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Weekly Statehouse Update: Chaplains in public schools, wetland protections, speed limit increase

The northwestern exterior of the Indiana Statehouse.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Indiana's 2024 legislative session runs through no later than March 14, 2024.

Religious chaplains would be allowed to serve as public school counselors in a bill approved by a Senate committee. Wetlands protections are further eroded in legislation clearing the House. And debate begins on raising highway speed limits.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

SB 50: Chaplains in public schools

Sen. Stacey Donato (R-Logansport) said chaplains could help with Indiana’s school counselor shortage by providing secular guidance. Her bill, SB 50, said chaplains could only provide religious guidance to students with parental permission, unless a student seeks it out themselves. Democrats argued there aren’t enough guardrails around parental notification.

HB 1383: Wetlands

Three years ago, Republicans dramatically scaled back protections for most categories of wetlands in Indiana. This week, they took steps to reduce the number of wetlands that fall into the most protected category, Class 3. HB 1383 does provide incentives to developers to protect wetlands.

READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 765-275-1120. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including our project Civically, Indiana and our 2024 legislative bill tracker.

HB 1308: Speed limits

And a debate began this week — but won’t finish until at least next year — over whether to increase the speed limit on Indiana interstates and highways in rural areas from 70 to 75 miles per hour. HB 1308’s author, Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) said technology has allowed the conversation to happen, but some who testified raised concerns about safety.

Find all the bills our statewide team is covering in our bill tracker at

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.