2020 provided many opportunities for Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation to study a variety of issues that affect Hoosiers and to work with legislators and coalitions to improve the lives of all Indiana residents.
Phil Goodchild, Indianapolis First Friends, leads IFCL in a redistricting reform effort that continues into 2021. Our All IN for Democracy coalition works to establish an independent redistricting commission to create a fair and transparent redistricting process and a parallel map-drawing process with a public website for participation. The coalition was pleased that more than 500 people registered to watch the June 18 virtual premiere of “Uncivil Wars,” a documentary about the negative effects of gerrymandering and voter suppression.
A new platform to track bills for 2021 should help IFCL evaluate legislation and create new relationships, especially if used in combination with the Google Drive spreadsheet Mary Blackburn, Indianapolis First Friends, has developed to link legislative districts to where Quakers live in Indiana. Special thanks to Della Stanley Green and Sylvia Graves for their help with this project.
IFCL continues to be a small, faith-based lobby group with the energy and persistence necessary to tackle big issues. Earthcare, education, public health, and consumer protection are among the key issues for which we advocate. Visiting with state legislators, writing letters and columns, and attending and testifying at the Statehouse do not always have immediately successful outcomes, but the positive relationships we have developed with some legislators and other lobbyists who join us in a coalition, provide the feedback and heart to continue. One example to mention from the 2020 session was the effort to stop a bill that would have worsened the financial challenge of many tenants facing eviction in Indiana. Even though the bill passed the Indiana House and Senate, over 100 groups, including IFCL, continued to speak against the bill, and in the last hours of the session, Governor Holcomb vetoed it. It was a good lesson to keep trying even when the outcome looks bleak.
Mark Stoops, State Senator from Bloomington, and Robin Shackelford, State Representative from Indianapolis have been selected as 2020 IFCL Legislators of the Year. We hope they will be able to attend an IFCL meeting to speak and receive recognition once we are meeting in person again.
Since 1972 IFCL has been governed by Friends procedure and is funded and based solely on the voluntary participation of interested Quakers and other like-minded individuals. Monthly Meetings are encouraged to connect with IFCL, send a representative to attend IFCL meetings, and follow events and updates on Facebook and the IFCL website: www.quakerifcl.org.
Friends who are willing to write to, call or meet with their legislators are always needed to help with the work of IFCL.
Letters that Quakers have written recently are printed below.
July 7, 2020
Governor Eric Holcomb
Secretary of State Connie Lawson
Re: No-Excuse Voting by Mail
Dear Governor Holcomb and Secretary Lawson,
Thank you for your action this past year enabling Hoosiers to vote by mail in the primary election without having to cite a reason. In a time of pandemic and uncertainty, this measure preserved the ability of many to vote when they otherwise might not have voted due to stay-at-home restrictions. As a non-partisan Quaker lobbying group that advocates for the rights of all in our state, we deeply appreciate this. We would like to ask you now for the same for the upcoming general election—namely, to allow no-excuse voting by mail this November. The CDC is anticipating a resurgence of the coronavirus this fall, complicating citizens’ ability to get to polling places to vote. Many of our poll workers are retired individuals who may be at higher risk of contracting the virus, and it would be a tragedy for them to sacrifice their health to serve at the polls. An embarrassing truth is that, pandemic or not, Indiana’s voter turnout most years is among the worst in the nation. The time is right to remove a significant barrier to voting by doing as a number of other states already do and permitting no-excuse voting by mail. We urge you to act now on this by executive order. Paired with this, we ask that mail-in ballots be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day, scrapping the current noon Election Day deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots. It is essential to take these actions immediately, so that county election officials have enough time to prepare for an increase in voting by mail in the general election. Our task as responsible citizens is not to foresee the future, but to enable it. Thanks to your leadership during this pandemic, Indiana is coming through the public health crisis in far better shape than many other states to face the future. Now you can enable more Hoosiers to have a voice in our future on Election Day this November, by permitting no-excuse voting by mail and setting a ballot receipt deadline that isn’t arbitrary.
Thank you for your steady leadership in these turbulent times.
April 21, 2020
Senator Todd Young
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Todd Young:
I am writing to you, a person of faith and conscience, of my concern about the climate crisis occurring globally. Pope Francis reminds us in the opening of his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, ‘…Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, though our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’” Together, we all delight in the beauty of this living miracle of Planet Earth. The Pope continues, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” Every day is a fresh indication that our natural world is out of balance with God’s design. Many people did not realize that this change is the result of over two hundred years of burning fossil fuels to power industry, transportation, energy production, and heating homes and buildings. While economic progress has improved many people’s lives, it has had a devastating effect on our earth by increasing particulate pollution, changing weather patterns, and creating a hotter atmosphere. We have rising levels of asthma, heart disease, and preterm birth caused by fossil fuel emissions. Our oceans have been absorbing heat which spawns more violent hurricanes and tornadoes that flood some areas and hold others in sustained drought. Scientific evidence tells us that these results are human-caused. The poor and communities of color suffer disproportionately as they lack the resources to move away from these areas. If systemic changes do not occur, few of us will escape the insecurity caused by crop failures, loss of freshwater, and refugee migration. You understand how this instability in our climate affects our national and international security and will affect our economy in a negative way. I urge you to support ambitious solutions that address climate change while protecting vulnerable communities. Many economists agree that carbon pricing is an effective tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the scale and speed we need while holding polluters accountable. Please support a carbon pricing bill that has a high enough price to help shift the US to a clean energy economy and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, ensure polluters do not escape to other countries to escape paying their fair share, has transparent measuring, reporting, and verification while investing in low-income communities and communities of color with job transition assistance, infrastructure and promoting research and development. “God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitely to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!”
Please let me know how I can help you in this endeavor, as we are impelled forward.
Prayerfully, Mary Blackburn, member of First Friends Church