The first half of session has officially wrapped up, and Republicans have advanced a number of subpar bills that hardly address the governor’s agenda. Meanwhile, an overwhelming number of Democratic proposals that could have actually met the governor’s goals, as well as offered beneficial change for Hoosiers, have died without committee hearings or have been watered down to meaninglessness. The governor seems satisfied with the progress the legislature has made, but we’re not.
The governor’s first agenda item was to cultivate a strong and diverse economy by “making Indiana a more attractive place to locate a business by moving Indiana to a market-based sourcing state.” Market-based sourcing would allow individuals and companies from other states to come to Indiana to carry out business with Hoosier clients. However, how can we expect companies to want to come to Indiana to do a service when they feel unsafe and unwelcome in a state that turns a blind eye to heinous crimes motivated by bias? Countless corporations have spoken in support of an inclusive, comprehensive bias crimes law, and Indiana still doesn’t look like it will get one. Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), who has worked to get bias crimes legislation passed for six years, had his proposal ignored in favor of Republican-drafted Senate Bill (SB) 12. To ensure that the bill would be meaningful and include the necessary list of protected characteristics, Sen. Taylor and Senate Democrats worked with the Republican authors to make necessary amendments to the proposal. Together, they were able to produce a version of SB 12 that was supported by the Republican authors, the governor and a majority of Hoosiers. A number of businesses such as Indy 500, Old National, Salesforce and Indy Chamber were also in support of hate crimes legislation with a list of protected classes. Inexplicably, Republicans reserved their support and gutted the bill, completely removing the list and all meaning of the legislation. Republicans actively chose to ignore businesses and Hoosiers by removing the list from the only bias crimes bill heard in the Senate. How does this make Indiana a more attractive place for companies to conduct business?
Two Democratic senators, Sen. Karen Tallian (D- Ogden Dunes) and Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington), authored legislation that would have legalized medical cannabis, providing Hoosiers suffering from multiple conditions with a beneficial treatment option. Recent studies, such as the one published in Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 3, show that cannabis can reduce the percentage of opioid users, help with withdrawal symptoms and decrease the likelihood of a relapse. SB 213, SB 357 and SB 287— all proposals offered by Democrats that could have addressed these important issues and endorsed the governor’s agenda were refused a committee hearing by Republican Chairs. Why was legislation that would have directly aided the governor in his push to end the opioid epidemic, and helped Hoosiers live healthier lives, silenced?
The governor wishes to focus on teacher salaries this session, but the Republican budget proposal, as well as their other bills moving through the legislature, fail to allocate money directly towards raising teacher salaries. Only SB 399, authored by Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary), would have given teachers a 5 percent salary increase over two years, but this bill was not given a hearing. The governor has claimed that his budget will increase teacher salaries, but when you break it down, not one component of the budget will result in a direct pay increase for Hoosier teachers. The governor also set a goal to ensure “all Hoosiers have the tools they need to find meaningful work and careers.” Sen. Jean Breaux’s (D-Indianapolis) SB 417, which would have helped low-income Hoosier women learn job readiness, never received a hearing.
Do you sense a theme here?
This session, Indiana Senate Democrats were ready to stand side by side with the governor and advance his agenda with our legislation, but with no support for these critical bills, the governor and his Republican supermajority have silenced the voices of Hoosiers across the state who support these important legislative proposals. The supermajority has used their power to pass insufficient, watered down bills that do nothing to advance Indiana forward.