Weekly Legislative Update–Indiana 01/18/2024

You can make a difference

We’re sending out a legislative update for Indiana only because there are many bills we need to address. The national update will follow in another post.

The Indiana Legislative session is in full swing with many bills already passing through committee to the House or Senate floor for a vote. This is a short session so they are working quickly–and we need to also! We have time to influence our legislators because even when a bill passes one chamber, it has to go to the next for a committee hearing, a vote there and then a full chamber floor vote. Then the governor has to sign any passed legislation before it becomes law.
The Indiana Legislature has introduced some troubling bills this session, from restricting voting to further rolling back women’s reproductive rights, to functionally eliminating public libraries as we know them to further restricting parental rights to funding unlicensed home schools for millions of dollars, to further loosening restrictions on firearms, among others. There are a few good bills too. Please read through these bills and contact your representative and senator in support or opposition. If the bill has not passed through committee yet, contact committee members also.
A suggested script has been provided by MADVoters Indiana:
Dear [Senator/Representative],
My name is [name]. I’m a resident of [town]. I’m [calling/writing/emailing] today to urge you to support/oppose] [bill number], which would [summary]. This is important to me because [explanation]. You can reach me at [preferred contact details]. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Sincerely, [your name]
Here is a sample script from the League of Women Voters Indiana in opposition of HB 1264 which curtails voting rights:
I oppose HB 1264 as it stands. It adds unnecessary requirements for first-time voters, removing the safety net that protects qualified voters, and burdens county officials when Indiana does not have a problem with noncitizens voting. SAVE is an ineffective system for verifying voter status as discovered by other states.  Please oppose its use.

Find your legislators at https://iga.in.gov/information/find-legislators
 An additional impactful strategy is to contact committee members and chair of the committee to which a bill has been assigned.

  • To see where a bill stands, click on the link to the bill from below. Or type in the number of the bill here: https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2024/bills
  • Then click on ‘bill actions’ and then click on the committee to which it’s been assigned.
  • Scroll down the committee page and you will see the committee members and chairs. Click on each for contact information.

 MADVoters Indiana is a great source for up-to-date information about current Indiana legislation and where it stands. Link to their bill tracker here: https://www.madvoters.org/bill-tracker
If you’re on Facebook, link to them here: https://www.facebook.com/madvoters

If you like a bill, be sure to still contact legislators; you want the good bills to receive a hearing and vote, too!

Join Indivisible NWI for our next public meeting On Thursday, Feb. 7, at 6pm at the Portage Library, 2665 Irving Av, Portage. We’ll get important updates and then continue in our working groups. Each group has already made progress in setting goals, planning and implementing actions and then planning next steps. You can join a working group at any time. We’re working on messaging, Get Out the Vote actions, Women’s Rights, a visit to the statehouse and more. Join us and work to make a difference. And bring a friend! Please register here


Bills of concern that have passed out of Committee to the full Senate or House floor or another committee:
House Bill 1093 Employment of minors
This bill “repeals provisions restricting how long and when minors between 16 and 18 can work. It also specifies that a prohibition on kids aged 16 to 18 working in a hazardous occupation doesn’t apply to youth performing farm labor.
An amendment was added with language from House Bill 1062 that a child who is at least 14 and has completed eighth grade can work during traditional work hours with parent approval…
Shawn Christ, secretary treasurer for the Indiana State AFL-CIO, called the bill “an attempt to roll back child labor protections that have been fought for generations after generation.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1235 Prohibited causes of action concerning firearms.
This bill aims “to circumvent an active lawsuit that has the potential to hold them accountable for the harm they’ve done to the state of Indiana through legally wrongful conduct. Since 1999, Brady has represented the City of Gary in its fight against major gun manufacturers. The gun industry has tried to derail this pivotal case every step of the way…[This bill] could not only obliterate Gary’s lawsuit — the only of its kind in the country — but would also make it impossible for any locality in Indiana to hold the gun industry accountable for the consequences of the firearms they negligently manufacture, market, and sell.” (Brady)

Senate Bill 14 Right of a state officer or employee to carry a handgun in the capitol.
This bill “stipulates that Indiana’s attorney general, secretary of state, state comptroller and treasurer of state have the right to carry a handgun within the state capitol complex.” Employees in those offices would also be allowed to carry a handgun. Handguns may be carried concealed or open. Lawmakers and their staff already may carry handguns in the state capitol.
(Indiana Capital Chronicle

