Weekly Legislative Update 4/03/2023

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House Bill 1001, State budget, is being heard and decided in the Senate, having passed the House with no Democratic votes.
The House version of the budget included an unprecedented increase in education vouchers, which amounts to roughly a third of the overall K-12 budget increase. Democrats argue that most public schools will lose out under the proposal.
Legislators were urged to do more for child care — a lack of which hurts their ability to attract workers, they said. Though eligibility and dollar amounts have increased for On My Way Pre-K, the amount of funding hasn’t. 
Several health care providers, including dentists and home health organizations, urged the committee to consider Medicaid reimbursement rates, which they say have lagged behind costs and de-incentivizes providers to participate in the government health insurance programs. Only impoverished Hoosiers qualify for Medicaid.
Some also called up the legislature to increase the cigarette tax to $2, up from $0.99 currently, to promote smoking cessation and reduce Indiana’s high smoking rate, which many say contributes to Indiana’s poor health metrics. 

More on House Bill 1001 State budget
Each newsletter has denounced the defunding of public schools to fund private and charters with an unprecedented increase in vouchers, creating eligibility requirements that far exceed those for poor Hoosiers. Legislators are also working to silence teachers, remove good books from collections, and are paying no attention to the critical teacher shortage. You can make your voice heard in person by joining the Indiana State Teachers Association for Pack the House on Thursday, April 13. Read more about this important action and register here.
“Democratic state lawmakers continue to decry education funding “inequities” in the state’s draft budget and are now mounting pressure on their Republican counterparts to “fully fund” Indiana’s traditional K-12 public schools in the next spending plan.
House Republicans tout that nearly half of their budget proposal, 48%, goes to K-12 education, which will get a “historic” boost of nearly $2 billion over its current appropriation. 
But members of the minority caucus argue that one-third of that new funding will go to the Choice Scholarship program — which allows families to receive vouchers to attend private schools…[In addition, Democrats], an “accounting ploy” by House Republicans unfairly forces traditional K-12 schools across the state — including in GOP districts — to be on the hook financially for students’ textbook costs and saddles districts “with an effective budget cut.”.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle
Compare Indiana’s assistance to families and children living in poverty to this generous funding for private schools. Families have to be very poor to qualify for things like food assistance and child care while wealthy families are subsidized to send their children to any private or homeschool. It’s an enlightening comparison; read more at Indiana Capital Chronicle.
Take action. It’s easy—click here to contact your legislator through the Indiana State Teachers Association. Then email, write and call your legislator. The more they hear from us, the more we influence their vote.

Senate Bill 12 “is attempting to restrict communities’ access to relevant information resources by threatening to criminally charge librarians. Senate Bill 12 would make it possible to charge Indiana librarians with a Level 6 felony, which is the criminal equivalent to auto theft and strangulation. Convictions of these types of crimes carry a sentence of up to 2.5 years in jail and fines up to $10,000.
The mission of the Indiana Library Federation (ILF) is to lead, educate, and advocate to advance library services for the benefit of all Indiana residents. As library professionals and leaders of ILF, it is our duty to advocate for free and open access to information reflecting the diverse communities we serve and represent.
The Bill of Rights to the Indiana Constitution states in Article 1, Section 9, “No law shall be passed, restraining the free interchange of thought and opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print, freely, on any subject whatever.”
“Library professionals should not face these charges for doing their jobs and creating spaces that uphold the First Amendment rights of all US citizens. Some supporters are accusing libraries and librarians of providing obscene and pornographic materials to children. It is already illegal to provide access to obscene and pornographic materials to children in Indiana. We want to be very clear in saying that we are against providing obscene and pornographic materials to children. Materials provided in Indiana libraries by professional librarians do not meet the legal definition of obscene and pornographic.”
[The Indiana Library Federation] “vehemently opposes Senate Bill 12 and any other legislation that would restrict all Hoosiers’ freedom to read.
To impede on this right is to irreparably damage the futures of Indiana citizens, our systems of education, librarianship as a profession, and the democratic principles upon which our country is built.”  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Please contact your legislator. Then also take action with the Indiana State Teachers Association.

