LETTER: McMillin Says RFRA Protects Rights Of All Hoosiers

Posted on March 28, 2015

A letter submitted by Indiana State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville)

At the Statehouse, often times we have passionate conversations and intense debates. We also receive input from countless Hoosiers about the legislation being discussed, which is great –as our citizen Legislature needs as much input as possible. However, in order for this institution to function, it is important that people receive accurate information on which to base their opinions on.

Recently, Senate Enrolled Act 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. Almost immediately after this bill was first introduced, misinformation clouded both sides of this issue, suffocating the truth. This distortion of facts works to divide rather than unite us, and regrettably, can even prevent good public policy from passing. That is why, I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some of the confusion surrounding this legislation and provide some clarity on what this law will do and alternatively, what it will not do. But first, it is important to know a little background about RFRA.

In 1993, Congress almost unanimously passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which former President Bill Clinton signed into law. However, four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that this statute did not apply to the states. In response to this decision, many states, including Indiana’s neighbors, began passing laws similar to the federal statute. Today, there are 30 states that have adopted RFRA into law; Indiana being the 31st.

Along with the history of each law, like any issue, the best way to find the most accurate information is by going directly to the source. The same is true with legislation. I encourage anyone passionate about this issue to read the bill for yourself and conduct your own research, objectively. Unfortunately, one of the chief myths that I continue to hear is that this law allows or creates a license to discriminate. This is absolutely false. No one gets to discriminate under this law.

This law was intended to accomplish one thing: to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. It provides the courts with clarity to better resolve any matters that come forth regarding religious freedom, which our country was founded on and is one of the reasons why America is so great. As someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, I have a responsibility and it is my duty to protect those fundamental rights if they become threatened.

We have seen several examples where the government has attempted to infringe upon the religious rights of Americans, which is why this law is necessary. For instance, a group of churches in Philadelphia were facing a lawsuit from the city for trying to feed the homeless. Having the protection of RFRA, the courts ruled that the city could not bar this outreach ministry from helping those in need. It is also important to note that in the 22 years since these laws were first enacted; discrimination has never been legitimized by the courts.

In this great state and nation, we all want the same thing: the opportunity to be free from discrimination while at the same time having the opportunity to exercise our constitutional rights, which is what this law aims to achieve. While I do not expect everyone to agree on this issue, I do hope that those engaging in this discussion are using the facts and going directly to the source for information, rather than believing half-truths.

Visit www.IndianaHouseRepublicans.com for more information and to find a resource page regarding SEA 101.

GOP Measure Would Allow StatesTo Opt Out of EPA Power-Plant RULE

Washinton Examiner BY ZACK COLMAN | MARCH 24, 2015 | 12:40 PM

“We’re hoping for a vote this week, but nothing is locked in,” Portman spokeswoman Caitlin…

Senate Republicans are pushing a budget amendment that would allow states to opt out of a proposed emissions rule for existing power plants.

Under the measure from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, which was filed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., state governors or legislatures could choose not to comply with the proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation if they determine the policy would cause economic harm to low or fixed-income families, introduce electric reliability problems and a handful of other reasons.

“Yes, it allows states to opt out without standing in the way of states that want to participate. We’re hoping for a vote this week, but nothing is locked in,” Portman spokeswoman Caitlin Conant told the Washington Examiner in an email.

The power plant rule looks to curb electricity emissions 30 percent by 2030 and is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda. He would likely reject legislation that undercuts the rule, and Democrats also could thwart the move.

The move from McConnell is an outgrowth of his strategy to convince states against complying with the rule, which is due to be finalized by mid-summer. The tactic underscores the tough road McConnell and the rule’s opponents face nixing the regulation in Congress.

Opponents of the EPA rule, chiefly industry groups and Republicans, say the agency has dubious legal authority to call on renewable electricity adoption and improvements in customer energy efficiency. Meeting the 30-percent emissions reduction target by relying on two of the other main avenues for cuts — converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas and improving the efficiency of power plants — would likely be impossible.

McConnell’s office did not return a request for comment as to whether that approach would shield states from potential punitive action from the EPA for not complying with the rule.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can impose a federal plan on the states, withdraw highway funds and make it harder to secure permits to expand industrial facilities if states refuse to cooperate.

