Weekly Legislative Update 03/12/2023

You can make a difference

Our next public meeting will be March 30, 6pm at the Portage Library, 2665 Irving St., Portage.
Be a part of planning and taking action as we work to bring about progressive change.

  • During our Jan. public meeting we shared an Open Letter to the Democratic Party with our ideas for needed change. We added your input from that meeting and sent the letter to Democratic leadership, politicians, and active members.
  • During our early March public meeting we formed working groups to plan actions we can take as Indivisibles.
  • On March 30 we’ll meet to report progress and plan concrete and meaningful actions. 

Now is the time to take action. Join us! Please register here.

Join Congressman Frank Mrvan for a Community Day of Action at the Food Bank of NWI, 6490 Broadway, Merrillville, on March 31, 9-11am. RSVP: judy@mrvanforcongress.com
In Indiana all bills passed by the House are now being considered in the Senate. Contact your Senator about House bills that concern you and your community. Contact your Representative about Senate bills.
In some cases organizations have made taking action easy and we’ve provided the link. We urge you, however, to take additional action—call, write and email—and do that often. The more our legislators hear from us, the more impact we will have. Find and contact your legislator here.
Bills that require our action:
The Indiana State Teachers Association has made it easy to take action of the following bills: 
SB 12  would open teachers and librarians to criminal prosecution over educational materials. Even without convictions, this bill will have a chilling effect of the availability of quality books for Hoosier children. Read excellent comments from local Senator Rodney Pol and others that may help when you are composing your letters and readying your phone calls: WFYI
SB 486 would strip teachers’ rights to discuss concerns over student learning with school administrators – an effort that will negatively impact students and worsen Indiana’s already historic teacher shortage.
The proposed budget, HB 1001 increases spending on private school vouchers by 70%, while increasing traditional public school funding, where 90% of Hoosier students attend, by only 5%.

  • The current budget would provide more than $1 billion for wealthy families making up to $220,000 to attend private school for free without the accountability that is needed and is required of public schools. In essence, this budget provides taxpayer money to the wealthy with no strings attached. At the same time, it severely shortchanges most Hoosier children. Hearings continue on Monday in the Appropriations Committee. You can contact members of the committee by clicking on ‘members’ on the left side of the page.
  • “Charter schools in Indiana could see big gains under the current draft of the next two-year state budget. But the deal could cause long-term losses for traditional public schools, some of which stand to lose millions of dollars needed for teacher raises and other non-classroom expenses” Charters can turn away students, have private boards not accountable to the public and are not subject to the same budgetary oversight as public schools. Read more detail to bolster your letters and phone calls at Indiana Capital Chronicle.
  • Indiana Coalition for Public Education is urging Hoosiers to speak out in person against vouchers in the state budget at the Statehouse on Thursday, March 16—arrive by 10am. You can go in support or to speak in the School Funding Subcommittee. ICPE tells you how to testify and offers training: https://www.indianacoalitionforpubliced.org/2023/03/10/speak-out-at-the-statehouse-prioritize-public-school-kids/ 

Indiana ACLU has made it easy to take action against bills they have called the “slate of hate”—bills that target Hoosier children:

  • HB 1608 would censor or even ban discussion or acknowledgement of LGBTQ people in schools. It would also force teachers and school administrators to “out” transgender students without their consent — risking their safety at both home and school.
  • SB 480 would ban nearly all forms of science-based medical care available to transgender youth, prohibiting families ad doctors from providing this life-saving care to youth who need it. Bills like this go against the medical advice of every major medical association in the country, and violate the rights of parents and families to make decisions about their children’s health. This bill is part of a coordinated campaign to drive transgender people, particularly youth, out of public life.