House Bill 1264 Election security
This bill will make voting more difficult for many, especially first time voters. It requires more stringent proofs of residency and citizenship and requires the use of an online system, Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) online electronic program to check the “proof of citizenship” for naturalized citizens who register to vote. This database is dated and does not identify illegal immigrants. It likely violates both the Civil Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. (The Indiana Citizen)

Senate Bill 181 Citizenship and immigration status
This bill empowers “the Indiana Attorney General’s Office to enforce a 13-year-old law banning sanctuary city ordinances…[This bill] “comes after Indiana’s two highest courts dismissed lawsuits aimed at a pair of Hoosier cities.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Now assigned to the Homeland Security and Transportation

Other bills that have passed through committee to the full House/Senate floor or another committee: You may want to register support for some of these:
Senate Bill 1 Reading Skills
This bill “would require IREAD testing to begin a year earlier, in second grade, and allow those who pass at that stage to be exempt from taking the test again in the future. 
Students who do not pass must receive targeted support during third grade to help them improve their reading skills. After a full year of remediation — and three chances to take the IREAD test — lawmakers want schools to retain students who do not pass the test by the end of third grade.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle

Senate Bill 2 Child care
“Much of the bill’s contents are recommendations from an interim committee, said author Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, such as establishing pilot “micro-facilities” and lowering the minimum age for child care workers.” 

Senate Bill 182 Regulation of drones near correctional facilities
This bill “seeks to criminalize the use of drones around and over correctional facilities. (Indiana Capital Chronicle

Senate Bill 3 Prior authorization
This bill “would be a significant reform to prior authorization, an insurance process that requires prior approval for a medical service or procedure before an insurer commits to covering it.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1216 Medical services for certain detainees.
This bill requires “the state to foot the bill for Hoosiers involuntarily committed to mental health facilities. Additionally, the bill would allow doctors overseeing intake to consider the testimony of friends and family members before signing off on an involuntary commitment.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle

Senate Bill 139 Psilocybin treatment program.
This bill “Establishes the therapeutic psilocybin research fund, administered by the Indiana department of health (state department), to provide financial assistance to research institutions in Indiana to study the use of psilocybin to treat mental health and other medical conditions.”

House Bill 1004 Thirteenth check
This bill “would offer a 13th check between $150 and $450 to public retirees — teachers, former state employees and others — based on years of service. Dedicated funding in separate accounts already exists to cover the estimated $33 million cost.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 5 Lead water line replacement and lead remediation.
This bill “would ease the process for utilities addressing Indiana’s more than 265,000 remaining lead pipes” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1047 Sexual Offenses
The House Courts and Criminal Codes committee unanimously voted Wednesday to move a bill adding computer-generated nude pictures of real people to Indiana’s revenge pornography statute — despite reservations over the legislation’s wording…House Bill 1047 could run afoul of the First Amendment, the Indiana Public Defender Commission cautioned.
Staff attorney Joel Wieneke said the legislation’s language is too broad and could pull in cartoonish representations of people or lead to prosecution of people who see the imagery but weren’t involved in its creation. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Bills of concern still under consideration in committee:
Senate Bill 32 Tax and fiscal control over libraries
“SB32 eliminates public libraries from being identified as an independent taxing authority and would result in the loss of its main funding source. All public libraries report to a fiscal body as outlined in current state law. Oversight of public library budgets is done by the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) and the State Board of Accounts (SBOA) and are routinely audited. The present budget process for public libraries is established, and transparent and includes a public hearing and sharing of annual budgets on Indiana Gateway. Library boards are appointed by elected officials to oversee library governance.” (Indiana Library Federation)
In addition this bill could restrict services like early literacy, STEM programs, makerspace labs, and a broad list of community events offered through your local library. The Indiana Library Federation is asking each of us to share our story about how we use the library: https://infreadomtoread.org/share-your-story

House Bill 1102 Deregulation of child care
Allows a class I child care home to operate without a license if the class I child care home registers with the division of family resources. 

