League of Women Voters

Bills before Indiana’s legislators


Vote! It matters. It’s among the most patriotic acts we Americans can do. While the interference of national interest groups in our local legislation trouble us and throttle what matters most to Hoosiers, we still need to choose representatives, lest we abandon democracy altogether.

But don’t stop there. We need to let our representatives know what matters most to us before and during the legislative sessions, and with Indiana’s Legislative Session is in full swing from January 8 to March 14, now is the time to monitor the agenda. Early on we have 430 house bills proposed by our representatives and 297 senate bills. Most of these will fail to progress and some are redundancies, but a few will become bills. Those that don’t may reappear in 2025’s session, just as cannabis legislation has done.

Since not everyone has the time to review the complete list, this columnist read a large number of bill descriptions to give you a glance into the bills that may touch your lives or be of interest to you. You can use this to track bills at https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2024/bills or Legiscan, more at the end of the column.

Voting matters: Because voting rights and voting education are the top priority of the League of Women voters, here are the bills related to voting that made the docket.

Have you been one of the unfortunate voters who arrives at your polling station, only to be told you’re not registered because you moved or are not on the roles? SB 283, authored by Sen. Andrea Hunley provides your application to obtain or renew a motor vehicle driver’s license or permit or an identification card  would serve as a voter registration application automatically. You could opt out, but it would facilitate a partnership with your ID creation and your registration. Furthermore, it “permits a voter who is qualified to vote in person to vote by absentee ballot and removes all other qualifications for a voter to vote by absentee ballot except for a voter with disabilities who is unable to make a voting mark on the ballot or sign the absentee ballot secrecy envelope. (Such a voter with a disability is currently required to vote before an absentee voter board.)”  It would allow elderly voter or a voter with disabilities to apply for permanent absentee voter status, and ensure that absentee ballots be sent automatically to them.

The second is HB 1376, which provides that local educational school referendums, such as “tax levy and school safety referendum tax levy, may be placed on the ballot only at a general election or municipal general election.”

The League of Women Voters, nationally and locally, also prioritizes women’s issues,  civil rights, and justice issues. Civil rights touch every group — majority or minority — and intersects with nearly every other area where the LWVMC conducts studies and publishes stances, including healthcare access, equity and affordability; education and teaching; parental concerns; justice and the legal system for adults and juveniles of all socio-economic classes, races, sexual orientations and gender identities; as well as environmental concerns, especially since the latter can create a significant concern for equity and health.

This year’s health related bills include ten bills regarding regulation of, decriminilizing or legalizing cannabis, two bills are related to food security, numerous bills are about health care - from staffing to mergers to contracts to insurance, among others. There are three bills explicitly about immunizations, two on contraceptives, eight on Medicaid and four on pregnancy. One that improves pregnant women’s lives is Sharon Negele’s HB 1024, which codifies pregnant workers’s rights as related to the pregnancy fairness act for pregnancy accommodations.

Also of particular interest is HB 1420 on contraceptive coverage requiring state employee health plans “to provide coverage, without cost sharing, for: (1) contraceptive products and services; (2) counseling and screening for certain sexually transmitted infections; and (3) pre-exposure prophylaxis, post-exposure prophylaxis, and human papillomavirus vaccination.”

HB 1426 requires a hospital that operates a maternity unit to ensure that a Medicaid recipient giving birth in the hospital has the option of having a long acting reversible contraceptive implanted after delivery and before discharge, and requires the state to reimburse the hospital for the service. It does allow for faith based objections and exemptions.

Related to women’s and parent’s issues, HB 1125 provides for a grant program to help communities improve maternal mortality. Indiana is the third worst of states that even maintain data, according to IUHealth’s 2022 statistics. For a better breakdown see the March of Dimes Indiana report card for 2023 https://www.marchofdimes.org/peristats/reports/indiana/report-card. Another is HB 1126 would fund lactation rooms in public buildings. This is in line with the 2023 national law to provide lactation accommodations for women.

As regards other pregnancy-related bills, HB 1287’s language seems complicated. It “provides that when a woman who is in premature labor presents to a hospital, the hospital must inform the woman of the hospital’s capabilities of treating the born alive infant and managing a high risk pregnancy and, if the hospital’s capabilities interfere with the woman’s care, the hospital must provide this information before the woman is admitted to the hospital.” It also contains provisions to criminally prosecute if a born alive infant or mother is harmed. HB 1370 changes the definition of human being to include an unborn child and moves towards criminalizing the termination of a pregnancy by saying that the homicide and battery laws would apply to a victim who is an unborn child. This seems to lead towards women being charged and incarcerated if they terminate a pregnancy without even speaking to any medical complexities in the health of the child or mother.

Finally, SB 217 is likely to generate a strong response on both sides of the abortion issue. Not only does it prohibit prescribing or posession of abortion inducing drugs, making it a felony for “practioner.” It requires state entities to inform women about alternatives to abortions, prohibits nonprofits and state institutions from providing assistance, including insurance coverage, to women seeking drugs that induce an abortion. Furthermore women must report a rape and obtain an affidavit to terminate a pregnancy due to rape or incest.

On civil rights for LGBTQ+ people, House Bill 1291 would replace the word gender with biological sex to determine if a persona is physically male or female. HB 1406 would place offenders into corrections facilities based upon biological sex at birth. Advocates for trans-people note that this is dangerous, as it may subject those people to greater risk of assault within the prison or jail. On a better note, SB 267 “repeals statutory text that restricts a marriage to be between only a male and a female” and “repeals statutory text that provides that a marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana.”

There are a number of education and teaching related bills, from chartering and cursive, to reading proficiency, to HB 1073, which eliminates or minimizes need for time outs in model restraint and exclusion plans. Also this requires recording equipment in designated special education classroom, seclusion area, sensory room, and time-out area. One bill that seems unlikely to proceed but would be amazing for teachers would make the minimum pay of teachers $60,000.  Curiously, Rep. Vernon Smith proposed House Bill 1017, which prohibits certain instruction on various historical figures but doesn’t say who in the brief description of the bill. Addendum, there are bills to address childcare as well.

Notoriously Indiana has favored businesses over individuals, (landlords, predatory lenders, dollar stores). This year there are a few bills that expand tenant and city rights against landlords, which would be welcome, if hard won. They’d allow communities to intervene when landlords let their properties become nuisances.

Last and hardly least, there are environmental bills, including further legislation on nature’s water filtration system, wetlands, which Indiana laws have already eroded. Perhaps, with the right members on the committee proposed in HB 1172 that would study the impact of climate change - climate resilience and economic growth — could report on the damage from previous wetland bills. HB 1208, proposed by Negele, would study utility scale wind and power for taxation through reporting regulations. HB 1399 would define PFAS in the state. If you haven’t read recent reports, PFAS can both help as a fire-retardant, but leave residuals that are toxic to humans. Our local Rep. Beau Baird introduced HB 1417, which among other items, directs the state department of agriculture (department) to conduct an economic impact study  of agrivoltaics on farmland. Agrivoltaics blends solar power at scale with farming to balance the generation of power with agriculture.

This hardly cracks the list of 700-plus bills. You can explore for yourself, or follow along with the session via various outlets from newspapers to Legiscan. https://legiscan.com/IN


The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information, visit the website www.lwvmontcoin.org or the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, IN Facebook page.