INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers met Tuesday at the Indiana Statehouse for the beginning of the annual legislative session.
More than 300 bills are up for discussion on hot-button topics that have been debated over the past year. Here is a look at what you need to know about this year's session.
How long will the session last?
This is not a budget year, so the House and Senate will adjourn Monday, March 14.
How does a bill become a law in Indiana?
It's complicated and bills can die at any time.
Members of the Indiana House and Senate write and file bills that they present to their respective chambers. The Speaker of the House or the Senate Pro Tempore assign each bill to a committee, which examines the bill's merits and disadvantages.
Bills return to their originating chamber for a second reading where any legislator can suggest amendments. Bills that survive a second reading advance to a third reading where a simple majority vote — at least 51 votes in the House and 26 or more in the Senate — determines if it will advance to the other chamber where the process repeats.
If the bill survives the other chamber, it goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb who decides if he wants to sign or veto the bill. A governor’s veto can be overridden in Indiana with a simple majority vote, which happened on three occasions last year.
What are some topics that will be debated at the Statehouse?
Topics such as COVID-19 vaccinations, education, tax cuts, marijuana, bail, infant mortality and guns are up for debate. These are some of the bills that have been filed.
- House Bill 1001: Republicans are pushing the bill, which they say would protect individual rights by forcing businesses that require COVID-19 vaccinations to grant exemptions to workers claiming medical or religious reasons. However, the bill is receiving pushback from businesses, medical groups, Democrats and Gov. Holcomb at a time when Indiana is recording record numbers of COVID-19 cases. HB1001 would also end Gov. Holcomb's state of emergency.
- Senate Bill 31: The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition for employment if a person rejects the shot for health or religious reasons.
- Senate Bill 114: The bill would ban "vaccine status discrimination" and prohibit businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for employees or customers. It would also prohibit businesses from requiring face coverings, testing or social distancing based on vaccination status.
- House Bill 1040 and Senate Bill 167: Both bills have been written in response to partisan social issues, such as critical race theory, which is not taught in public K-12 schools. The bills would require parental review of books and other teaching materials. HB1040 would require students be taught that "socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems are incompatible with and in conflict with the principles of freedom upon which the United States was founded."
- Senate Bill 83: The bill would require school boards to allow public comment at meetings. Carmel Clay Schools in September announced board meetings would be held virtually after several became contentious, including one in which a handgun fell out of a man's pocket.
- Senate Bill 144: The bill proposes allowing candidates to request including their political affiliation on the general election ballot in school board races.
- House Bill 1002: The bill would cut Indiana's individual income tax rate to a flat 3% from the current 3.23%, which would cost the state about $500 million in revenue a year by the time it is fully implemented in 2026, according to the Associated Press.
- House Bill 1070: The bill would decriminalize possession or two ounces or less of marijuana. Indiana is one of 19 states that have not decriminalized marijuana.
- Senate Bill 6: The bill written by a handful of Senate Republicans would require a judge to review a probable cause affidavit before setting bond, set a minimum cash bond and only allow a "close relative" to post bond for people accused of violent crimes.
- Senate Bill 8: The bill would restrict the ability of charitable nonprofit organizations, such as the Bail Project, from helping low-income people post bail while they await trial.
- House Bill 1066: The bill would expand the state's Safety P.I.N. grant program by providing funds to programs that combat infant mortality.
- House Bill 1077: The bill would eliminate Indiana's law that requires a person to have a license to carry a handgun.