By Indiana Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) Word Count: 424 No matter how hard Republican leaders in the General … Continue reading →
The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus priorities align legislative action with real Hoosiers’ needs. Indiana stands in a place where median … Continue reading →
Beginning October 1, the federal government will launch an online Marketplace in Indiana where Hoosiers can compare and purchase health … Continue reading →
With the 2014 legislative session winding down, a number of issues are yet to be finalized. Proposals that were modified from their original version and subsequently approved in the second house are eligible for a conference committee. Below, read where a number of issues are heading into session’s final days.
High school student athletes would be required to be removed from play because of a suspected concussion or head injury for at least 24 hours under Senate Bill (SB) 222. Current law stipulates that a student athlete may not return to play until the athlete has been evaluated by, and has received written clearance from, a licensed and properly trained health care provider. Under the bill, athletes suffering head injuries would also have to sit out the required 24 hours. Additionally, the legislation would require high school and youth football coaches to take concussion awareness courses at least once every two years beginning July 1, 2014. The bill also stipulates, except in cases of gross negligence, that a coach who completes the required coaching certification training would not be held personally liable if an athlete under the coach’s supervision suffers a concussion or head injury. Some concerns about the bill center round the cost of the program and who would pay. The National Federation of High School Associations certification program is available on-line for a $10 fee. USA Football also has a certification program consisting of two levels. Level 1 costs $25, which includes membership in USA Football. Level 2 consists of age-specific courses for ages 6 to 14 and the cost is $10 per course. According to a USA Football spokesman who testified on behalf of the bill, the money would be used to build the infrastructure of the online education course. USA Football also includes training for “Heads Up Football,” a national initiative supported by the NFL and more than two dozen other entities to promote safety. A conference committee will attempt to negotiate a compromise on differences between the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill.
Along party lines, the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development voted to gut House Bill (HB) 1004, a proposal that would have established a five-county pre-kindergarten pilot program. HB 1004 now calls for the creation of a summer study committee to examine pre-K issues, such as appropriate family income standards, which agency would oversee the program, and financing. Attempts by Senate Democrats to reinsert the pilot program were blocked during Senate debate on the bill. The measure was later approved by the Senate, but the House chose not to agree with Senate changes and sent the measure to a conference committee. Proponents of a pre-kindergarten program believe that a quality preschool option is a critical part of ensuring that Hoosier children get a head start on education and develop the skills to be lifelong learners. Indiana is now one of only 9 states that do not provide state funding for pre-K programs after Mississippi began rollout of a state-funded option earlier this year. Continue reading →
Legislators are working this week as final negotiations continue in conference committees. Conference committees are a unique step in the legislative process designed to allow different versions of a bill to be reconciled into a final agreed upon form. We thought an explanation of conference committees might be in order here.
What is a conference committee?
Bills which have passed their house of origin, but were amended by the opposite chamber must return to the house of origin to allow the author to review the changes. If an author is unsatisfied with changes and the house of origin dissents, an agreement must be negotiated between the two different versions of the bill in a joint House-Senate conference committee.
A conference committee is a temporary group with four appointed members, or conferees: a member of each party from the Senate and member of each party from the House. Other legislators also can be appointed as advisors to the conference committee, but the approval of advisors is not necessary for the bill to move forward.
Conference committee meetings are open to the public, and a one hour public notice must be given before a meeting convenes. During the meeting(s), legislators may take public testimony, discuss differences in the language, and consider proposed compromises. The resulting compromise takes the form of a conference committee report, which must be signed by each of the four conferees in order for the bill to move forward for a final vote in each chamber. Over the course of negotiations, multiple conference committee reports may be drafted.
Once signed by the four conferees, a conference committee report is filed in each chamber and put to a final vote. If approved by both chambers, a conference committee report is signed by the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House, then sent to the governor for his signature into law or veto.
During the month of March, Statehouse leaders will advocate for food insecurity awareness by taking part in the 6th annual Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FIsH) March Against Hunger food drive. Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana State Bar Association will take the helm in engaging state officials in a friendly competition to raise donations of non-perishable foods or direct monetary contributions.
More than 350,000 Hoosier children or one in five aren’t sure where their next meal will come from.
Here’s how you can help
Created in 2005, FIsH consists of 11 member food banks and partners with a variety of other food programs, including the Indiana’s Family of Farmers, Indiana Pork Producers and the Indiana Vegetable Growers’ Association. According to a 2010 FIsh report, one in six Hoosiers are at risk of hunger, and nearly 117,900 receive emergency food assistance every week from FIsH food pantries and soup kitchens. Throughout the month, Statehouse leaders will compete to see who can donate the most non-perishable food items.
