Weekly Legislative Update 03/22/2023

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

Take action.

Contact your legislator. In addition, the Indiana ACLU and the ISTA have made taking action easy. Just click on the links below. Please consider contacting your legislator on your own as well. They need to be overwhelmed with our messages.

The Indiana ACLU makes it easy to take action against the bills they’ve dubbed the  “slate of hate.”: 
HB 1608 is a “don’t say gay” bill that also forces teachers to out students; HB 1608 is still in the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development where it has been scheduled for a hearing. You can contact members by clicking on the link and then on ‘members’ on the left side of the page.
SB 12 censors books in schools, opening librarians and teachers up to felony prosecution. These bills have historically been used to ban books related to LGBTQ topics. SB 12 has been assigned to the House Education Committee where it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. The Indiana State Teachers Association also makes it easy to take action: https://www.ista-in.org/our-advocacy/ista-advocacy-center
HB 1569 denies access to gender-affirming care for people housed in the Department of Corrections. HB 1569 has passed out of committee to the Senate floor for debate and vote.
SB 480 bans essential medical care for trans youth. It is on its way to a House vote, having passed through committee It would ban nearly all forms of science-based medical care available to transgender youth, prohibiting families and doctors from providing this life-saving care to youth who need it. “The bill would ban the use of puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapies and surgical procedures – but only if the minor is diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Bill author Sen. Tyler Johnson said other children could continue to get those “irreversible, unproven and life-altering” treatments under other medical diagnoses. Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond — who chairs the committee — didn’t allow amendments to the bill, saying those decisions would be made in front of the full House Chamber.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
This bill passed through committee despite testimony by doctors, parents and transgender youth who are vehemently opposed.
The bill now goes to the full House for debate and vote. This is the last step before it goes to the governor and with his signature becomes law. Contact your representative.
Take action with Indiana ACLU.

Take action: 
House Bill 1001, State budget, will greatly increase taxpayer funding for private schools at the expense of public schools. Private schools do not have to meet the transparency or oversight requirements that public schools do, nor do they have to accept every student who applies.
“We’re funding more and more money for students to go to private schools, when their results academically are decreasing,” said Joel Hand, representing the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and the American Federation of Teachers of Indiana.. “Private school choice is not educational freedom for the parents, but is rather an opportunity for these private schools to pick and choose which students they want,” Hand continued. “The very nature of private schools means that they can — and do — discriminate.”  (Indiana Capital Chronicle) 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.
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education has made it easy to take action: Click here.
The Indiana State Teachers Association also makes it easy to take action: Click here.
Continue to contact your legislators. There’s a huge push from private school advocates to increase vouchers at the expense of public schools:
House Bill 1334, Absentee voting, will make voting by mail more difficult and could create a barrier for voters, especially the elderly and disabled. It will require identification numbers that had not been previously required. [This bill] would make identification mandatory, and more. Passed out of the Committee on Elections 8-2 and heads to the Senate floor for a vote (Indiana Capital Chronicle)   Contact your senator.
When you call your legislator, keep this in mind (from MADVoters Indiana):

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


Passed both chambers, goes to Governor Holcomb next
Senate Bill 9, Energy utilities, “require utilities to provide the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) with at least six months notice if they plan to retire, sell or transfer a generating facility of at least an 80-megawatt capacity. Supporters maintain the bill will help ensure statewide energy reliability and keep Indiana from relying too heavily on natural gas. Some energy advocates are more hesitant, however, expressing concern that the measure could slow the state’s transition to cleaner energy sources.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed the House 68-25. View the vote.

Senate Bill 114
When a landlord collects utility payments from tenants but doesn’t pay the bill for more than 60 days, those utility payments will go into a specially designated receivership which will pay the bill. Passed unanimously (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 374  “increases the maximum pay a trustee serving on a regional water, sewage or solid waste district can receive from $50 to $150 per day…but, as a “may” provision, doesn’t mandate that local units increase their pay.” Passed unanimously (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1076
“The Indiana Senate on Thursday passed a much-disputed proposal barring Indiana National Guard members from demanding a military trial — or court-martial — in lieu of non-judicial punishment.”  (Indiana Capital Chronicle) View the vote.

