League of Women Voters: Be informed, speak out — 2024 legislation

Proposed legislation that could govern our daily life is on the horizon.

The Indiana General Assembly is in session now and will adjourn on March 14th. During this time, 100 representatives and 50 senators will make decisions about 700+ bills.

Why should we be informed and voice our opinion on pending legislation? When a bill is passed by the House and Senate, and the Governor signs the bill, it becomes a law. The law regulates our economy, education, employment, environment, family life, healthcare, housing, legal system, relationships, responsibilities, rights, safety, traffic and more.

All citizens have the right to tell legislators how they feel about legislation. At the same time, legislators are obligated to work for the good of all Hoosiers. They take an oath and commit to serving the people and promoting the well-being of the state and all citizens.

How can we stay informed?

Getting multiple perspectives helps us make informed decisions. There are abundant ways to learn about pending legislation.

Three websites are easy to navigate and have robust information about legislators and legislation — including the status of a bill.

▪ The Indiana General Assembly: iga.in.gov/

▪ LegiScan: legiscan.com/IN

▪ Ballotpedia Indiana: ballotpedia.org/Indiana

People can follow bills through the process through the process by reading newspapers and digital publications. Other ways to stay informed are through reliable nonprofit organizations such as The League of Women Voters of Johnson County, Hoosier Action, and Indiana State Teachers Association. Other organizations like Hoosier Environmental Council and MADVoters (Mutually Assured Democracy) also provide reasons to support or oppose several bills.

Voters can talk to legislators on Zoom during three sessions on Jan. 27, Feb. 17 and March 2. The League of Women Voters invited all legislators who represent Johnson, Brown and Monroe counties to answer citizens’ questions about pending legislation. Visit the League of Women Voters of Bloomington — Monroe County website for details and to register.

Voters are asked to encourage their legislators to attend and to join the Zoom meeting to tell their legislators what’s important to them.

How can we evaluate bills?

Effective bills address issues that Hoosiers want and need to prosper and improve the community. Effective bills propose a viable solution to public policy problems; they are evidence-based and proactive — not reactionary or punitive.

Bills vary in importance and urgency. Important and urgent legislation includes addressing access to affordable, high-quality childcare, capping prescription drug costs, adequate housing, health care, transportation, property tax relief, and education. Naming a street or building is less important and urgent.

When should I contact my legislators?

When you want to voice your opinion about a specific bill, the most effective time is when the bill is in committee. All bills are assigned to a committee, which holds hearings and decides to approve, amend, or reject the bill. You can tell the committee why you support or oppose the bill.

When the committee approves the bill, it goes to the originating chamber — the House or Senate — where it is read, debated, and can be amended. This is another opportunity to tell your state representatives and senators why they should support or oppose the bill.

The House and the Senate both must pass the bill before it goes to the governor to veto or sign it into law. At that time, people can urge the governor to sign or veto the bill.

How do I contact my legislators?

Testifying on a bill is an option, but most make their voice heard by calling or emailing their legislator. To find your legislator, go to iga.in.gov/information/find-legislators. The League of Women Voters of Johnson County website, lwvjcin.org, has links to the IGA committees and a list of Johnson County legislators.

How we advocate

As citizens, we have the right and responsibility to tell our legislators what bills they should support or oppose before they become laws. The League of Women Voters encourages citizens to contact their legislators. The League selects bills of interest and after rigorous study of facts, discourse, and critical analysis of different perspectives. The League then develops a recommendation about the bills.

The League addresses nonpartisan issues related to human rights, social justice and equity. In today’s political climate, these issues have been politicized and are often mistakenly seen as partisan issues.

Citizen advocacy can influence policymaking. Stay informed and speak out. Our voices make a difference!

League of Women Voters of Johnson County member Mary Kooi wrote this column. The League’s mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. All League-sponsored work is strictly nonpartisan. All people are welcome to attend the Members Meeting on the third Thursday of each month: for more information visit lwvjcin.org. Send comments to [email protected].