Capitol Quick Takes: Indiana Senate should discard COVID bill

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AIM Media Indiana

Angry about COVID vaccine mandates, most of the Republican supermajority in the Indiana House passed a mandate of their own: They’ve advanced a bill that tells employers they cannot require employees to get COVID vaccines.

House Bill 1001 passed the House with a few Republicans wisely voting against it. The bill is broadly opposed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the medical community, advocates for public health and others. The bill now moves to the Indiana Senate, which we hope will discard this ill-considered legislation.

Just as the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that President Joe Biden’s workplace vaccine mandate went too far, except in health-care settings, so does HB 1001. Besides being bad policy, government overreach and a dangerous precedent, a mandate restricting employers’ rights to regulate their workplaces is also likely to be overturned in court.

The law is on the side of employers. They have the right to regulate their workplaces. That includes requiring vaccinations if the employer believes doing so is in its best interests, and more importantly, in the best interests of its employees and customers. Who is the Indiana General Assembly to substitute its judgment and mandate otherwise in such cases?

Fighting for public notices, again

It wouldn’t be a session of the Indiana General Assembly without efforts to strip requirements that units of government publish legal notices in the local newspaper. Everything from sheriff sales due to foreclosures to certain proposed ordinances are required to be published so that people know about matters and issues that might affect them and their community.

Public notices are just what they sound like: Notices required by law to be made public. That has traditionally been done in newspapers, because it doesn’t get more public than that, and because publication in a newspaper is tangible proof that a government unit has complied with legal requirements to disclose an action. More to the point, this system works and has for generations.

But if some lawmakers have their way, governmental units instead could post notices on their websites or on some yet-to-be-hashed-out amalgamation of online notices. Neither option would better serve the public.

Newspapers and the Hoosier State Press Association support bipartisan legislation, House Bill 1101, that would address cost concerns about public notices and preserve and improve the current public-notice system.

Yet the only bill so far that has been scheduled for a hearing, Senate Bill 283, would allow public notices to shift from newspapers to government websites. Doing so would undermine the very rationale for requiring of public notices for general circulation in the first place.

Public notices become less public if they’re stripped from local newspapers. It’s our duty, on behalf of the public we serve, to fight such misguided efforts.

Campus free speech bill worthy

Indiana’s public colleges and universities should be welcoming and hospitable to a wide range of thought and speech. We should expect our institutions of higher learning to champion students’ First Amendment rights.

House Bill 1190 would bar institutions from designating areas where free speech is not permitted. Colleges and universities also would be prohibited from denying benefits and privileges to certain student organizations. The bill unanimously passed the House Education Committee on Monday.

There are cases of viewpoint discrimination on campus. That shouldn’t happen, as long as the speech respects the boundaries of First Amendment protections. Yet higher-education administrators must be allowed to restrict the time, place and manner of speech. To paraphrase the bill’s author, no one has a free speech right on a bullhorn at 3 a.m.

This bill appears to successfully walk that tightrope and codifies the importance of protecting free speech on campus.