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Indiana Statehouse 2011: We're Screwed

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Indiana Statehouse 2011: We're Screwed

 

With strong majorities in the

State Senate and House of Representatives, leadership in most Statehouse

committees and a Republican in the Governor's Mansion, the Indiana GOP is

sitting pretty this legislative session, which runs now through April.

For Democrats, it could be a

long couple of months.

That's because there's a

prevailing sense among Indiana Republicans that now is their moment. After

years of deadlock between a Republican-led Senate and a Democrat-led House, and

decades of Democrat-favored voting district lines (see "Redistricting," below),

Republicans are making their move.

Rep. Jeff Espich

(R-Uniondale), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a member of

the State Budget Committee, said he didn't think aggressive social legislation

– like anti-abortion and gay marriage bills – were a priority. And

both Gov. Mitch Daniels and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) have

emphasized the budget, job creation and education reform above all else.

Still, there's little to

nothing standing in the way of conservative social reform with such strong

Republican majorities.

"Our priorities are the

budget, and trying to create an economic atmosphere that's good for jobs, and

educational opportunity for kids." Espich said. "But, having said that, I think

(social) legislation has, frankly, been stifled – there have been no

votes on those kinds of issues for many years in the House."

Liberals may be able to

breathe a qualified sigh of relief for now – somewhat ironically –

because of an economy that continues to drag. The economy may have gotten

Democrats into this mess, but the economy may also save progressive Democrats

if Republicans decide they don't have the time or the political cohesion to

push what some party leaders claim are second-tier priorities.

At least that's what state

Democrats are hoping.

"I think we all agree that those kinds of issues will be very

distracting, and will get us off the main things that we have to accomplish,"

said Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington). "Which, of course, are

a balanced budget, fixing unemployment and some of the other important issues."

It's a nice thought for

Democrats. But Republican legislators are already busy, having introduced

hundreds of bills this season, each containing its own measure of importance.

As such, we've had to leave a

lot out of this roundup – some because, frankly, they don't have a

prayer.

For example, we all got a warm,

fuzzy feeling when it seemed bi-partisan progress was finally underway toward

building real public transportation in Central Indiana. But the current plan

would require taxpayers to foot a sizable chunk of the bill — to the tune

of a $10 to $15 tax increase per person, per month, in the greater Indianapolis

area, for the next 25 years.

For Espich, that was pretty

much a no-brainer. "I'm not interested in anything that would increase people's

taxes," he said. "If mass transit expansion is a priority for (its supporters),

then they have the resources available currently without a tax increase to do

it." Even Simpson and Bauer, despite voicing support for transit expansion, deemed

success unlikely.

Other honorable mentions: a schools

bill (Senate Bill 171) that would guarantee summer break lasted from at least

June to until the Tuesday after Labor Day; an animal protection bill (House

Bill 1135)

that would outlaw a practice known as "penning," whereby foxes and

coyotes are hunted by dogs within a fence-enclosed property (see NUVO's past coverage

of the issue, "Coyote ugly," news, Nov. 24-30); another (SB 17) would

criminalize the release of any exotic or wild animal into the wild without

legal permission.

What else? How 'bout beer

bills that would let you drink at the State Fair (HB 1093); a bill that grants

civil liability immunity to neighborhood do-gooders who clean up abandoned

properties (SB 517); a bill that regulates ginseng production (SB 498); and a

bill outlawing "synthetic cannabinoids," e.g., mild hallucinogenic drugs like

"spice" (SB 5).

There's even a bill that

"prohibits the enforcement of foreign law" in Indiana (SB 298) – a bill

that has legitimate international trade implications but also reads

suspiciously like a softer version of incendiary anti-Sharia laws passed in

other states.

"Our leader, Brian Bosma, is

making an extraordinary effort in the House to be bipartisan," Espich said. "On

the other hand, I gotta tell you, there's a pent up desire to do some of the

things that Republicans believe in."

So fasten your seatbelts.

Hold on tight. Take a shot of the strong stuff or insert your own hackneyed

metaphor. Whatever you do, check out our top ten things to watch in the coming

session.

— Austin Considine

10 KEY ISSUES

Browse the ten key issues

we're watching this session below.

Click on the hyperlink title

to be directed to the full article for each issue.

