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Indiana receives waiver from US Department of Education

Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education announced Thursday that Indiana received a waiver issued by the United States Department of Education from certain aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

What does this mean for Hoosier students?

According to Superintendent Ritz, the waiver, “allows schools to utilize Title I dollars in the best way to meet students’ needs.”

Basically, the waiver gives local schools continued flexibility in how they utilize federal funding and allow more funding decisions to be made at the local level.  It also allows continued flexibility in how Indiana measures student performance and growth.

Leading up to the waiver decision was months of hard work by the Indiana Department of Education as well as Indiana educators, parents, community leaders and local organizations.

Every year the Indiana Department of Education must assemble and present a proposal to the United States Department of Education to be considered for an extension of the waiver.

For more information, please visit www.doe.in.gov.

 

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Democrats continue the push for affordable health care

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states were given the ability to expand Medicaid services to their most vulnerable citizens with 100% of the expansion being funded by the federal government through 2016. Since 2012, Senate Democrats have made this health care expansion a legislative priority by offering a number of proposals that would for the first time offer affordable health care options to 400,000 Hoosiers, create 30,000 high-paying jobs, and bring billions of dollars of additional economic activity to the state of Indiana.

After a year of negotiations to establish Indiana’s mechanism for expanding Medicaid under the ACA, the governor recently submitted a proposal to the federal government to expand health care coverage in Indiana. Although the final details of the proposal have not been approved by the Center for Medicaid Services (CMS), Senate Democrats are encouraged by the governor embracing the president’s health care law and working with the federal government to expand health care to working Hoosiers.

However, members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have long pointed to the years of federal funding, health care coverage, job growth and economic development that have been lost due to the indecision of the governor and Statehouse Republicans.

We have compiled an easy-to-read timeline of what has taken place in Indiana government and highlighted the most significant events regarding the expansion of Medicaid in Indiana.

Medicaid Expansion Timeline

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“Canned” deer hunting main topic of interim study committee

On Tuesday, the Interim Study Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources met to discuss the issues associated with “canned” deer hunting, the practice of raising deer to be hunted in an enclosed or fenced area. High-fenced hunting preserves place deer with big racks in large fenced areas where hunters can shoot them for a fee.

Members of the committee heard testimony from a variety of experts from around the Midwest on the animal health and natural resource issues associated with this practice. The majority of the testimony focused on chronic wasting disease (CWD), a deadly disease found in certain breeds of deer that is highly contagious and difficult to eradicate. The animal health and natural resource experts from other states also spoke to their best practices in surveillance, tracking, and responding to outbreaks of CWD in their deer populations.

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Lanane, Broden laud governor’s release of adoption subsidies

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) and State Senator John Broden (D-South Bend) issued the following statement in response to an announcement from the governor stating that subsidies would be granted to families who adopt Hoosier children.

“I applaud the governor for recognizing the importance of encouraging and incentivizing adoption in our state,” said Sen. Lanane.

“Senate Democrats have long pushed for Indiana to join every other state in making this incentive available to parents. As I’ve stated in the past concerning the administration’s policies –better late than never.”

“This is excellent news for adoptive families and those thinking about adopting children in the state’s care,” commented Sen. Broden. “Since 2012 I’ve authored legislation to make these funds available to parents, so I’m happy to see the governor finally agrees.”

In 2012, Sen. Broden introduced Senate Bill 348 urging state government to provide subsidies to parents who adopt children with special needs. He followed that up with Senate Bill 306 in 2013, maintaining the same concerns. Neither bill made it beyond a first reading. Since then, nearly 1,400 Hoosier families have been placed on a “waiting list” to receive much needed funds to raise their special needs children adopted from the state’s foster care system.

 

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Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus Internship Opportunities

Are you looking for an internship for the 2014-15 school year?  Do you have an interest in government?  The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus offers internships for students attending an Indiana college or university.  Applications are being accepted for the 2015 legislative session and must be received by October 15, 2014.  You do not have to have a specific major to apply.

As an intern you will get the opportunity to staff committee hearings, analyze bill content at each step of the legislative process, research past and pending legislation, attend to constituent correspondence as well as help senators prepare for committee meetings and session days.

Interns receive a stipend of $350 per week and academic credit may be arranged between the individual interns and their school.  Scholarships are awarded to outstanding interns at the end of each legislation session.

For more information on internship opportunities with the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus please visit http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_democrats/index.htm.

 

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Back To School in Indiana: Resources and Tips for Students and Parents

Whether your child is a grade school, high school, or college-bound student, we have put together a few resources and tips that will be helpful in the upcoming weeks as Indiana schools begin the fall semester.

Get into a routine

Summer often throws many students into a schedule that is drastically different from what often takes place during the school year.  If your child attends a year-round school then this may not be as big of an issue, but if you are winding down from a long summer, you may want to get your children into a routine.

Keep consistent bedtimes, study times and play times so that your child can adapt easily to the confines of a new schedule.  Studies have shown that students perform better when they are well rested and have a good grasp on time management.

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Healthy eating

Eating healthy is just as important as sleep when it comes to student success.  Seek out foods that are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and low in sugar and saturated fat.

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Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day.  Studies have shown that skipping breakfast can be detrimental to students’ performance and many times distracts them when they are trying to focus on school work.

Many Indiana schools offer free breakfast and lunch programs for students.  For more information on free breakfast and lunch programs for Hoosier students go to http://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/1964.