Proposed Student Data Privacy Bill Does Little To Protect Privacy

Proposed student data privacy bill does little to protect privacy (update)

By Valerie Strauss March 23

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is one of the sponsors of the new House student data privacy bill. (David Zalubowski/AP)

(Update: legislators did not introduce legislation on Monday as planned).

Two U.S. legislators are set to introduce a bill in the House that they say is aimed at limiting the way education technology companies can use data that they collect about students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. It’s called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, and its chief sponsors say it is meant to address a growing concern among students, parents and educators about the use of the oceans of data being collected about America’s young people. But a new analysis of the legislation, which you can read below, concludes that it doesn’t do much to protect the privacy of student data — and that it doesn’t stop the actual collection and mining of data by companies, which can use it to make money.

Student data privacy has become a big issue in the era of standardized testing, with education companies collecting a seemingly endless amount of information on public school students, some of it incredibly detailed.

Last year, a controversial $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates Foundation and operated by a specially created nonprofit organization called InBloom shut down after concerns about privacy led states to withdraw. The information was to be stored in a data cloud that would hold incredibly detailed data points on millions of schoolchildren with the stated mission of allowing education officials to use the information to target educational support. Activists led by New York’s Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, raised alarms that InBloom could not provide a 100 percent guarantee that the data could be stored securely.

The House sponsors of the proposed bill are Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also is expected to introduce student privacy legislation. In February, the White House issued a statement about its efforts to improve data privacy that said it was working with these legislators on advancing student data privacy. Polis and Messer were expected to introduce the bill on Monday but did  not; a spokewoman for Messer said in an e-mail that a draft bill had been released and the sponsors were working on technical details before formally introducing it.

The draft Polis-Messer bill is called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act. But Haimson said in a piece on the Student Privacy Matters Web site that the bill addresses virtually none of the concerns that parents have about what is being done with data about their children. She said:

“The bill doesn’t require any parental notification or consent before schools share personal data with third parties, or address any of the current weaknesses in FERPA.  It wouldn’t stop the surveillance of students by Pearson or other companies, or the collection and sharing of huge amounts of highly sensitive student information, as inBloom was designed to do.”

“All the bill does is ban online services utilized by schools from targeting ads to kids – or selling their personal information, though companies could still advertise to kids through their services and or sell their products to parents, as long as this did not result from the personal information gathered through their services. Even that narrow prohibition is incomplete, as vendors would still be allowed to target ads to students as long as the ads were selected based on information gathered via student’s single online session or visit – with the information not retained over time.”

Rachael Stickland, Colorado co-chair of the Parent Coalition, said:

“The bill doesn’t bar many uses of personal information that parents are most concerned about, including vendor redisclosures to other third parties, or data-mining to improve their products or create profiles that could severely limit student’s success by stereotyping them and limiting their opportunities.”

Here are other weaknesses of the bill, as identified by Haimson and Stickland:

  • Parents would not be able to delete any of the personal information obtained by a vendor from their children, even upon request, unless the data resulted from an “optional” feature of the service chosen by the parent and not the district or school.
  • The bill creates a huge loophole that actually could weaken existing privacy law by allowing vendors to collect, use or disclose personal student information in a manner contrary to their own privacy policy or their contract with the school or district, as long as the company obtains consent from the school or district.  It is not clear in what form that consent could be given, whether in an email or phone call, but even if a parent was able to obtain the school’s contract or see the vendor’s privacy policy, it could provide false reassurance if it turns out the school or district had secretly given permission to the company to ignore it.
  • Vendors would be able to redisclose students’ personal information to an unlimited number of additional third parties, as long as these disclosures were made for undefined “K12 purposes.”
  • Vendors would be able to redisclose individual student’s de-identified or aggregate information for any reason or to anyone, without restrictions or safeguards to ensure that the child’s information could not be easily re-identified through widely available methods.

Protection of Religious Freedom passes Indiana House

 

Protection of Religious Freedom Passes Indiana House

American Family Association of Indiana

March 23, 2015

Good news from the Indiana legislature!   The Indiana House just passed Senate Bill 101 with an even larger number of votes than it had last week during consideration of floor amendments.

SB 101 is a protection of religious freedom, freedom of conscience and religious practice bill for people of all faiths, from government hostility.   It elevates our religious liberties to the same level as 19 other states in statute, and 30 states, in practice. It also brings Indiana law into line with the Supreme Court and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which passed unanimously in the US House and 97-3 in the US Senate.