SB 414, Protections for Indiana’s Wetlands, deals with the storage of residential sewage, but it was amended in the House Environmental Affairs Committee to further reduce protections for Indiana’s wetlands. “The amendment [on SB 414] clearly demonstrates a continued lack of understanding of the value of wetlands among legislators,” said HEC’s Dr. Indra Frank in an Indianapolis Business Journal article on the amendment. Similar legislation was defeated in 2021 but the Indiana Builders Association has worked to put it back into legislation without time for public comment.
This amendment comes only a few months after the Indiana Wetlands Task Force issued its report, which emphasizes that Indiana could not afford to lose any more wetlands.
SB 414 passed both second and third reading in the House this week.” View the vote.
Despite passing the House, HEC has learned that the Senate plans to strike this harmful amendment language from the bill due to germaneness. While this is a good thing, we must remain vigilant – since this language has passed one chamber, it is eligible to be added to bills in conference committees.” (Hoosier Environmental Council)
Contact your state representative and senator, and urge them to protect our wetlands.

Voting rights
House Bill 1334 would require anyone using a paper form to apply to vote absentee by mail to include a copy of their Indiana driver’s license or include their voter identification number, which the form will suggest is the last four digits of the voter’s social security number. But that is often not the number assigned when that person first registered to vote. A ballot with the incorrect number will be rejected and a county election official must then hand deliver the ballot to the voter for correction, putting an onerous burden on election officials as well as voters. This is a wholly unnecessary bill in a state with already very restrictive election policies and almost no election fraud. You can read more from Julie Vaughn, Executive Director of Common Cause, at Indiana Capital Chronicle.
This bill will come up for a vote in the Senate soon. Common Cause has made it easy to contact your senator right here.  Please contact your state senator today and tell them we need laws that make it easier, not harder to cast a ballot in Indiana.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 Limitation on right to bail
This bill changes the Indiana Constitution and “would let judges deny bail to anyone they deem “a substantial risk to the public,” as long “the proof is evident, or the presumption strong.””  Opponents argue that the “new language is simply too open-ended. It does not define what constitutes a substantial risk to the public, and it does not describe how the determination is to be made. For many people, anyone accused of a crime is a substantial risk. In fact, an activity that poses a substantial risk to the public might be a good general definition of criminal behavior. Under Senate Joint Resolution 1, therefore, the relevant question could be whether anyone is entitled to bail.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)  Passed the House Committee on Criminal Code to the House floor.

Passed both chambers—contact Governor Holcomb
SB 480, “restricting the authority of parents over medical decisions for their transgender children advanced to the governor’s desk Monday after passing the House in a 65-30 vote.” View the vote.
Parents and Democratic lawmakers decried the mental health impacts on children, along with the business aspects that will cause families to leave and others to avoid living in Indiana. They will choose to live “where the beliefs of some are not foisted upon all.”
“A miniscule number of Hoosier children will be impacted by this bill, as fewer than 1,000 youth seek treatment at the state’s only pediatric hospital, Riley Children’s Hospital, and many only receive counseling or social transitioning assistance from their Gender Health Program.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said if Holcomb signs the bill into law, the organization would “defend the rights of transgender youth in court.”
“Indiana lawmakers seem hellbent on joining the growing roster of states determined to jeopardize the health and lives of transgender youth, in direct opposition to the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence supporting this care as appropriate and necessary,” said Katie Blair, the advocacy and public policy director of the organization.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
The biggest example of spurning parental choice and rights is Senate Bill 480, which eliminates the right of a parent to direct the medical care of their minor child. But only if the child is transgender.
“In the General Assembly, Indiana lawmakers trust parents to choose their child’s school; waive vaccination requirements and consent to all other medical care… Rep. Renee Pack, D-Indianapolis, got to the heart of the matter on the House floor Thursday, saying Hoosiers are confused by the differing stances. She said there are times when lawmakers want to listen to parents and protect their rights and “there are times when we want to say ‘listen to us. We know better than doctors.’” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1569 bans “state and federal dollars from being used to provide Indiana inmates with gender-affirming sexual reassignment surgery.
Senators voted 38-9 to move , which restricts the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) from paying for an offender’s reassignment surgery — even if recommended by a medical provider… Currently, those incarcerated within DOC facilities, such as state prisons, are able to undergo the transition procedure. A DOC spokesperson said earlier this month that no inmates have done so yet, though.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle

Debates ahead of the primary on May 2 to be livestreamed on Lakeshore Public Radio’s Facebook:
Portage – April 4 @ 6pm
Gary – April 6 @ 6pm
Lake Station – April 24 @ 6pm

Debates to be broadcast on Lakeshore Public Radio 89.1 FM:
Portage – April 5 @ 7pm
Gary – April 10 @ 7pm
Lake Station – April 26 @ 7pm

Congressman Frank Mrvan will be conducting community forums on Monday & Tuesday, April 10 & 11. Please attend at least one session. Congressman Mrvan has been a great representative for NW Indiana. Let’s show our support!
Click here for details or go to our Facebook page.


Signed by Governor Holcomb
Senate Bill 9 , which was changed to allow for utilities to recover “unexpected” additional costs from their customers.” Duke Energy, which was denied a retroactive rate increase by the Indiana Supreme Court immediately filed its case again within hours of the bill becoming law. Duke is a major campaign contributor to authors and supporters of the bill. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)(In the House, bills must be finalized in committee on April 11, then amended by the full chamber by April 13. Representatives have to greenlight bills to the governor or back to the Senate by April 17.
The Senate has until April 13 to advance bills from committees. Those measures then have to be amended by April 17 and voted out of the chamber by April 18. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Passed both chambers and goes to Governor Holcomb
House Bill 1186 would create a 25-foot “buffer zone” between law enforcement and bystanders. Passed the Senate with amendments so went back to the House where it passed 68-23. View the vote.

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

House Enrolled Act 1313 was approved by the Indiana Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 49-0.
It extends a temporary increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for out-of-state children’s hospitals through June of 2025. (Lakeshore Public Radio)

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)

Legislation still making its way through the legislature.
Senate Bill 391, a “bill originally focused on school building closures was transformed Wednesday to primarily provide Indiana charter schools with access to more state and local funding.
Lawmakers in the House Education Committee adopted the sweeping amendment to Senate Bill 391 along party lines and with mixed opinions from Hoosier parents and education advocates. Republicans supported the changes and Democrats opposed.
The latest version of the bill would sunset Indiana’s existing “$1 Law,” which requires public school districts to sell or lease vacant or unused instructional buildings for a single dollar to public charter schools.
But the “amended bill requires school districts in Lake, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh counties — where a majority of the state’s charter schools are located — to provide a pro rata share of an operating or school safety referendum adopted after June 30 with area charters. In other counties, sharing those funds would remain optional, at least for now.”
“Charter school critics have long argued that such schools are not obligated to serve every student in a given community — unlike those in traditional public school districts.
The public charters also have private boards and are therefore not accountable to voters, opponents say. They hold, too, that finances at charter schools are also less transparent, given that they are not subject to the same budgetary oversight as traditional public schools.”  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1483 “would require schools to prioritize the safety of victims in cases of bullying…[It] would require schools to investigate bullying and inform the parents of the victim within three days and the parents of the accused bully within five days.” (WRTV)