In 2013, 52 law groups participated in March Against Hunger and raised 10,065 pounds of food and $55,455 – which is the equivalent of 287,340 pounds or 143 tons of food. Overall, the program has raised a total of 44,166 pounds of food and $182,622 for a total of 477 tons in assistance since 2009.
Proposals offered by Senate Democrats to restart a pilot early childhood education program were blocked on Monday. Amendments to House Bill (HB) 1004, offered by State Senator John Broden, were defeated on near party-line votes.
Two of the amendments that were defeated included language to add a framework to compete for federal Race to the Top funding and to reinsert a measure to create a pilot preschool program for around 1,000 Hoosier 4-year-olds. An amendment to add at least one member of the Early Learning Advisory Committee to the study committee proposed in HB 1004 was successfully added by voice vote.
The version passed by the Indiana House of Representatives would have created a early childhood education pilot program for as many as 1,000 children in 5 Indiana counties. The pilot program was estimated to cost between $7 and $30 million. Senate Democrats advocated this session to create a universal early childhood education program since Indiana is one of nine states without a state-funded option.
The original version of HB 1004 was approved by the House in January on a bipartisan vote of 87-9, but was amended in the Senate Education Committee. The committee voted to change the program into a study commission and return to the issue next session.
The amended measure now moves to a final vote in the Senate before returning to the House of Representatives where changes can be accepted or modified by the bill’s original author.
UPDATE 2/17/14: HJR 3 gained final approval by the Indiana Senate, largely along party lines. While the bill passed by a vote of 32-17, the issue will not go before voters this November. The earliest a resolution could appear on a ballot would be November 2016, as the new language must be approved by a newly elected General Assembly.
A number of Senate Democrats delivered floor remarks, condemning the placement of what they characterized as discrimination into the state’s constitution. Remarks by State Senator Tallian>>
What is HJR-3?
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3 is a controversial proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana. A ban on same-sex marriage is already in state law. Originally passed in 2011 as HJR-6, the resolution needs to pass a second General Assembly in the same wording before it becomes a ballot issue to be voted on in November.
Opponents of the ban, including Eli Lilly, Cummins, IU Health and many universities around the state called on lawmakers to defeat the legislation as it would make recruiting and retaining top employees more difficult. Opponents pointed to the second sentence of the resolution, which banned “any legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage,” as particularly troubling as it may call the legality of domestic partnerships benefits offered by some universities and cities into question. According to a poll conducted last October by nonpartisan Ball State University and WISH-TV, 58 percent of Hoosiers oppose an amendment to the constitution banning same sex marriage.
House of Representatives action thus far
HJR-3 originated in the House of Representatives and was first assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but was later reassigned to the House Elections Committee after the committee chair in the Judiciary Committee declined to vote on the resolution. After hours of public testimony, the proposal passed the committee by a party line vote and moved to the full House of Representatives for further consideration.
By a vote of 57-40, the House of Representatives approved a modified version of HJR-3. In earlier action, House members deleted the second sentence of HJR-3 that would have potentially barred civil unions and similar domestic partnerships. The resolution that arrived in the Senate only contained language defining marriage between one man and one woman.
By altering the amendment’s language, the approval process requiring a resolution amending the constitution to pass two separately elected General Assemblies would likely have to start over, delaying the initiative from heading to voters until November 2016.
Senate action thus far
The Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee voted on party lines to send HJR-3 without amendments to the full Senate for consideration. Committee members from the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus voted in unison to oppose the amendment.
The proposal was considered by the full Senate on second reading, where any member of the Senate could have offered an amendment. Though amendments were filed that would have reinserted the controversial second sentence, none were heard on the floor and the resolution advanced in the same form it arrived in.
HJR-3 could receive a final vote in the Senate as early as Monday, February 17. Since the second sentence was not re-inserted into the proposal, the proposed constitutional amendment would need to be considered and approved by a separate General Assembly before it would be placed on the ballot in 2016.
Click here for the full audio of Senator Lanane’s speech to concerned citizens at the statehouse>>
The window for filing state and federal taxes has officially begun. This annual requirement can be daunting, but there are options available to Indiana taxpayers, such as electronic filing, that simplify the process. Last year, more than 2.5 million Hoosiers filed their taxes electronically, according to the Indiana Department of Revenue.
Free File is made possible through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of industry-leading tax software companies. Since its inception in 2003, the program has offered 70 percent of taxpayers free access to leading commercial tax preparation software from Free File Alliance member companies. Free File has already saved taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion in filing costs.
INfreefile waives the fees applied to online tax preparation software for Hoosiers who meet certain Adjusted Gross Income requirements. The service connects the eligible individuals with six vendors that offer the free software. Below, you can find more information on the program and its benefits.