Still making its way through the legislature:
SB 167 advanced 84-9 from the House and would require all Hoosier high school seniors to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), except in cases where a parent submits a signed waiver, or if a school administrator is unable to make contact with a student’s guardian.” Goes back to the Senate with amendments. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

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. You can make your voice heard easily through the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Senate Bill 167 that would require Indiana’s high school seniors to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) advanced 11-1 from the House Education Committee after lawmakers adopted an amendment to sunset the provisions in 2033. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 404 that would increase students’ access to college and university transcripts  passed the House and goes back to the Senate with amendments. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 340 that would bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program to the entire state passed out of the Education Committee and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s budget proposed $4.1 million to implement the program, which provides every child up to age 5 with one book each month. It wasn’t included in the House-approved budget, however. Negotiations over the state’s next two-year spending plan are ongoing. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1382 that would provide grants to eligible Indiana schools and robotics teams passed out of the Education and Career Development Committee and now heads to the Appropriations Committee. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 321 Student health matters outlaws current state law permitting schools to include a student’s immunization information with their high school transcript (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Passed unanimously out of committee to the House floor.

House Bill 1449 that would automatically enroll eligible Hoosier students into the 21st Century Scholars Program — a statewide grant program that funds lower income student attendance at two- and four-year schools — advanced to the Appropriations Committee. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

SB 391 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. This bill is still in the Education Committee where it hasn’t yet been scheduled for a hearing. (Chalkbeat Indiana)

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.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)  Has been assigned to the Education Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

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. Has been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee where it has been scheduled for a hearing but has not received a vote. (Indiana Senate Democrats

SB 35, Financial literacy, would require all Hoosier high schoolers to take a personal finance course is moving forward. (Chalkbeat Indiana) Has not yet been heard in the Financial Literacy Committee.

Senate Bill 451 is part of a years-long effort to move forward the construction of carbon capture and sequestration projects, while also giving special privileges to an Indiana company that is preparing to undertake the nation’s largest carbon dioxide storage project.
Farmers and other landowners have expressed repeated concerns that the proposal would allow the company to store its carbon emissions under their land without consent or fair compensation.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) This bill passed the House with amendments and goes back to the Senate for approval. View the vote in the House.

Hoosier Environmental Council urges you to contact your legislator to oppose:
House Bill 1623 “includes revisions to the process for adoption of emergency rules, shortens the time period when rules must be readopted from seven to five years, and requires agencies to prepare a detailed regulatory analysis for proposed rules. Instead of streamlining the rulemaking process, these provisions could make it more burdensome. Most significant for NW Indiana legislators in committee “added language to prevent IDEM from adopting coal ash disposal rules more stringent than the EPA coal ash rule. The EPA rule, adopted in 2015, greatly strengthened oversight requirements for coal ash ponds and landfills, but does have gaps and weaknesses that electric utilities have exploited.” (Hoosier Environmental Council)

SB 242 “would increase flood risk in Indiana. It would repeal part of the Indiana Flood Control Act that requires local floodplain administrators to use the best available floodplain maps when considering construction permits. It would also require property sellers to tell buyers if any portion of the property is in the floodplain on a FEMA map.
If SB 242 passes, then more buildings will be built in flood-prone areas and property buyers could be given false assurances that a property is not in the floodplain, when it actually is.”  (Hoosier Environmental Council) Passed out of committee to the House floor for a vote.

