Weekly Legislative Update 09/02/2023

You can make a difference

Join us for two important public meetings in September:
On Wednesday, September 13, at 6pm at the Portage Library we will break into our working groups to continue to plan and take actions. Join a working group at any time; we’ve already accomplished a lot. Let’s keep doing the work!
Please register here: https://www.mobilize.us/indivisiblenwi/event/578865/ and bring a friend!

On Thursday, September 21, at 6pm at the Merrillville Library we will welcome Jennifer McCormick, Democratic candidate for Governor! Learn more about Jennifer here.
Join us and bring a friend! Please register here: https://www.mobilize.us/indivisiblenwi/event/578867/

We need your Help!
We need someone (or more than one person) to identify community events we can participate in in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties.
We also need help identifying voter registration opportunities.


Every week brings more mass shootings—this chart shows shootings this year through August 28

“That’s nearly an 8% increase from 2020, which was a record-breaking year for firearm deaths.
While mass shootings and gun murders (homicides) generally garner much media attention, more than half of the total in 2021 were suicides.” (BBC)
Read below under ‘Gun violence’ for more from just this past week.

“The Biden administration is proposing a rule that would require thousands more firearms dealers to run background checks, in an effort to combat rising gun violence nationwide…
People who sell firearms online, at gun shows or other places outside brick-and-mortar stores would be required to be licensed and run background checks on the buyers before the sales under the rule proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.” (Associated Press)

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) early Tuesday announced the first 10 drugs chosen for Medicare price negotiation under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
These single-source drugs were chosen based on their eligibility under the IRA and are the “highest total Part D gross covered prescription drug costs” under Medicare Part D, according to CMS. In total, these medications account for $50.5 billion in total gross Part D costs.” (The Hill)
“Drugmakers and their supporters have filed eight lawsuits so far seeking to halt the program, saying it’s unconstitutional.” Drug price negotiations as outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act will save Medicare nearly $100 billion over ten years. (CNN)
The Inflation Reduction saves all of us in health care costs while addressing the climate crisis with impactful incentives for businesses, corporations and everyday Americans to move toward clean energy. The Inflation Reduction Act is one of the most important bills ever passed. Read more here and here.

“The Biden administration [proposed]  a new rule that would make 3.6 million more U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay, reviving an Obama-era policy effort that was ultimately scuttled in court.
The new rule…would require employers to pay overtime to so-called white collar workers who make less than $55,000 a year. That’s up from the current threshold of $35,568…In another significant change, the rule proposes automatic increases to the salary level each year.
…The new rule, which is subject to a publicly commentary period and wouldn’t take effect for months, would have the biggest impact on retail, food, hospitality, manufacturing and other industries where many managerial employees meet the new threshold.” (Associated Press)

The truth matters
President Biden has released the first 10 drugs chosen for price negotiation for Medicare. These drugs are among the most expensive. Drug price negotiation is a feature of the Inflation Reduction Act and will save seniors thousands in drug costs.
Republicans have blasted this part of the bill as “communist,” “socialist and “price fixing.”
It is actually classic capitalism with negotiations over price between consumers and drug companies. In addition, if companies don’t want to negotiate or can’t agree on a price, they can withdraw from offering the drugs through Medicare. Also, price negotiations already routinely take place between insurance companies—and Medicare—and hospitals, doctors and other medical providers. Read a fact sheet from the administration here.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a big win for all Americans. Read more here and here.


“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and top Republicans have begun to strategize about how to move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden this fall – the latest sign that the House GOP is seriously laying the groundwork to initiate rare proceedings against the current president…But leadership recognizes that the entire House Republican conference is not yet sold on the politically risky idea of impeachment.” They don’t, however, need a floor vote to begin proceedings. Republicans allege the President Biden profited from his son’s business dealings but they have not uncovered any proof. In fact, at least one republicans has said that no evidence exists. (CNN)
Congress will be back in session September 5.

