Weekly Legislative Update 04/16/2023

You can make a difference

On Saturday, May 20, at 12pm please join us in Lafayette for our statewide event, Growing Progressive Power. This Indiana Indivisible event is being sponsored by Indivisible NWI and other Indivisible groups across the state.
It’s time for Indivisibles in Indiana to get together and learn more about each other and from each other.
We’ll learn about effective organizing and activism tactics, how to stay motivated, how to frame and celebrate our wins, and more!
We would love to have you and your input in Lafayette on May 20.
Join us in person or through live stream.
In person:
The Arts Federation
638 North St
Lafayette, IN 47901
Please register here.

The May primary is Tuesday, May 2.
Find your polling placehttps://indianavoters.in.gov/ From there, click on ‘Find Your Polling Place’. Find your ballot there also.

The Senate Budget bill is out, and it’s not good news: the budget still does not fully fund SB1, the bill to reform Indiana’s mental health system. This is unacceptable: we are running out of time to win what our families need. We have more than enough resources to fully fund life-saving mental health infrastructure, and doing so will also save the state an estimated $4.2 billion annually. 
You can learn more and also easily take action by sending an email through  https://hoosieraction.org/care/

Senate Bill 486 “peels back a 50-year-old mandate requiring school administrators to discuss working conditions with teachers’ labor representatives…SB 486 would let school administrators choose not to discuss decisions about classroom sizes, curriculum and other similar topics with their teachers’ union representatives. The bill also would strip down teacher training and evaluation requirements currently in state law.” The bill garnered heated testimony in opposition before passing through committee along party lines.” (WFYI) Reach out to your representative asap. Ask them to stand with teachers and vote no on SB 486. Find your rep here: https://www.ista-in.org/our…/find-your-elected-officials
Indiana State Teachers Association will have another Pack the House rally on Monday, April 17, to support public education, and especially to oppose SB 486. Teachers, parents, and community members are encouraged to attend. Be sure to wear #RedforEd! Arrive around lunchtime to be ready for the 1:30pm House session.

All bills needed to be voted out of committee by the end of last week in order to advance in the legislature. “The language of the bills could still be revived elsewhere, sometimes dubbed “zombie bills” — for example, if one dead education bill pops up elsewhere as an amendment to a similar bill.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 380 was largely stripped of its language and then a controversial amendment was nearly added. 
The amendment to the bill would have resurrected language from Senate Bill 12 that that sought to ban materials deemed “harmful to minors” in school and public libraries and allow criminal charges against librarians for having ‘inappropriate’ materials in the collection. ‘School officials and librarians pushed back against the proposal for more than four hours, arguing that such a policy would open them up to criminal charges and create a “chilling effect” on book selections. The House Education Committee did not vote on the amendment on Monday. Instead, lawmakers voted 12-0 to send the watered down bill, which deals with graduation rates, to the full House.
The amendment could still resurface on the House floor, however.
Committee chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis…said such language will “likely” be up for debate again in the full chamber.
“The issue is not done yet,” he said.”
The bill as it stands now requires school corporations to publish graduation rates and allows schools to adopt dress codes and policies to address distractive behavior. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Contact your legislator asap to tell them you support teachers, librarians, books, and the freedom to read.

Citizens Action Coalition is asking us to call Governor Holcomb to urge him to veto the following bills that could be very costly to Hoosiers. Just click here to easily take action.
HB1421 – “CWIP allows utilities to recover costs during construction and before the plant is serving customers (and even if it NEVER produces any electricity), which shifts construction risks to ratepayers.” (Citizens Action Coalition)

HB1417 “will basically allow utilities to self-approve just about any expenditure they make and virtually guarantees that they will recover those costs plus a profit from customers in a future rate case.” (Citizens Action Coalition)

HB1420 would “undermine competition against monopoly utilities by blocking competitive bidding on highly expensive transmission projects. This bill just passed out of the Senate Utilities Committee and is now in the Senate.” (Citizens Action Coalition)