 Contact your legislator:
SB 391
School districts may have to turn over underused buildings to charters
This bill clarifies that public school districts must lend unused buildings to charter schools and nonprofits for $1. It expands the law to cover underused buildings, rather than just vacant ones, which could in theory create situations in which districts carry capital debt for buildings they are leasing to charters.” Neither the $1 building law nor the new bill to expand it apply to charter schools. (Chalkbeat Indiana)
SB 327 establishes a governing structure for the Gary Community School Corporation. 
Local legislators authored bills that established local control for the corporation after years of state control Those bills did not pass their respective chambers. Following his no vote for the bill, Senator Melton issued a statement that said in part, “While SB 327 does bring us closer to local control, it is still not what the people of Gary want at this time. The Gary Community is ready for stability, which includes leading our own district.” The bill can be amended in the House to give Gary local control. (Indiana Senate Democrats
House Bill 1334 Absentee voting
“Right now, voters requesting absentee ballots are asked — but not required — to provide the last four digits of their Social Security Numbers on their applications. That applies to mail-in ballot applications, as well as applications for traveling board, military-overseas and other others.
[This bill] would make identification mandatory, and more. It would require a voter to put down those last four numbers, or one of three other identifiers…County election boards would have to match at least one of the numbers with information in the voter’s registration record…It would give the Secretary of State — currently Diego Morales — broad powers to “prescribe any other procedures necessary to implement” certain provisions dealing with how to get new applications to and from voters.” Most who testified about the bill in committee did so in opposition—this is an unnecessary bill that could disenfranchise voters by making voting more difficult, especially for the elderly and disabled. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
House Bill 1177 Handgun training for teachers
This bill would provide a state-funded handgun training program for teachers that could result in more guns in classrooms. Read more at WTHR
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
Senate Bill 348 “infringes on Hoosiers’ ability to exercise their first amendment right to protest. This proposal would make it a crime to picket or protest outside someone’s home, including on public access property…” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
When you call your legislator, keep this in mind (from MADVoters Indiana):

  • Whenever you call your legislators and tell them that you support or oppose a bill, that information gets recorded in their system. The more contacts we make, the greater our impact. Your contacts don’t just go in one ear and out the other.
  • Calls are typically more effective than emails due to the number of emails they receive, but both methods of contact are noted.
  • You can write letters to your legislators! Address your letters to Attn: [Legislator’s Name], 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204


Senate Bill 292 and House Bill 1008 INPRS pensions
Although the Indiana Public Retirement System is already ensuring that pension contributions remain stable, Republicans are taking aim at the consideration of investments that favor environmental, social or governance factors, something INPRS does not do. Senate Bill 292 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” and to not take any action to influence any social or environmental policy, or attempt to influence the governance of any corporation for nonpecuniary purposes.
House Bill 1008] is more explicitly anti-ESG and is a “mishmash of confusing definitions, prescriptive policies and a literal picking of winners and losers in the free market — an act many Republicans say government should never be doing.” (NWI Times) It will cost state pensioners $5.5 million worth of returns. (Indiana Public Radio).

House Bill 1001 State budget
In addition to education funding as stated above, the budget would, by 2025, increase Senate salaries by 14.3% and House salaries by 18%. Currently legislators earn $70,000.
Public health funding would get a boost, but less than the Governor proposed and with a 25% buy in from each county. The executive director of the Association of Indiana Counties has said that cost to counties will leave many counties out. He also prefers a five year funding commitment to the current yearly. Senate hearings for the budget begin on Tuesday. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Hoosier Environmental Council urges us to take action to increase conservation funding in the budget. There’s an easy way to take action for conservation and to encourage others to join you. Head to their website and fill out a quick form to tell your state legislators that conservation funding matters to you. “Conservation funding has remained at significant levels in the House version f the state budget (HB 1001). However, the House did reduce Governor Holcomb’s stated request of $25 million for the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust to $15 million.” (HEC)

HB 1002 Education and workforce matters
This bill, “which House Republicans have said will “reinvent high school” by allowing students to meet graduation requirements through career experience, gives students state-funded scholarship accounts to spend on workforce training outside their schools”. Democratic lawmakers opposed this bill, saying it has too many unanswered questions about its scope and funding. (Chalkbeat Indiana)

SB 380 makes changes to the calculation for graduation rate and addresses graduation waivers and dress code policies. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

SB 284 is the annual special prosecutor bill: the legislation is in direct response to Indianapolis choosing not to prosecute for the possession of small amounts of cannabis. This legislation would require a special prosecutor to be called to prosecute crimes in another county, penalizes “noncompliant prosecutors,” and overrides the discretion of elected officials acting in their communities’ interests. . (Indiana Senate Democrats)

House Bill 1186 Encroachment on an investigation
This bill “says that people who “knowingly or intentionally” get within 25 feet of law enforcement officers doing their jobs would commit “unlawful encroachment on an investigation” if the officers have asked them to back off. The new crime would be a Class C misdemeanor.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

SB 134 is both a big government proposal and a promotion of animal cruelty. This bill prohibits municipalities from placing restrictions and regulations around the retail sale of dogs. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

“In HB 1623, Indiana lawmakers are again proposing far-reaching changes to the way state agencies adopt regulations that implement state and federal laws. In the House, “no more stringent than” language was added to this bill to prevent IDEM from adopting coal ash disposal rules that are stricter than the EPA coal ash rule. The EPA rule greatly strengthened oversight requirements for coal ash ponds and landfills, but does have gaps and weaknesses that electric utilities have exploited.” (Hoosier Environmental Council)

House Bill 1421 Electric generating facility construction
This bill would grant construction work in progress (CWIP) designation to the electric utilities for the construction of natural gas plants. CWIP allows utilities to charge customers for power plants before they produce any electricity and even if they never produce electricity.