Senate Bill 50 Chaplains in public schools
Allows a principal or superintendent of a public school, including a charter school, to employ, or approve as a volunteer, a school chaplain if certain requirements are met. This bill “permits chaplains to work as counselors in schools but does not require them to be mandated reporters.: (MADVoters)

Senate Bill 191 Transparency and freedom of expression
This bill “prohibits any employee of a school or university to offer required training on diversity, Considers creating equitable educational opportunities (such as reduced fees) to be “favoritism” and a reportable violation. Requires all course syllabi to be publicly posted. (MadVoters)

Senate Bill 255 Education matters
Expires the Indiana choice scholarship program and Indiana education scholarship account program on June 30, 2025. 
“Replaces it with the newly named Students First Grant (SFG) [and] would provide to unaccredited home school students the same funding now given to private school voucher students (about $7,000).” State expenditures would go up by $46.5 million. (MadVoters)

Senate Bill 144 Firearms matters
This bill ‘removes from businesses and specific entities (such as municipalities) the right to prohibit open carry of firearms. Minors are also not to be prohibited from possessing a firearm when accompanied by an adult. Requests a comprehensive list of all locations that prohibit carrying a firearm by state or federal law statute.” (MADVoters)

House Bill 1084 Privacy of firearms financial transactions
Prohibits a governmental entity or any other person from knowingly or willfully keeping any list, record, or registry of: (1) privately owned firearms; or (2) the owners of firearms; with respect to Indiana consumers.

House Bill 1291 Gender based terms
This bill “would amend state statutes to replace the term “gender” with “biological sex,” based on a person’s sex assigned at birth and reproductive capabilities.
“‘Sex’ means the biological, genetic identity of a person as either male or female,” the bill reads. “This term does not include gender identity or any other term that conveys a person’s subjective identification of a term other than male or female.”
This would affect discrimination cases, driver’s licenses and other official documents, state data collection, and more. Indiana law doesn’t ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that federal law against sex discrimination in employment applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill also would replace “gender” with “biological sex” in the state’s marriage law, so it would read, “A marriage between persons of the same biological sex is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized.”

Senate Bill 46 Parental rights
This bill “states that “a governmental entity may not substantially burden certain parental rights unless the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest,” among other provisions.”
“Senate Bill 46 provides parents with the ability to sue government entities if they have burdened a parent’s ability to parent their child…
The bill’s focus is particularly on schools that may withhold information, especially concerning students’ personal matters.” The first committee meeting on the bill ended with a decision to hold the bill for now. (The Indiana Citizen)
“Specifies that a parent does not have a right to access certain medical care on behalf of the child and that the child does not have an affirmative right to access such care…This allows the state to dictate the type of care a parent can seek out for their child…” (MADVoters)

Senate Bill 187 Prohibition of free or reduced fares on election day
This bill would not allow free or reduced fares on any election day. AARP has sponsored free bus rides on election day in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Gary and Evansiville. The author of the bill, Gary Byrne noted that taxpayers pay for these free rides and was informed that AARP paid for them, not taxpayers. He also stated that no one in his district gets free rides when in fact that is also not true, He then stated that this bill will ensure all voters have the same access to the polls. (The Indiana Citizen)

HB 1266 Freedom of conscience in health care
This bill “would permit healthcare providers to refuse to treat or care for patients if doing so would violate that provider’s personal moral, religious, or ethical beliefs or principles.
We encourage you to contact bill author Rep. Doug Miller at H48@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9815 to voice your opposition. You can also contact the chair of the House Public Health Committee, Rep. Barrett, and request that he decline to bring this bill to his committee (h56@iga.in.gov, 317-234-2993)” (MADVoters Indiana)

Senate Bill 217 Abortion matters
This bill would prohibit abortion-inducing drugs…Under the current Indiana law, abortion-inducing drugs can be prescribed and used for people up to eight weeks pregnant.
Medical practitioners would be barred from prescribing these drugs. Their possession would also be a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense, and a Level 6 felony for subsequent offenses.th
The bill “prohibits a nonprofit organization in Indiana from providing or offering to provide financial assistance to pay for, offset the cost of or reimburse the cost of an abortion inducing drug,” the bill’s digest says.” (Purdue Exponent)

House Bill 1379 Unborn children
This bill “would modify the definition of “human being” in Indiana criminal code to include fetuses at any point after fertilization. “The enforcement of this chapter is subject to the same presumptions, defenses, justifications, immunities and clemencies that would apply if the victim was an individual who was born alive,” the bill says.
The only exceptions would be if a pregnant person undertook life-saving medical procedures when “reasonable steps to save the life of an unborn child” were taken and for spontaneous miscarriages.” (Purdue Exponent)

Other bills still under consideration in committee; you may want to register your support for some of these:
Senate Bill 203 Sales tax exemption for menstrual discharge collection devices.
This bill “would exempt Menstrual Discharge Collection Devices from sales tax. This tax imposes a discriminatory economic burden on all Hoosiers who menstruate and is a violation of our own tax code, as medical devices (which includes pads and tampons per the FDA) are supposed to be tax-exempt in Indiana. We’re proud to support this legislation, and we urge you to contact your legislators and the Senate Tax Committee and ask them to support this legislation.” (MADVoters Indiana)

Senate Joint Resolution 18 Ballot and initiative referendum
Provides that the people of Indiana may propose and adopt amendments to the Constitution of the State of Indiana and propose and enact statutes independent of the general assembly through initiative. Provides that the people of Indiana may approve or reject through referendum any statute or part of any statute enacted by the general assembly.

