The 2018 legislative session convened for the final time on Wednesday bringing final action to the hundreds of bills that General Assembly legislators crafted back in January. The Indiana Senate Democrats worked hard to make your voice heard in the Statehouse. And thanks to your input, we were able to implement legislative oversight of the Department of Child Services to keep children safe, improve educational opportunities for our veterans and make CBD oil legal and accessible to all those living in Indiana. We are also proud that with your calls and influence, constituents will not lose their right to vote for local school boards. Below is a description of these efforts and other wins for constituents from the 2018 session. While these are exciting wins, there is still more to fight for and we will do just that.
House Bill 1315 – School Corporation Takeover
House Bill 1315, a proposal the Senate Democrats fought against from day one, was the last bill to be heard in the Senate. Time ran out for Senate Republicans to call the bill down for a vote before the final session deadline, killing the experimental bill that would have disenfranchised voters in Gary and Muncie. The bill set a dangerous precedent allowing for the state to use its power to dismantle locally-elected school boards. There were no criteria listed in the bill for when a school corporation should be taken over by the state, opening up the possibility for future takeovers and increased voter disenfranchisement. This was a huge win for Senate Democrats’ constituents, as State Senators Eddie Melton and Tim Lanane representing those respective districts in the Democratic Caucus were given nearly no voice in the decision-making process on state involvement in their school districts.
Senate Resolution 14 – Study on Department of Child Services
The Department of Child Services (DCS) faces allegations of budget reductions, inadequate staffing and services, antiquated technology and a dramatic increase in caseloads due in large part to the opioid epidemic. Matters of child safety require an immediate response. This session Senate Democrats offered Senate Resolution (SR) 14 to establish a summer committee to ensure ongoing legislative review of the DCS. SR 14 passed the Senate, providing much needed oversight to ensure legislators have the information needed to adequately protect children and support our foster and adoptive families.
Senate Enrolled Act 52 – Legalizing Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil
Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 52, legalizing CBD oil, passed the General Assembly. Every Senate Democrat voted in favor of the bill. SEA 52 allows the retail sale of CBD oil without the need for anyone to be on a registry. The Senate Democrats are glad the legislature listened to Hoosiers who testified that CBD oil relieves symptoms of PTSD, chronic pain and seizures, and provided this relief to those who need it.
House Bill 1214 – CBD Oil (Turned “Gun Bill”)
In a bait and switch move in the final days of the 2018 session, language from HB 1214 which would have provided CBD oil as treatment for ailing Hoosiers was completely stripped and replaced with language to increase gun access in our state. Although a separate bill legalizing CBD oil ultimately passed, this sneak attack by the supermajority to advance the NRA’s agenda at the expense of Hoosier common sense was unacceptable. Republicans used a bill meant to help children with seizures and veterans with chronic pain to try to expand access to guns, circumventing the legislative process that requires opportunity for debates and amendments. Now is not the time to sneak through broader access to guns but to take a step back and allow people in Indiana to debate common sense policies supported by Americans, like banning alterations that allow a sem-automatic weapon to function as an automatic weapon and raising the age of purchasing an assault rifle from 18 to 21. After Senate Democrats fought against the bait and switch move to HB 1214, the proposal to increase gun access failed to pass before the final deadline.
House Enrolled Act 1319 – Payday Loans Interest Increase
A proposal that would have dramatically impacted low-income Hoosiers seeking payday loans also failed to get final approval from the Senate. HEA 1319, approved by the House of Representatives 53-41, would have increased interest on payday loans by up to 200 percent. This bill would have made it practically impossible for Hoosiers to ever pay back these types of loans and continued an ever-decreasing spiral of debt for Hoosiers in need. Fortunately, this bill lacked the support it needed to pass the Senate.
House Enrolled Act 1001 – School Funding
Last year when the budget was written, an unexpected miscalculation in student population occurred that resulted in schools having less funding than needed. HEA 1001 filled the gap in the funding shortfall and was approved by both chambers. It is effective immediately to provide necessary financial resources to schools.
Senate Enrolled Act 1 – Sunday Carryout Sales
Hoosiers can now buy alcohol on Sundays between the hours of 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. thanks to SEA 1, which was the first bill of 2018 to be signed into law by the governor and was effective immediately beginning on March 4.Senate Democrats offered an amendment to expand the hours of sale to match the other 6 days of the week, 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. but it was voted down by Senate Republicans.
Senate Enrolled Act 419 – Providing Professional Licenses to Dreamers
Recently, the governor’s office announced updates to the application that many must submit to gain their professional or occupational license. This action locked out Indiana’s roughly 9,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from more than 70 professional licenses in Indiana, ranging from cosmetology to nursing to architecture. Many DACA recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers” have already contributed thousands of hard earned dollars to their continuing education and would have been blocked from being able to use that education. Language to solve this problem and give every Hoosier a career path was inserted in the House version of SEA 419, and passed the General Assembly with the support of every Senate Democrat.
Senate Enrolled Act 12 – Sex Offenders
Last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that individuals on the sex offender registry can exercise their First Amendment Right to practice religion, even if the service takes place at a location that is also used as a school, where sex offenders are barred from visiting. Language in a bill offered by Senate Democrats that passed the General Assembly stipulates that a sex offender can visit a school property only if a religious institution is located on the school property, and the offender visits the grounds with the sole purpose of attending a religious service. The language also requires that there be no classes or extracurricular activities being held at the location at that time.
House Enrolled Act 1007 – Treatment for Opioid Addiction
HEA 1007, which has been approved by both the House and Senate will allow the state to create nine additional opioid treatment programs. This expansion ensures for more accessible treatment for the epidemic that effects the lives of Hoosiers from across the state. This act has bipartisan support, and will help Hoosiers who are suffering from addiction receive effective and accessible care.
House Enrolled Act 1374 – South Shore Rail Line
HEA 1374 provided funding for the Northwest Regional Development Authority as well as the Double tracking project taking place along the South Shore Rail Line. These efforts will ease commute times for Hoosiers and help spur economic development in Northwest Indiana.
Senate Enrolled Act 178– Protecting Indiana’s Beaches
Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 178 was signed into law by the governor, after receiving unanimous support in both chambers of the legislature this session. This Democrat proposal addresses sand erosion on Indiana’s beaches. It requires that any sand dredged from Lake Michigan under a permit from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources may only be deposited on the beach of Lake Michigan. SEA 178 will help protect the ecological diversity of the lakeshore as well as safeguard our beaches for residents and tourists in the Region.