I-CAN Update
2015 Legislative Session Wrap-up - May 5, 2015          pdf version



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


The 2015 General Assembly ended on time and with many positive outcomes. Yet many may be overlooked because the dominant issue was the religious freedom restoration bill, SB 101, and its corollary, SB 50, Anti-discrimination safeguards, commonly known as the “fix”. This dominated the news and legislators for about two weeks during March. However, there were many significant bills before and after this that will make a difference. In addition, there were disappointments and some victories where bills did not advance.


Among the victories was education funding. In addition to a record increase in funding for public schools, there were positive changes to the school choice law. The artificial and additional cap on state support for elementary student tuition was removed.  The voucher will be either 90% or 50%, depending on family income, of the public school support in the student’s home school corporation. Also, tax credits were increased $1M each year to provide more student scholarships. Both will allow more families to access schools that meet the values of the families and needs of the children.

Although improving the Earned Income Tax Credit program and reducing the cliff effect for some low income families did not advance in the final weeks of the session, legislators did advance bills that address human trafficking. Prosecutors will have additional avenues to pursue traffickers and additional resources to prosecute them. As important, some of the assets seized from convicted traffickers will be used to help and assist victims recover and reestablish their lives. Also, adult entertainment clubs will now be required to assist and help deter human trafficking. Another bill provides better training and resources to assist police and families when young people go missing.


Pro-life measures were advanced too. While there were several bills that dealt with abortion, another bill which provides information to families who have prenatal diagnosis of a disability may do as much to protect life as bills dealing directly with abortion. The law will let parents know the resources and support for them and their disabled child; it will provide hope and give parents reasons not to seek an abortion. Two other life promoting bills also passed. Prenatal support for mothers and babies is critical and Indiana lacks in opportunities and support for low income families. Safety PIN (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) was established to provide support for institutions to reduce infant mortality. Also, the Department of Health was charged with determining a way to implement a newborn safety incubator program to protect newborns from abandonment.  This policy and equipment are used in many other countries.


The legislature also amended Indiana’s law regarding chemical abortion (RU 486) requiring doctors who prescribe more than 5 times a year to do so only in a clinic setting. The result should be fewer locations and fewer abortions. Finally, women who have an abortion will be given notification and an opportunity to decide how the remains are to be handled for final disposition. 


In other matters regarding human life and dignity, a couple bills were stopped which ICC opposed.  A bill which would have expanded in vitro fertilization was not heard in the House.  Another bill which ICC opposed was the alkaline hydrolysis bill. It provided that human remains, after being treated with chemical and pressure, would be dumped into the sanitation systems. The bill was defeated on third reading in the House. Yet, ICC could not stop two bills which added to the list of aggravators where a death penalty could be imposed. SB 8 clarified that dismemberment included beheading and was punishable by death. Also, SB 385 added murders committed in schools and churches and other places of worship.


Although the outcome of the religious freedom debate was not as we had hoped, and there were setbacks in other instances, the overall outcome of the session  was positive. As in all sessions, there are issues that will return next year and new ones will arise.


We are grateful for your interest and support throughout this session and look forward to your involvement again in 2016. In the meantime, look for occasional updates regarding Congressional and Federal matters. You are needed and your voice makes a difference.


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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