Signed into law by Governor Holcomb

Senate Bill 480
“The signing of a controversial medical care ban for transgender minors on Wednesday prompted a near-immediate lawsuit after Gov. Eric Holcomb approved the bill over the protests of families, medical professionals and transgender children.
Within hours, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of four transgender minors, whose health care would abruptly cease if the bill went into effect on July 1…Under the bill, those youth – and hundreds of other youth – would have six months after the bill goes into effect July 1 to cease using their prescribed treatments for hormone therapies. Doctors would immediately be unable to prescribe puberty blockers to transgender children. 
Both types of treatments are still allowed for cisgender children without a gender dysphoria diagnosis.
In a virtual press conference, families shared the emotional toll the health care ban would have on their children. Three of the four youth had reportedly self harmed in the court filing, including both transgender girls who spoke of cutting off or mutilating their male genitalia before the age of 5.”  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Passed both chambers, headed to Governor Holcomb

House Bill 1334 will make voting absentee more difficult. “The Indiana House concurred Tuesday with the Senate’s amendments, which would increase requirements for absentee voters, in a 64-30 vote…” The bill requires that applicants for an absentee ballor include certain identification numbers or a photocopy of the person’s photo identification.
Groups such as Indiana Vote by Mail and Common Cause Indiana opposed the legislation, saying it would limit voting in a state already plagued with poor turnout and penalize those most dependent on casting an absentee ballot.” (Statehouse File)  View the vote.
Call Governor Eric Holcomb at (317) 232-4567 and urge him to veto HB 1334.
SB451 “authorizes a private corporation to condemn property with no notification to the property owner, and forces those Hoosier property owners to allow toxic, highly-pressurized carbon dioxide waste to be stored long-term underneath their properties without their consent. It also puts Hoosiers on the hook for the long-term costs and liabilities associated with any problems which can occur as a result of storing carbon dioxide waste underground.”
(Citizens Action Coalition) View the vote. Call Governor Eric Holcomb at (317) 232-4567 and urge him to veto this bill.
HB1623 targets IDEM’s draft coal ash rule.  It prohibits IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) from writing a coal ash rule “more stringent than” the EPA’s federal rule, and it prohibits IDEM from including anything in Indiana’s coal ash rule that is not in the federal rule.” (Citizens Action Coalition) CAC has made it easy to take action to urge Senators to oppose this bill: https://act.citact.org/7x3zxfd
Senate Bill 350 bars “local governments from regulating behavioral health services that the state either licenses or exempts from licensure.” The Senate concurred with House amendments. View the vote. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
SB 265 “expands eligibility for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program for the first time in three decades.
Currently, people in Indiana earning 16 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for TANF. For a family of four, that’s take-home pay of less than $400 a month.
The bill gradually increases that over the next four years to 50 percent of the federal poverty level – for that family of four, still less than $1,000 a month.
Alexander Mingus, Indiana Catholic Conference associate director, said the people helped by TANF are a fraction of the people in need.” (Indiana Public Media)
Senate Bill 158 requires “individuals arrested for any of 13 domestic-related offenses to be jailed without bail for at least 24 hours after arrest — triple the state’s eight-hour cooling-off period.” Passed unanimously in both chambers. (NWI Times)
Senate Bill 290 originally only tasked the BMV with disclosing information on veteran license plate applications to the Department of Veterans Affairs as an effort to ensure veterans received benefits. The bill was amended to A bill requiring the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to be more transparent about how it sells Hoosier drivers’ data
SB176 “changes the rated electric generating capacity for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) from 350 megawatts to 470 megawatts,” (Citizens Action Coalition

House Bill 1365, Machine guns, will expand “state law to include so-called Glock switches that are already illegal under federal law. Police officials say such switches can convert a semi-automatic gun into one that shoots continuously while the trigger is pressed, firing dozens of bullets within a few seconds.” (WGN TV)

SB 415 will “bar law enforcement from lying to minors as part of an interrogation.” (KPVI)

HB1219: PFAS Biomonitoring Pilot Program  “establishes and appropriates money to a pilot program for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to test Indiana firefighters for serum PFAS levels; and (2) to determine whether there may be corresponding health implications associated with elevated serum PFAS levels. Requires the DHS to provide a report regarding the results and recommendations for decreasing serum PFAS levels and exposure to PFAS chemicals no later than July 1, 2027.” (Citizens Action Coalition)

