(Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 376 Lawfully residing immigrants and eligibility
Under this bill “roughly 6,000 children and 600 pregnant women will be newly eligible for Medicaid…Under Indiana law, the state’s newest Hoosiers – recently arrived and lawfully residing immigrants – must wait five years to qualify for Medicaid insurance coverage or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).” Passed unanimously out of the Child and Family Services Committee and was referred to the Appropriations Committee. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 369 Automated external defibrillator requirement
This bill “would require that coaches, marching band and activity leaders ensure that there’s a defibrillator accessible within three minutes of any athletic activity. And it requires them to have an emergency action plan for what to do if an AED is needed.” Passed unanimously out of the Family and Children Services Committee and heads to the Senate floor for a vote. (WFYI)

Senate Bill 1 Behavioral health matters
“This bill provides that, not later than December 31, 2024, the office of the secretary of Family and Social Services shall apply to the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a Medicaid state plan amendment, a waiver, or an amendment to an existing waiver to require reimbursement for eligible certified community behavioral health clinic services; or to participate in the expansion of a community mental health services demonstration program. It also requires the Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA) to establish and maintain a help line to provide confidential emotional support and referrals to certain resources to individuals who call the help line; and that is accessible by calling a toll-free telephone number. Finally, the bill re-establishes the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission.” (Legislative Update Courts) Passed unanimously out of the Appropriations Committee and heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Education Bills of concern:
Senate Bill 486
“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 Education and Career Development Committee 7-6 and has been assigned to the Appropriations Committee. All four Democrats on the committee voted against the bill, along with GOP Sens. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, and Dan Dernulc, R-Highland.

SB 188 would require school board candidates to designate a political affiliation on the ballot. This bill would further divide our state into partisan camps and create partisan controversies and ill-will in the boards running public schools that serve all children. Read compelling reasons to oppose this bill at Indiana Coalition for Public Education. Has not yet received a vote in the Committee on Elections.

House Bill 1002
The bill seeks to expand work-based learning in Indiana high schools, like apprenticeships and internships. 
It would also create career scholarship accounts that are similar to Indiana’s school choice voucher program. Grants could be used by students in grades 10-12 to pay for career training courses, apprenticeships and certifications outside of the student’s school district. The amount each participating student can receive to pay for apprenticeships, coursework, or certification would be based on a calculation of the state dollars that their school receives. Democrats pushed back on the bill, however, saying language around credentialing programs is still too vague.” The bill passed out of the Education Committee 8-4 and was referred to Ways and Means Committee.

Senate Bill 380 Various education matters
Places restrictions on high school graduation waivers and doubles down that schools can have dress codes. 
“State senators heard mixed testimony last week on the bill. An amendment to the bill approved by the senate committee on Wednesday would further require districts to post high school graduation rates online. The latest draft of the bill also sets a 10% cap on the number of students who can graduate from a school with a waiver before July 1, 2027. After that, the cap drops to 5%…passed the committee in a 9-4 vote and heads to the Senate chamber.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 402 Reading standards and curriculum
Senate Bill 402, filed by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, would define the “science of reading” and require schools to adopt such curriculum. The “science of reading” is defined in both bills as the successful integration of concepts such as phonics, vocabulary and comprehension in reading. Although Indiana lawmakers and education advocates have repeatedly said the state needs to take action to improve the state’s dismal literacy rates, some provisions in Freeman’s bill drew hesitation, especially from teachers. The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), the state’s largest teachers union, specifically pointed to language in the bill that directs schools to post reading materials online for inspection by parents. Still in committee; but may be brought to a vote this week.

And the good:
HB 1449 Twenty-first century scholars program
Authored by local Rep Earl Harris Jr, this bill “would automatically enroll eligible students in the 21st Century Scholars program, helping more Hoosier children get to college.” (Indiana House Democrats) Passed unanimously out of the Education Committee and was referred to Ways and Means.

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) Passed unanimously out of the Education Committee and was referred to Ways and Means Committee.

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.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously out of committee and assigned to the Committee on Appropriations.

House Bill 1637 Teacher education programs 
This bill aims to recruit and retain diversity among educators in Indiana by providing increases in three scholarship funds, two of which are geared towards minority educators. Passed unanimously out of the Education Committee and referred to Ways and Means

House Bill 1528 Transition to teaching
This bill introduces a scholarship program for bachelor’s degree holding students to apply for a one-time $10,000 scholarship for an alternative teacher certification program. The annual funding would be capped at $1 million. Passed unanimously out of the Education Committee and referred to Ways and Means

Senate Bill 227 PAC contributions to school board candidates.
Provides that a political action committee (PAC) may not make total annual contributions in excess of an aggregate of $2,000 apportioned in any manner among all candidates for school board offices. Specifies a civil and criminal penalty for a PAC that violates this limitation. Not yet heard in Committee on Elections.