1. THE BUDGET

Number one because everything you count on from the state – from schools

to roads to Medicaid – has to get paid for. And that depends on a balanced budget.

2. RIGHT TO WORK

The class of 2011 had hardly taken its seats when Republicans introduced HB

1028, the so-called "Right to Work" bill (RTW) — a controversial piece of

legislation that, if passed, would eviscerate union negotiating power

statewide, by securing an employee's right not to join a union at a unionized company (think the auto industry).

3. EDUCATION

Republicans have always prided themselves on being the party most friendly to

business. Now, with their substantial majorities, GOP leaders are looking

towards maximizing a less tangible product during the 2011 legislative session:

public education. To this end the newly-minted masters of the General Assembly

hope to use tools including merit-based pay for teachers and promotion of

charter schools for parents.

4. REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

If fiscal issues top this year's priority list in the Indiana General Assembly,

you wouldn't know if by the surfeit of abortion related bills introduced this

session. At least seven substantively different bills have been introduced.

5. GAY MARRIAGE

Statehouse action has, thus

far, proceeded as many predicted in a Republican dominated Statehouse. Senators

introduced a joint resolution (JR 13) on the second day of the session that

would define marriage between one man and one woman as the only recognized form

of marriage in the state – effectively banning gay marriage.

6. REDISTRICTING

For the first time in three decades, the process of the Hoosier state's elected

officials choosing their own constituents will fall to

the reinvigorated Republican Party. Those close to the situation speculate that

this will likely spell long-term disaster for Democrats who had the luxury of

drawing the lines in 1991 and 2001.

7. ENVIRONMENT

While both parties agree that passing legislation improving Indiana's environment and protecting natural resources are unlikely to be much of a priority in a Republican-led statehouse, the real concern is the rolling-back and repeal of what little eco-friendly laws do exist.Look for all sorts

of new terminology and tactics that all mean putting economic profit above

environmental protection.

8. GUN CONTROL

Proposed legislation would expand right-to-carry permissions in Indiana statewide,

at a time when meaningful (if incremental) gun reform is being seriously

debated elsewhere.

9. THE SMOKING BAN

If Indiana is out of synch with regard to gun legislation, it appears the state

may finally be catching up with broader sentiment with regard to smoking in

public spaces (SB 355). With the exceptions of casinos and cigar bars, smoking

could soon be illegal in all other public spaces and work places throughout the

state.

10. IMMIGRATION

In the wake of Capitol Hill's failure to pass the Development, Relief and

Education for Alien Minors Act – known as the DREAM Act – some of Indiana's

young, undocumented immigrants expressed worry that, without federal

protection, a Republican-led statehouse was likely to pass draconian

immigration reform, a la Arizona's SB 1070.Looks like their worst fears have come true.

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THE BUDGET

Number one because everything

you count on from the state – from schools to roads to Medicaid –

has to get paid for. And that depends on a balanced budget.

Writ large, a balanced budget

is something officials on both sides of the aisle want desperately,

particularly in the wake of a voting season so clearly driven by economic

concerns. But the Daniels Administration's proposed two-year budget (HB 1001),

has already been roundly criticized by his opponents for deep cuts in areas

like education.

However, Espich, who chairs

the Ways and Means Committee, said that wasn't the case.

"Half of every tax dollar we

take in goes to K-12" Espich said. "I think we'll be able to maintain the level

of K-12 funding that we've enjoyed for the last two years. We would call that

'flat-lining.'"

Citing severe revenue

shortfalls, Gov. Daniels ordered nearly $300 million in cuts from public

schools under the previous budget. The 2011-2013 budget preserves those cuts.

"Yes, education suffered a 3

percent, across-the board cut, and it certainly was hurtful to a degree,"

Espich said. "But kids are still going to school, school doors are still open.

In these tough times, I think if we can maintain funding for K-12, as our

priority, that's a pretty good deal." (Read more about pending education bills,

below).

Higher learning institutions,

meanwhile, could see even deeper cuts than in previous years. The current

proposal would make new, 3 percent cuts across the board.

While cuts are being sold as

inescapable, the governor has also boasted revenues that are outstripping

expectations. As such the budget could return part of the state's year-end

general revenue surplus to Hoosiers by way of a refundable income tax credit.

House Minority Leader B.

Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) called Daniels' focus on education and prosperity

in his State of the State address, during which Daniels introduced his

budget,"an attack on teachers" and

an "artful dodge" of the real issues.

"It's the worst financial

crisis since the Great Depression," Bauer said. "Some of his proposals may have

merit, but, my God, we've got a conflagration in front of us with the deficit

budget and hundreds of thousands of people out of work."

As of this article's

publication, the budget bill was sitting in Ways and Means. Keep your eye out

here and elsewhere as officials and journalists make their way through the

several hundred pages of the proposed budget.

— Austin Considine

SKIP TO:

INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION

[page]

RIGHT TO WORK

Among the most far-reaching

and contentious bills introduced this legislative session was a bill introduced

on opening day – indeed, within the first ten minutes of opening day.

The class of 2011 had hardly

taken its seats when Republicans introduced HB 1028, the so-called "Right to

Work"

bill (RTW) — a controversial piece of legislation that, if passed,

would eviscerate union negotiating power statewide, by securing an employee's

right not to join a union at a unionized company (think the auto industry).

Backers of the bill say it

will stimulate more competition and, ultimately, more hiring. Critics say the

numbers don't hold up.

"The main reason that data in

some of the states with so-called 'Right to Work' laws show fast job creation

over the past decade is actually because populations are growing and they have

larger service sectors," said Allison Luthe, a community organizer for Central

Indiana Jobs with Justice, a social justice advocacy group, in a recent

statement.

Luthe noted that states that

already had RTW legislation on the books were struggling. Indeed, of the 22

states that have RTW laws, seven are among the nation's 10 poorest, most of

them in the south, according to U.S. Census data.

Some Republicans don't seem

particularly anxious to wade in on a wedge issue that could piss off half the

state's blue collar workers – many of whom just voted Republican because

they were worried about jobs.

Gov. Daniels is among them.

He has already said he'd just as well avoid a confrontation over the bill.

Espich said he didn't think a showdown was likely.

"I think there are some

individuals that strongly believe in the issue, but I think, in the big

picture, no, that it will not come to a vote in the House and likely it will

not become law," he said. "Most people are going to say, 'hey, we've got enough

on our plates, we

don't need that.'"

As with all bills that have

been introduced, however, there's not a whole lot Dems can do if Republican

whips can cobble together majority support. Bauer said he thought its chances

of eventually passing were "pretty good," if not necessarily this year.

"If it hits the floor, it'll

probably shake down the thunder from the sky and delay a lot of things," he

said. "It's up to (Republicans) whether or not they want to ram it through."

Democrats have already

employed unexpected tactics to try to block the bill, including an effort on

the first day to keep it from the floor because, they said, it was not properly

introduced. Asked about potential recourse at this stage – and whether

Democrats would walk out to prevent it — Bauer said it was still too

early.

"I don't know if that's the

proper response yet or not," he said.

— Austin Considine

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INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION

[page]

EDUCATION

Republicans have always

prided themselves on being the party most friendly to business. Now, with their

substantial majorities, GOP leaders are looking towards maximizing a less

tangible product during the 2011 legislative session: public education. To this

end the newly-minted masters of the General Assembly hope to use tools including

merit-based pay for teachers and promotion of charter schools for parents.

Gov. Daniels said instructors

should be held directly and financially accountable for their pupils' academic

performance.

"Teachers should have tenure,

but they should earn it by proving their ability to help kids learn," he said

during his annual State of the State address on Jan. 11. "Our best teachers

should be paid more, much more, and ineffective teachers should be helped to

improve or asked to move."

Rep. Greg Porter

(D-Indianapolis), the ranking minority member on the Indiana House Education

Committee, said he was concerned by the use of this metric.

"We don't want this to be

punitive," he said.

Dr. Tony Bennett,

Superintendent of Public Instruction, told NUVO this strategy for boosting

student performance would be but one of several factors that determined teacher

pay.

"This will be one of many

criteria," he said. "The proposals seek to enable local school corporations to

set up systems to reward teachers for driving student growth. School

corporations should have the opportunity to reward their best teachers."

And if parents aren't

satisfied with the quality of their children's education, then Republicans

argue they should be able to take their business elsewhere.

