Weekly Legislative Update 05/03/2023

You can make a difference

Join us for a Community Forum with Congressman Frank Mrvan of the 1st District on Thursday, May 4, at 5pm at the Merrillville Library.
Representative Frank Mrvan is working hard for us all. Please join us for a community forum where the Congressman will discuss legislative accomplishments and their impacts for the nation and all of us in NW Indiana. 
Register here.

Our next public meeting, Let’s Do the Work, will be Thursday, May 18 at 6pm at the Merrillville Library.
We’ll have updates on local, state and national issues, legislation & events, including an Indivisible National Call to Action about the debt ceiling crisis. We’ll get to work in groups to plan concrete actions in issues, messaging, voting & elections & more. Join us! The time for action is now.
Register here.

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 legislative session has ended and the many bills that have passed have been signed by the governor or are awaiting his signature. The following bills have not yet been signed into law.
Please contact Governor Holcomb:  https://www.in.gov/gov/ask-eric/ and by phone: 317-232-4567

House Bill 1447  essentially allows community members to determine what books Hoosier children can and cannot read. It also allows felony charges against school librarians and teachers for having what is deemed inappropriate books in their collections. This bill denies parents the right to decide what books they want their children to read. It is a denial of the freedom to read. Every parent should have the right to decide what they want their children to read–not a legislator, community member or the governor. 
Read more about this bill below.

Senate Bill 486 “peels back a 50-year-old mandate requiring school administrators to discuss working conditions with teachers’ labor representatives…The bill also would strip down teacher training and evaluation requirements currently in state law.” (WFYI)

Senate Bill 391 “would continue the state’s $1 law and require that public school districts in Lake, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh counties share property tax referendum dollars with charter schools.”
(Statehouse File)

Senate Bill 350  would block local governments from banning various kinds of unlicensed behavioral health services.


House Bill 1001 State budget
Funding for K-12 schools and initiatives makes up 47 percent of the new two-year, $44.5 billion spending plan Indiana lawmakers approved last week. That includes a $1.487 billion increase in tuition support for schools of all types — a move that drove division mostly along party lines and between advocates of traditional public education and those who support school choice. (WFYI)
Near-universal access to private school vouchers 
The state’s 12-year-old private school voucher program is expected to cost $1.136 billion in the next two years due to an expansion of the eligibility requirements. Those changes are estimated to qualify 41,800 additional students. Families of four are eligible if they have an income up to $220,000 or 400 percent of the amount required for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. That’s an increase from around $154,000 or 300 percent of the FRPL program. Indiana’s median household income is around $62,000.  (WFYI)
“House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne said in a statement Wednesday. “This budget is a handout for the state’s wealthiest families and individuals. Most people think that state subsidies go to the poor, but in the GOP supermajority they go to top-earners.”” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
School tuition support gets boost in final hours
“In a last-minute response to educators’ outcry over less-than-expected tuition funding levels at the local level, House Republicans ratcheted up tuition support with $312 million to make a 10 percent increase over the biennium. That includes a 23 percent increase to the non-English speaking student grant programs and 5 percent increase for special education grants each year. The voucher program also benefited from this final spending update.” (WFYI)
School districts share referendum funds with charter schools
“School districts in just four of the state’s 92 counties — Lake, Marion, St. Joseph, and Vanderburgh — are required to share revenue from property-tax referendums approved by voters with brick-and-mortar charter schools.” WFYI)
New funds for charter schools
“A per-student grant for charters and charters that are part of school districts would increase to $1,400 per student from $1,250. Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools for the most part do not receive local property tax revenues — so lawmakers had prev intended this grant to provide additional support. There’s also a new $25 million fund for capital grants for charters to pay for facilities, leases, and other expenses.” (WFYI)
The governor asked for $10 million for Martin University — the state’s only predominantly black institution — specifically to help the students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and adult-learner populations served by the university. Republicans appropriated $5 million to Martin University, and created another $5 million pot for all other Hoosier colleges and universities for students of color, as well as first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds. (Chalkbeat Indiana)
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails books monthly to children and is set to be available statewide in Indiana with a $6 million appropriation. (Chalkbeat Indiana)
Though legislators expanded eligibility for On My Way Pre-K from 127% to 150% of the federal poverty limit, roughly $41,625 annually for a family of four, they didn’t add more funding. (Chalkbeat Indiana)