Bills still under consideration

HB 1001 State budget has been revised some by the Senate who nixed a major voucher school expansion in favor of increased Medicaid funding under their latest state budget proposal released Thursday.” Under both the House and Senate plans vouchers monies will increase significantly, but the Senate “opted to keep the Choice program as-is, meaning vouchers will stay limited to Hoosier families that make less than 300% of free and reduced lunch eligibility, equal to about $154,000 annually for a family of four.” The Senate proposal also includes money for textbook fees while the House version required individual corporations to pick up the cost. In addition, charter schools will receive a portion of property tax collections starting in 2024 but only incremental, or new, revenue. The base would still go to traditional schools.
As stated above, mental health funding for Senate Bill 1 is less than needed. Also, funding r a 988 hotline, a mental health counterpart to 911, has not been set. Many are urging a $1 increase in the cigarette tax. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
House Bill 1608  “requires teachers to notify parents if their child requests to be called by a different pronoun or name that doesn’t reflect their gender. 
In addition to this portion of the bill, HB 1608 also bans any discussion of “human sexuality” to children from kindergarten to third grade. The bill passed the Indiana Senate on Monday by a vote of 37-12.” (Statehouse File
“A previous version of the legislation would’ve banned discussion of a list of specific topics, like sexual orientation and gender identity. House lawmakers ditched that, and added a compromise provision allowing teachers to answer questions.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
View the vote. Goes back to the House with amendments.
 House Bill 1635 now includes graduation waiver provisions deleted from SB 380.
The bill sets “a 9% cap on the number of students who can graduate from a school with a waiver during the 2023-2024 school year. After that, the cap drops to 6% in the following academic year, and down to 3% for each school year after June 30, 2025”. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
House Bill 1008 targets PERF (public pensions) investments in companies that consider environmental, social and governmental issues—ESG.
“Lawmakers on Wednesday stripped long sections from this bill, inserting a simplified structure that would reduce the fiscal impact to zero…
Supporters have said the bill will ensure finances come first in investment decisions — not environmental, social and governmental considerations — and that it could help businesses they say are facing ESG-based financial discrimination.
Opponents have argued the bill punishes companies who express values through business decisions and could present risks for pension members…But Indiana’s conservative Chamber of Commerce called the bill “anti-free market and anti-free enterprise,” citing the bill’s list of protected industries [such as coal and gun manufacturing]..””  Passed the Senate with amendments and heads back to the House. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) and (WFYI)

Senate Joint Resolution 1 Limitation, on right to bail, makes changes to the language in the Indiana Constitution surrounding bail. It passed the House by a 38-9 margin, marking its final vote for the 2023 year.
“The founding document makes nearly everyone eligible for bail, but the proposal would allow judges to deny bail to anyone they deem a “substantial risk.”
However, the bill must also pass in 2025, after a new General Assembly is elected, before appearing on the ballot in 2026.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
House Bill 1004, a “bill that would penalize hospitals for high costs was weakened in earlier amendments and an additional change in the Senate health committee further reduced its impact.” Narrowly passed through committee to the Appropriations Committee. (Indiana Capital Chronicle
House Bill 1499 previously would have “temporarily lowered the Indiana’s property tax caps, increased state income tax deductions and limited local tax levy boosts. House lawmakers passed the lengthy, complex bill 94-1, back in February.
Since then, homeowners have begun receiving property tax bills that are averaging a 20% increase statewide…The majority of those provisions were stripped during a Senate committee meeting Tuesday, with senators saying “permanent” relief could come in the future after Indiana reduces pension liabilities.
They instead inserted three food and beverage tax bills into the proposal. Two provisions that were also once standalone bills also remained.
One would make it easier for property owners to contest their property tax assessments.
The other provision is specific to bills payable this year. It would let counties choose to provide their own property tax relief. Changes at the local level could take effect as early as this fall. But it doesn’t fill the resulting financial gap with state dollars, leaving it unlikely that a county would voluntarily cut a key revenue source.
Another amendment passed that would change the state’s deduction for Hoosiers 65 and older by tying it to cost of living adjustments for Social Security benefits. The committee also consented to it…. The bill had faced heavy opposition from school and local officials because it would reduce local revenues for necessary services.”
(Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Senate Bill 8 would require pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) pass along drug rebates to the end user and passed through committee on a 9-1 vote.
Senate Bill 1 would shore up 988 as a mental health crisis response system that could be funded via a $1 fee on cell phone bills that could generate roughly $91 million. There was discussion about funding it through an increase in cigarette taxes as well. That funding approach, however, doesn’t have much support among senate republican legislators. despite compelling evidence that higher cigarette taxes reduce the number of smokers, especially among youth. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
HB1138 is a follow up to state legislation passed in 2020 requiring lead testing for drinking water in schools. Daycares were not included in the 2020 bill, so HB1138 adds daycares to the law, though the House Environmental Affairs Committee chose to exclude faith based daycares from the bill. This bill only needs one more vote in the House before it will head to the Governor’s desk for a signature. (Citizens Action Coalition)