"Indiana has lagged sadly

behind other states in providing the option of charter schools," said Daniels,

alluding to HB 1250, a charter school-related bill currently in committee. "We

must have more of them, and they must no longer be unjustly penalized. They

should receive their funding exactly when other public schools do. If they need

space, and the local district owns vacant buildings it has no prospect of

using, they should turn them over."

Though Daniels' speech

focused primarily on these free market education reforms, public instruction

for the state's youngest students was largely ignored as Indiana remains one of

the few states to avoid funding for pre-school.

"The Republicans say we can't

afford things like full-day kindergarten," said Porter. "What we're worried

about is our children being able to compete in this global environment."

— Rob Burgess

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INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION

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REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

If fiscal issues top this

year's priority list in the Indiana General Assembly,you wouldn't know if by the surfeit of abortion related bills

introduced this session. At least seven substantively different bills have been

introduced.

The biggest threat to

reproductive rights in Indiana is a bill put forward by Senators Dennis Kruse

(R-Dist. 14) and Jim Tomes (R-Dist. 49) that bans abortion altogether. The bill

and the majority of its less aggressive counterparts were referred to the

Committee on Health and Provider Services.

Most of the bills won't

matter much if SB 290 is enacted. The bill would prohibit all abortions,

including cases of rape and incest, but exclude those deemed necessary to the

mother's survival by a physician. It would also repeal all existing regulatory

laws and make performing an abortion a Class C felony.

"Senate Bill 290 is on its

face unconstitutional," said Betty Cockrum, president and chief executive

officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN). "It feels like an assault on

women."

It could also be a political

football. "Some members are openly saying they want to take a test case to the

Supreme Court, to give the Supreme Court an opportunity to overturn Roe v.

Wade," said Vi Simpson, Senate Minority Leader.

Social conservatives, in the

General Assembly and beyond, are also optimistic about HB 1228, known as the

"Conscience Clause" bill. Introduced by Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Dist. 73), the

bill would protect healthcare professionals who chose not to provide drugs or

devices that could be used to induce abortion or assist in euthanasia, possibly

making it more difficult for Indiana women seeking prescription birth control.

As Bauer noted, there is

little stopping conservatives from taking abortion legislation "as far as they

want it to go" this season.

"In order for a bill not to

pass you need 51 votes against it or a failure to get 51 to pass it," Bauer

said. "Those are pretty tough numbers to come up with on any of these issues."

Espich said he thought at

least some of the abortion bills would see votes in the House this session.

"They've been stifled," he said, with regard to past attempts to introduce

abortion legislation under Democratic leadership. "There's been no opportunity

to express opinions, thoughts, beliefs or positions on those issues."

With regard to SB 290,

Cockrum expects that Constitutional conflicts will keep reproductive rights

intact despite party shifts in the Statehouse since the last election.

"We would certainly hope that

the governor would observe that this is not a constitutional move on the part

of Indiana lawmakers," she said. "Perhaps it could stop there."

— Catherine Green

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INTRODUCTION

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IMMIGRATION

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GAY MARRIAGE

Indiana's lesbian, gay,

bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community experienced some ups and downs in

2010. Negatives – like the refusal of local bakery Just Cookies to fill

an order of rainbow cupcakes in honor of National Coming Out Day – stand

out just as much as the positives: like U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Indianapolis)

voting in favor of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Statehouse action has, thus

far, proceeded as many predicted in a Republican dominated Statehouse. Senators

introduced a joint resolution (JR 13) on the second day of the session that

would define marriage between one man and one woman as the only recognized form

of marriage in the state – effectively banning gay marriage.

Such a resolution must pass

the Statehouse twice, at which time it must be ratified by public referendum.

If passed by referendum – like this year's property tax caps – it

would become law, as enshrined in the state constitution.

Espich said he thought a

definition-of-marriage resolution was "a possibility," given past efforts in

the Republican caucus. But not necessarily a priority: Gay marriage bans have

been a perennial whack-a-mole for House Democrats in recent years. A ban passed

the Senate just last year, for example, but died in the Democratic-led House.

Clearly, things have changed

since then. Republicans alone can now determine their own pace and priorities.

"The governor has asked that

the legislature set aside those radical social agendas so that we can focus on

the important issues of the day," Simpson said. "So, we'll see how much

leadership they'll be able to show in keeping that under control."