“Republicans held resolute even into the waning hours of budget negotiations that the Kinsey Institute of Indiana University wouldn’t get any state funding, much to the chagrin of university leadership…
The language, introduced as a second reading amendment in the House, bars Indiana University from using state monies for the research institution, which studies sex, gender and reproduction. Its founder, Alfred Kinsey, produced ground-breaking research on sexuality, including the Kinsey Scale.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
“The state’s highest offices still got a significant pay raise in the latest version of the budget – even though the language never got any public vetting during the chaotic final hours.” Raises were between 39% and 88%. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Read more details of the budget’s impact on education in this article, “Indiana taxpayers will send millions more to charter schools in new state budget: The non-traditional public schools will see increased per-student funding and gain access to local property taxes.”  from Indiana Capital Chronicle
Other bills headed to the governor

House Bill 1447 “requires school libraries to publicly post lists of books in their collection and create a formal grievance process for parents and community members who live in the district to object to certain materials in circulation.
As part of that process, school boards must review those challenges at their next public meeting. An appeals process must also be established if officials don’t agree with the request.
Language in House Bill 1447 also removes “educational purposes” as a reason that schools or district board members could claim legal protection for sharing “harmful material” with underage students.
Public libraries would not be affected, however, despite other proposals debated earlier in the session that would have expanded the language’s reach. The bill only applies to public and charter schools, not private schools.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) With the threat of felony charges for books in a classroom or library collection, this bill will have a chilling effect on library collections and allow anyone to dictate what our children can read. This bill was cobbled together behind closed doors without public testimony.
House Bill 1449  automatically enrolls eligible Hoosier students into Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program, a statewide grant program that helps students from low-income backgrounds attend two- and four-year schools. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

For a list of bills passed and their status see https://www.in.gov/gov/newsroom/2023-bill-watch/

In other news

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has hired James Bopp, a nationally recognized attorney championing Republican causes, to represent him in the fight to keep confidential an Indiana Inspector General’s report about his previous employment with Apex Benefits.  (The Statehouse File)

David Adams has stepped down from his role as commissioner for the Department of Workforce Development after just eight months on the job. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office did not give a reason for the resignation, but WRTV reports the move comes after its investigation into DWD’s demands for some Hoosiers to pay back unemployment benefits received during the pandemic. (WRTV)

Primary elections
“State Sen. Eddie Melton has unseated Gary Mayor Jerome Prince. 
Unofficial election results showed Melton won with just under 61% of the vote. 
Melton will compete against Republican Andrew Delano, who is unopposed in the GOP primary, at the Nov. 7 general election for a four-year term as Gary mayor. After declaring victory, Melton urged Gary residents to register to vote, noting that even though Gary has historically been a Democratic city, nothing is “guaranteed.”” (NWI Times) Most incumbents beat back primary challengers for city council seats. (NWI Times)

“The current leadership in the town of Griffith seems likely to remain intact for another four years…
No Democratic candidates filed to run in Tuesday’s primary election for Griffith municipal offices.
As a result, unless Democratic Party officials appoint candidates by July 3 to run in the general election, all of the uncontested incumbent Republicans nominated at the primary automatically will be elected Nov. 7 to new terms.” (NWI Times)

In Highland “Town residents are poised for a lively general election this year with Democratic and Republican candidates competing in every race on the ballot.” (NWI Times)

In Hammond “It appears just a single Democratic city council member failed to win a spot on the general election ballot in Tuesday’s primary contests.” (NWI Times)

In Lake Station “Mayor Bill Carroll’s pursuit of a second term in office gained momentum as he won the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s primary…Carroll will now face Republican Benjamin Fontanez Jr. in the general election. Fontanez was unopposed in the primary.” (NWI Times)

In Hobart “City Councilman Josh Huddlestun is closer to the mayor’s office.
Huddlestun easily defeated former City Councilman Jerry Herzog in Tuesday’s Democratic primary…Tuesday’s win gets Huddlestun one step closer to succeeding Mayor Brian Snedecor, who didn’t seek reelection. Huddlestun is currently the only candidate on the general election ballot.” (NWI Times)

In Portage “Austin Bonta defeated former Mayor John Cannon by a nearly 2-1 margin to become the Republican challenger in November’s mayoral race…Bonta will face Democrat Sue Lynch, the incumbent, in November.’ (NWI Times)

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


Passed the House, Senate next

H.R. 2811: Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023

  • Suspends the debt limit through March 31, 2024, or until the debt increases by $1.5 trillion, whichever occurs first;
  • Establishes discretionary spending limits for FY2024-FY2033 that include
    • Decreases in discretionary spending; rescinds certain unobligated funds that were provided to address COVID-19 and to the Internal Revenue Service;
    • Nullifies certain executive actions and regulations for cancelling federal student loan debt and implementing an income-driven repayment plan for student loans;
    • Repeals or modifies tax credits for renewable and clean energy, energy efficient property, alternative fuels, and electric vehicles;
  • Establishes new work requirements for Medicaid and expands the work requirements for SNAP and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; and
  • Requires major federal rules (e.g., rules likely to result in an annual economic effect of at least $100 million) to be approved by Congress before they take effect.
  • Includes various provisions related to the development of energy resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals. For example, the bill requires additional federal oil and gas leasing, reduces or eliminates certain royalties and fees, and expedites the permitting process for various energy projects.

