Weekly Legislative Update-Indiana 02/07/2024

You can make a difference

During this short session Senate bills must have passed that chamber by February 6 and House bills must have passed that chamber by Feb. 5. Bills that haven’t passed by those deadlines won’t continue.

A number of other troubling bills have passed and will now be considered in the other chamber. There is still time to let your legislators know your opinions and how you want them to vote. Please read through the bills below, some bad and some good, and make your voice heard.

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

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

This bill has already passed both chambers. Please take action:
House Bill 1383 continues Indiana’s dangerous trend of wetland destruction at the behest of the Indiana Builders Association and other special interests.  In 2021, the Indiana General Assembly significantly cut state wetland protections, and Indiana lost more than 260 acres of wetlands as a result. HB1383 will make a big problem even worse. (Citizens Action Coalition) Read more about the importance of wetlands at Hoosier Environmental Council
Sadly, HB1383 has now passed both chambers and is headed to Gov. Holcomb’s desk.
Please take action at 
act.citact.org/kbgnnsn ASAP to urge Gov. Holcomb to VETO HB1383!

Join Indivisible NWI for our next public meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, 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.
Please register here and bring a friend!



Passed the Senate and goes to the House for consideration

Senate Bill 202 State educational institution matters
This is “a sweeping bill that would require the state’s colleges and universities to consider “intellectual diversity” in campus policies.
Among its provisions, the bill forbids schools from granting a faculty member tenure if they’ve shared political opinions unrelated to their academic discipline with students. It also allows students and other employees to file complaints against faculty members who they believe have failed to keep these opinions to themselves — or have otherwise stifled a “culture of free inquiry” on campus.” (Chalkbeat Indiana) Passed 39-9. View the vote.
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) Passed 34-15. View the vote.
Senate Bill 128 Human sexuality instruction
“Hoosier school boards would have authority over “human sexuality” instruction…Opponents say local leaders already have a say in sex education curricula, and call the bill “hostile” towards LGBTQ students.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) The bill would “require schools to post their sex ed curriculum materials online.” (Chalkbeat Indiana)   Passed 38-10. View the vote.
Senate Bill 147 Child care property tax exemption and evaluation.
“The bill seeks to make for-profit child care providers tax-exempt, and provides a partial property-tax exemption for businesses that offer on-site child care for employees…
Democrats argued Senate Bill 147 lacks guardrails and spending caps, and unfairly provides subsidies to for-profit companies that won’t necessarily offer care for all children in a given community, however.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 39-9. View the vote.
Senate Bill 270 Education matters
This bill “clarifies language added in the last legislative session that led to two different interpretations of the law by Indianapolis Public Schools and the state.
The tweak to the law last year granted school districts an exemption from the requirement if they share funding from voter-approved property tax increases for operating or safety costs with an “applicable charter school.”
… if passed, the bill could put an end to future legal battles over the exemption while bringing other small wins for charter schools. The bill would also require all school districts in the state to share voter-approved tax increases for safety and operating expenses passed and adopted after May 10, 2024 — expanding a requirement that currently applies to districts in four counties, including Marion County.
And in another update to last year’s new legislation, the bill clearly forces school districts with declining enrollment to close school buildings that are underutilized. The definition of “underutilized,” however, changes from a building with an average occupancy of 60% over the current and past two school years to 50%.” (Chalkbeat Indiana) Passed 36-11. View the vote.
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
“Three amendments were added — changing requirements for school reporting, allowing retentions to be appealed and requiring parent notification.” Indiana Daily Student) Passed 36-13. View the vote.
Senate Bill 141 Education matters
This bill would “guarantee school counselors have more time to provide services for students that are increasingly in demand while spending less time filling in elsewhere, like as substitute teachers or on lunch and recess duty.”  
“The current draft requires schools to ensure that at least 60% of a school counselor’s aggregate time on the clock is devoted to providing services to students by the 2025-2026 academic year. That increases to 80% beginning with the 2026-2027 school year.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Passed 47-1.
Senate Bill 8
This bill “would require four-year public universities to look into offering associate degrees to some students — a reversal of more than two decades of policy designed to make Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University the primary providers of two-year degrees in Indiana.” (Mirror Indy) Passed unanimously.
Senate Bill 2 Child care
Senate Bill 2 requires FSSA to study compensation for child care workers while relaxing some staffing requirements in the hopes of growing the workforce. The overall age limit falls from 21 to 18 for hiring staff and centers can hire workers as young as 16 in certain cases.”
(Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 48-1
Senate Bill 185 Student use of wireless communication device.
Requires each school corporation and charter school to: (1) adopt and implement a wireless communication device policy that governs student use of a wireless communication device; and (2) publish the policy on the school corporation’s or charter school’s website. Passed 49-0

