Weekly Statehouse update: Handgun permits, school curriculum bill dies in the Senate
Lawmakers head toward the finish line of the 2022 session. A school curriculum bill dies. A gun bill is revived. And the vaccine mandate debate is over.
Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.
Lawmakers in the Senate effectively killed a controversial school curriculum and parent oversight measure this week. House Bill 1134 went through several changes in the Senate, as lawmakers attempted to address concerns plaguing the bill as it moved through the Statehouse. But ultimately, the measure’s author did not bring it forward. Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said his caucus couldn't agree on the legislation.
The measure was one of several Indiana NAACP leaders decried Monday during the organization’s annual legislative day.
House and Senate Republicans revived a bill in conference committee that would eliminate Indiana’s license requirement to carry a handgun in public. A Senate committee had voted the previous week to keep the permit system. But Republicans opted to ignore that and advance the original language in a different bill, SB 209.
And the House sent a far less restrictive version of their COVID-19 vaccine employer mandate legislation to the governor Thursday, who then signed it into law. House Bill 1001 largely maintains the status quo for businesses, particularly when it comes to considering employees’ religious exemptions.
The bill also includes a cut off for extra food stamp benefits Hoosiers have received throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government’s emergency extension provided about $85 for Hoosier families. That will end April 16.
The same night, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order Thursday ending the emergency declaration that’s been in place since March 2020. It contains provisions that ensure Indiana will maintain access to millions in federal funding tied to the pandemic and continue to offer vaccine clinics to children under age 11.
Indiana lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday to ban transgender girls from girls school sports.
House Bill 1041 didn't get changed at all in the Senate, which means with a majority of the chamber's approval Tuesday, the bill now heads to Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk for his signature. The House approved the bill in January.
A bill, SB 411, that sets state guidelines for where wind and solar farms can be located passed the House on Monday.
Any county or township that adopts the standards — or less stringent ones — for things like how far a wind turbine or solar farm can be from a home would be deemed a wind or solar ready community.
But the incentives to get that title were stripped from the bill. The original bill would have given counties $1 for every megawatt hour of energy generated by a renewable energy project, every year for a decade — boosting revenues for rural areas in the state.
A bill that allows companies that pollute to capture their carbon emissions and store them underground narrowly passed the state Senate on Tuesday.
Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange) who is sponsoring HB 1209 called carbon capture and storage the “most logical solution” to addressing greenhouse gas emissions and said that doing so would benefit everyone.
But several lawmakers expressed concerns about property rights. Among other things, the bill would require companies to get permission from owners of 70 percent of the land area and compensate those who don’t consent.
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School boards in Indiana must allow the public to comment during public meetings under a bill headed to the governor’s desk.
The final bill is less restrictive than it was earlier in session.
The measure, HB 1130, is a response to a small number of school boards over the past year who refused to allow public comment, amid anger and even threats of violence that bubbled up at school boards across the country.
The bill only says those boards must set “reasonable” rules for taking public comment. And they’re still allowed to take steps to “maintain order” in their meetings.
Gov. Eric Holcomb isn’t ruling out taking steps to sever ties with Russia and Russian-controlled businesses amid the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.
Other states are actively cutting off investments and ties to Russia. But Holcomb’s steps announced earlier this week were limited to gathering information about investments and state contracts with Russian-owned or controlled companies.
Holcomb said he wants to “know what we’re talking about” before taking further action.
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