SB 221, Energy audit of state government campus, 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. Passed out of Senate Utilities Committee and was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

HB 1007 Electric utility service
“This bill aims to create a statewide energy plan passed the state House on Monday. HB 1007 requires the state agency that oversees utilities — the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission — to consider five things in most of its decisions: reliability, affordability, resiliency, stability and environmental sustainability. The bill also cuts in half the amount of power utilities can buy from the grid during peak demand. That means they’d have to show they can generate about 85 percent of their energy themselves or from contracts with other companies. Proponents of the bill hope it will help ensure electric utilities in the state are reliable as Indiana moves toward more renewable energy sources. It now moves to the state Senate for consideration.” (Indiana Public Media)

HB 1219 PFAS biomonitoring
This bill will track exposure to PFAS chemicals among firefighters. Read the full text of HB 1219. Passed the House Environmental Affairs Committee and was referred to the House Ways & Means Committee. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

SB 176 Small modular nuclear reactors 
“Last year, Indiana passed a law instructing a state utility commission to lay the groundwork and offer incentives for small modular nuclear reactors or SMRs.” Rolls Royce, which employs 4,000 in Indianapolis, is developing a reactor that is larger and this bill seeks to accommodate that. The new bill would “up the megawatt capacity limit from 350 megawatts to what Rolls Royce’s is expected to be — 470 megawatts… But there are a lot of unknowns about SMRs. None of them have been built in the U.S. and many proposed projects are already over budget — some by billions of dollars. The Union of Concerned Scientists and environmental groups also question the safety of the plants and their waste.” (WFYI) Passed the Senate unanimously and moves to the House.

Voting rights
House Bill 1116 Various elections matters
This bill would disenfranchise from voting anyone who is convicted of felony election fraud for 10 years. This bill would affect fewer people than are struck by lightening each year. Still, it sends a message to the mega base that Indiana is tough on voter fraud, fueling lies about voting in Indiana where there is little voter fraud but plenty of restrictions that prevent and discourage voting, making Indiana in the bottom ten of all the states in voter turnout. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed out of the elections Committee 6-4 and was assigned to Ways and Means Committee.

HB1334 Absentee voting
[Rep Wesco (R-Osceola), author of the above bill] has been joined by several of his House Republican colleagues in his efforts to discredit convenient mail-in voting, including Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, who is calling for a summer study to “determine if voting by mail is as secure as in-person voting.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Assigned to Elections Committee where it has not yet received a hearing.

Women’s health
SB 252 Long acting reversible contraceptives
Allows for LARCS to be transferred between Medicaid recipients. Passed unanimously out of Committee to the Senate floor.

Passed the House
House Joint Resolution 1
Removes the superintendent of public instruction from the list of officeholders who shall discharge the powers and duties of the governor if the office of the governor and lieutenant governor are both vacant. This proposed amendment has been agreed to by one general assembly. Passed 99-0 and goes to the Senate. If it passes there, it be on the general ballot in 2024.

House Bill 1290 Earned income tax credit
Under this bill “half a million low-income Hoosier families could soon see an increase in their earned income tax credits and more could qualify…” Passed unanimously in the House and heads to the Senate. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1015 Worksite speed control pilot program
The Indiana House advanced a bill 70-28 Monday that would allow the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to use license plate cameras to enforce speed limits in highway work zones. ill author Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, has backed the bill in the House for several years. Previous attempts to get such legislation passed were unsuccessful, however. Pressel’s latest proposal would create a pilot program for speed cameras. The technology would ticket drivers going more than 11 mph over the speed limit in an active work zone. Only four cameras could be used statewide. Passed the House 70-28. View the vote.

House Bill 1076 Indiana National Guard matters
Makes court martialing and punishing Indiana National Guard tropps easier. Identical bill passed the House.
Passed 74-24. View the vote.

House Bill 1349  Outdoor refreshment areas
Gives cities the option to serve alcohol in “outdoor refreshment areas”. (WANE) Passed 87-7. View the vote.

Passed the Senate
Senate Bill 279 Indiana National Guard matters
A bill to make court-martialing and punishing Indiana National Guard troops easier passed the Senate with strong support. An identical version already passed the House too. One part of the bills faced opposition at every step – but not enough to change them.   (WFIU) Passed 40-9 View the vote.

Senate Bill 179 would bar people convicted of level one felonies from 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. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously in the Senate.

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 unanimously in the Senate and was referred to the House.

In other news

.Attorney General Todd Rokita has amended a contract with a Washington, D.C., law firm to pay up to an additional $100,000 to pursue his fight involving an Indianapolis physician who performs abortions. 
(The Statehouse File)

“Health care services company Centene Corp. will pay Indiana nearly $66.5 million to resolve allegations that it overcharged the state’s Medicaid program for pharmacy services “ (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The Portage Police Department has finally implemented use of body-worn cameras for their officers, an initiative Chief Michael Candiano said he has pushed for since assuming the role of police chief.  
(Times of Northwest Indiana)

Republican U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz said Friday she would not seek reelection to her Indiana seat next year or jump into the Republican primary for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.  
(AP Indiana)

Indiana again led the nation in steel production last year, single-handedly accounting for nearly a fourth of the nation’s output. (Times of Northwest Indiana)

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