January 23, 2009

Pro-life, immigration bills return to Indiana General Assembly

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

They’re back.

Bills from previous years commonly return to the Indiana General Assembly for another chance at becoming a permanent fixture in the Indiana Code of Laws. It takes patience and diligence on the part of supporters.

This year is no different as many familiar bills are returning for yet another round at becoming law, including pro-life and immigration legislation.

Of the 1,000 bills which have been filed to date, the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is following 100 of them. Roughly 1,500 bills are expected to be introduced this year.

The bills to date cover a wide range of issues, but the most notable issue areas for the ICC include legislation to strengthen informed consent laws restricting abortions, ban the death penalty for mentally ill individuals, change immigration laws and help lower-income families.

In past years, the ICC supported two measures regarding abortion which return again this year.

Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis), a nurse by profession and a pro-life advocate, has introduced a bill to strengthen informed consent laws by requiring the information that a woman receives before an abortion to be in writing.

Senate Bill 90 also requires that a physician must inform the pregnant woman about medical evidence of the fetus feeling pain during an abortion. It requires that 18 hours prior to a woman getting an abortion that she receive information concerning the availability of adoption options, physical risks of having an abortion and that physical life begins at fertilization.

Another bill authored by Sen. Miller, Senate Bill 89, requires physicians performing abortions to obtain hospital privileges in the county where the abortion is performed or a nearby county for the purpose of follow-up treatment for a woman who has had an abortion.

The measure requires the physician to notify the patient of the hospital locations where the patient can receive follow-up care. It also makes abortion physicians more accountable for the abortions they perform, and provides better after care for the woman.

Another familiar bill that the ICC has supported in years past is a measure to prohibit a person who is found to be mentally ill from receiving a death sentence.

Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage), an opponent of the death penalty, introduced Senate Bill 22, which would establish a procedure for determining if a person on trial for murder is mentally ill. The bill prohibits those individuals determined as mentally ill to be sentenced to death.

Immigration reform bills also returning from previous legislative sessions include Senate Bill 580, authored by Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel), who has been the major proponent of punishing undocumented immigrants, which would penalize employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. The bill states that after three illegal hires the employer is out of business. It creates greater penalties for driving without a valid license. It also prohibits state entities from contracting undocumented workers.

Also returning this year is a bill which increases the earned income tax credit for low-income working families.

Rep. John Day (D-Indianapolis), a member of Holy Cross Parish in Indianapolis, has succeeded in previous years in raising the earned income tax credit for working families.

The bill, House Bill 1026, authored by Rep. Day and co-authored by Rep. Michael Murphy (R-Indianapolis), a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis, would increase the amount of the Indiana earned income tax credit from 9 percent to 10 percent of the federal earned income tax credit, thus allowing lower-income families to be exempt from income tax.

It also raises the income level at which taxes are collected. The effect of the bill would be for working families to keep more income to support their families.

Once a bill is filed and read for the first time, it is assigned to a House or Senate committee. It is up to Sen. David C. Long (R-Fort Wayne), the president pro tempore in the Senate and the committee chair where the bill is assigned, to determine if the bill will get a hearing.

In the House, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), and the committee chair will determine which House bills get hearings.

The committee hearing process allows the bill’s author or authors to explain the intent of the legislation and allows for public comment, critique and testimony in support or in opposition to the proposed bill.

At this time, committee members weigh the pros and cons of a bill and take a committee vote.

If a bill passes committee with a majority vote, it goes to the House or Senate floor for second reading and a voice vote.

(Bridget Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: