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Weekly Statehouse update: Transgender girl athletes ban, new vote-by-mail restrictions

IPB News
The Indiana Statehouse

House Republicans ban transgender girls from girls high school sports. A House committee restricts absentee mail-in voting. And the House makes changes to a controversial school curriculum bill before sending it to the Senate.

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

HB 1041: Transgender girl athletes school sports ban

The Indiana House approved a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls school sports Thursday.

House Bill 1041‘s author, Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland) said it’s about preserving fairness in girls’ sports competitions.

But the legislation received intense pushback from LGBTQ+ Hoosiers and advocacy groups, parents, and medical experts during its committee hearing earlier in the week.

Many said the bill will likely harm the mental health of transgender children and youth. Protests erupted in the chamber after the House Education Committee approved the bill.

HB 1116: Election security, absentee vote-by-mail restrictions

An elections bill on the House floor says that Hoosiers applying for an absentee mail-in ballot must attest they won’t be available not just on Election Day, but any time in the 28 days before the election, when early, in-person voting is available.

The same bill, HB 116, eliminated and then restored language to move up the deadline for counties to install a vital election security measure.

HB 1134: School curriculum transparency bill

And House lawmakers made changes to a school curriculum bill – HB 1134 – that aimed to address concerns about teachers' workloads, parents' authority over curriculum, and limits to classroom conversations about race.

Lawmakers added language for the Indiana Department of Education to provide guidance for educators about how to follow parameters of the bill, including guidance on how teachers should navigate those rules. Still, some Republicans joined every Democrat to vote against the measure.

And it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

SB 294: Civilian members on Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board

Indiana is making changes to its Law Enforcement Training Board in an effort to improve training for police across the state.

The changes are a priority of Gov. Eric Holcomb and come from an independent review of police training unveiled last year.

Police in Indiana are mostly trained at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in central Indiana. But there are also training sites in northwest and southwest Indiana, as well as Fort Wayne and Bloomington.

Senate legislation, SB 294, would add the leaders of those other academies to the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board, in an effort to make sure officers are getting the same training no matter which academy they attend.

HB 1217: Coerced abortion

Legislation headed to the Indiana Senate criminalizes those who coerce people into having an abortion.

HB 1217 says if abortion care providers even suspect a person is being coerced, they must immediately call the police, who then must immediately investigate.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood called the bill “redundant and unnecessary.” It said the measure is only meant to further stigmatize abortion.

SB 17: Access to harmful material

State lawmakers are considering a bill to limit the legal defense for libraries if they're prosecuted for giving children access to harmful materials. A similar bill was filed – and failed to become law – last session, but is getting more attention this year after being included in controversial school curriculum legislation.

Senate Bill 17's language was also included in two other bills: a school curriculum bill the Senate killed and a similar bill House lawmakers approved Wednesday. That's not uncommon. Lawmakers file similar pieces of legislation to increase the chance it will become law or to attach themselves to an issue.

But SB 17 is moving forward as its own legislation, after being mentioned by some people who testified during earlier hearings this session. It essentially says if schools or public libraries share harmful or obscene material with minors, they can't legally defend themselves by saying it's for educational purposes.

SB 342 and SB 269: DNR authority

Two state Senate bills would limit the Department of Natural Resources’ authority to protect people from flooding. One could jeopardize flood insurance for people in Wayne County — and maybe the state as a whole.

SB 342 would prohibit the state from making Wayne County residents move or put their home on stilts if it’s in the floodway. The bill aims to allow two Amish brothers in Wayne County to keep their homes in the floodway. The county issued permits for them based on federal floodplain maps, but they didn’t check the state’s.

Another bill, SB 269, would reduce the number of dams that fall under the agency’s jurisdiction by about 20 percent. Lawmakers behind the bill said people who own the dams have had to pay to maintain them to the state’s standards — sometimes leading to years-long lawsuits against the DNR, costing taxpayers money.

HB 1063: Judicial review of agency actions

An Indiana bill could change the way trial court judges look at the facts when they review decisions by state agencies. HB 1063 already passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate.

The Hoosier Environmental Council worries the bill could make it harder for the state to enforce environmental laws in Indiana.

Say a utility wants to appeal a fine for not storing its coal ash safely. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management might use the fact that the coal ash is sitting in groundwater — a violation of federal law — in court.

While the court can disagree with how IDEM interprets that law, it generally accepts the agency’s facts as fact. Rep. Chris Jeter (R-Fishers) said this gives state agencies an unfair advantage in court. Under his bill, trial courts would give the facts presented by each party equal weight.

HB 1100: State agencies rules

Republican lawmakers want to make it harder for Indiana state agencies to create new rules.

State agencies each year pass dozens of administrative rules – they’re often the nuts and bolts to keeping the state running. Here’s an example: when you violate a traffic law, points get added to your driving record. Enough points and your license is suspended. Those point values are set by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, through administrative rulemaking.

A bill, HB 1100, from Rep. Steve Bartels (R-Eckerty) would force agencies to eliminate a rule every time they create a new one that contains restrictions, penalties or fines. He would also give the attorney general more power to halt new emergency rules. Bartels calls it a “proactive approach to government oversight.”

HB 1072: Referendum sharing with charter schools

Public school districts would be required to share referendum funding with charter schools under a bill approved by the Indiana House Thursday.

House Bill 1072 says if a district wins a referendum, part of the funds have to go to the charter schools that local students attend.

But critics say it could stifle future referendum campaigns, and make them more expensive for taxpayers. Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) and others said it’s also not transparent or fair for taxpayers.

SB 358: Personal data

Indiana consumers will have a lot more control over the way businesses keep and sell their personal information under a bill that cleared a Senate committee Thursday.

Though the measure, if it becomes law, wouldn’t take effect until 2024.

Under the bill, SB 358, consumers can find out from companies what data they’re keeping, correct inaccurate information in that data, tell companies they’re not allowed to sell or use that data for targeted advertising and, once a year, tell companies to delete their personal data.

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