Legislators Navigate Short Session With A Long List Of Legislation To Consider

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    Legislators Navigate Short Session With A Long List Of Legislation To Consider

    INDIANAPOLIS—With the session has begun, lawmakers in the Indiana General Assembly have already started sifting through the nearly 800 bills filed between the House and Senate that could dictate the future of the state.

    The 2022 session is a short session, which occurs in even-numbered years. In odd years, like 2021, the legislature is tasked with drafting the two-year state budget, which means more time is needed.

    This session, legislators were only allowed to file 10 bills each, and the session will last just 10 weeks. It is required to conclude by March 14.

    There are 379 bills filed in the Senate and 407 in the House.

    COVID-19 reactions

    With the COVID-19 pandemic persisting and national debates over the power of workplaces and schools to mandate vaccines and masking, more than the usual number of bills this session aim to determine the power of these institutions.

    House Bill 1001, which gives exemptions to employee vaccine mandates and requires that employers provide unemployment to individuals who leave due to testing or shot requirements, was put at the top of the Indiana House’s list.

    In schools, House Bill 1040 would allow parents to opt their children out of school mask requirements, would not require students to quarantine after COVID exposure and would not allow schools to require students to get vaccinated against COVID or other communicable diseases.

    There are several bills with similar language in both the House and Senate. Nationwide, nine states have required exemptions from vaccine mandates by private employers while two states have banned the mandates for vaccination altogether, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy. Also, according to the site, 17 states have banned school vaccine mandates, and eight have banned school mask mandates.

    Education

    Also pandemic-related, Senate Bill 2 is an education bill that would give schools back funds they could be missing for students missing instruction days for quarantine and isolation.

    Two other education bills, House Bill 1134 and Senate Bill 167, have caused a stir. Both bills restrict classroom materials and lessons and add parental control for school curriculums. According to Education Week, Indiana is one of 32 states that have introduced or passed legislation limiting how teachers can discuss racism and sexism since January 2021.

    SB 167 also made national news for comments from Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, stating that teachers should remain impartial about Nazism. Baldwin has since issued a statement condemning Nazism and saying teachers should condemn Nazism, fascism and Marxism.

    The controversial bill was officially nixed by the Senate Friday, with President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, saying there was “no path forward” for the bill.

    Marijuana

    Thirteen bills have been introduced in the legislature to decriminalize, study or legalize marijuana, either recreationally or medically. The House Democratic Caucus announced marijuana legalization as a priority in November. A few Republican lawmakers have also shown support for similar bills. Marijuana bills have been filed nearly every session for a decade but have yet to pass in Indiana’s Republican supermajority.

    Firearms

    There are 13 bills filed in the legislature involving firearms. The most controversial gun bill moving through the legislature is a bill removing handgun permit requirements. House Bill 1077 has passed in the House and is moving on to the Senate, where a similar bill died last session.

    Child care

    Eleven bills in the House and Senate seek to study, fund and increase access to child care in Indiana. One is an Indiana Black Legislative Caucus priority, with House Bill 1067 by Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, waiving childcare copays and reimbursing childcare providers as well as creating a study committee on issues related to child care.

    Criminal justice

    This session, lawmakers are split on how to deal with bail bonds. In response to efforts from the Bail Project, Senate Bill 6 creates a minimum bail for violent crimes and prohibits third parties that aren’t relatives or friends to pay bail for someone who has been arrested. Senate Bill 8 has a similar goal.

    House Bill 1414, a legislative priority of the IBLC authored by Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary, would get rid of pretrial bail for nonviolent arrestees.

    Miscellaneous

    Along with the typical categories, there are always a few more unusual or atypical bills filed by legislators.

    Indianapolis is taking a deeper dive into being a sporting event venue, having recently hosted the entirety of NCAA March Madness in 2021 and the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2022. Senate Bill 245 would put funds towards the Indiana Sports Corporation to bid on bringing events to the state.

    A bill allowing local governments to further restrict usage of fireworks around July 4 was authored by Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel.

    Rep. Timothy O’Brien, R-Evansville, wants Hoosiers to be able to obtain lifetime fishing licenses. House Bill 1099 would require the department of natural resources to issue and establish fees and emergency procedures for lifetime fishing licenses.

    Sen. Phillip Boots, R-Crawfordsville, filed Senate Bill 111, which is about horse dentistry. It would allow people who are not veterinarians but do have a certification from the International Association of Equine Dentistry to perform some equine dental procedures.

    Boots also authored Senate Bill 75, which would allow for cold beer sales and cold beer carryout by grocery, drug and convenience stores.

    Taylor Wooten is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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