On Thursday, the Senate met their committee hearing deadline. Good or bad, here’s what happened this week as committees rushed to make final changes to bills moving to the full chamber.
A bill approved in 2015 to provide safety regulations on the e-liquid industry wreaked havoc throughout Indiana as providers attempted and failed to meet the restrictions of the law. Parts of the act were deemed unconstitutional by the 7th Circuit Court because of regulations placed on out-of-state manufacturing operations. SB 1 seeks to correct current law by removing date restrictions and requirements for an initial e-liquids manufacturing permit. Several technical amendments were approved this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the bill now moves to the Senate floor.
SB 276 extends the reach of the Pre-K pilot program currently offered in Indiana. After passing out of the Education Committee last week, the proposal was reassigned to the Appropriations Committee where an amendment to add an e-learning component to the bill passed 12-1. The in-home based online program would cost the state almost one sixth of the price of traditional early education programs and would be available to all 92 counties, rather than a select few. SB 276 now heads to the Senate floor.
Traffic obstruction by protestors
After dozens showed up to the statehouse prepared to testify against SB 285 a few weeks ago, the bill was held by the committee chair. SB 285 would have required a public official to dispatch all available law enforcement personnel within 15 minutes of learning of a traffic obstruction to clear the roads of all people obstructing traffic. On Wednesday, the bill was back on the Local Government Committee calendar where the committee voted 5-1 to strip all language from the bill and insert language to send the bill to a summer study committee.
Abortion, child abuse and sexual trafficking
Despite ardent opposition from Senate Democrats and numerous testifiers, SB 404 passed the Judiciary Committee 6-4 on Wednesday. SB 404 would require that an unemancipated pregnant minor receive consent from a parent or legal guardian in order to receive an abortion. SB 404 would also prohibit a person from aiding or assisting a young woman in obtaining an abortion without the consent of a parent or legal guardian, allowing civil damages to be claimed as retribution. As pointed out by legislators and testifiers alike, the proposal had several shortcomings that would endanger the safety and rights of the pregnant teenager. SB 404 moves to second reading where the Senate may vote on additional amendments.
Enforcement of federal immigration laws
Legislation that would prohibit state-supported universities from enacting sanctuary policies awaits final action by the Senate. SB 423 would expand current state law to include state-supported universities for purposes of enforcing federal immigration laws. The committee amended the bill to exempt students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. There are seven state educational institutions in Indiana covering 30 primary campus locations. As of this writing, no state universities have declared themselves “sanctuary campuses.” The committee only heard testimony in opposition to the proposal, but still advanced the amended bill 6-2. Senate Bill 423 now moves to the Senate Floor for further consideration.
Veteran’s programs and scratch off game
SB 454, authored by Senator Mrvan and co-authored by Senators Niezgodski and Melton, was originally assigned to the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs and the Military before being reassigned to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. SB 454, which would require the state lottery commission to establish a scratch-off game whose revenue would benefit Indiana veterans, was not heard in committee Tuesday. The Chair held the bill
where it has essentially died but will seek to add the language of the bill into SB 517 which passed unanimously out of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee on Tuesday.
Urging the Department of Education to support teachers who teach a diverse curriculum
Senate Resolution 17 would urge the Department of Education to avoid legal conflicts, intimidation, and dismissal of teachers who speak freely on subject matters in their classrooms. After hearing testimony in the Senate Education and Career Development Committee Wednesday, Senate Democrats expressed concerns that the resolution would provide protection for teachers who expose their personal religious beliefs in a public school classroom. The bill passed out of committee 7-3 and now moves to the Senate floor.