HB 1420, Electric transmission facilities, undermines competition against monopoly utilities by blocking competitive bidding on highly expensive projects.

Some good:
House Bill 1466, Juror compensation, would boost pay for jurors — but would hike an existing fee and create a brand-new fee to help local units of government cover the new expenses. Passed unanimously out of committee and will be heard in the Appropriations Committee before it advances to the full Senate.

House Bill 1009
This bill would broaden the pregnancy and childbirth expenses for which fathers can legally be held responsible.

Senate Bill 434 addresses blight and promotes economic development in Lake County The bill which also allows for investment in the Gary Metro station. Read more at Indiana Senate Democrats.

Senate Bill 1. would appropriate $30M over the biennium to support mental health by building out a system of certified community behavioral
health clinics across the state. SB 1 also seeks to expand our 988 crisis response line. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

SB 4, would allow the Indiana Department of Health to provide district and regional services to local health departments on an opt-in basis. It authorizes the IDOH to provide funding and guidance to local health departments and seeks to increase access to care for residents across the state. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

SB 252 authorizes long-acting contraceptives prescribed to a Medicaid recipient to be transferred to another Medicaid patient if the prescription has gone unused, minimizing waste and costs for Hoosiers and hospitals. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

HB 1091, Continuous eligibility under Medicaid and CHIP, changes requirement to submit CHIP/Medicaid eligibility documents to no more than once per year for those 19 and younger to ensure consistent healthcare on these plans.

SB 1, Behavioral health matters, would provide for critically important mental health services in Indiana, including behavioral health clinics and additional support for the 988 mental health crisis line.

Senate Bill 136 addresses the danger to law enforcement created by the permit-less carry law passed last year. Under that law enforcement had no way to easily identify when an individual is illegally accessing a firearm. SB 136 creates a system to transmit data on “prohibited persons,” so officers in the field can readily identify individuals who are not authorized to access a firearm. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

SB 415 provides increased protection for juveniles during interrogation. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

SB 205 creates a task force aimed at reducing violent crime, which has spiked in recent years. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

HB 1321 Public safety training, requires the law enforcement training board to establish minimum standards for basic training and annual in-service training that address the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers.

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.” (Hoosier Environmental Council)

House bills 1558 and 1590 and Senate bills 402 and 443 — are about the science of reading. The proposals include defining the term, making requirements for it such as district reports, and teacher prep.(Indiana Public Radio) and (Statehouse File)

SB 35, Financial literacy, would require all Hoosier high schoolers to take a personal finance course is moving forward. (Chalkbeat Indiana)

Senate Bill 167 would require all students, with certain exceptions like for those at some nonpublic schools and for students whose parents sign a waiver, to complete the FAFSA by that state deadline  during their senior year.” The hope is that “filling out the FAFSA would show Hoosier families more aid options and potentially change that, in turn, improve Indiana’s college going rate.” (Chalkbeat Indiana)

SB 233 creates the Vision Zero Task Force to study infrastructure safety in Indiana. This bill aims to reduce accidents caused by poor infrastructure. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

SB 424, would make Lake Michigan safer and prevent drownings by requiring safety equipment at public access points on the lake. (Indiana Senate Democrats)

HB 1639 would create an option for Indiana counties to join together to form Watershed Development Commissions. These commissions could work on both water quantity and water quality issues in their watershed using small assessments on the properties in the watershed. (Hoosier Environmental Council)

SB 114, Receivership for past due utility bills, provides renters with increased utility service protections, guarantying running water and necessary electricity.

SB 334, Simplified application for SNAP benefits, would simplify requirements for SNAP (Supplemental nutrition assistance program) for people over 60 and people with disabilities.

HB 1568, Prescription for hormonal contraceptives, allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense oral and patch hormonal contraceptives.