In other news

Hundreds of Indiana educators — most clad in red t-shirts — rallied at the Statehouse Thursday, demanding increased K-12 funding and calling for lawmakers to cease “hateful attacks” on public education and the teaching profession  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
“Legal counsel for Indiana Attorney Todd Rokita maintained in Marion County Circuit Court Tuesday that a lawsuit filed by Indianapolis OB-GYN Dr. Caitlin Bernard should be reopened, allowing Rokita to challenge and correct “errors” in a previous ruling.
His attorney argued that Rokita “suffers prejudice” from an earlier judge’s “erroneous” and “unnecessary conclusion” that the attorney general violated the state licensing statute’s confidentiality provision when he disclosed his office was investigating Bernard.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle
“Nearly every Republican senator signed onto a Tuesday resolution honoring the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is holding its 152nd annual convention in Indianapolis this weekend.”  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
The Gary Common Council “has established a new down payment assistance program that will prioritize first responders, city employees, veterans, teachers and healthcare professionals.” The program is financed with monies from the American Rescue Plan. (NWI Times)

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


Enacted, signed by the President

H.J.Res. 7: Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020.
This resolution immediately ends the national emergency.


Congress has been out of session and is returning Monday, April 17.

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

In other news

Climate crisis
“After more than a year of offering incentives for industries to invest in clean energy, the Biden administration on Wednesday announced what it called the most ambitious auto pollution rules in history, with the aim of accelerating automakers’ shift to electric vehicles. The standards could result in battery-powered cars and trucks making up two-thirds of new light-vehicle sales by 2032, the Environmental Protection Agency said, while reducing oil imports, saving motorists thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs, lessening air pollution deaths, and cutting the greenhouse gas pollution that’s warming the planet…The administration said the new standards would save the economy $850 billion to $1.6 trillion between 2027 and 2055, avoid about 20 billion barrels in oil imports, and save the average buyer of a car or light-duty truck $12,000 over the vehicle’s lifetime.” (Politico)

“Climate models around the globe continue to warn of a potential El Niño developing later this year – a pattern of ocean warming in the Pacific that can increase the risk of catastrophic weather events around the globe.
Some models are raising the possibility later this year of an extreme, or “super El Niño”, that is marked by very high temperatures in a central region of the Pacific around the equator…Studies have suggested that as global heating continues, the chances of the world experiencing extreme El Niño events also goes up.
““The warmer ocean temperatures could also wreak havoc on coral reefs and intensify the hurricane season in the Pacific. “What’s being predicted here is very scary,” remarked Peter Houk, a professor at the University of Guam to CNN. “Every time one comes it grows a little bit more in intensity.”” (The Guardian)
Scientists believe that climate change is causing El Niño to come more frequently and more intensely than before, despite being a natural phenomenon. According to a 2019 study, “If the currently observed background changes continue under future anthropogenic forcing, more frequent strong El Niño events are anticipated.”” (The Week)

Gun violence
“Gun deaths among America’s kids rose 50% in the last two years, according to a new Pew Research Center report. More children and teens were killed by guns in 2021 than in any year since 1999, the first year the CDC began tracking the data. While the majority of adult gun deaths are by suicide, children and teens killed by gunfire are more likely to die by homicide (60%).” (Axios)