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

In other news

“For the first time in more than three years, federal student loan borrowers will be required to pay their monthly student loan bills starting in October.” (CNN)

“American Airlines is facing the largest-ever fine for keeping passengers waiting on board airplanes during hours-long delays.
The Department of Transportation is levying the $4.1 million fine, “the largest civil penalty that the Department has ever assessed” it said in a statement, for lengthy tarmac delays of 43 flights that impacted more than 5,800 passengers. The flights occurred between 2018 and 2021.” (CNN)

“Calls for Mitch McConnell to resign have intensified after the Republican senator appeared to freeze for a second time in public during a press conference in his home state of Kentucky on Wednesday.” (Newsweek)

“Idalia, which has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, has moved offshore into the Atlantic Ocean after inflicting damage on Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been criticized for warning potential looters targeting abandoned houses in his state that they may be shot, stating: “You loot, we shoot.”” (Newsweek)

“Former Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday the No Labels group intends to select a presidential ticket in April in Dallas.” (Politico)

Book bans
“Requests to ban books at US public schools and libraries surged to a 21-year record in 2022, according to data from the American Library Association.
Last year, the ALA recorded 1,050 requests to censor library books in 2022, a 70% increase over the 619 requests in 2021. As attempts to ban books have ramped up, so have the number of books targeted in each challenge — a new trend, according to ALA data….
 Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told CNN. “What we are seeing now is organized political advocacy groups go to school boards with an agenda with a long list of books they want banned because those books don’t fit their political, moral or religious agenda.”

“Thousands converged Saturday on the National Mall for the 60th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, saying a country that remains riven by racial inequality has yet to fulfill his dream.” (Anti-Defamation League)

Climate crisis
“The record-shattering heatwaves, wildfires and floods destroying lives in the US, Europe, India, China and beyond in 2023 have raised an alarming question: have humanity’s relentless carbon emissions finally pushed the climate crisis into a new and accelerating phase of destruction?
The issue is being strongly debated, with accusations of doom-mongering being countered with charges of complacency…
Forty-five leading climate scientists told The Guardian that, despite it certainly feeling as if events had taken a frightening turn, the global heating seen to date was entirely in line with three decades of scientific predictions.” (The Guardian)

Court cases: Jan.6, Georgia election interference, more
“Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows…took the stand [and]…testified about his job at the White House and the chaotic post-2020 election period when then-President Donald Trump (and current Meadows co-defendant) sought to overturn the election result to stay in power. Meadows sought to convince a judge that…his various attempts to block Trump’s 2020 election loss to Joe Biden were part of his official government duties.” (CNN)

“Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in a filing Tuesday reiterated her desire for all 19 defendants charged in her Georgia election interference case to stand trial together, telling the judge that her office “maintains its position that severance is improper at this juncture and that all Defendants should be tried together.”” (ABC News)

“A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Rudy Giuliani defamed former Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, and is liable for damages after he failed to comply with discovery obligations in their lawsuit over his baseless claims that they committed fraud during the 2020 election.” (NBC News)

“A federal judge on Wednesday denied ex-White House adviser Peter Navarro‘s bid to escape contempt charges by claiming former President Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege over his potential testimony to a congress.” (NBC News)

“New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing Donald Trump over claims he fraudulently inflated his net worth, suggested that there is so much evidence against him that a trial is not necessary. James alleged that Trump inflated his net worth by as much as $2.2 billion in 2014 alone, according to unsealed court filings.” (Newsweek)

 “A leader of the Proud Boys who led the far-right organization’s infamous march to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison – among the longest sentences handed down yet for a convicted rioter.
Joe Biggs was convicted by a Washington, DC jury of several charges including seditious conspiracy for attempting to forcibly prevent the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
A second member of the Proud Boys, former Marine Zachary Rehl, the president of his local Philadelphia chapter of the organization, was later sentenced to 15 years.” (CNN)

“Dominic Pezzola, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Pezzola smashed through a window to the US Capitol with a police riot shield on January 6, allowing the first wave of rioters to storm the building as members of Congress were being evacuated. Pezzola quickly became a symbol of the violence that day.
Ethan Nordean, a Proud Boy from Washington State who took over leading the group after longtime Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio was arrested on his way to Washington, DC, days before the January 6 riot, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.” (CNN)

“Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty in the sprawling Fulton County election interference case, according to a new court filing. Trump also formally asked a judge to sever his case from his co-defendants who want a speedy trial.” (CNN)

“A trial date of March 4, 2024, has been set for former President Donald Trump for his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. This means Trump may possibly be sitting in federal court instead of campaigning ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries set for March 5.” (CNN

“The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a $1.4 billion boost in developing the so-called next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“The recent upturn in COVID-19 cases in some regions has spurred a handful of entities around the country to reinstate mask mandates, reigniting the debate over what place masking requirements have in an era of living with the coronavirus…
[The Supreme Court] ruled last year that the Transportation Security Administration could impose mask mandates on planes, trains and other forms of transport, leaving mask requirements as an option for the federal agency.” (CNN)

The economy
“U.S. consumer spending increased by the most in six months in July as Americans bought more goods and services, but slowing monthly inflation rates cemented expectations that the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates unchanged next month.
The report from the Commerce Department on Thursday suggested the economy gathered momentum early in the third quarter. Consumer spending is being supported by a tight labor market, with other data showing first-time applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly falling last week.” (Reuters)

Gun violence
“A federal hate crime investigation is underway after a White gunman with a swastika-emblazoned assault rifle killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, authorities said…The gunman…left behind racist writings and used racial slurs, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun, both legally purchased, and targeted Black people as he opened fire inside the store, according to the sheriff…
The attack in Florida is the latest in a number of shootings in recent years where a gunman has targeted Black people, including at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, last year and a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
It also marked one of several shootings reported in the US over two days, including one near a parade in Massachusetts and another at a high school football game in Oklahoma.
There have been at least 475 mass shootings in the US so far in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive…” (CNN)

“A suspect is in custody after a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday afternoon left a faculty member dead and sent the university with more than 30,000 students into lockdown for hours…At least 49 school shootings have happened in the US this year, including the UNC shooting — 34 have been reported on K-12 campuses and 15 on university and college campuses.” (CNN)

“A 32-year-old Gary man is in custody after a 5-year-old boy reportedly got ahold of his handgun and suffered a fatal gunshot wound, Gary Police Cmdr. Samuel Roberts said.” (NWI Times)


“Abortions can now only be performed in hospitals under very narrow circumstances…
The ban outlaws all abortions except in the case of a fatal fetal anomaly and cases of serious health risk to the mother. One part of the law says these exceptions are up to 20 weeks but another part says they can be used anytime. Rape survivors can get an abortion up to 10 weeks post-fertilization.
Justices left open the possibility for other challenges in the future, however.”
Some justices concurred with the decision while expressing reservations about the lack of adequate exceptions. Only one dissented, citing the lack of exceptions, both for physical and psychological harm.
 ““Today is a dark day in Indiana’s history, as a near-total abortion ban takes effect. We have seen the horrifying impact of bans like this across the country, and the narrow exceptions included in this extreme ban will undoubtedly put Hoosiers’ lives at risk,” ACLU of Indiana executive director Jane Henegar said Monday in a statement. “We will continue to fight in court to clarify and expand upon the current exceptions. Every person should have the fundamental freedom to control their own body and politicians’ personal opinions should play no part in this personal decision.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“A Marion County judge said Monday that she cannot clarify who is covered by an injunction against Indiana’s near-total abortion ban — instead punting the issue to the state’s court of appeals…
Earlier, attorneys challenging the state’s abortion ban on religious freedom grounds asked the Marion Superior Court to dispel confusion in that case by explicitly stating a preliminary injunction extends to all members of the class-action suit. 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana also asked the court to clarify that the injunction protects entities, such as a hospital, performing abortions for class members.
But in an order issued Monday, Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch said she can’t clarify the injunction because it is currently under appeal, noting that she “lacks jurisdiction” to take further action.
The narrow injunction grants a temporary religious exemption from the state’s abortion ban. But it’s been mired in confusion about who it protects.
That’s because the case initially involved only a handful of plaintiffs, and Welch granted the injunction to those plaintiffs before the case was certified as a class-action suit.
The ACLU’s lawsuit — the second major court challenge against the state’s new abortion law — uses the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to argue that the abortion ban infringes on the religious beliefs of plaintiffs of multiple faiths.
A hearing before the Indiana Court of Appeals on the preliminary injunction in the religious freedom case is set for Dec. 6.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Indiana’s largest hospital systems are opaque on their policies for post-rape abortions — or flatly deny the prospect as “elective” — drawing into question the effectiveness of the rape exemption written into the state’s newly effective abortion ban.
Hoosiers seeking abortions after rape can legally access the procedure at hospitals up to 10 weeks post-fertilization. It’s one of several narrow exceptions built into the ban, which went into effect this month following an unsuccessful legal challenge.”
Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking is “working with its providers to help survivors “find a way out of state…”” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