Other bills still in the legislative process:
House Bill 1005 creates a revolving loan fund to build infrastructure related to housing developments.  It passed through committee in a 10-1 vote to the Senate floor. “Proponents say the bill will help solve the state’s housing shortage. It  will allocate $50 million in the first budget year followed by $25 million the next year that communities can borrow to build sidewalks, sewer systems, roadways and more to incentivize developers to build workforce housing.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 400 included an alternative licensing path for students who don’t match with a residency and revoked a dental compliance fee – the latter of which is moving in a separate House motion. The senate bill has been revised, but “still includes a pilot program for state employees that eases the prior authorization process for certain health services as well as a requirement for emergency departments to have a physician on site when open. Current law allows for a physician to be on call, rather than physically present.  the committee opted to add language to require insurance policies to cover wearable cardioverter defibrillators – an external version of a device that allows patients to go home while they wait to get the internal version placed. The bill also addresses prior authorization requirements.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed out of the Public Health Committee unanimously and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

House Bill 1138 will require childcare facilities to test for lead in their drinking water
Being heard on the Senate floor.

House Bill 1279 is intended to make it easier for dissatisfied restaurants to get out of contracts with delivery services, and to block those services from offering a restaurant’s food without its consent. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The Indiana House and Senate are advancing each other’s mental health treatment priority bills this session. And chamber leaders say providing funding for both will be part of the final budget bill.
The Senate’s major mental health bill, SB 1, focuses on boosting resources for community mental health centers and the 988 crisis hotline. The House’s bill, HB 1006, is aimed at diverting people with mental health challenges from local jails into treatment.
Neither bill has any funding in it – that will come from the state budget. (Indiana Public Media)

House Bill 1647 “would grant Hoosier property owners the ability to override local health department decisions about new septic system installations and existing systems that have failed — as long as they have a paid consultant who agrees with them. 
Critics say the bill breeds conflicts of interest and argue that decisions regarding septic systems should remain in the hands of public health professionals.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) It passed through committee to the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 161 “adds putting a tracking device on someone or their property without consent to the definition of “unlawful surveillance,” a Class A misdemeanor that can rise to a Level 6 felony in specific circumstances. And stalking, which is usually a Level 6 felony, would be upped to a Level 5 if the act involved tracking.” Passed the House, but heads back to the Senate with amendments. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

In other news
“Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston maintained Thursday that virtual charter schools deserve equal funding as their brick-and-mortar counterparts and denied that a virtual education company he consults for would unfairly benefit from an increase in taxpayer dollars proposed in the state budget.”
Indiana virtual schools currently receive 85% of the per-pupil state funding that goes to “traditional” public schools. Funding would increase to 100% under the House Republican budget proposal that’s now under consideration in the Senate. 
“Although Huston and other GOP lawmakers have — as recently as a few years ago — supported decreases to virtual charter school appropriations, the House Speaker now maintains that his caucus wants to see “equalized” funding for those schools… For years, virtual schools have gotten less state money to account for the fact that they don’t have overhead for school buildings such as utilities, janitors and lunch programs. They also don’t provide transportation and often employ fewer teachers and other staff.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“A mayoral debate for nominees for mayor of Gary has been scheduled for 6 p.m. April 6 at St. Timothy Church, 1600 W. 25th Ave. It’s hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Calumet Area, Lakeshore Public Television, the Gary NAACP and AARP. 
Hilltop Organized Citizens is hosting two debates ahead of the May 2 primary election. 
The first half of “The Great Debate,” as the group is calling the free series, is planned for Saturday among the Common Council at-large candidates. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Indiana University Northwest’s Bergland Auditorium, 3400 Broadway. 
The second debate, scheduled for 3 p.m. April 29 at Bergland Auditorium, will be between the Democratic candidates for mayor.” (NWI Times)

“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 Capital Chronicle)

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


Passed House and Senate, President next
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 Senate without amendment by Yea-Nay Vote. 68 – 23. View the vote in the Senate.
Passed the House in Feb. 229-197. Reps Mrvan and Carson voted nay; all other Indiana reps voted nay except Pence who did not vote. View the vote in the House.