“Four people were killed and more than a dozen teenagers were reportedly injured Saturday night in a shooting at a celebration in Alabama, according to law enforcement.” (The Hill)

January 6
“A spokesman for Mike Pence said Wednesday that the former vice president will not appeal a judge’s order compelling him to testify in the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The decision sets up a possible appearance by Pence in the coming weeks before a federal grand jury scrutinizing attempts by the former president and supporters before the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to undo Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.” (The Hill)

“Former President Donald Trump has asked a federal appeals court to take immediate action to block former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying in the Justice Department’s probe into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.” (NBC News)

Women’s health and reproductive rights
“The Biden administration is trying to enhance the federal law that guards patient privacy to further protect those who seek legal abortion care and other reproductive health care services.
The proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, released Wednesday, is meant to strengthen the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA…The proposed rule “would prohibit doctors, other health care providers, and health plans from disclosing individuals’ protected health information, including information related to reproductive health care, under certain circumstances,” according to a fact sheet from the Biden administration.
“Specifically, the rule would prevent an individual’s information from being disclosed to investigate, sue, or prosecute an individual, a health care provider, or a loved one simply because that person sought, obtained, provided, or facilitated legal reproductive health care, including abortion,” the fact sheet says.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that would ban most abortions in the state after six weeks, according to a release from the governor’s office late Thursday night.
The six-week ban would not go into effect until the state Supreme Court overturns its previous precedent on abortion.” (CNN)

“The ruling by a federal judge in Texas invalidating the Food and Drug Administration’s approval 23 years ago of the abortion pill mifepristone has the potential to be the most consequential abortion decision since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.
But there are a lot of uncertainties — especially because a federal judge in Washington State issued a contradictory ruling less than an hour later saying the F.D.A. should do nothing to restrict the pill’s availability in most states that allow abortion.” (NY Times)
Update: “The Justice Department will take an emergency dispute over medication abortion drugs to the Supreme Court, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday.
Garland’s announcement comes after a federal appeals court overnight froze parts of a Texas judge’s order that would have suspended the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a medication abortion drug. But the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals only partially granted the request by the Justice Department and the drug’s manufacturer to put US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling on hold, with the appellate panel effectively making the drug harder to obtain by leaving in place aspects of Kacsmaryk’s ruling that will reverse moves by the FDA that expanded access to medication abortion pills.” (CNN)

“The Biden administration has announced a plan to expand access to Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage for DACA recipients. The change would treat DACA recipients more like other groups with temporary legal status.” (NPR)

“Janet Protasiewicz, a judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, has won a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, giving liberals their first majority on the state’s highest court in 15 years.” (NBC News)

 “In an extraordinary act of political retaliation, Tennessee Republicans on Thursday expelled two Democratic lawmakers from the state Legislature for their role in a protest calling for more gun control in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Nashville. A third Democrat was narrowly spared by a one-vote margin.
The split votes drew accusations of racism, with lawmakers ousting Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who are both Black, while Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, survived the vote on her expulsion. Republican leadership denied that race was a factor, however.
The visitors’ gallery exploded in screams and boos following the final vote. After sitting quietly for hours and hushing anyone who cried out during the proceedings, people broke into chants of “Shame!” and “Fascists!”” (Associated Press) Both were nearly immediately reinstated by votes from their district’s county councils.

“ProPublica reported last week that Thomas has accepted luxury travel from Crow virtually every year for decades, including private jet flights, international cruises on the businessman’s superyacht and regular stays at his private resort in the Adirondacks. Crow has long been influential in conservative politics and has spent millions on efforts to shape the law and the judiciary. The story prompted outcry and calls for investigations from Democratic lawmakers.”
“In 2014, one of Texas billionaire Harlan Crow’s companies purchased a string of properties belonging to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his relatives…
federal disclosure law passed after Watergate requires justices and other officials to disclose the details of most real estate sales over $1,000. Thomas never disclosed his sale of the Savannah properties. That appears to be a violation of the law, four ethics law experts told ProPublica.” (ProPublica)