IN FOCUS: Lawmakers debate controversial education and permit-free bills near the end of the session

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the end of the 2022 legislative session fast approaching, Indiana lawmakers are still debating the fate of several controversial bills while trying to find a way forward for others.

Senators recently heard several hours of testimony on House Bill 1077, which originally would have abolished handgun permits entirely. It received a mixed reaction from the Senate Judiciary Committee and was eventually “watered down” after lawmakers added several key changes. Though HB 1077 has no future in the General Assembly, Republicans could still put the language in another piece of legislation.

The controversial bill drew a strong backlash from Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, who criticized the Republican legislature for pushing a measure largely opposed by Indiana policing organizations.

“That’s the problem with the supermajority. It stifles, prohibits and often limits public debate,” Supt said, Carter told the committee, while also questioning whether lawmakers are instead prioritizing their own political destiny.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said he was “disappointed” by Carter’s comments.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to debate HB 1134, which addresses the curriculum in Indiana schools.

The bill, as amended, still limits what teachers can say about race, gender or ethnicity in the classroom. After passing the Senate Education Committee 8-5, The bill goes mostly along the party line and now goes to the full Senate. Gov. Eric Holcomb recently spoke to reporters and expressed his approval of the Senate changes.

“I think the bill where it is now is a huge improvement over where it started, with its rightful emphasis on transparency and parental engagement,” Gov. Holcomb said.

The Senate’s version must be negotiated with House lawmakers before possibly going to the governor’s desk. gov. Holcomb stressed he wants to take a look at the version that reaches his desk before deciding whether to sign it into law.

“Education is not only a huge part of our budget, it’s a huge part of the destiny of our state,” Governor Holcomb said. “However, I will be watching every word and every day until we go through the tape on this bill.”

Governor Holcomb also spoke Statehouse reporter Kristen Eskow on HB 1041, which would ban transgender athletes from playing on the girls’ team. He wants to make sure lawmakers create a bill that continues to support IHSAA. This bill could be voted on by the entire Senate as early as this week.

Also this week, Attorney General Todd Rokita has come under renewed scrutiny from medical experts after he issued legal advice to doctors and patients requesting off-label drugs to treat COVID-19. The comments relate to the prescription of ivermectin, which has not been approved by the FDA to treat the virus.

Former State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Feldman called Rokita’s comments “pandering,” stressing that the drugs are not accepted in the mainstream medical community for treating COVID-19.

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