In other news
“Walgreens said it won’t dispense abortion pills in Indiana after Attorney General Todd Rokita and 19 other attorneys general threatened legal action if the pharmacy company sells the pills by mail.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso welcomed First Lady Jill Biden and other federal officials Monday in a visit highlighting the “affordable pathways to good-paying jobs” at the institutions for higher learning.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

A new report by the Anti-Defamation Indiana’s near-total abortion ban is in strange legal territory.   (News and Tribune)
 showed that Indiana saw an 80% increase in public displays of white supremacy in 2022. (WISH-TV)

“Gov. Eric Holcomb reported late Wednesday that results from third-party testing on the hazardous waste coming from East Palestine show no harmful levels of dioxins.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

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


Passed the House and Senate, goes to the President next
H.J.Res. 26: Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022.
Passed Senate without amendment by Yea-Nay Vote. 81 – 14
After this bill passed the House, President Biden surprised Democrats by announcing he would support the resolution. The Washington, D.C., crime bill  would have, among other things, reduced mandatory maximums for carjackings at a time when auto thefts are way up in the district. (NPR)

Passed the House, goes to the Senate next
H.R. 140: Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill generally prohibits federal employees from censoring the speech of others while acting in an official capacity.
Specifically, the bill prohibits employees of executive agencies or who are otherwise in the competitive service from (1) using their official authority to influence or advocate for a third party, including a private entity, to censor speech; (2) censoring the speech of any person who has a pending regulatory application with, or is the subject of or a participant in an active enforcement action by, the employee’s office; or (3) engaging in censorship while on duty, wearing a uniform, or using official government property. Certain presidential appointees may not censor speech at any time, including outside normal duty hours.” Passed 219 – 206. View the vote
H.J.Res. 27: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’”.
GovTrack.us: “This joint resolution nullifies the rule titled Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States,” which was submitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency on January 18, 2023. The rule specifies which bodies of water fall under the scope of the Clean Water Act and are thereby under federal jurisdiction. The 2023 rule replaced a 2020 rule that included a narrower definition of waters of the United States.” Passed 226-198 with Reps Mrvan and Carson voting nay and all other Indiana reps voting yea.
President Biden opposes this resolution and has promised to veto it. Read the White House statement here.
H.R. 1123: Understanding Cybersecurity of Mobile Networks Act
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 393 – 22.
H.R. 1226: Wounded Warrior Access Act
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 422 – 0.
H.R. 815: RELIEVE Act
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote
H.R. 753: VA COST SAVINGS Enhancements Act
Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 426 – 0
Passed the Senate, House next
S. 645: A bill to require the Attorney General to propose a program for making treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder available to public safety officers, and for other purposes.
Passed without amendment by Voice Vote.
S. 724: A bill to protect children against sexual abuse and exploitation, and for other purposes.
Passed without amendment by Unanimous Consent.
S. 758: A bill to amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to protect personally identifiable information, and for other purposes.
Passed without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

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

In other news

Three Republican-led states on Monday pulled out of a bipartisan effort among states to ensure accurate voter lists, undermining a system with a demonstrated record of combating voter fraud.
The moves, encouraged by former President Donald Trump, are the latest indication of how conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential outcome continue to ripple throughout the Republican Party and upend long-established traditions in how the country administers elections. (Associated Press)

“Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News show that two days before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, network host Tucker Carlson was excited about the prospect of no longer having to cover former President Donald Trump, telling staffers, “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.” One person responded, “I want nothing more,” to which Carlson replied, “I hate him passionately.” Carlson went on to say that when it came to Trump’s four years in office, “We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There really isn’t an upside to Trump.”” (The Week)

“Regulators shuttered SVB [Silicon Valley Bank] Friday and seized its deposits in the largest U.S. banking failure since the 2008 financial crisis and the second-largest ever. The company’s downward spiral began late Wednesday, when it surprised investors with news that it needed to raise $2.25 billion to shore up its balance sheet. What followed was the rapid collapse of a highly-respected bank that had grown alongside its technology clients.The episode is the latest fallout from the Federal Reserve’s actions to stem inflation with its most aggressive rate hiking campaign in four decades. The ramifications could be far-reaching, with concerns that startups may be unable to pay employees in coming days, venture investors may struggle to raise funds, and an already-battered sector could face a deeper malaise.” (CNBC)

President Biden released his budget: Biden’s proposal is a $6.9 trillion package that includes spending on some of his long-time priorities like universal preschool, paid leave and child care funding. With a divided Congress, the offer is most likely dead on arrival, but it will serve as a starting point for negotiations with a GOP-led House. (NPR)