The outlook isn't entirely

gloomy for Indiana's LGBT community. Heather Cronk, managing director of LGBT

advocacy group GetEQUAL, is actually looking forward to the coming legislative

season for a few reasons.

"It sounds like there is a

good chance for passage of safe schools legislation this year, and I hope that

LGBT organizations don't stop there," Cronk said.

Safe school initiatives, like

the measures to prevent bullying in Indiana's SB 538, are geared towards

ensuring a comfortable environment where students can learn without the fear of

being taunted by classmates.

"We will take action out in

the states to provide momentum for real change," Cronk said. "A 21st Century

civil rights movement - this year and beyond."

— Keelee Hurlburt

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INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION

[page]

REDISTRICTING

For the first time in three

decades, the process of the Hoosier state's elected officials choosing their

own constituents will fall to the reinvigorated Republican Party. Those close

to the situation speculate that this will likely spell long-term disaster for

Democrats who had the luxury of drawing the lines in 1991 and 2001.

And with no independent

committee standing between Republicans and their redistricting efforts, Democrats

worry about the potential for "gerrymandering" – a process of redrawing

district lines to favor the party in power.

"The last two times the

Democrats have attempted to draw fairly for everyone," said Rep. Greg Porter, a

Democrat who has represented the 96th District for the past 19 years. "Of

course with the Republicans in charge there will be a robust conversation about

maps."

Speaker Bosma told NUVO he

was "thrilled" that Republicans would have the opportunity to draw districts

for the first time in 30 years, but argued that Republican redistricting would

make representation more accurate, not less.

"The maps drawn 10 years ago

were clearly drawn for partisan reasons alone," Bosma said. "Republicans have

won up to 60 percent of the vote and not had a majority in the legislature. The

goal is to draw fair districts."

Julia Vaughn, policy director

for Common Cause Indiana, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said the situation has

the potential to boil over into open hostility once census data for Indiana is

released in February and legislators begin drawing maps.

"It could be very dramatic,"

she said. "There's speculation that the Democrats could walk out. They don't

have a lot of options."

Vaughn said the timeline for

the mapping would be over almost before it began as Indiana's statutory

deadline for redistricting would arrive at the end of April.

"Once things start it will

move quickly," she said. "We will have something concrete to talk about by mid-March."

Vaughn said two bills

proposed last year, SB 80 and SB 136, would have placed some modicum of control

on the redistricting process. SB 80 would have placed criteria on the districts

being drawn. (Currently, contiguity is the only requirement in the state.) SB

136 would have created a study committee that could ultimately empower voters

to change the state constitution so that legislators couldn't draw the districts.

Both bills failed.

"You have lines that are

drawn for political purposes," Vaughn said. "What you're doing is stifling

competition. On paper there are about 11 of 100 competitive districts. A very

small percentage of races actually mean something... Many times we have districts

where the real race is in the primary in May."

Bosma said he supported the

idea of independent committees being a part of the process, yet he and his

fellow GOP lawmakers stand to hold complete control of the reins this time

around.

Vaughn said Common Cause

Indiana would be meeting in the very near future to determine the times and

locations for public meetings to discuss the process.

— Rob Burgess

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INTRODUCTION

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IMMIGRATION

[page]

ENVIRONMENT

To hear Democrats tell it,

the environment probably won't be much of a

priority in this

Republican-led assembly.

"The governor made an

interesting statement" in the State of the State address, Bauer noted. "He

didn't think there should be any environmental or public safety restrictions to

bringing in a company. So I think the environmental laws will be weakened and

public safety laws will be weakened, or attempted to be."

To hear Republicans tell it,

the story sounds about the same.

"I want to see people get

jobs a little more than I want to worry about cleaning the environment," Espich

said.

Little surprise, then, that

there are several environmental bills – wide-ranging in nature –

that deserve a close watch this season:

CAFO moratorium: Republican

Sen. Allen Paul has been trying for years to get a moratorium on Concentrated

Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

. He's not letting up this year. The

legislation, SB 113, would freeze the construction and expansion of

CAFOs for three years.

"Legislators need to take an

in-depth look at the effects (CAFOs) have on air and water quality," Paul said

last month in a statement about the legislation.

