Indiana Senate, House Democrats call for special session to address police reform, COVID-19

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SOURCE: News release from Indiana Senate Democrats

INDIANAPOLIS – On Tuesday, the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus, the Indiana House Democratic Caucus and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) held a press conference outside the Indiana Statehouse to demand Governor Holcomb call the General Assembly into a special session in August. The Democratic legislators are requesting the special session in order to pass legislation to do the following:

IBLC justice reform agenda

  • Ban chokeholds
  • Ban racial profiling
  • Ban no-knock warrants

Soon after the murder of George Floyd, the IBLC released a list of immediate action items that the governor should implement to reform policing and law enforcement policies in Indiana. Since the release of that agenda, the governor has taken no action on police reform.

“The violence against Black and brown Hoosiers is blatantly clear,” Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said. “Yet all we hear is silence from the governor’s office on the IBLC’s clear list of immediate solutions. How does this show residents of our state that Black lives actually matter?”

No-excuse absentee voting

  • Allow Hoosiers to vote by no-excuse absentee ballot during all elections
  • Allow the collection of absentee ballots up to 6 p.m. on Election Day

Cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the nation, and Indiana’s own reopening was delayed by multiple weeks. Even with a projected worsening of the pandemic in the fall, the governor, Secretary of State and the Indiana Election Commission have yet to extend no-excuse absentee voting as an option for the November election. This comes even as over 500,000 Hoosiers used this convenient and safe option for the primary election.

“And as Indiana now sees rising daily cases of COVID-19, we are almost assured that the pandemic will be nowhere close to being over in November,” Sen. Lanane said. “Hoosiers deserve to have safe options to exercise their constitutional right to vote while staying safe during this pandemic. These issues demand immediate solutions and immediate legislation.”

Legislative oversight of federal CARES Act funds

  • Enhancing state contact tracing & testing program
  • Bolstering housing assistance program
  • Expanding Small Business Restart Fund
  • Increasing assistance for Hoosiers who have lost employer-based health insurance
  • Expanding paid family & medical leave to cover employees exempt from the federal law

As COVID-19 cases increase back to April levels, over $2 billion in necessary federal assistance still has been left untouched by the governor and his administration. With no legislative oversight, there is no guarantee that this vital aid will be used to its fullest extent to assist Hoosiers suffering from the pandemic-induced economic downturn. If these funds are not used by the end of the year, the money must be returned to the federal government.

“Right now, the decisions that affect all Hoosiers are being made by a group of eight, unelected individuals who are meeting behind closed doors,” Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said. “Not one member of the legislature has been included in these vital conversations, and that’s simply irresponsible. Indiana has $2 billion in unspent CARES Act monies remaining as more Hoosiers are experiencing unemployment, getting behind on bills and living without sufficient medical insurance than ever before. With the proper oversight, we could be making major improvements with these largely untapped funds.”

“If the governor believes that Black lives matter in Indiana, then he must call this special session,” Sen. Lanane said. “If the governor believes Hoosiers should be able to exercise their right to vote safely during a global health crisis, then he must call this special session. We are ready to partner with the governor and his party to make this happen. Hoosiers’ lives and their votes are on the line.”