INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s 123rd legislative session can be summed up in three words: greed, hate and harm. That’s according to the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter, who released its 2023 Scorecard on Monday, grading Indiana’s legislators and Governor Holcomb on their votes during the recently concluded legislative session.
According to the group, the leadership of both the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate put the greed of special interests ahead of the needs of everyday people in their districts. They passed bills described by civil liberties organizations as “The Slate of Hate.” And in the midst of the climate crisis and economic uncertainty, they backed fossil fuels and handed over more of our money to monopoly utilities. Their actions this session will directly harm Hoosiers’ lives and homes, as well as our air, land and water. Gov. Holcomb signed those bills into law, and we’ve included him in this year’s Scorecard as well.
Legislators passed two bills into Indiana law, House Bill (HB) 1417 and Senate Bill (SB) 9, on behalf of Indiana’s largest monopoly utility, Duke Energy Indiana, overturning court orders that hurt the monopoly utility’s bottom line and piling costs onto Hoosiers already struggling to pay their electric bills.
Also benefiting Indiana’s monopoly utilities was the passage of HB 1623, the final version of which included a provision that severely restricts the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from safely regulating the disposal of coal ash, a main byproduct of burning coal. Indiana has more coal ash pits than any other state. This bill also restricts the State Chemist’s ability to safely regulate pesticides at the behest of a lawn care company.
Rolls Royce will benefit from SB 176, which increases the size of small modular nuclear reactors that Duke and other monopoly utilities can charge customers to develop from 350 MW to 470 MW. SMRs are a costly technology that won’t be available for years to come, if ever — and too late for action on climate change.
Sierra Club is a member-based, grassroots organization. When we and our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers aren’t safe, we won’t stay silent. This year, we have added a Democracy and Justice grade to our Scorecard. Defending democracy and human rights is inextricably linked to our ability to protect our communities, the environment and the climate. When legislators threaten Hoosiers’ well-being and block access to information, we recall decades of deception and lies about pollution and climate change and ongoing misinformation that threatens our health and our lives.
We want to cast light on legislators who support bigoted and harmful legislation such as SB 480, which prohibits transgender youth under 18 from receiving gender-affirming care and life-saving medical interventions, and HB 1608, which prohibits age-appropriate classroom instruction on LGBTQ+ families and requires teachers to “out” transgender students to a parent or guardian.
We also included your legislators’ votes on a book-banning bill, HB 1447, and SB 1, for which the legislature held a 2022 Special Session further restricting abortion rights in Indiana.
Democracy works best when citizens can easily access information about how their legislators vote on important issues, and the Indiana legislature is far from transparent. We hope this scorecard will empower you to hold your legislators accountable.
In response, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter Director Amanda Shepherd issued the following statement:
“As outlined by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we now have less than 7 years to meaningfully address the climate crisis. At a time when our legislators should be focusing on addressing growing environmental and social injustice through sensible and progressive legislation that moves us into an era of renewable energy, preserves natural spaces that serve as both a reserve for carbon and a refuge for people, and protects the lives of everyday Hoosiers, the supermajority instead focused on rolling back protections for all — and passing laws that purposefully harm the least powerful. We must hold them accountable and make sure that those they represent are informed regarding how their elected officials voted on bills that directly impact their lives — and the lives of those they love.”
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