Hoosier Environmental Council urges you to contact your legislator to support:
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. Watersheds are the natural boundaries for water movement in the landscape.” (Hoosier Environmental Council)

Being considered in the Senate:
House Bill 1186 “would establish a 25-foot ‘buffer zone’ around law enforcement officers conducting official business, such as an arrest.” Although several Republicans stood up and expressed their concerns about the bill, only one voted against it. Passed 32-10 and goes back to the House with amendments. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1365 Machine guns
“Machine gun conversion devices are illegal on the federal level, but a Senate committee on Monday advanced a bill unanimously, adding them to the state’s definition of a machine gun.
The small plastic switches, which can be 3D-printed, can turn a semi-automatic gun into one that can fire continuously as long as the trigger is down” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1421 “would allow utilities to use a financing option known as Construction Work in Progress, or CWIP, in which customers pay for the natural gas project gradually — rather than with sudden rate increases.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Democrats objected, “maintaining that CWIP takes “accountability off the table” for utilities and leaves ratepayers taking all the risk, upfront, for projects that could be obsolete in the not-so-distant future.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed the Senate 31-10. View the vote. Goes back to the House with amendments.

HB 1321 Public safety training, requires the law enforcement training board to establish minimum standards for basic training and annual inservice training that address the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers. Passed out of committee to the Senate floor for consideration.

House Bill 1009 would allow courts to order biological fathers to pay for certain pregnancy and postpartum costs moved out of the Senate Chamber and goes back to the House with an amendment that limits payments to “reasonable costs.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

HB 1422 Dementia care. Requires an area agency on aging designated by the bureau of aging services (area agency) to establish a dementia care specialist program. Allows an area agency to designate at least one individual as a dementia care specialist to administer the program.
The bill “is still alive in the Indiana General Assembly, but its modest $1.5 million annual price tag was stripped from the bill before it left the House and was not included in the House-passed budget.
Other than clinical and supportive services the state pays for Medicaid recipients, our Indiana state budget provides no other community supports specific to Alzheimer’s and dementia.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1009 broadens the childbirth and pregnancy costs for which fathers can legally be on the hook.  But fathers have to undergo paternity tests and the costs have to be “reasonable.’ Passed the Senate with amendments and so goes back to the House. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

HB 1568 Prescription for hormonal contraceptives
Allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense oral and patch hormonal contraceptives. Has been scheduled in the Health and Provider Services Committee.

House Bill 1008 is an anti-ESG measure that 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, directing INPRS to select certain companies—including fossil fuel and gun manufacturing—for investing and prohibiting investments in any company that considers diversity, the environment or social justice issues. Has been assigned to the Pensions and Labor Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

House Bill 1015 “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 and construction workers would have to be present.” The Senate transportation committee advanced the bill 8-1.
(Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 176 increases the threshold for “small” reactors from 350 megawatts to 470 megawatts, explicitly because an Indiana company with ties to a proposed United Kingdom facility said they’d be building 450 megawatt facilities. Democratic opposition noted that the language of this bill “put the risk of the unproven technology on the shoulders of shareholders [and]…opens to the door to bigger, much riskier nuclear energy facilities… Additionally, national and federal standards already defined a small reactor as one generating up to 300 megawatts of energy.
The bill passed 70-21. The Senate will still need to sign off on changes made in the measure. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Being considered in the House:
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.” Has been assigned to the House Committee on Criminal Code where it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. (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) Has been assigned to the Committee on Courts and Criminal Code where it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Senate Bill 477  “would ban the state and local governments from contracting with “prohibited” entities — citizens and companies from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia and any others the governor deems a threat — on “critical infrastructure” projects. The bill also blocks those tizens and companies from buying or leasing land next to military facilities. Advanced out of committee unanimously and now goes to the full Senate. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

SB 334, Simplified application for SNAP benefits, would simplify requirements for SNAP (Supplemental nutrition assistance program) for people over 60 and people with disabilities. Passed the House and was returned to the Senate.