Passed the House and goes to the Senate for consideration

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. 
“Under the bill, unlicensed home providers can care for up to seven children— an increase from the previous limit of five children and not including their own children.
Other child care centers would see license renewals every three years instead of every two years. Programs operating out of a private or public school would also be exempt from licensure, so long as they comply with health and safety regulations.” Passed 75-21. View the vote
House Bill 1376 School controlled project referendum
This bill “clarifies referendum language, leading to new requirements. Education referendums would only be allowed on general election ballots, so cities could no longer hold special elections for referendums.” (Indiana Daily Student) An amendment passed that stripped operating and safety questions out of the bill. The move left only large, long-term capital projects — control projects — subject to the proposed general election requirement. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed the House 51-43. View the vote.
House Bill 1137 Civics education and religious instruction 
Under this bill “public school principals would be required to let students leave for religious education — conducted by a church or other religious instruction organization — for up to two hours per week. The bill amends Indiana Code 20-33-2-19; before, a student’s release was based on the principal’s decision. Now, as long as the student is in “good academic standing,” they’ll have to be released.”  (Indiana Daily Student) Passed 92-4.
House Bill 1002 Enforcement of equal educational opportunity.
This bill “defines antisemitism in educational settings with little discussion, even as protestors interrupted proceedings and chanted outside…” Passed 81-0. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)


Passed the Senate and goes to the House for consideration

SB 246 Assessment of wetlands classified as wildlands.
This bill revises the definition of wetland categories and creates a tax break for property owners who preserve wetlands. It would expand an existing program to create a voluntary incentive for wetland preservation. Property owners who preserve wetlands on their property do a service for the broader community since their wetland helps store stormwater which reduces flooding and it helps the stormwater soak in and replenish groundwater supplies.
(Hoosier Environmental Council) Passed 48-0.
Senate Bill 5 Lead water line replacement and lead remediation
This bill “would enable utility companies with Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC)-approved lead line service replacement plans to replace lead pipes quicker, more efficiently and at a lower cost.” (Indiana Senate Republicans) Passed 49-0


Passed the Senate and goes to the House for consideration

Senate Bill 14 Right of certain persons to carry a handgun in the statehouse and state capitol complex.
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. 
That includes inside the Statehouse, as well as the adjacent Indiana Government Center, according to legislative aides… Judges, police officers, members of the legislature and legislative employees can already carry deadly weapons.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 40-9. View the vote.
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) Passed 37-9. View the vote.
Senate Bill 297 Administrative rules
This bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to review administrative rules that would cause over $1 million in implementation or compliance costs, and further would require legislative approval of all such rules. Passed 41-8. View the vote.
Senate Bill 234, removes a Hoosier governor’s ability to extend a state of disaster emergency after 30 days — or declare a new emergency — unless it is “wholly unrelated” to the first one. A longer disaster declaration would require approval from the General Assembly. 
Critics worry it could delay responses in emergencies, while supporters argue it’s about representation. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 38-10. View the vote.
Senate Bill 295 Indiana economic development corporation
This bill requires “the IEDC (Indiana Economic Develop Corp) to tell counties or municipalities about acquisitions of more than 100 acres at least 30 days before those purchases close. And it places two legislators on the agency board.” Passed out of committee unanimously.
 (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 44-5. View the vote.
Senate Bill 200 Nonprofit loan center loans for state employees
This bill “institutes a Nonprofit Loan Center for Indiana state employees, providing a payday loan alternative for Hoosier civil servants.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle Passed 41-8. View the vote.
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) Passed 46-2.
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) Passed 46-2.
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.” (WVPE) Passed 47-1.
Senate Bill 10 Community cares initiative grant pilot program.
Under this bill, “the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, housed under the Family and Social Services Administration, would oversee the Community Cares Initiative Grant Pilot Program and its accompanying fund…[the bill would be] a way to reduce public safety expenses by creating programs for non-emergency calls often routed to first responders. Communities could cater such offerings to address mental health, addiction, homelessness, elder care or maternity care deserts.” Passed 48-0
Senate Bill 142  Coverage for mobile integrated healthcare services.
This bill would “provide a mechanism for ongoing funding [for the above bill] by requiring reimbursement for medical services for mobile integrated health…The bill passed unanimously and was recommitted to the Appropriations Committee to approve the spending, which comes from existing funds.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously.
Senate Bill 9 Notice of health care entity mergers.
“In the health care realm, senators unanimously voted in favor of a bill to require health care entities to file notice with the Attorney General’s Office 45 days before an anticipated merger with a price tag of $10 million or more…29 other states already require notification as part of their anti-monopoly efforts — and that 13 of those states also require approval.
In Indiana, the office would only conduct an antitrust review.” Passed unanimously. (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) Passed 48-0.