 “A group of Indiana organizations wants to address parts of the state’s Medicaid system that could lead to coverage losses and gaps in coverage. Advocates wrote a letter to the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services requesting it suspend two waivers in the Healthy Indiana Plan: one that allows the state to deny retroactive coverage and one that allows the state to collect premiums.
Advocates said the Medicaid unwinding process – following the end of the COVID-19 federal public health emergency – highlights flaws in Indiana’s system.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“At least five laws passed during the 2023 legislative session are being challenged in court.
These lawsuits, filed by the ACLU, include: laws that restrict gender-affirming health care for minors, ban the discussion of human sexuality in elementary schools, prohibit people from getting within 25 feet of a law enforcement officer after the officer has ordered someone to stop and prohibit using state resources for or funding gender-affirming surgery for inmates.
State policy battles that get settled in the courtroom are costly and threaten to undermine confidence in the legislative process…
The ACLU still has lawsuits pending over legislation passed in 2022 that restricts the rights of transgender girls to play girls sports in K-12 schools and bans nearly all abortions.” (Axios)

“A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this week urging him to reconsider the proposed rate cuts for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, a specialized form of treatment for autistic children.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library officially expanded to all of Indiana on Thursday.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The Portage City Council this week repealed its obscenity ordinance in the wake of an ongoing battle across the country and Region over a flag containing a profane message directed at President Joe Biden.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

“Indianapolis doctor Caitlin Bernard will not be appealing a ruling from the medical licensing board earlier this year in which she was reprimanded for violating patient privacy laws, according to an announcement from her legal representation.
Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office also did not appeal so the matter is now closed.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“Students’ mental health was top-of-mind Wednesday for First Lady Jill Biden, who traveled to Westfield High School to speak with students and counselors. 
Biden visited the suburban public school just north of Indianapolis alongside U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Their two-hour stay included a presentation from students in the school’s student mental health club. The First Lady and Murthy also participated in a roundtable discussion with Westfield administrators to discuss how the school — and Indiana, overall — are taking advantage of federal dollars to support students’ mental health needs…
The visit came one year after President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), marking the most sweeping and significant gun legislation to become law in decades. 
The legislation also included historic levels of funding to address youth mental health. Close to $2 billion was earmarked for the U.S. Department of Education to create safer, more “inclusive” learning environments for students and hire and train more mental health professionals for schools.
Through the BSCA, Indiana has so far received over $14 million in Stronger Connections grant funding.  
Some of that funding is already being used by the Westfield school district to make available on-site outpatient mental health services to students.”
Indiana still faces significant challenges in addressing mental health issues. The suicide rate among teens remains very high. In addition, Indiana has the highest student to counselor ratio in the country. (Indiana Capital Chronicle

A source close to  Destiny Scott Wells says the Democrat may run for Attorney General next year.  (Indy Politics)

“A southern Indiana egg farmer has declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2024.
John Rust, the chair of Seymour-based Rose Acre Farms, announced his campaign Tuesday, saying he was a Christian, capitalist, conservative gay man who would bring an “outsider’s voice” to Washington, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Rust will face an uphill battle for the GOP nomination against U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, who already has been endorsed by the Washington-based anti-tax Club for Growth.
Two Democrats have announced their candidacies for the seat: Former Indianapolis City-County Council member Keith Potts and Marc Carmichael, a state representative from Muncie in 1986-1991 and the longtime president and lobbyist for the Indiana Beverage Alliance, a group of beer distributors.” (Associated Press)

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