Being a super minority, every year is a big fight to get legislation passed to improve Hoosier lives. Sometimes the other side of the aisle proposes good legislation, sometimes really bad. Every now and then they pick up our caucus’s bills, and sometimes our bills that will do the most for Hoosiers are simply overlooked. Every day our caucus is fighting the good fight, and this session is no exception. Here is a guide on bills that have made an impact, good, bad and ugly thus far this session.
Coverage for living organ donors
The first week of session began with SB 95, this year authored by Senator Bohacek (R), but originally authored and proposed by Senator Breaux (D-Indianapolis) in past sessions. Senator Breaux is the 2nd author on this bill this session. This bill protects living organ donors by prohibiting an insurer from declining coverage to an individual solely because they are a living organ donor.
Setting safer standards for living conditions
Senator Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) authored SB 230, which has passed to the House. This bill proposes that a summer study committee analyzes and evaluates health and safety standards in living communities and apartments. It would enforce that people are living in proper conditions and advocates for working class Hoosiers.
Bone marrow donor recruitment program
Senator Taylor (D-Indianapolis) brought SB 398 to the Health and Provider Services Committee because he had lost a friend who could not find a match for bone marrow. He also explained that minority communities only have a 29% chance of finding a match, while Caucasian people have a 79% chance. He has been passionate through this bill’s journey about these health disparities, and it has since passed in 3rd reading and is on its way to the House.
Childcare availability and affordability
SB 404 is a bill authored by Senator Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) and co-authored by Senator Yoder (D-Bloomington) that assigns an interim study committee to follow the availability of, or lack of, childcare in Indiana. It also will examine the affordability of it, as many families struggle to find safe, economical childcare in their areas.
“Education Matters” or common censorship
Some bad bills have moved forward, and some have died. One bad bill we are thankful that has died is SB 167, which would make it more difficult for educators to teach controversial or historical issues in the classroom, such as the Civil Rights Movement or the Holocaust. It died before its first reading.
Bail for violent arrestees
SB 6 is a bill that has passed to the House and criminalizes poverty. It has lots of bad parts to it, including strengthening cash bail provisions and preventing a third party besides immediate family from posting cash bail. The bill does not similarly regulate for-profit bail organizations.
Material “harmful” to minors
SB 17 opens up teachers and librarians to prosecution if they disseminate materials or put on performances deemed “harmful to minors.” The definition of obscenity and harm varies from person to person. Many of the testifiers say that their complaints on matters like these had been resolved. Senator Qaddoura offered an amendment to establish, codify and publish a reporting process, but the amendment was defeated.
Pointing a loaded or unloaded gun
Another bad bill that was passed to the House is SB 143. This bill is a “self-defense” bill, and it specifies that “reasonable force” includes the pointing of a loaded or unloaded firearm for purposes of self-defense and arrest statutes. The reason this is an issue, as Senator Pol (D-Chesterton) stated in front of the Senate, is that if someone does not look like they should be in a particular area and a gun is pulled on them and they are killed, this law helps the culprit. If it passes, Indiana could have see cases like the Ahmaud Arbery incident come up.
“Ending” the pandemic
SB 3 is a bill that many of the Democratic caucus are authors on, because it originally was for helping Hoosiers during the pandemic. It was supposed to give benefits or extensions to those who needed them, but then an amendment was suggested where it would cut SNAP, or food, benefits from those who were receiving them. After the consideration of taking food from people who really needed it, the majority of the Democratic caucus voted no to SB 3, because our caucus does not believe in stripping hardworking but struggling Hoosiers of basic necessities.
Cannabis reform for Indiana
Senators Taylor, Ford, Niezgodski, Melton and Pol all filed bills that would reform cannabis in Indiana in some way. One bill was for the legalization of medical cannabis, one suggested the full legalization of cannabis, and one was as simple as decriminalizing the possession of two ounces or less. None of these bills got a hearing. This pushes Indiana further back in time, and as our jails are becoming more overcrowded from petty pot arrests, other states are capitalizing on cannabis and earning revenue for their state. Senator Pol also offered an amendment on the Senate floor to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, only one Senate Republican supported the amendment.
To support teachers or to not
SB 356 is a bill that aims to help the teacher shortage in Indiana currently. It provides the issuance of permits for people to become teachers without a formal teaching education or license. Many teachers testified and stated that they did not feel that it supports them, as it may be a way to replace licensed teachers rather than assist current educators. It does not truly address the problem because it may lead to unqualified people in our classrooms and around our students.
Bills to get money directly to Hoosiers blocked
Both Senator Melton and Senator Taylor introduced bills to give Hoosiers a financial break this session. Senator Melton’s minimum wage raising bill, SB 323, would have raised Indiana’s minimum wage for the first time in fourteen years. His bill aimed to create a liveable wage for Hoosiers as anyone making $7.25 an hour falls below the poverty line. Senator Taylor’s bill, SB 234, would have provided a refundable child and dependent care tax credit to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income was not more than 250% of the federal poverty level. Neither of these bills to help Hoosiers were given a chance.