February 4, 2022

Weekly Statehouse update: Adjunct teachers, lowered taxes on some tobacco products

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The Indiana Statehouse. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Statehouse.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Lawmakers wrapped up the first half of session this week, passing bills on tobacco taxes, adjunct teachers and material harmful to minors.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

SB 382: Lowered taxes on some tobacco products

The Senate cut some tobacco taxes, particularly on vaping products, as it wrapped up its first half. Proponents of SB 382 argue it brings parity to the industry. But opponents are concerned it will only exacerbate the state’s already poor smoking rate.

SB 356 and HB 1251: Adjunct teachers

Legislation in both chambers – SB 356 and HB 1251 – would let public schools hire part-time, “adjunct” educators that don’t have any teacher training. Backers hope it will help address ongoing teacher shortages. But teachers associations call it a union-busting bill.

SB 17: Access to harmful materials

The Senate approved a measure that removes a legal defense for schools and libraries if they're accused of sharing harmful material with minors. Under Senate Bill 17, those groups could no longer claim that harmful materials were shared for educational purposes. Supporters say it’s about keeping pornography out of kids’ hands. But librarians worry it will limit what they can offer in public libraries for all ages.

Midpoint education wrap-up

Indiana lawmakers are about halfway through this year's legislative session, after key deadlines came and went earlier this week.

Some of the education legislation that's still moving? Curriculum and transparency, FAFSA, special education and child care.

HB 1116: Election security, absentee vote-by-mail restrictions 

House Republicans voted Monday to further restrict when Hoosiers can vote by mail.

The GOP wants to encourage in-person voting – but Democrats call the measure “voter suppression.”

Currently, there are several reasons Hoosiers are allowed to cast a mail-in ballot. One is if you won’t be available to vote on Election Day. Under a bill, HB 1116, headed to the Senate, you would now also have to attest – under penalty of perjury – that you won’t be available to vote in-person any time in the 28 days before the election.

SB 271: Small nuclear reactors 

A bill that would make it easier for smaller, more advanced nuclear power plants to be built in Indiana passed in the state Senate on Tuesday.

The bill's co-author, Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen), said these plants provide reliable, clean power — and their small size makes them cheaper and safer.

But opponents of SB 271 said small modular nuclear reactors are a risky investment for the state. None of the planned modular nuclear reactors have been built yet and many have gone over their proposed budgets — some by billions of dollars.

SB 342: Wayne County floodway 

A bill that could jeopardize flood insurance for Wayne County residents — and potentially other insured Hoosiers — passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

SB 342 would prohibit the state from making Wayne County residents move or put their home on stilts if it's in the floodway.


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HB 1224: Bank fossil fuel divestment

Indiana wouldn’t be able to do business with banks that want to divest from fossil fuels under a state House bill, HB 1224.

The author of the bill, Rep. Ethan Manning (R-Logansport) said banks in favor of clean energy are “discriminating against” Indiana businesses by choosing not to lend to or invest in coal, oil, and natural gas companies.

Similar legislation has been proposed in Texas, Alaska, and North Dakota.

However, the bill was not called down for third reading, and is not moving forward this session.

SB 179: Construction zone speed cameras 

Legislation to allow highway work zone speed cameras cleared an important hurdle Tuesday – the Senate approved the measure after years of rejecting it.

Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) has authored a camera traffic enforcement bill for years. But it had been blocked in committee and on the Senate floor.

Under the bill, SB 179, drivers would be ticketed if they’re caught on camera going at least 11 miles per hour over the speed limit when workers are present.

SB 4: Local workforce funds

A bill that would create local workforce recruitment and retention funds across Indiana survived the Senate and is awaiting House approval. It’s aimed at reversing the so-called “brain drain” by funneling incentives toward educated and typically higher-income workers.

If passed, Senate Bill 4 would let counties, towns, and even school corporations start a workforce fund with a five-person panel of managers. It could be privately funded or use public money left over from other projects.

Local fund managers can use the money for most anything to attract workers including advertisements, grants or co-working space.

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