INDIANAPOLIS—The Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee on Monday voted 8-4 to send House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3, an amendment to place Indiana’s existing law banning same-sex marriage into the state’s constitution, to the full Senate for consideration. Committee members from the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus voted in unison to oppose the amendment and issued the following statement:
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson):
“I’m certain if the Senate is guided by the principles of fairness and decency, and what’s in the best interest of the future of Indiana, discrimination will ultimately be defeated.
“This debate affects the lives of our neighbors, the lives of our friends, the lives of Hoosiers.
“It’s time to listen. Nearly 60 percent of those folks oppose locking discrimination into our constitution.”
Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Jean D. Breaux (D-Indianapolis):
“Strong communities are the cornerstone of a thriving economy. Strong communities are not built by limiting the rights of some. They are instead founded on the notion that every Hoosier has the opportunity to pursue happiness.”
Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte):
“If job creation is job one, why then are we making it more difficult for some of Indiana’s top employers to recruit and retain top talent?
“What sort of signal does locking intolerance into our state’s guiding document send to prospective employers? To future generations?”
Senate Democratic Caucus Whip Lindel Hume (D-Princeton):
“Real leadership is standing up for what’s right. Real leadership recognizes the value of setting aside this divisive amendment and focusing on issues that bring our state together.”
For more information on the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus agenda or other State Senate business, call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.senatedemocrats.in.gov.
Tuesday marked the halfway point of the 2014 legislative session as lawmakers worked to gain approval for their proposals. Senate bills not making it through the chamber by Tuesday are considered dead for this session. Of the 419 Senate bills introduced this session, 164 are heading to the House for further consideration and 145 House-passed initiatives will be reviewed by the Senate. Bills must pass both chambers before going to the governor for possible signature into law. This summary highlights some of the action taken by the Senate thus far.
Legislation that would further reduce Indiana’s corporate income tax rate and provide an exemption from business personal property tax for businesses with less than $25,000 in assessed value passed the Senate. Senate Bill (SB) 1 would further reduce the corporate income tax rate from 6.5% in 2015 to 4.9% by 2019 at a cost of $370 million in forgone state revenue by 2020. The proposal provides that if the assessed value of a taxpayer’s business personal property is less than $25,000, they would be exempt from paying the tax. At this point, there is nothing in the bill that replaces the $54 million in property tax revenue that local governments, schools and other taxpayers will lose. In addition, the bill would eliminate the college contribution tax credit, along with several other credits. SB 1 was approved by the Senate with a vote of 35-11. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
Senate Democrats proposed a number of amendments to the measure, including language reducing the fiscal impact the tax cut would inflict on local governments and schools and stripping the tax cut from the bill, instead using the resources to provide access to early childhood education for every Hoosier child. In offering the preschool amendment, Senator Skinner argued it would be as beneficial an investment in Indiana’s long term future and pay higher dividends in the form of higher graduation rates, lower incarceration rates and a more educated future workforce. The amendments were defeated along party lines.
Under SB 176, the expansion of mass transit services in Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison and Marion counties would be approved through local public questions placed on the ballot this November. The measure authorizes eligible counties to fund approved public transportation projects through raising various tax rates slightly, including income tax rates, while fares will cover 25% of the costs associated with expanded mass transit services. The legislation also prohibits the counties from carrying out a light rail project. Controversial and unexpected language concerning Indianapolis’ bonding authority was inserted by Republicans during the committee process. However, that language failed to meet the approval of the full Senate and was removed on the floor. Additional concerns linger regarding the long-term effects on labor agreements that still exist in the proposal. The Senate ultimately passed the amended version of the measure by a vote of 28-20, and it now moves to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
HJR-3 By a vote of 57-40, the House of Representatives approved a modified version of House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3, a controversial proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage in Indiana. In earlier action, House members deleted a sentence in HJR 3 that would have banned civil unions and domestic partnerships. The resolution now only contains language to ban gay marriage in the state. The resolution advances to the State Senate where it could be changed again. By altering the amendment’s language, the approval process from two separately elected general assemblies would likely have to start over, which would delay the initiative from going to voters in November. With recent shifts in attitudes regarding gay marriage, opponents of the ban, including Eli Lilly, Cummins, IU Health and many universities around the state, are calling on lawmakers to defeat the legislation. According to a poll conducted last October by nonpartisan Ball State University and WISH-TV, 58 percent of Hoosiers oppose an amendment to the constitution banning same sex marriage. A ban on gay marriage is already in state law. The resolution will be heard in the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure on Monday, February 10. Continue reading →
State Senator Mark Stoops calls on the governor to work with Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, to expand Medicaid in Indiana.
Indiana Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane reacts to the Senate Rules Committee passing HJR-3, a controversial proposal that would amend the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Sen. Lanane notes the proposal will now move to be considered by the full Senate.