Indiana lawmakers created more than 200 new laws this year. And most of them come into effect on July 1. This includes controversial measures governing environmental regulations, heavy trucks and the events of 2020.
Arrested by the courts
Two laws will not come into force on July 1, after lawsuits have – at least temporarily – stopped them.
HEA 1577: Cancellation of abortion
A federal judge blocked much of Indiana’s latest anti-abortion law from coming into force on June 30. The suspended provision deals with a controversial “abortion cancellation” protocol.
Medical abortions require people to take two separate pills. The law of 2021, HB 1577, requires doctors to tell patients that “some evidence suggests” that these abortions can be “reversed” by not taking the second pill.
SEA 251: Teachers‘ union dues
A federal judge is temporarily blocking a new Indiana law – Senate Bill 251 – targeting teacher unions. This would force teachers to use sign language that unions consider unconstitutional and anti-union.
Unions claim this amounts to forced speech – a violation of the First Amendment – but the state says union members have other ways to pay their dues if they choose.
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Coming into force on July 1
SEA 389: Protection of wetlands
More than 80 percent of Indiana’s wetlands have lost state protection since July 1. It was after Republicans removed regulations on two categories of wetlands, arguing the rules were too strict. Dozens of environmental groups and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce have strongly opposed SEA 389.
HEA 1436: Lawyers’ fees in environmental law
Under the original measure, several Indiana agencies are expected to pay attorney fees for a party who wins a lawsuit against the state in a court case overseen by an administrative law judge. But an amendment ensured that this would only be the case if an agency acts âfrivolouslyâ or âin bad faithâ.
Environmental groups and some lawmakers feared this new law, HEA 1436, would pressure regulators to approve pollution permits they would otherwise deny.
HEA 1006: Police reform
2020 brought stronger calls for justice reform. And Indiana lawmakers reacted unanimously, approving a landmark law on police reform. Effective July 1, HEA 1006 requires all police officers to take de-escalation training and makes it easier for the state to withdraw certification from officers who commit misconduct.
HEA 1068: Prison overcrowding
HEA 1068 creates local justice reinvestment advisory councils that could help address Indiana’s prison overcrowding problem.
There is already a state JRAC, made up of people representing prosecutors, public defenders, judges, mental health professionals, police and more. The new law extends this to the local level.
SEA 201: OWI Marijuana
As of July 1, drivers whose blood tests are positive for marijuana – but who were not intoxicated or who did not cause an accident – will no longer commit a crime. SEA 201 aims to prevent people who have legal access to marijuana – like those in neighboring states – from being charged with a misdemeanor in Indiana.
SEA 187: Protecting monuments
Protests over police brutality prompted Republicans to pass SEA 187 – a law that requires Indiana state police and local governments to prioritize the protection of monuments and statues, without any explanation on what it means to “prioritize”.
If local governments are deemed not to adequately protect monuments, statues and the like, the state could cut some funding.
SEA 263: Essential Religious Services
And lawmakers have taken several steps to assuage their anger at some of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s COVID-19 executive orders. One of them, which takes effect on July 1, classifies religious services as “essential”, protecting them from future decrees.
Holcomb banned in-person worship services early in the pandemic. And other religious activities – a church-run daycare or pantry, for example – were more restricted than other “essential services.”
HEA 1190: Overweight trucks
Indiana will allow many more so-called âoverweightâ trucks on the roads, starting July 1. The previous law set the weight limit for most trucks at 80,000 pounds. HEA 1190 will allow trucks to carry up to 120,000 pounds – despite law enforcement concerns about increased security risks.
HEA 1152: Unemployment fraud
The new law aims to punish fraud in the unemployment insurance system. The Department of Workforce Development has called for the changes to target people playing on the system.
People who knowingly underreport wages or falsify facts about unemployment benefit claims will be required to reimburse them and could face civil penalties. Some advocates fear that people confused when filing a claim could be caught in the crossfire under HEA 1152.
HEA 1309: Pregnancy accommodation
The law does not require employers to provide accommodations, but says they must respond “within a reasonable time”. Critics say it’s a paper tiger: it’s already reality for pregnant workers, and it only gives lawmakers a selfish victory they don’t deserve.
Business groups including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association supported HEA 1309 because they believed pregnant workers looking for housing would have too much money. power in negotiations with their employers, if they were supported by a law requiring their agreement.
Governor Eric Holcomb signed an executive order on April 22 granting pregnant employees of state agencies the right to reasonable accommodation in the workplace. But he also signed the HEA 1309 law.
In a statement, Holcomb said that while he was pushing for different language – more closely aligned with his executive order – he agreed with some lawmakers that this was a “step forward” for pregnant workers. He said he would continue to look for ways to move forward on the issue in the future.
SEA 358: $ 1 School Building Act
SEA 358 refines an existing state law that requires school districts to offer vacant buildings to charter school organizations, despite an ongoing schools court challenge.
The law states that a school district must offer empty buildings once used for classroom instruction, for charter organizers to buy or rent for just $ 1.
That’s not to say there’s always a buyer or interested party, but lawmakers are now extending the right to a $ 1 school building to public educational institutions – like colleges and universities.
SEA 205: Online teacher training
Experienced professionals now have another route to becoming teachers in Indiana, under a measure that lawmakers say is designed to help tackle the teacher shortage.
SEA 205 allows people aged 26 and over with a bachelor’s degree to obtain a teaching license after completing an alternative training program and passing a state licensing exam. The bill is drafted to specifically allow an online program called the American Board to operate in Indiana.
But opponents, including the Vigo County teacher and Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute), said new teachers need classroom experience before they are introduced to students.
The law requires one year of clinical training, but only after teachers approved by the program are hired full-time.
HEA 1001: State Budget
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2021 legislative session came on its last day when a new $ 37 billion state budget – HEA 1001 – was passed with almost no opposition.
A revenue forecast unveiled a week before the end of the session was a game-changer. He has earmarked an additional $ 2 billion for the new budget, much of which is spent on K-12 education that virtually guarantees pay increases for teachers. There is also over $ 5 billion in one-time spending, from state and federal sources – paying down debt and investing in infrastructure projects and economic recovery.
Lawmakers put the much debated content of Bill 1005 into the State Budget Bill. It expands eligibility for school vouchers and creates a new education fund for families not enrolled in public schools, called Education Scholarship Accounts or ESA.
HEA 1287: Water and sewer service
The new law aims to help communities with failing septic systems connect to the city’s water and sewer service heading to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office.
According to the Indiana Department of Health, more than 20,000 septic systems in Indiana need to be repaired or replaced each year. Faulty septic systems can lead to sewage leaks into local rivers and lakes. It can also get into drinking water wells and make people sick.
But connecting to a new water and sewer service is expensive. HEA 1287 allows a utility to waive the cost of this service to underserved communities and increase the rates for its existing customers instead.
SEA 227: Misuse of pesticides
The new law aims to crack down on people who abuse things like dicamba, a weedkiller known to bypass farm fields and kill nearby crops. Under SEA 227, someone who knowingly misuses a restricted pesticide could be fined $ 1,000.
But an Indiana University professor wonders if the new law will solve the problem. Dicamba is known to derive from agricultural fields where it is applied and damage neighboring crops.