Passed the House and goes to the Senate for consideration

House Joint Resolution 3 Terms of US Senators and members of Congress.
Applies to Congress for a Convention for proposing Amendments under Article V of the Constitution of the United States to provide limits to the number of terms that an individual may serve in the United States House of Representatives and in the United States Senate. Passed 59-33. View the vote.
“If passed, Indiana would join the six states that have passed identical term limits-focused applications, according to U.S. Term Limits’ “progress” tracker. Sixteen other states have passed different term limit language in multi-subject applications.” (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) Passed 67-29. View the vote.
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) Passed 66-31. View the vote.
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) Passed 68-27. View the vote.
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. Passed 73-22. View the vote.
House Bill 1183 Foreign ownership of agricultural land
This bill “would prohibit purchasers from “adversarial countries” from owning or leasing Hoosier farmland…” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously
House Bill 1327 Health and Insurance Matters
This bill requires “health care entities — including hospitals, physician practices, pharmacy benefits managers and third-party administrators — to report a breakdown of their ownership data to the Indiana Department of Health. The agency would be required to post that information in a public-facing dashboard. 
Additionally, pharmacy benefits managers and third-party administrators must allow an audit of their claims twice a year.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed 93-4. View the vote.
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) Passed unanimously.
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) Passed unanimously.
House Bill 1047 Sexual Offenses
This bill adds “computer-generated nude pictures of real people to Indiana’s revenge pornography statute — despite reservations over the legislation’s wording…”
 (Indiana Capital Chronicle) Passed unanimously.

In other news

Election 2024

The following is a list of candidates who’ve filed as of late this Friday afternoon for public office.  Friday, February 9, is the last day to file.  The deadline is at 12 noon.  (Indy Politics)


 “The Indiana Attorney General has unveiled an online portal for complaints about the teaching of race, gender, and political ideology in schools — an aggressive move that raises concerns about privacy and the veracity of the material made public.
The new website, which was announced Tuesday by state Attorney General Todd Rokita, is called “Eyes on Education” and includes complaints dating back to 2018. The website launched with material already posted, but the included school districts and state department of education didn’t know about it.” (Chalkbeat Indiana)
A $1 billion shortfall in Medicaid funding has resulted in what seems to be cruel decisions against the most vulnerable Hoosiers. “Effective immediately, no new Legally Responsible Individuals (LRIs), including parents of minor children, legal guardians, and spouses, may provide attendant care services. LRIs are also not permitted to provide the Home and Community Assistance (HCA) service.” (Indiana FSSA)
LRI’s allowed family caregivers to provide needed care for medically fragile family members who require round-the-clock nursing care; a nursing shortage in Indiana means these family members cannot receive nursing care at all times. LRIs helped fill that gap by allowing family members to be trained and then paid for providing care.
“The administrative change on LRIs was one of eight changes announced last week by FSSA as a money-saving response to an unpredicted $1 billion shortfall in Medicaid publicized in December. According to the Jan. 17 release, the agency targeted programs related to the Aged & Disabled waiver “because data showed this is where the Medicaid program is most acutely seeing an unanticipated growth in spending.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
House Bill 1386, Medicaid Matters” would have clarified FSSA Medicaid waivers under home- and community-based services that would have addressed the above elimination of LRIs. It passed through committee unanimously. It was not, however, brought to the floor for a final vote in the House, an unusual move for a bill that has sailed through committee. Republicans and the governor both sited the cost and that parents can still apply for per diem payments, which is far less. Families say that “ isn’t financially feasible for them amid a nursing shortage when their children need care 24/7, which prevents them from taking traditional employment.
For Rep. Greg Porter, an Indianapolis Democrat, the death of the House bill also represented a lost opportunity to hold FSSA accountable for the $1 billion Medicaid discrepancy. One of his amendments would have required that the agency have quarterly forecasts and halted reversions from Medicaid to other areas of the state’s budget — one of the reasons stakeholders said funding fell short.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle
Indiana dropped another 28,142 Hoosiers from its Medicaid rolls in December, as the state nears the end of its “unwinding” effort. Indiana has now disenrolled 330,413 Hoosiers from Medicaid coverage since the start of the process.   (State Affairs – Indiana)
A federal judge this week granted class action certification in a lawsuit challenging Indiana’s recent ban on transition-related care for Hoosier youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria.  (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday released a joint statement with 24 other Republican governors in solidarity with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his state’s border policies. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)
“Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. has pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a class C misdemeanor, for driving more than 40 mph above Taft Street’s posted speed limit in 2021.
Martinez appeared in court Monday before Special Judge Jeryl F. Leach to plead guilty to the offense. In exchange, special prosecutors Stanley Levco and David O. Thomas agreed to drop a felony charge of resisting law enforcement.” (NWI Times)

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