It passed with a strong 63-31 vote in spite of a mountain of confusion, misinformation, scare tactics, bad theology, and lies about what has been long-established precedent for two decades.    The Senate will agree to the minor clarification in the House committee requested by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and then it will go on to Governor Pence for his signature.

Truth and freedom won. It won over fear and lies.   It did so with your help, prayers, and standing strong.

Thank you for standing with AFA of Indiana in support of SB 101.

It Happened In March

It Happened in March

This month, we wanted to hi-light two March “firsts” from American history that center on presidential appointments.

On March 22, 1790, Thomas Jefferson began serving as America’s first Secretary of State under the Constitution.Thomas JeffersonThis appointment had been made by President George Washington and approved by the U. S. Senate in September of 1789. As the Secretary of State, Jefferson’s primary job to be “the president’s chief foreign affairs adviser.” He also took on other major responsibilities as well — such as laying out the grounds for the brand new federal capital that was to be build in Washington, D. C.

 

On March 18, 1877, civil rights leader and Gospel minister Frederick Douglass became the first African American confirmed by the U. S. Frederick DouglasSenate to serve in a presidential appointment. He had been selected by President Rutherford B. Hayes to be the Marshal of Washington, D.C  — a position established to “support the federal courts.” His responsibilities included serving “the subpoenas, summonses, writs, warrants and other process issued by the courts, [making] all the arrests and [handling] all the prisoners.” Prior to this appointment, Douglass had held various positions under previous presidents, but none had required Senate confirmation. In all, Douglass served under four Republican presidents.

 

Because of Amnesty, the IRS Will Now Perform a Special Favor for Illegals that Will Cost You Big Time

Because of Amnesty, the IRS Will Now Perform a Special Favor for Illegals that Will Cost You Big Time

American Prosperity News Network

Just like like the God-awful Affordable Care Act, Obama’s Executive Order to give millions of illegals amnesty is packed full of hidden surprises.  IRS Commissioner John Koskinen only recently told Congress illegals would not be getting refunds. But in what seems to be an unexpected “change of mind,” he informed Congress the opposite is true.

It’s been revealed by the IRS illegals who are offered amnesty will be entitled to a refund… even though they didn’t pay taxes. For years illegals have robbed the taxpayers of tax money through special government programs for illegals, but now, because of Obama’s executive order, they’re going to be getting even more of your tax dollars.

All of this will happen when the illegal aliens are given new Social Security numbers as provided by the Obama administration.

You can be sure with this policy in effect there’s going to be yet another call for higher taxes to help cover the expense.

Koskinen said the President didn’t consult the IRS about the ripple effects of his amnesty policy.

Well, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After years saying he wasn’t a king, and didn’t have the authority to pass legislation, Obama went ahead and usurped power from the congress and got what he wanted by means of executive order.

House Republicans (who seem to be the only ones with fortitude these days) have resisted the executive order. Republican members from Ohio even penned a letter and sent it to Obama protesting his move.

“While we may disagree about whether your deferred action programs were lawfully created and implemented, we are confident that we can all agree that these programs cannot be permitted to impair the integrity of our election,” they wrote.

And this will really tick people off… Koskinen has even hinted illegals will be able to file for back-credits. As The Washington Times writes:

He also clarified his testimony to the Senate last week, where he acknowledged illegal immigrants who had paid taxes using substitute Social Security numbers but who gain real Social Security numbers when they are approved for the amnesty can apply for back-refunds of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

On Wednesday, he said even illegal immigrants who didn’t pay taxes will be able to apply for back-credits once they get Social Security numbers.

The EITC is a refundable tax credit, which means those who don’t have any tax liability can still get money back from the government.

Under the new program, if you get a Social Security number and you work, you’ll be eligible to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit,” Mr. Koskinen said.

 He said that would apply even “if you did not file” taxes, as long as the illegal immigrant could demonstrate having worked off-the-books during those years.

The insanity of it all boggles the mind.

With as many as 4 million illegals expected to be covered by the amnesty order, and with the average credit being $500-$600 you can be sure every single dime of that money will come out of your federal taxes.

It’s just one more illegal and unconstitutional program you and every other red-blooded American is being forced to pay against your will.

Yet again Obama has defied his oath of office and the American people suffer because of his illegal activity.

