April 25, 2017 // National
ICC makes advances as Indiana General Assembly adjourns
INDIANAPOLIS — Each session of the Indiana General Assembly offers opportunities to promote the consistent life ethic and further the common good says Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference. The 2017 legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly adjourned Friday, April 21.
Tebbe said it’s been the work of the ICC to communicate to lawmakers the value and dignity of the human person from conception until natural death. In 2017, Tebbe said several legislative initiatives to further these goals in the form of pro-life legislation, education policy and support for low-income children and families proved successful.
ICC worked in cooperation with the Indiana State Medical Association to halt a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Indiana. National groups like Compassion and Choices, and Death with Dignity, actively work to legalize physician-assisted suicide and continue to lobby state lawmakers. Members of the Indiana House and Senate introduced bills which would have allowed a person with a terminal illness to request a lethal dose of medication from their attending physician to end the individual’s life.
“I am grateful that the physician-assisted suicide proposals failed to get a hearing this year,” said Tebbe. “We need to stand up for the inherent dignity and respect due each person, especially the most vulnerable. We oppose efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide.”
Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, authored a death penalty ban for those suffering from mental illness. The ICC supported the death penalty ban, but Merritt’s bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee and failed to advance. Tebbe said he was disappointed the bill failed, but said bipartisan support exists as well as a general consensus that persons suffering with mental illness should not be put to death. Tebbe said the proposal failed because the bill’s language was too broad. The Senate did pass Senate Resolution 64, authored by Senator Joe Zakas, R-Granger, to have the topic assigned to a study committee after session, which Tebbe says is a positive sign for the future.
Lawmakers adopted a bill strengthening parental rights for minors seeking an abortion. Senate Bill 404, supported by the ICC and authored by Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, adds verification of parental identity to parental notification for minors seeking an abortion. The provision was added to Indiana’s informed consent law. It gives parents of a minor who obtains an abortion without parental permission the ability to collect damages against a person who either posed as the parent or aided the parent’s minor child in obtaining an abortion. The bill increases the age of reporting child sex abuse from under age 14 to under 16 years.
The ICC supported legislation, which passed, calling for improvement in abandoned infant protection by placing a baby box at hospitals or hospital-affiliated locations. Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, authored the bill, which improves upon Indiana’s Safe Haven Law by allow parents to relinquish their child anonymously to a newborn incubator device, also called a “baby box,” at designated locations. The change involved allowing new devices to be placed only at hospitals or hospital-affiliated locations for safety reasons.
In the area of education two proposals supported by the ICC passed, including an expansion of pre-K and school prayer. The pre-K expansion, House Bill 1004, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, builds upon the state’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program which serves income-eligible four-year-olds in five counties, but expands it to up to 20 counties. A key component of the pre-K expansion includes a voucher component which allows pre-K students to enter kindergarten using a voucher to remain in the school system where they attended pre-school. Without this provision, income eligible students who were attending a pre-K program which also has a nonpublic K-8 school attached to it, would have been forced to leave to attend kindergarten in a public school first if they wanted to use a voucher. Tebbe said the voucher provision provides a seamless transition for children to remain in the same school setting.
A bill to protect students’ religious liberty was supported by the ICC and passed. House Bill 1024, authored John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis allows students to express religious beliefs at school or in class assignments. Tebbe said the legislation codifies case law which has developed over the past few decades. Bartlett said, “It is giving Hoosiers the ability to express their faith without fearing discrimination.”
Effort by the ICC to assist low-income families and children paid off this year. Senate Bill 154, authored by Merritt, increases the assets a low-income person may retain while continuing to receive food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Tebbe said raising the asset limit helps low income persons by setting them up for financial success and self-sufficiency while meeting their current needs for food. Under the proposal recipients of SNAP benefits will not be penalized for building up a small savings; this helps them have a reserve for emergencies.
A payday lending bill deemed to harm low-income persons failed in part due to efforts made by the ICC and other advocates for low-income persons. The proposal, Senate Bill 245, authored by Holdman, would expand short-term loan amounts allowing persons to borrow larger amounts, at rates of 216 percent annual percentage rate. Tebbe said the ICC opposed the short-term loans due to concerns it traps lower-income persons in debt and a process of recycling the high-interest loans.
To view a more detailed update on bills that passed, go to Indiana Catholic Conference webpage at www.indianacc.org.
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