The fact is CAFOs aren't just

cruel to the tightly-packed animals they house: the crap of thousands of

animals is toxic in such concentrated proportions. Land application of CAFO

manure can pollute our waterways and drinking water. Indiana got a taste of the

problems that can come with CAFOs when gigantic manure bubbles in CAFO lagoons

made national headlines, and when 100,000 fish died in the Mississinewa River because

of contamination from untreated CAFO manure.

In a state where industrial

agriculture is the status quo it will be difficult for this legislation to

pass. But if these CAFO disasters are lessons, state lawmakers would do well to

at least take notes.

Carbon dioxide pipeline and

eminent domain: The Man's out to take your land. Passing SB 72, authored by

Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield), would do just that. And it's not even for a

good reason. The legislation would allow private corporations to use eminent

domain to seize land to build carbon dioxide pipelines that would pump CO2 all the

way down to the Gulf Coast.

The bill was created with the

gasification plant in Rockport, Ind., in mind, right on Indiana's southern

border. But the bill would also open the state to the possibility of more CO2

pipelines and the ability of private corporations to take land wherever they

want to build a pipeline.

And while it might be keeping

some CO2 out of our air in Indiana, the CO2 will be used in enhanced oil recovery

down on the Gulf Coast – basically using CO2 in order to extract more

fossil fuels. Which sort of defeats the whole point of sequestering the CO2 in

the first place.

Last year this legislation

passed in the Senate but stalled in the House. This year, its chances are

probably better, though, as Espich indicated, there's reason to believe there

could be resistance from Republicans who view eminent domain as an encroachment

on private property rights.

Coal bed methane drilling

moratorium: The same Senator who wants CO2 pipelines running through Indiana

also wants to end a coal bed methane drilling moratorium.

Sen. Beverly Gard

(R-Greenfield) – who is also the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and

Environmental Affairs Committee – authored SB 71, which would lift a

current moratorium currently in place that keeps companies from drilling coal

bed methane wells.

The problem with extracting

coal bed methane is the process of hydraulic fracturing, which pollutes

groundwater when toxic chemicals are pumped underground. A similar bill did not

pass last year because of concerns about the effects of hydrofracking on

groundwater supplies. Even so, it looks like the bill will not be ignored.

Low carbon/noncarbon plants:

Coal isn't clean. Just ask West Virginia. And you think nuclear is clean? Talk

to Hanford, Wash.

In this oxymoronic piece of

legislation, SB 15, "low carbon" and "noncarbon" power plants using nuclear and

"clean coal" (carbon-capture and sequestration) methods would qualify for

financial clean energy incentives. The legislation also rephrases "clean coal and

energy projects" to "clean energy projects."

The problem is, these are not

clean sources of energy: Coal still has to be mined and radioactive nuclear

waste still has to be stored somewhere. Lumping them in with legitimate sources

of renewable energy could bog down efforts to clean up Indiana's air and water.

Renewable Electricity

Standard: Indiana needs something to put a chink in King Coal's armor. Because

in our state coal rules. About 95 percent of the state's electricity generation

comes from coal, one of the world's dirtiest energy sources.

A renewable electricity standard

(RES) would be a start. The legislation, SB 453, would require the state to

generate 15 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, like

wind, solar and hydropower by 2022.

Not only are the

environmental benefits enticing, an RES would bring much needed jobs to

Indiana.

"There are a lot of jobs to

be made if an RES would pass," said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of

Hoosier Environmental Council. "We hear from companies that are deciding

between different states where to invest their money and they'll tell us

frankly that they won't invest in Indiana because we don't have a standard."

As Republican comments indicate, green bills clearly aren't a

priority. But RES has been introduced each year since 2006 and has gained more

support each year. Maybe this is the year it gets over the (coal) lump.

— Tyler Falk

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GUN CONTROL

It's not certain how gun

hawks thought they would sneak this one by so soon after the massacre in

Tucson. But that's exactly what's happening.

SB 506 would actually expand

right-to-carry permissions in Indiana statewide, at a time when meaningful (if

incremental) gun reform is being seriously debated in Washington. Public

support for some kind of reform – like a ban on the kinds of extended

clips used in the Tucson shootings – has risen to 47 percent, according to

a recent CBS poll, up from 40 percent last spring.

Current law basically says a

Hoosier without a handgun license may not carry a handgun "in any vehicle or on

or about the person's body unless the person ... is in the person's dwelling or

fixed place of business or on the person's property; or is carrying the handgun

unloaded and in a secure wrapper" from where the gun was purchased or repaired.