The Conservative Problem With the Latest Version of No Child Left Behind

The Conservative Problem With the Latest Version of No Child Left Behind

Daily Signal Kelsey Harkness / @kelseyjharkness / February 25, 2015
Infographic: Kelsey Harris

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on an ambitious rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most far-reaching K-12 federal education law ever created.

Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.

But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that.

“This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law,” said Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education. “As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.”

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The Obama administration also opposes the legislation, fearing that it would be detrimental to schools nationwide. If the bill were to reach his desk, the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, suggested that Obama would issue a veto.

“As of today, this isn’t something we could support,” he told a group of reporters on Monday.

The Student Success Act would consolidate dozens of programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) and grant states more flexibility in how they use roughly $2.3 billion federal education dollars.

The problem, conservatives say, is that the legislation only gives states flexibility within a limited range of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and more importantly, it does not allow states to completely opt out of the law, which has long been their goal.

In an effort to fix that, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the Student Success Act that would allow states to withdraw completely from almost every aspect of No Child Left Behind—if they so choose.

A-PLUS

“Innovation starts locally—not in Washington,” said Walker of the conservative amendment, called Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS).

Teachers and parents know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students, and we have seen time and time again that Washington’s top-down approach does not work.

A-PLUS has been introduced in various Congresses and was intended to provide an alternative to states that did not want to participate in No Child Left Behind. For years, states have pushed back against No Child Left Behind due to its mandates and unworkable policies.

DeSantis said the amendment “liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”

Now, with Republican control of both the House and Senate, conservatives argue that Congress has an opportunity to gives states a way out from federal control of K-12 education.
Infographic: Kelsey Harris

Infographic: Kelsey Harris

Portability

In addition to allowing states to withdraw from the 80-plus programs created under No Child Left Behind, conservatives are also advocating for policies that expand the concept of portability, which is perhaps the opposition’s biggest point of contention with the Student Success Act.

As it’s currently written, the Student Success Act would allow states to make Title I dollars allocated to low-income school districts to be portable to public and charter schools.

In a perfect world for conservatives, students could use Title I dollars in a private school of their choice.

In doing so, money could follow a student to an education option that best suits his or her unique learning needs, which proponents argue provides students who are trapped in failing schools a way out.

“Title I formula funding is some of the most complex in education law and all too often, does not reach the students who it was intended to help,” said Burke. “Portability would move towards funding students instead of districts and empower families with control over education policies that affect their children every day.”

Democrats believe portability robs funds from vulnerable, low-income school districts, and instead directs them to wealthier school districts that don’t need Title I dollars.

Duncan said the current portability provision included in the Student Success Act would be “devastating” to the nation’s poorest schools, stripping them of education funding they can’t afford to lose.

“Rather than helping improve the schools that need it most, the Republican bill would actually cut investments in these schools while increasing funds for some of the wealthiest areas in the country,” he said in a statement.

That approach is backward. We can’t just cut our way to opportunity. Our kids deserve better. Every child—no matter his or her ZIP code—deserves a quality education, including access to high-quality preschool and a fair shot at getting ahead.

Bipartisan Solution?

As an alternative, the Senate Education Committee is drafting their own version of the Student Success Act, one that they believe could pass with bipartisan support.

“Bipartisan discussions between [Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,] and [Sen. Patty Murray’s, D-Wash.,] staffs on fixing No Child Left Behind are moving along well, and Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues,” an aide for Alexander, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told The Daily Signal yesterday.

“Sen. Alexander remains positive that they can reach agreement on key issues. [He] hopes to fix this broken law to help states, school districts, and schools better serve all students,” she added.

Alexander and Murray have not released details of the proposal.

With the Obama administration already suggesting that the president would veto the Student Success Act—and the Senate working on their own bipartisan version—the chances of enacting any legislation that includes the conservative A-PLUS solution are bleak.

But that won’t stop Walker from trying.

“The president has threatened to veto practically everything under the sun and yesterday’s veto of Keystone clearly showed he is more interested in playing politics than working with Congress,” said Walker, adding:

Parents and teachers—not government bureaucrats—should have the ultimate say in education. They know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students. A-PLUS further empowers states and offers greater flexibility in federal education spending. It is smart, conservative education reform that strengthens the broader goal of the Student Success Act to remove the federal government from classrooms.