Let me begin by saying my Democrat colleagues and I hear you. Gas is high, the weight of inflation is crushing our communities, and there seems to be no hope. Fortunately, the Indiana General Assembly will be gathering on July 25. Unfortunately, this special session will also define who we are in the political landscape of our country.
Firstly, we’ll be debating a $225 automatic tax refund (ATR). The House Democratic Caucus has for months been calling on Gov. Eric Holcomb and state Republicans to offer Hoosiers economic relief by suspending the record-high state gas tax. While I’m happy that we’re finally discussing how we can help Hoosiers who are struggling to make ends meet, $225 is simply not enough. We’re sitting on a $6 billion surplus of your money and could easily afford to double the ATR for each person. This is a good starting point, but we need to be doing more to help Hoosiers who are struggling.
Further, if we truly want to help as many people as possible during these trying economic times, we need to change the restrictions so more people can receive the ATR. Financial struggles are not limited to those who file income taxes. Currently, those receiving social security or disability benefits and individuals who do not make enough to file income taxes do not receive an ATR. Every human being deserves to live with dignity and be uplifted — regardless of their socioeconomic status or whether they are currently employed. By expanding the ATR to benefit the largest number of Hoosiers, we can ensure that we’re making Indiana a better state for all.
We can’t talk about quality of life in Indiana without addressing the abortion debate set to begin in the Statehouse on July 25. With House and Senate Republicans considering passing legislation that would severely limit abortion rights in Indiana, we have to consider the terrifying consequences this could have for Hoosier women.
First, let’s be clear: Everyone is pro-life; no one wants to see a life destroyed. However, in Indiana, we have the third highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. Pregnancy poses a significant risk to women in Indiana — especially Black women. A ban would be catastrophic for our state. In fact, a University of Colorado Boulder study found a nationwide abortion ban would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall, including a 33% increase in death among Black women. If we are going to truly study maternal mortality during the interim, we need to be intentional by not making the issue worse before we even begin to improve it.
Secondly, I stand with Vice President Kamala Harris in the belief that “American souls are rooted in freedom.” The freedom to have autonomy over oneself and to make personal health care decisions ought to be the right of every American citizen. I and my Democrat colleagues will do everything in our power to ensure that those who need it will have access to adequate reproductive health care. Furthermore, we will not stop with health care, we will fight for safe lives and economic relief.
We’ve got some big fights ahead of us in the Indiana General Assembly, but with your advocacy, we are prepared to take action to help Hoosiers get back on their feet and make Indiana a beacon of freedom.
State Rep. Robin Shackleford represents Indiana House District 98, is Indiana Black Legislative Caucus chair, POWER Women Caucus vice chair and Public Health Committee ranking minority member. Contact her at H98@iga.in.gov.