When does the General Assembly go home? It can’t be soon enough.
Not content with ethical lapses, efforts to control women’s bodies and protect homophobia (aka “religious liberty”) and bring public education to its knees, the eager beavers at the Statehouse have filed three (count them–three!) bills intended to disable any efforts to protect Hoosier air and water, and to keep those smarty-pants scientific “experts” from making environmental rules.
SJR 12 would amend the Indiana Constitution (these guys just love to screw around with the Constitution) to add a guaranteed right to “employ effective agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices.” I’m sure you are as touched as I am by this proposal to give the same sacred protection to livestock production practices as we human animals have with our right to vote and freedoms of speech and religion, and I’m also sure it’s just coincidental that passage of this nonsense will make it very hard for state regulators to protect Hoosiers from factory farm pollution.
Then there’s SB 249. That little gem would prohibit local government from passing ordinances that would control or stop new construction or expansion of livestock operations, factory farms and their accompanying hazards and irritations. The bill is a handy reminder that in Indiana, the General Assembly gets to make the rules for cities and counties. We sure don’t have home rule or anything remotely like it.
Those two bills are bad enough, but the real OMG measure is HB 1351, which will be heard on Tuesday, February 3rd. The Hoosier Environmental Council calls HB 1351 “arguably the most sweeping effort ever to weaken Indiana’s ability to act in protecting our environment.”
It would void any existing state regulations — whether environmental-related or not — that are not considered to be explicitly authorized by federal or state law. It would make it illegal for regulators (whether environmental regulators or not) from enacting any new regulation unless explicitly authorized by federal or state law. This eliminates the multi-decade discretionary authority that executive agencies have long had….
Stripping away the ability of Indiana’s environmental agency (IDEM) to deal with serious issues is irresponsible and leaves Indiana vulnerable to not being able to timely act to protect its citizens when the legislature is not in session. HB 1351 could have the added effect of paralyzing IDEM in carrying out its existing responsibilities under certain EPA programs out of fear of being sued for going beyond what those federal programs require.
The idea that adopting new environmental safeguards, through respected, technically trained regulatory boards, could hurt Indiana’s economy is also misplaced because there are existing laws that already prevent state agencies, including IDEM, from acting irresponsibly in crafting new regulations. And the Indiana legislature can always repeal or modify regulations that the legislature thinks pose a threat to Indiana’s economy.
I think I remember why Harrison Ullmann used to refer to the Indiana General Assembly as “The World’s Worst Legislature.”