This session, I came to the Statehouse in my new capacity as Senate Assistant Democratic Leader with the mission of providing Hoosiers with solutions. I came to work with my caucus to advance legislation that prioritized the lives of all Indiana residents and respond to the demands we’ve heard across the state over the last year.
That’s why my caucus made it our priority to push for living wages, improved voting access, sufficient workers’ compensation benefits and comprehensive criminal justice reform—because that’s what Hoosiers asked for.
They asked for justice. They called for equality. And they demanded progress.
Yet, the first half of session hasn’t been successful in adequately responding to those calls. With COVID-19 restrictions resulting in fewer Hoosiers coming down to the Statehouse to be heard, it appears as if many lawmakers have chosen to disregard those voices.
But my caucus made it our mission to fight for the voices who could not be here—to stand for every Hoosier and work in alignment with their best interests. And that’s what we’ll continue to do. Even as the supermajority seems to be taking advantage of the public’s inability to participate as actively in the legislative process this year and advances particularly harmful bills.
Bills such as Senate Bill 389, which would strip our wetlands of essential regulations and cause irreparable harm to our environment and increase the prospect of flooding in our homes. Or the permit less carry bill that was passed out of the House, and that community members and law enforcement alike have called extremely concerning. We’ve also seen multiple efforts to redirect funding away from traditional public schools, and even more attempts to strip rights from local communities and voters by undoing policies enacted by local governments.
Coming out of 2020—where we witnessed nationwide demonstrations in support of racial justice, where we experienced unprecedented hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and where we saw the integrity of our elections slandered and attacked—I truly believe we have more pressing things to be doing in the General Assembly than taking funding from Indianapolis’ public transportation or overriding the governor’s veto on SB 148, which harms renters at a time when so many are already struggling.
However, I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, because the legislature has done some good over the past two months. We made sure that schools operating remotely during this pandemic would not have their funding slashed by passing SB 2. We advanced Senator Tallian’s workers’ compensation proposal and her juvenile justice reform bill. We saw legislation protecting our small businesses move forward, as well as a proposal to protect Hoosier parents with disabilities from experiencing discrimination when adopting or fostering children.
I’m also pleased that my SB 110, creating a database where police misconduct records can be easily accessed, was approved out of committee with unanimous support before a technicality kept it from moving further. My bill creating a tax amnesty program, waiving interest and penalty fees, also moved to the House with unanimous support. And, I feel optimistic about the headway we’re making on police reform with House Bill 1006. This is a very solid piece of legislation and it has received overwhelming bipartisan support. I hope to amend language from my SB 110 into this bill when the opportunity comes.
Still, while I’m encouraged by the significant gains we’ve made, I’m cognizant that there is still so much more to do. The good news is that we have time. During this second half of session, we can make sure our public school system and essential services receive the funding they deserve. We can provide teachers with raises. We can guarantee living wages to Hoosiers. It all comes down to priorities, and there is no bigger reflection of our states’ priorities than our budget.
That’s why I look forward to weighing in on our state budget in the Senate Appropriations Committee and again on the senate floor. As the ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee, I will be reviewing HB 1001 line by line and fighting for language that prioritizes and supports the demands of Hoosiers.
While the first half of session may be over, we still have more than enough time to address the major issues affecting our communities. I will continue working with my colleagues in the senate, on both sides of the aisle, to make progress in Indiana, address the needs of our most vulnerable residents and stand for every Hoosier.