Lawmakers look to wrap up session early with several bills in conference committee

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Posted at 9:56 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-04 21:56:53-05

INDIANAPOLIS – As legislation works its way through the statehouse, legislation gets change from chamber. Sometimes those legislative changes are welcomed, other times they aren’t. When chambers can’t agree, those bills go to conference committee.

Senate Bill 1137

One bill that both the house and senate can't agree on is house bill 1137. Originally it would have required schools to allow students to leave during the day for religious instruction. That legislation had bipartisan support.

However, it was amended to include language that would allow forchaplains to be hired as school counselors. That part of the bill is something not supported by the house. The legislation has raised concern among some chaplains and pastors in Indianapolis.

The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrow, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis sent the following statement to WRTV’s Meredith Hackler in regards to the chaplain language in house bill 1137.


“Serious concerns remain with this bill as it may open the door to unintended spiritual counseling rather than mental health treatment. Unless they have credentials as psychological or psychiatric professionals, clergy, as a rule are not licensed, trained, or called to serve as mental health professionals or counselors in secular settings. We leave that complex and admirable work to the professionals who run our public schools on a daily basis and come behind them to support them and advocate for greater funding and career development services.”

House Bill 1004

Another bill that is likely on it's way to conference committee is house bill 1004. The bill now establishes what lawmakers in the senate believe is a long term solution for public retirees and a so-called 13th check. Originally the bill would have provided a 13th check to public retirees.

Those long term solutions are something that retirees support, but with the way the bill is now written, they won’t get a 13th check. Something they haven’t gotten in three years.

"We kind of go through this drill every year of whether we should give a 13th check or not or give a cost of living raise or not,” Dan Sacks a public retiree said. “More often then not it seems like nothing is done. "

Providing a 13th check is a priority for house democrats and republicans, but not for republicans in the senate.

Retired Indiana Public Employees Association has been advocating on behalf of retirees at the statehouse this session. They too support a long-term solution but say the bill isn’t specific enough to lay out exactly how a 13th check or cost of living increase will work. They say their members need financial relief now.

"There is no implementation language attached to that promise of a 2025 you know Hybrid plan,” Jessica Love the Executive Director of the Retired Indiana Public Employees Association said.

House Bill 1002

House bill 1002 is likely going to face challenges in the house. It was amended in the senate to take out the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliancedefinition of anti-Semitism.

That definition lays out 11 examples of antisemitism. It’s a definition the group Combat anti-Semitism movement says was created by experts across the world. You can read those examples by clickinghere. The bill was changed after Muslim organizations and even some Jewish individuals had concerns that criticizing Israel would be considered anti-Semitism.
The Combat Anti-Semitism movement along with several Jewish organizations in the state of Indiana want to see the bill passed in its original form.

"If the bill doesn't seek to address the concerns of the Jewish community and Jewish students aren't going to feel protected on campus as a result of this compromise, then it doesn't really serve the purpose that it was set out to do,” Arthur Maserjian with Combat Anti-Semitism Movement said.

So far the Anti-Semitism movement says 35 states have passed legislation similar to the original version of the bill.

When bills are in conference committee, lawmakers have until the end of the session to come to a compromise, or the bill dies. By law, lawmakers can remain in session until March 14th but could end earlier if all the work is done.