Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana
regarding state and national matters.
The House Democrats continue to be absent; the House remains at a standstill. However, the Senate continues to move a few bills and some committees continue to hear bills but votes are not being taken. The reason for not moving the bill is to keep bills available for amendments later in the session. Depending on when or whether the House can move remaining bills will determine if amendments, which include Senate bills now stalled in the House, to existing House bills will be necessary. Even when the House resumes business, time may be a factor in moving its remaining bills and the bills the Senate passed in January and February.
Action this week in the Senate
A bill on which we expected to see a vote taken was HJR 6, the proposed amendment to defend marriage as between one man and one woman. It would also prohibit civil unions from being recognized by the State. The language in the proposed amendment passed the Senate in 2009 and was expected to pass the committee again. However, Senator Bray, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not take a vote at the conclusion of testimony on Wednesday. The reason for not taking a vote was that the length of testimony did not permit adequate time for committee discussion. There has been criticism of the proposal because it would prohibit the state from enacting laws to establish civil unions as a legal entity. Also, critics cited possible prohibition of benefits for unmarried couples. However, benefits have not been a problem in states where identical or even more restrictive language has been adopted. ICC testified in support of HJR 6.
The delay or change in the proposal will not change the timing of an amendment to be submitted to the voters. A proposed amendment must pass two separate General Assemblies. In this case by legislators elected for the 2011 and 2012 sessions and those for the 2013 and 2014 sessions. The same exact wording of the amendment must pass two separately elected General Assemblies before it is submitted to the electorate for ratification. Hence, the amendment could pass either this year or next and still meet the same timeline for the 2014 election.
HB 1357, Local government reorganization, was heard in the Senate Committee on Local Government. The bill has become a possible home for many of the Senate bills now languishing in the House. At the hearing, amendments were proposed to include SB 386 which deals with many of the same topics as HB 1357, requirements of local units of government when proposing reforms. Also proposed as an amendment was SB 68 which deals with requirements for changing a town to city government. Both bill passed the Senate by large margins.
HB 1022, Office holder qualifications and nepotism was also considered but held. A proposed amendment would provide conditions in which relatives can not work together and clarification regarding salary limits when family members do work together. Also, the amendment proposed conditions under which contracts may be let to family members if full disclosure is made. No vote was taken on the bill or the amendment.
HB 1402, Prohibiting resident tuition for illegal aliens, was heard in Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. While no vote was taken testimony was offered regarding the impact of the bill. The effect is on students who have known only this country and state as their home and whose families pay taxes as other Hoosier families do. Questions were raised as to why place another hurdle in the way of persons trying to provide for themselves and their family. Many believed that this was contrary to the state's efforts and policy to build up a well educated work force. Other questions were raised about costs of administration to determine that tens of thousands of students were legal residents. No one spoke in favor of the bill. ICC raised some of the same concerns.
School Choice Rally
While the House remains out, the efforts to demonstrate support for or opposition to legislation continues. Union workers continue to gather each day at the State House, although much smaller in size. Efforts to demonstrate support for School Choice also continue to be ongoing. In addition to calls and contacts to State Representative and State Senators, School Choice Indiana is sponsoring a School Choice Rally at the Indianapolis Statehouse on March 30 with its Private School Choice component beginning at 12:30 PM EDT. Michelle Rhea, former chancellor of DC public schools, will speak at 11 AM during the charter school part of the program (all are welcome to attend her presentation). See more, sign up ?http://www.edreformrocksrally.com
The full program for the Choice Rally will be announced in the next week. At this point, mark your calendars and share the date with others who might be interested in attending. Considering the size of some of the recent rallies in Indianapolis having a good turnout for this rally is very important.
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org