Holcomb signs 91 more bills, finishes session without veto

Indiana Statehouse (IL file photo)

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed 91 bills on Thursday, finishing this year’s legislative session without vetoing any of the 252 bills sent to his desk by state lawmakers.

The governor’s signature on legislation is largely ceremonial because bills passed by the legislature become law whether he signs them or not. The only way the governor can stop a bill is through a veto. Vetoes can be overridden by lawmakers with a simple majority vote by both the House and Senate.

Thursday’s final batch included the new two-year $44 billion state budget that includes a broad expansion of the private school voucher program.

Here are some key measures the governor signed in the final batch:


The new two-year $44.6 billion budget cleared the Republican-dominated Legislature in near-party line votes last week. It includes a broad expansion of eligibility for the state’s private school voucher plan that will take up more than $500 million of the $1.5 billion increase in K-12 funding. That will leave traditional public school districts with a projected 5.4% boost next school year and 1.3% the following year.


The state will have $225 million in the next two years to help counties expand public health services with the aim of improving Indiana’s poor national rankings in areas such as obesity, smoking and life expectancy and upgrading local emergency services. Legislators approved about two-thirds of the money Holcomb had sought for the program as it faced some public opposition over distrust of health officials following the COVID-19 pandemic.


A state-funded handgun training program will be available for teachers who seek to be armed while at their schools. School boards may already permit teachers to have weapons and bill supporters say the 40 hours of optional training will help them be better prepared in any active shooter situations. Critics argued having additional guns in schools could worsen safety.


Republicans pushed to eliminate a requirement that school administrators discuss issues such as curriculum, student discipline, school safety and class sizes with teacher union representatives. Bill sponsors called it a “deregulation” measure, while teacher union leaders said it was a “brazen act of disregard” for classroom educators.


The new law aims at preventing leaders of the state’s pension funds for teachers and other government workers from investing any of their some $45 billion with firms that consider environmental, social and governance principles. So-called ESG investment strategies have become the target of Republican lawmakers across the country who argue they are focused more on pushing political agendas rather than earning the best returns. The Indiana pension fund board has said it hasn’t followed such ESG strategies.


Middle school students will be automatically enrolled in the state’s 21st Century Scholars program that provides full tuition at Indiana’s public colleges for those from low-income families. Advocates for automatic enrollment said many eligible students missed the enrollment deadline, hurting their chances of attending college. Students may opt out of the program, which requires students to maintain good grades and stay out of trouble through high school to obtain the scholarships.


The measure will require schools to notify a parent if a student requests a name or pronoun change at school. Critics worry the law could out transgender children to their families and erode trust between students and teachers while supporters have contested the legislation keeps parents empowered and informed about their children when at school. Indiana’s law, which goes into effect July 1, will require school officials to provide written notification to a child’s parent or guardian within five business days of the child asking to be called a different “pronoun, title, or word,” according to the bill. It also prohibits, from prekindergarten through third grade, instruction on “human sexuality,” something that is not defined in the bill.


Holcomb also signed into law on Thursday a bill that could make it easier to ban books from public school libraries, staff at which would be required by July 1 to publicly post a list of books they offer and provide a complaints process for community members. Schools and librarians could also no longer argue, as a legal defense, that the texts in their libraries have “educational” value. The law would still allow them to argue the text has literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Those who supported the legislation expressed concern that sexually inappropriate or “pornographic” materials are available to children in school libraries.

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