INDIANAPOLIS — The 2022 Legislative Session wrapped up a few weeks ago, but already, there are people looking toward the 2023 session.
Senator J.D. Ford says he and his colleagues have heard from several of those people. They're urging him to support a bill similar to what the state of Florida passed, Parental Rights in Education, which has been dubbed the Don't Say Gay Bill because it bans public school teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom.
"It's troubling, disheartening, but I'm not surprised to see it," Sen. Ford said. "I think this is an attempt to put this on the radar for legislators to start writing a bill for the 2023 session."
Sen. Ford says all the emails are written relatively the same which makes him believe there's a larger group sending out talking points for people to send to their legislators.
Indiana Legislators had the chance to pass a bill like the one in Florida. Senate Bill 415 is very similar to it, but the bill never made it out of its committee this past legislative session.
Andrew Downs, a Political Science Professor at Purdue University Fort Wayne, says it's not a coincidence similar controversial bills are being proposed in different states lately.
"The ready availability of information, the way people have a better understanding of what state is like their state, it sets this thing up to happen on a regular basis," Downs said.
This phenomenon goes beyond education bills.
"Look at something like Constitutional Carry, even things that don't make it through," Downs said. "For example, there are people who looked to other states for legalization of marijuana or at least decriminalization of marijuana."
Despite knowing this is all a part of politics, Sen. Ford believes bills that aim to censor or stop conversations about certain groups of people shouldn't be part of the legislative discourse. He points out how valuable time, in his opinion, was wasted this past legislative session debating and passing bills like HB 1134 and HB 1041, a classroom censorship bill and a transgender girl sports ban bill.
"We had the opportunity to talk about student mental health in the 2022 legislative session," Ford said. "We had the opportunity to talk about bullying and harassing students. Child care costs are expensive. Healthcare costs are expensive, but we didn't talk about the kitchen table issues that affect Hoosiers. We got caught up on the socially divisive issues that puts people against each other." Sen. Ford said.