Passed 217-215 with all Democrats and four Republicans opposed. View the vote.
H.Con.Res. 30: Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove all United States Armed Forces, other than United States Armed Forces assigned to protect the United States Embassy, from Somalia.
On agreeing to the resolution Failed by the Yeas and Nays: 102 – 321. All Indiana representatives voted nay except Rep. Spartz who voted yea. View the vote.


Failed cloture
S.J.Res. 4: A joint resolution removing the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
GovTrack.us: Last Action: Cloture on the motion to proceed to the measure not invoked in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 51 – 47.
Explanation: This resolution is provisionally dead due to a failed vote for cloture on April 27, 2023. Cloture is required to move past a Senate filibuster or the threat of a filibuster and takes a 3/5ths vote. In practice, most bills must pass cloture to move forward in the Senate.
“This joint resolution provides that the Equal Rights Amendment, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, was ratified by three-fourths of the states and is therefore a valid constitutional amendment, regardless of any time limit that was in the original proposal.
The Equal Rights Amendment was originally proposed to the states in 1972. The original proposal included a deadline for ratification of March 22, 1979; Congress subsequently extended the deadline to June 30, 1982. Although the requisite 38 states have ratified the amendment, three of these states did so after the deadlines, and five states subsequently rescinded their ratifications. The status of the amendment has been the subject of litigation.” (GovTrack)
Both Indiana senators voted nay. View the vote.

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

In other news

“The US could default on its obligations as soon as June 1 if Congress doesn’t address the debt limit before then, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday.
“After reviewing recent federal tax receipts, our best estimate is that we will be unable to continue to satisfy all of the government’s obligations by early June, and potentially as early as June 1, if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit before that time,” Yellen wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.”(CNN)
The accelerated timetable increases pressure on President Joe Biden and House Republican lawmakers to ramp up their debt ceiling discussions. After months of talks being at a standstill, the president called all four congressional leaders on Monday afternoon and invited them to a May 9 meeting.

“The swift punishment brought down on Zooey Zephyr, a transgender lawmaker in Montana, began over words that others in American politics have used without hesitation or consequence: saying opponents have “blood” on their hands…
None faced blowback, let alone retribution. But not Zephyr, who on Thursday began legislative exile after Montana Republicans barred her from the state House floor a week after saying those who voted to support a ban on gender-affirming care would have blood on their hands…
The confrontation is the latest example of lawmakers punishing dissent, an increasingly prevalent move…
Multiple studies have shown that transgender youth are more likely to consider or attempt suicide in general but are less at risk for depression and suicidal behaviors when able to access gender-affirming care.” (Associated Press)

“JPMorgan Chase is buying most assets of First Republic Bank after the nation’s second-largest bank failure ever, in a deal announced early Monday that protects the deposits of First Republic’s customers.” (CNN)

Gun violence
A gunman shot and killed five people, including a young child, after he was asked to stop firing his rifle near their home. (CNN)

“The US has suffered at least 184 mass shootings in the first four months of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The nonprofit, like CNN, defines mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot – not including the shooter.” (CNN)

“An 18-year-old Texas college baseball player was seriously injured after being struck by a stray bullet during a game on Saturday, according to police.” (CNN)

“A federal judge has temporarily blocked an assault weapons ban in Illinois, ruling that multiple plaintiffs who sued alleging that the law violates their Second Amendment rights have a “reasonable likelihood” to succeed in their argument.”  (The Hill)

“The Biden administration on Thursday announced plans to establish immigration processing centers throughout Latin America to help slow down the number of migrants coming to the U.S.
The regional processing centers in Guatemala and Colombia should be up and running in the coming weeks, said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a joint press conference. Additional details will be announced in the coming weeks about how many centers they will set up as they negotiate with additional countries. A memo obtained by POLITICO suggested that other hubs could be in Ecuador and eventually Costa Rica.” (Politico)

January 6
“Former Vice President Mike Pence testified Thursday before a federal grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter.” (Politico)

“The Supreme Court on Monday announced it will hear a case that could significantly scale back federal “agencies’ authority, with major implications for the future of environmental and other regulations.
The justices next term will consider whether to overturn a decades-old precedent that grants agencies deference when Congress left ambiguity in a statute.” (The Hill