Senate Bill 208 Abortion
Reestablishes the licensure of abortion clinics. Changes statutes concerning when an abortion may be performed. Removes the eight week limitation on the use of an abortion inducing drug. Allows, rather then requires, the revocation of a physician’s license for the performance of an abortion in violation of the law. 

Senate Bill 275 Pension matters
This bill “would require the Indiana Public Retirement System board to develop the capability to pay members of certain funds by category: one group would get a 13th check and the other a 1% COLA…The General Assembly would set the “to be determined” cutoff date dividing the two groups. The bill requires the board to set surcharge rates to pre-fund those bonuses.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House Bill 1327 Health and insurance matters
This broad bill attempts to address monopolies of medical entities…“The health department would be tasked with creating a database of ownership information for Indiana’s health care entities, which includes hospitals, physician group plans, third party administrators, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. The bill includes non-compliance penalties.”
Testimony [in committee] on the insurance transparency and hospital ownership bill drew mixed reviews, with some concerns about regulations for pharmacy benefit managers.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 4 Fiscal and administrative matters
This bill “sets up an ongoing review process of unused state government funds and allow agencies to cut their fines or fees through an internal process… the bill could recoup roughly $40 million in its first review cycle, with over half of that money earmarked for the Medicaid reserve account to make up for a $1 billion budget shortfall and the remainder going into the General Fund for spending in 2025.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Senate Bill 2 Child care
“Much of the bill’s contents are recommendations from an interim committee, said author Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, such as establishing pilot “micro-facilities” and lowering the minimum age for child care workers.” 

Senate Bill 98 Dependent child exemptions
This bill “would enable expectant parents to submit — along with their tax returns — a radiologic imaging report confirming the pregnancy. In exchange, they’d claim a personal income tax exemption worth $1,000 and a dependent child exemption of $1,500.” The Committee has heard testimony but the committee chair said he will not bring the bill to a vote this session because it involves taxes and this is not a budget session. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

In other news
“The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to decide whether schools can bar transgender students from using a bathroom that reflects their gender identity, leaving in place a lower court ruling that allowed a transgender middle school boy in Indiana to use the boys’ bathroom.” (IndyStar)

Despite agreeing with the plaintiffs that merit selection process for choosing Superior Court judges in Lake County likely violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a federal judge has ruled that precedent from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals required him to find in favor of the state of Indiana.  (Indiana Citizen)

A federal district court on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction rebuking House Enrolled Act 1050, passed during the 2023 legislative session, which created a pathway for individuals on humanitarian parole to obtain the legal forms of identification — but only for those from Ukraine.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

A federal judge on Friday rejected a request to block an Indiana law establishing a so-called “buffer zone” around law enforcement during official duties, a measure that includes both the public and the press.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

2024 election
“Former Marion County Circuit Clerk Beth White is apparently launching a bid to unseat troubled Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, becoming the second Democrat to enter the race and drawing warnings about a convention fight.”  (Indiana Citizen) [Destiny Wells has already announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination]
In a jubilant ceremony featuring musical and dance performances, Eddie Melton was sworn in as Gary’s 22nd mayor to cheers and chants of his name at West Side Leadership Academy on Saturday. He provided a forward-looking message for a “greater Gary”. (NWI Times)

David Vinzant, former Hobart city councilman and business owner, was selected by the Lake County Democratic Party caucus Wednesday to fill the Indiana Senate seat previously held by the newly elected Gary mayor, Eddie Melton.  (Indiana Citizen)

“Another Hoosier will exit Congress at the end of the 2024 term after U.S. Rep. Greg Pence announced his departure…— creating a fourth open Indiana seat… His departure comes after U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon — Indiana’s most senior Republican House representative — announced he would retire on Monday. In addition to Pence and Bucshon, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks is running for the open U.S. Senate vacated after U.S. Sen. Mike Braun decided to run for governor. U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz previously said she would retire from Congress, though she has recently said she could reconsider… The deadline to file a declaration of candidacy with the Indiana Secretary of State is Feb. 9.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

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