Compiled by Randy Hudgins
Each week we will take a look at what’s happening in the Indiana legislature with insights from social studies educator Randy Hudgins. This is his report on the highlights of bills in committee during the 12th week of the current session.
Bills of Interest
Senate Bill 480—Gender-affirming Care for Minors (author: JoAnna King-R): The anti-LGBTQ “Slate of Hate” had another banner week in the Indiana General Assembly, as well as other states. Montana passed a similar bill and the Kentucky legislature overturned a governor’s veto on a similar measure. This bill has cleared both houses of the Indiana General Assembly and has until Wednesday, April 5, to be signed or vetoed by the governor. A little-known fact for many Hoosiers is that the state legislature can override a governor’s veto with a simple majority. This makes a veto more symbolic than anything. Governor Holcomb vetoed the anti-trans female athlete bill last year. His action on this may signal his future political intentions. Citizens should know that this bill will be fought by several LGBTQ advocacy organizations and will be tied up in the courts. While it is nice to know that these, like most recent offensive bills, are not in effect due to court order, the state of Indiana is paying significant costs in adjudicating these matters, which is most likely passed on to you, the taxpayer. (Read the Indiana Capital Chronicle coverage and listen to the Session Sessions podcast.)
Senate Bill 414—Wetlands Bill (author: Gary Byrne-R): This bill was significantly amended in House committee. It enjoyed bipartisan support in the Senate. The bill aims to classify and protect certain types of wetlands throughout the state from development and the sewage concerns that come with those developments. A hasty amendment in House committee took away protections for many types of wetland ecosystems in what appeared to be a concession for developers. A bipartisan bill was thus changed into a partisan bill with House Democrats pushing back hard on the bill. A WFYI report last year detailed a study showing disturbing data that Indiana rivers and streams are among the most polluted in the country. This bill appears to do little to improve that rating, and one can only imagine the impact on our environment and public health. (Read the Indiana Capital Chronicle coverage and listen to the Session Sessions podcast.)
Senate Bill 284—Non-compliant Prosecutors Bill (author: Aaron Freeman-R): Senator Freeman proposes this bill every session. As a Senator from Indianapolis’ south side, he frequently disagrees with the decisions of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in areas such as enforcement of crimes involving small amounts of marijuana, as well as Ryan Mears’ statement that his office would not prosecute any person in violation of the state’s near total ban on abortion. This bill was amended significantly in House committee this week. Originally, the bill sought to bring in a prosecutor from a neighboring county or potentially from the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Since none of us are in the Todd Rokita Fan Club, that seemed to be a pretty odious option. However, as was explained in this week’s “Indiana Week in Review,” prosecutors of both political parties are hesitant to allow outside entities to enter into local prosecutions, and a framework for appointing a special prosecutor in most instances already exists. Since the Indiana Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether the state’s near total abortion ban is constitutional, the assurance that certain progressive prosecutors could have wide latitude in bringing charges under that law without significant blowback from the state is a welcome development. (Read the WFYI coverage.)
Upcoming Items of Importance
Saturday, April 29—Sine Die: The General Assembly session must be concluded by this day.
In April: The updated state revenue forecast will be released. Our two-year state budget will no doubt be significantly changed according to the details of this report. This will have significant impact on K-12 school funding, as well as funding for mental health treatment, public housing, and other major initiatives.
Upcoming: The Indiana Supreme Court is still yet to issue their final ruling on the constitutionality of the recent near total abortion ban in Indiana. The case was argued in January, and there is no clear indication on when an opinion will be handed down. Until that opinion is handed down, the law cannot be enforced.
Issues Not Addressed or Marginally Addressed This Week
- Senate Bill 1—Increasing the Mental Health Treatment infrastructure in our state
- Addressing maternal health and infant mortality
- Recruiting and retaining quality teachers for every classroom in Indiana
- Increasing the number of quality, affordable daycare slots in the state of Indiana
For Further Reading
This Week in Todd Huston: Support for taking away tax revenue from local school districts—see portion of this report regarding Ho-TIF districts for new housing developments, which education funding experts point out will lead to even more school referendums (i.e. Republican-driven tax increases).
ICC on school vouchers: Niki Kelly addresses the massive disparity between low-income requirements for Pre-K, Free Lunch, SNAP, TANF, CCDF, and the generous income requirements for K-12 school vouchers.
Indiana Lawmakers on school vouchers: Good discussion on expansion of school vouchers and the hidden costs for all Hoosier taxpayers through the need for more school referendums.
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