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 and protected. For example, the definition in the 2023 rule includes certain wetlands and ephemeral waters (e.g., waters that flow intermittently).
The 2023 rule replaced the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule that included a narrower definition of waters of the United States.” The vote in the House was 227-198. Reps Mrvan and Carson voted nay; all other Indiana reps voted yea. View the vote. The view in the Senate was 53-43. Both Indiana senators voted yea. View the vote in the Senate.
President Biden is expected to veto this resolution. Read the statement here.

Passed the House, Senate next
H.R. 5: Parents Bill of Rights Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes various rights of parents and guardians regarding the elementary or secondary school education of their children. Local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools must comply with the requirements of the bill in order to receive federal education funds.
Specifically, the bill requires schools to notify parents and guardians of their rights regarding the education of their children. These rights include the right to
review the curriculum of their child’s school; meet with each teacher of their child at least twice each school year; review the budget, including all revenues and expenditures, of their child’s school; inspect the books and other reading materials in the library of their child’s school; address the school board of the LEA; receive information about violent activity in their child’s school; and know if their child is not grade-level proficient in reading or language arts at the end of 3rd grade. Each LEA must (1) post on a publicly accessible website (or otherwise widely disseminate to the public) the curriculum for each grade level, and (2) include detailed budget information in its annual report card.
The bill provides for additional family educational and privacy rights, including by prohibiting schools from selling student information for commercial or financial gain.
An elementary school or a school consisting of only grades 5-8 must obtain parental consent before (1) changing a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name on school forms; or (2) allowing a child to change the child’s sex-based accommodations.”

H.R. 1: Lower Energy Costs Act
GovTrack.us: “The bill expedites the development, importation, and exportation of energy resources, including by
waiving environmental review requirements and other specified requirements under certain environmental laws, eliminating certain restrictions on the import and export of oil and natural gas, prohibiting the President from declaring a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing (a type of process used to extract underground energy resources), directing the Department of the Interior to conduct sales for the leasing of oil and gas resources on federal lands and waters as specified by the bill, and limiting the authority of the President and executive agencies to restrict or delay the development of energy on federal land. In addition, the bill reduces royalties for oil and gas development on federal land and eliminates charges on methane emissions.
It also eliminates a variety of funds, such as funds for energy efficiency improvements in buildings as well as the greenhouse gas reduction fund.” Passed 225-204 with Reps Mrvan and Carson voting nay and all other Indiana reps voting yea. View the vote.
President is expected to veto the bill. Read the statement from the White House.

H.R. 1189: Undersea Cable Control Act
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by voice vote.

H.R. 1154: Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act of 2023
Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 413-2

H.R. 1107: PRC Is Not a Developing Country Act
GovTrack.us: “This bill requires the Department of State to take actions to stop China from being classified as a developing country by international organizations. (Generally, international organizations provide developing countries certain rights and beneficial treatment…)”
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 415 – 0

Passed the Senate, House next
S. 316: A bill to repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq.
Passed 66-30. View the vote.

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

In other news

Gun violence
Three children and three adult staff members are dead after a mass shooting event Monday at The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“A 16-month-old boy was fatally shot by his 5-year-old sibling at a northwestern Indiana apartment, authorities said.” (ABC News)

 “Book Banning Boom: An alarming trend is picking up the pace. Attempts to ban books nearly doubled in 2022, according to new data from the American Library Association, with the organization reporting more than 1,200 “demands to censor library books and resources” last year. Per the group, that figure represents “the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.”  (CNN)

“A Delaware judge allowed Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News to proceed, striking down the conservative network’s claims while finding in favor partly for the aggrieved voting machine company.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled in favor of Dominion on one point: that public statements made by Fox employees about the voting machine company were completely false.” (Talking Points Memo)

A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict former president Donald Trump, making him the first person in U.S. history to serve as commander in chief and then be charged with a crime, and setting the stage for a 2024 presidential contest unlike any other.  (Washington Post)

A federal judge has ordered former vice president Mike Pence to testify in the federal probe of Donald Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the ruling.  (POLITICO)