ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Legislature closes controversial session

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KPC News

Lawmakers closed out their 2021 legislative session this last week with a “job well done,” but many Hoosiers are raising eyebrows about some of the biggest bills passing this year.

There are always a few hot-button issues year to year, but this year seemed to bring more controversy as lawmakers passed multiple bills that had widespread disapproval across the state.

House Bill 1001, the state budget, has plenty of good in it as the state set out its spending plan for the next two years, but provisions boosting funding for private, charter and home schools was widely panned across the state.

A late-breaking boost in revenue expectations and federal stimulus money helped bolster investments in public education, but the state’s ongoing efforts to put public money into private education continues to baffle many Hoosiers.

House Bill 1123, which curbs the governor’s emergency powers and would empower the legislature to call itself back into session, is likely to cost Hoosier taxpayers thousands as the issue is almost certainly headed to court and Indiana pays to represent both sides. Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the bill, and the legislature overrode it.

We understand the legislature wants more say, but the reason why an executive is empowered to make decisions about things like the COVID-19 pandemic is, in part, because the governor works every day and the legislature is out of session eight months of the year.

Senate Bill 5, which curbs the power of local health departments to react to health emergencies, is also another attempt to water down agencies’ ability to respond to real situations.

Opposed by multiple statewide health organizations, the effort to try to solve COVID-19 displeasure is likely to have wide-reaching effects, blunting local health departments’ ability to do their job every day.

Senate Bill 359, which slashes protections for Indiana wetlands, couldn’t even get support from all of the Republican supermajority, much less the state as a whole. Aside from environmental groups, even the Indiana Chamber of Commerce thinks this is bad policy for Indiana, stating, “The reduction in wetland regulations will likely have negative impacts on water quality, flood control and quality of place factors that are connected to attracting the best and brightest workers and businesses to Indiana.”

And House Bill 1577, which would require doctors to inform abortion patients about the possibility of reversing a medication-induced abortion, is built on the foundation of dubious scientific information.

The bill will likely cause the state to rack up more legal bills fighting it in court. And while we recognize the state’s desire to curb abortion services to Hoosiers, doing so in a manner that forces doctors to give patients bad information is not the way to do it.

As finalized bills cross Holcomb’s desk in the coming days, we suspect the governor’s veto pen may be a little busier this year compared to most years.

We encourage that, as many of these bills weaken or simply don’t serve the public welfare.

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