But SB 506 would give

Hoosiers the right to carry without a license if that Hoosier were "in or on

property, or in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally

controlled by the person" or "is lawfully present in or on private property, or

in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by

another person" (our emphasis).

As best we can tell, that

pretty much means anywhere that isn't a public building or an airport. Yee haw!

But that's just the start. SB 291 would ensure that "a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that ... is

manufactured commercially or privately in Indiana from basic materials ... can be

manufactured without the inclusion of any significant parts imported from

another state and ...remains within

the borders of Indiana; is not subject to federal law or federal regulation,

including registration, under the authority of the United States Congress to

regulate interstate commerce."

You read it right: as long as

the gun was made in Indiana and stays in Indiana, it doesn't have to be

registered. Wonder how they'll be able to track its whereabouts, though, if it

isn't registered? Details, details...

— Austin Considine

SKIP TO:

INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION

[page]

THE SMOKING BAN

If Indiana is out of synch

with regard to gun legislation, it appears the state may finally be catching up

with broader sentiment with regard to smoking in public spaces (SB 355).

Bauer said last week he

thought public smoking restrictions would be "strengthened around the state,"

with some possible exceptions for bars or casinos.

Press statements by other

statehouse leaders indicate the casino exemption has a good chance, because of

fears over losing millions in casino tax revenue. The exemption could finally

seal the deal for a ban that includes bars, restaurants and all enclosed places

of employment.

Gov. Daniels has already said

publicly he would sign a smoking ban if it arrived on his desk.

Espich said, despite

Republican concerns over government intrusiveness, he "wouldn't be surprised"

if the ban passed this year.

"It's an evolution of

attitudes, of social acceptance, of standards," he said. Mandatory seatbelt

laws evolved similarly, he said. "A lot of major, consequential legislation

takes years to become law."

The good news for smokers?

Another bill (SB 45) would provide state employee health plan beneficiaries

with coverage for smoking cessation drugs.

— Austin Considine

SKIP TO:

INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION

[page]

IMMIGRATION

In the wake of Capitol Hill's

failure to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act

– known as the DREAM Act – some of Indiana's young, undocumented

immigrants

expressed worry that, without federal protection, a Republican-led

statehouse was likely to pass draconian immigration reform, a la Arizona's SB

1070.

With the DREAM Act's failure,

their fears, it seems, were justified — as justified as the actions

ofSen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) were

predictable.

Delph has repeatedly

introduced tough immigration legislation for four years now. This year is no

exception. Only, this time, there's no Democratic majority in the House to stop

it.

Like the Arizona bill, SB 590

contains a "reasonable suspicion" standard, which critics have said is

tantamount to racial profiling because it allows law enforcement officers to

detain those they suspect of being undocumented.

Pedro Roman, president of the

Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus, said in a statement that Delph's bill

"legalizes ethnic and racial profiling, infringes on civil rights of American

citizens and legal residents" and "endorses violations of basic human rights."

Sen. Delph told NUVO that is

not his intention: that his legislation would only "put teeth to existing

federal law" requiring foreign visitors to carry documentation with them at all

times, "take the handcuffs off of law enforcement... and hold employers

accountable for knowingly and willingly violating the law."

Delph added that the language

of the bill specifically states that the provision should not be enforced based

upon race, ethnicity or national origin.

"Before we impugn the

integrity of law enforcement" to properly enforce the law," he said, "we should

give law enforcement a chance to weigh in on this issue."

The bill, which has been

introduced but not yet assigned to committee, would also restrict the language

of all Indiana government communications to English. Delph said he expected the

bill to see a hearing with the Senate Pensions and Labor committee on Feb. 2.

Sen. Delph has also

introduced a bill that would create a "Don't Tread on Me" license plate

(SB 115), and a bill that would require candidates for U.S. President to furnish

a birth certificate to make it onto Indiana primary ballots (SB 114).

— Austin Considine

SKIP TO:

INTRODUCTION

- BUDGET - RIGHT TO WORK - EDUCATION - REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS - GAY MARRIAGE - REDISTRICTING - ENVIRONMENT - GUN CONTROL - SMOKING BAN -

IMMIGRATION