I-CAN Update - February 26, 2015                      pdf version

Legislative Crossover Update

 

Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.


 

The General Assembly has reached the half way mark of the 2015 Session. Beginning next week each chamber will consider the bills passed by their counterpart during the first two months. They will have until mid-April to pass or modify each other’s work. Hence, the number of bills are now more limited. But it is possible for bills dealing with one topic to be altered completely and take on a completely different topic. For example, a bill that passed the House does not get a hearing in the Senate. The House could strip the contents of the Senate bill and insert the topics which passed the House but is not being heard.

 

SB 101, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed the Senate on a party line vote of 40 – 10.  Thank you to those who contacted their Senator to ask for support. Second reading amendments were attempted but all defeated. Amendments attempted included:  restricting application to only individuals and not businesses, requiring businesses to post signs regarding who may not be served, and restricting its application to exclude local ordinances that include sexual orientation as a protected class. All were defeated on a party line vote. ICC supports the bill as drafted. It now will be considered in the House. At this time we do not know to which committee it will be assigned. We do expect it to be given a hearing.

 

All three bills dealing with abortion passed the Senate. SB 546 which corrects the 2013 law that regulates RU 486 passed with a bipartisan vote of 41 – 8. The bill places restrictions on abortion clinics which provide more than five chemical abortions/ yr.  This bill received no debate.  SB 329, Disposition of aborted remains, also passed 43 – 7 with no debate. It was amended the day before to clarify some disputed language defining fetus. The amendment defines fetus in the same manner as miscarriage remains in last year’s bill. Fetus is defined as an unborn child, irrespective of gestational age or the duration of the pregnancy.  However, SB 334, Abortion prohibition based on sex or disability, which passed 35 – 15, did foster much debate during attempted amendments and on third reading. Most of the amendments dealt with the disability aspects of the bill. Amendments were focused on removing disability and increasing funding of disability programs. All amendments were defeated. The opposition focused primarily on costs and forcing religious beliefs on others.  The only other state to have this law is North Dakota. It now will be considered in the House. These bills are expected to move. ICC supports all three bills.

Another pro-life bill, HB 1016, Newborn safety incubators, passed the House unanimously 94 – 0. The bill expands Indiana’s safe haven law by providing modern incubator devices for anonymously leaving an infant in a safe manner. It also expands the locations where such devices can be operated. Despite the current law, many infants are abandoned some believe because of the face to face interaction required under current law.  The State Department of Health has a year to develop guidelines and protocols for this life saving program. ICC supports the bill. It now will be considered in the Senate.

 

HB 1069, Dissolution of human remains was defeated in the House on a bipartisan vote of 34 – 59. There was little discussion and the authors were surprised by the vote. The bill would authorize the disposal of a person’s remains by using chemical liquid to dissolve the body and then dispose of the skeletal remains. However, the liquid would then be put into the sewer for treatment. The Church opposes this means as disrespectful and offensive. Since the bill was defeated it will not be heard in the Senate where a similar bill did not pass out of committee. Typically, this would end the issue for this session, especially considering the margin of the vote. Although unlikely, the topic could be included in a Senate bill should the author and committee chair seek to do so.

Another surprise vote in the House on Tuesday defeated HB 1359, Immunizations, 44 – 51. The controversial part of the bill would establish a program to educate providers and the public about the HPV vaccine which addresses cervical and other cancers. Because this virus can be activated via sexual contact, many thought this was sending the wrong message. Also, there was fear that it was expanding the authority of the Department of Health. ICC does not have a position on the bill as the vaccine and all required immunizations are morally acceptable.

 

SB 385, Murder sentencing, aggravating circumstance, passed the Senate 45 – 5. The bill provides that a murder committed at a school, university or in a place of worship could also be considered for the death penalty. It now goes to the House. ICC opposes the bill.

House passed the State’s biennial budget, HB 1001, on a party line vote 69 – 29. The budget contains policy as well as line item allocations.  ICC does not take a position on the budget bill as it covers many positive as well as less than positive programs. We do support certain aspects of the budget such as resources for food banks and other programs that support families. In addition, this year’s budget also addresses two positive changes in the school choice arena. It increases the state’s support for the scholarship tax credit program by increasing the limit on the amount of state tax credit from $7.5 M to $12.5M; and it removes the artificial cap of $4,800 for grades 1 -8 voucher. A cap still exists in the amount of the school tuition or 90% or 50% (depending on family income) of the state support for the school district in which the child resides. ICC supports these positive changes.


 

In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills, as well as detailed information about the legislative process and the Indiana General Assembly by clicking here.  You can also access the archived I-CAN Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC website www.indianacc.org



 

 

 

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