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 13th week of the current session.
Bills Passing or Going Through Committee
Senate Bill 480—Gender Affirming Care for Minors (author: JoAnna King-R): Governor Holcomb signed this bill into law on Wednesday. The ACLU immediately sued in an attempt to block the law from going into effect on July 1, arguing that it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment as well as recent Supreme Court precedent. Once again this week, national news reminded us not only that our state is not an outlier in passing these types of bills. These bills are passing due to a national campaign by socially conservative PACs and organizations—not grassroots activism within our state or any other state pursuing these bills.
This correspondent wishes to point out the following concerns. First, this bill now is added to the list of social conservative bills that are held up in the courts. The Attorney General’s Office of the State of Indiana must use taxpayer money to defend these bills in Federal courts. The public must know the total cost of this litigation for bills that may never take effect.
Furthermore, how many hours has the legislature spent on these bills over the last two sessions? How many children could get health insurance in that time? How many teachers could we hire? How many mothers could we protect?
Finally, history has taught us that whenever a legislature seeks to target a minority of 1–2% of the population, whether it be to distract the people from the true problems of society that are not being addressed, or to project upon that group blame for those problems in society, a system of representative democracy is in danger.
Lakeshore Public Radio (NPR of Northwest Indiana)
Northeast Indiana Public Radio
Indiana Lawmakers (with Senator J.D. Ford and Micah Beckwith as panelists)
Senate Bill 4—Public Health Commission (author: Ed Charbonneau-R; many bipartisan co-authors): This bill seems to have as its co-authors many members from both sides. This legislation aims to implement certain recommendations of a multi-year state public health commission. Controversial areas of the bill include which services will be required of local health care centers and providers and whether this represents the state asserting too much control over care and services provided instead of leaving decisions to doctors, patients, and communities. A more pressing concern is how robust the funding will be in the state budget. Let’s hope that the general assembly finds the sweet spot on regulation while putting their money where their mouth is.
Indiana Week in Review podcast
House Bill 1635—Education Matters (author: Jeff Raatz-R): This bill contains a provision that would force students using the ASVAB test as a way to satisfy their testing requirement for high school graduation to join the military. For those not familiar, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is taken by young people looking to enlist in the military. Original language of the bill would have required students to sign a pledge affirming that they would enlist in the military if they used their ASVAB score to attain their high school graduation.
A little context is needed on this bill. A substantial part of the evaluation of a high school in Indiana is based on graduation rate. Since the late 1990s, a student must pass a state-mandated test to demonstrate proficiency in basic subject areas. In the last 10 years, the State Legislature and governors have changed which test students must pass more often than Indiana weather changes in April. The most recent test students are mandated to take is the SAT test, which is intended for students seeking to attend a four-year college, but not necessarily for those who choose to go into a vocational career or other career pathway. There are other pathways and waivers for students who do not hit the minimum score on the SAT. The percentage of students passing the math portions of the test are especially troubling—as in under 30% across the state.
Our long-term problem is that students must complete their coursework for a high school diploma and an accepted standardized test—regardless of their post-high school plans. There are multiple avenues that students can use and waivers schools can employ. However, since the evaluation of an entire school and therefore funding, retention of administrative personnel and teaching staff, and whether the state takes over a school or district hinges on graduation rates, there is a significant incentive for schools to find any and all opportunities to get students to commencement and have their efforts count for the graduation rate.
Indiana Week in Review podcast
Senate Bill 380—Education Matters (author: Jeff Raatz-R): As this bill makes its way through the House, a major amendment was proposed by Becky Cash (R-Brownsburg/Zionsville) to fold the language of SB 12—the bill aiming to prosecute and jail educators and school librarians—into SB 380, while adding public librarians to the list of people made vulnerable to criminal prosecution. SB 380 also gained the dubious distinction of trying to use school dress codes to expel students seeming to wear clothing that identifies them as “furries.” Now the Republican caucus has moved from one fictitious moral panic to another. One would be hard pressed to find another issue that has consumed so many hours of this session with so little resolution and so little actual support from Indiana voters as this issue. Few actual citizens of Indiana not affiliated with or compensated by national groups have spoken in favor of this bill and its amendments.
Senate Bill 284- Non Compliant Prosecutors Bill (author: Aaron Freeman- R): This bill is dead for all intents and purposes. This means that if the Marion County Prosecutor decides not to bring charges for certain offenses stemming from reprehensible bills coming from the State Legislature—say a near-total abortion ban—the Attorney General or other elements of the legal system cannot push the prosecutor aside and begin prosecuting those offenses. However, in Hamilton County, we have Greg Garrison as our Prosecutor, so maybe not a win for us on this bill.
At this time of the legislative session, this phrase will become a familiar refrain: Even though this bill is dead, it is still possible that part or all of the language in it can be folded into another (even unrelated) bill—through the voodoo-like process known as Conference Committee.
Upcoming Items of Importance
Tuesday, April 18: Committee hearings on bills must conclude in both houses by this Thursday. Bills must pass both houses by Tuesday, April 18, or they will be dead.
Saturday, April 29: Sine Die: The General Assembly Session must be concluded by this day.
This Month: 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.
Later: 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 (Just Like Last Week)
Senate Bill 1: Increasing the mental health treatment infrastructure in our state
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
Trans Student Athletes:The Biden Administration announces its intention to include protections for trans-female students as part of Title IX—specifically in regard to participation in athletics.
House Bill 1608 (i.e., the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”): This bill is working its way through Senate Committee this week.
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