Senate Bill 292  directs the INPRS board 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. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Has been assigned to Financial institutions Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Senate Bill 154
“A multiyear separation-of-powers dispute among two branches of Lake County government appears likely to be resolved in favor of the status quo.
The House Local Government Committee unanimously endorsed a Senate-approved proposal Tuesday that would keep the county’s purchasing and data processing agencies under control of the board of commissioners, instead of transferring management to the county council.” (NWI Times)

Senate Bill 43, Residency of 911 operators, “would remove residency requirements for 911 operators across the state. Sandlin said the bill should help increase the number of employed operators at a time when 911 centers are “very” in need.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Likely dead
House Bill 1407 “includes a quasi-parents bill of rights, declaring that parents have “the fundamental right to direct” how they raise their children.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle

In other news
“Hoosier parents can officially register kids for the state’s On My Way Pre-K program for the 2023-24 school year, state officials announced Monday.
The grant-based program provides access to free pre-kindergarten education for Indiana children from low-income families.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“At least 15 sitting legislators are operating consulting gigs on the side. This leads to worry that lawmakers are trading on their position of power and knowledge for paid clients, all of which is shrouded in secrecy.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Indiana’s Public Retirement System is the first known state pension system to contract with anti-ESG firm Strive Advisory, LLC and its co-founder Vivek Ramaswamy.  (Indiana Capitol Chronicle)

“Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. is asking Indiana’s highest court to dismiss the criminal indictment approved 14 months ago by a Lake County grand jury against Martinez for resisting law enforcement, a level 6 felony, and misdemeanor reckless driving.” (NWI Times)

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


Enacted, signed into law by the President

S. 619: COVID–19 Origin Act of 2023
GovTrack.us: “A bill to require the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information relating to the origin of COVID-19, and for other purposes.”
H.J.Res. 26: Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022

Vetoed, no override attempt:
H.J.Res. 30: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights”.

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

In other news

“The Biden administration has approved the massive Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, angering climate advocates and setting the stage for a court challenge.
The Willow Project is a decades long oil drilling venture in the National Petroleum Reserve, which is owned by the federal government. The area where the project is planned holds up to 600 million barrels of oil, though that oil would take years to reach the market since the project has yet to be constructed… The approval is a victory for Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation and a coalition of Alaska Native tribes and groups who hailed the drilling venture as a much-needed new source of revenue and jobs for the remote region… But it is a major blow to climate groups and Alaska Natives who opposed Willow and argued the project will hurt the president’s ambitious climate goals and pose health and environmental risks… Ultimately, the administration felt they were constrained legally and had few options to cancel or significantly curtail the project – which was initially approved by the Trump administration.” Biden also announced “sweeping new protections for federal lands and waters in Alaska in tandem with Willow approval.” (CNN)
“President Joe Biden said Tuesday he is establishing national monuments on more than half a million acres in Nevada and Texas and creating a marine sanctuary in U.S. waters near the Pacific Remote Islands southwest of Hawaii. The conservation measures are “protecting the heart and soul of our national pride,″ Biden said.” (Associated Press)
President Biden issued an executive order that “seeks to expand background checks intended to prevent felons or domestic abusers from buying guns, largely by leaning on federally licensed gun dealers to comply or educating others who may not realize they are required to run background checks under existing law…” (Reuters)
“The Environmental Protection Agency on proposed the first federal limits on harmful “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a long-awaited protection the agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.” (Associated Press)
“The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter point on Wednesday as it attempts to fight stubbornly high inflation while addressing risks to financial stability…
The banking chaos has stoked fears not just that the central bank could overcorrect the economy into recession but that it could trigger more bank failures, and prominent economists have urged the Fed to pause rate hikes.
That’s partially because rate hikes have undermined the value of Treasuries and other securities, a critical source of capital for most US banks. When Silicon Valley Bank was forced to sell those bonds quickly at a substantial loss, the bank ran into a liquidity crisis and collapsed.” (CNN)
“A federal judge ordered Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury assembled to review the mishandling of White House records at Mar-a-Lago…” (The Hill
“Slovakia announced it would send 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming weeks, joining fellow NATO member Poland. Slovakia’s MiG-29s were retired last summer and most are not operational. The country plans to send those that are, with the rest going as spare parts for Ukraine’s existing fleet.
On Thursday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country would deliver four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in “the next few days,” making Poland the first NATO country to supply fighter planes to Ukraine. Slovakia is also a NATO member.” (NPR)
“The International Criminal Court on Friday announced charges against Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova relating to an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.” (CNN)