The Indiana General Assembly was gaveled to a close earlier this month as lawmakers scurried back to their comfortably gerrymandered districts.

Although some of the legislation passed in the course of the session will prove beneficial for Hoosiers, there were a number of bills passed, and ultimately signed into law by the governor, that range from disappointing to downright disturbing. These measures are ugly bellwethers of what lies ahead in 2025.

While each differs in scope, what these questionable new laws have common is that they represent unnecessary intrusions into the public sphere. They address nonexistent “problems” and serve no purpose except the exercise of power politics intended to notch victories on culture war issues.

We offer three as examples:

1 — SB 202 … a law aimed at higher education and what some lawmakers see as bias and discrimination against conservative ideals on campus. It enshrines in statute the fuzzy concept of “intellectual diversity” and puts faculty on notice that they could be targeted if their teachings don’t expose students to a range of viewpoints, primarily those from the right. Proponents could offer no evidence of such bias, but claimed perceptions of bias exist nonetheless. Opponents rightly asserted that such legislative overreach strikes a blow to academic freedom and does nothing more than create confusion and sow mistrust in what are already tightly controlled processes.

2 — HB 1264 … a law that makes voter registration more difficult for first-time voters by requiring them to present photo identification and address-verifying mail if they register to vote in person to establish residency. The need for such a provision was never justified and the “problem” it solves never explained. Even an association representing county clerks, who run elections in the state, remained neutral on the bill, which underscores how unnecessary it is. Although promoted for the sake of “election security,” its result will be to suppress the vote. Indiana ranked last in the nation in voter turnout in the last statewide election. Legislators now have made it even harder for voters to participate.

3 — HB 1338 … an amendment to an unrelated and noncontroversial piece of legislation was introduced in the waning days of the session that severely restricts how the public access counselor crafts advisory opinions when access questions arise about government records and meetings. The provision limits sources the counselor may draw information from to the Indiana Code and relevant court cases. It also allows the governor to dismiss the counselor at any time for any reason. Previously, the counselor was appointed by the governor to a four-year term. There is much to be troubled by in this legislation, including the way it was slipped into the process late in the session with little public input. It represents an infusion of political mischief into a law designed to foster openness and transparency on behalf of the public.

With a Republican super majority controlling the legislature, little can be done to prevent this kind of political overreach. The good news is that this session is now over. The bad news is there is reason to expect more of the same when the General Assembly reconvenes next January.

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