March 12, 2021

Weekly Statehouse Update: Governor Powers Testimony Gets Tense, IBLC Touts Progress

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The Indiana Statehouse. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Statehouse.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Tense exchanges between Holcomb administration officials and lawmakers. The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus touts progress. And solving jail overcrowding takes its next step. 

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

Governor Powers Bill

Several Holcomb administration officials testified in a Senate committee on legislation to curb some of the governor’s emergency powers, used extensively throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Those bills, including HB1123 and SB407, are a reaction to Holcomb’s orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. They would empower the General Assembly to act during long-term emergencies and would handcuff the governor from taking some of the same steps he took during the pandemic.

Those officials urged lawmakers to avoid restrictions. But legislators pushed back, arguing they were trying to assert themselves as a co-equal branch of government and complaining about insufficient communication from the administration during the pandemic.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

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IBLC 'Call To Action' Days

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus wrapped up two weeks of 'Call To Action' days that brought advocates to the Statehouse and generated calls, letters and emails to lawmakers. Caucus leaders say that advocacy helped halt legislation the IBLC opposes and push forward bills it supports.

Jail Overcrowding

The next step in addressing jail overcrowding is local justice councils. Those councils, created in House Bill 1068, passed by a Senate committee, include police, public defenders, prosecutors and mental health providers. They’ll be required to report to the state how they’re reviewing which people really need to be kept in jails.

FAFSA School Funding

Indiana lawmakers are working on a bill to increase the number of Hoosier students who file the federal application for college financial aid, and a recent change to the legislation would create an incentive for K-12 schools to get more students to do so.

Initially, Senate Bill 54 would have required students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA – unless a parent, guardian, or school staff member opted them out. 

But a change made in the House Education Committee means instead of requiring it, the state would offer schools more funding if enough students complete the form.

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