Make sure you have the correct materials

Teachers and professors will often times give students a syllabus as well as a list of materials needed for the class.  Be careful to recognize the supplies and texts necessary to be successful.  If you are unsure about the materials or supplies, take the time to talk to the instructor to clarify students’ expectations.

Many counties in Indiana offer assistance to those who are unable to pay for school supplies.  In Marion County, for example, there is a website dedicated to financial assistance of all types called NEED HELP PAYING BILLS.

College students can request financial aid to gain help paying for courses and supplies by going to the Division of Student Financial Aid website at www.in.gov/sfa.

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Engage your child

It is extremely important to engage your child with their school work.  Children have been known to perform better when parents are interactive with their child.  Something as simple as inquiring about what they learned that day and striking up an in-depth conversation on a school related topic can inspire your child to want to learn.  Many children are simply waiting for the opportunity to share knowledge and expand upon it.

Reading to your children is also very important.  The Indiana Department of Education offers a reading program called Hoosier Family of Readers that is dedicated to providing resources to help students around Indiana read with someone, to someone, share with someone what he or she has read, listen to someone read, help others read and read independently.

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You don’t have to be an expert in any specific subject to be a great motivator and tutor for your child.  Sometimes just expressing interest in what they are doing can encourage them to succeed.

It is important to establish goals with your child and encourage consistent study habits that will help obtain those goals.  If you feel overwhelmed on a subject and need some extra help, there are plenty of resources available.  One example is the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Homework Hotline.  Math and science experts are available to your child to help in a wide variety of topics from algebra to chemistry.  Go to www.askrose.org for more information.

Afterschool programs

There are a variety of nonprofit organizations that offer afterschool programs to assist families with their child’s needs.  Many organizations offer a safe environment for children that provide assistance with homework, educational and physical activities to promote success in the classroom and beyond.

The Indiana Afterschool Network has a great website that can help guide you toward the afterschool program that is right for you and your child.  For more information visit http://www.indianaafterschool.org/.

Additional resources

Finally, the Indiana Department of Education offers a plethora of helpful information that will help you navigate through the back to school process.

If you are a college student or a parent of a college student, you may want to visit the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s website at www.in.gov/che.  There you can find all the resources you need on universities and colleges throughout the Hoosier state.

The United State Department of Education website is also a great resource that may be able to answer questions you have about any of the above mentioned topics.  Visit them at http://www.ed.gov/.

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Chronic Eye Disease, Vision Services and Opioid Treatment Medication Discussed at Today’s Interim Study Committee

Today was the first of several meetings for the Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services Interim Study Committee, assembled to discuss a number of topics including Chronic Eye Disease, Vision Services and Opioid Treatment Medication.

Chronic Eye Disease

Children and Adults alike are affected by chronic eye disease throughout the Hoosier state.  Little has been done to assist the numerous amount of visually impaired children struggling with development.

The Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services Interim Study Committee was assembled to consider public policy that would assist individuals with chronic eye disease – such as glaucoma –  in removing barriers to long term access to effective treatment therapies according to House Resolution 69.

A topic of discussion centered on the ability for individuals to refill prescriptions to certain eye drops used to treat glaucoma before the standard 30-day refill (“early refill”). Testimony indicated that many individuals with glaucoma use more than one drop per day and oftentimes need to refill the prescription before the standard 30-day refill date.

Many expert witnesses were called to speak on the topic of visual impairments and what can be done to improve the treatment and education of children who are visually impaired.

In addition, those that testified indicated that it may be a good policy to allow school age children with chronic eye diseases to fill multiple prescriptions at one time so they could have one prescription at home, as well as a prescription available at school.

Vision Services

Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) is a nonprofit organization based in Indiana and Kentucky and sent representatives to the study committee meeting today to express how Indiana can improve on its current policies and programs regarding education to the visually impaired and the parents of visually impaired children.

VIPS representatives explained the struggle parents face with providing care for their visually impaired children and suggested a collaboration with Indiana based First Steps Vision Services to improve access to therapy and treatment for visually impaired Hoosier children ages three and under.

Early intervention therapy has been shown to improve a child’s chance of overcoming developmental delays caused by visual impairments.  These programs can maximize a child’s ability to live independently and contribute to society.

State Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) said, “I hope the discussion we had today will lead to legislation that will provide resources to families with visually impaired children.”

Opioid Treatment Medication

Testimony was heard regarding opioid treatment programs and the regulations pertaining to giving patients multiple-day supplies of medications to take home in order to treat their conditions.

Opioid treatment programs provide medication assisted treatment to persons seeking to recover from opiate addiction. In 2013 there were over 10,000 patients treated for opioid addiction in Indiana.  In addition to counseling services, patients are treated with medications such as Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Suboxone.

House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1218 prohibits an opioid treatment program from prescribing, dispensing, or providing more than a seven day supply of opioid treatment medication to a patient to take out of the facility.

While patients are often administered these medications while supervised at a clinic, some patients are able to take home 7-day supplies of these medications so they do not have to travel to and from the clinic on a daily basis.

Opioid treatment programs set forth compliance regulations for patients to qualify to take home these medications to treat their opiate addiction. Testimony from mental health professionals stated that the take home medication policies are generally effective in treating the patients’ opiate addiction.

The ability for patients to take home these medications make treating their addiction more convenient since they do not have to visit the treatment facilities on a daily basis.

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2014 Indiana State Fair: “A Time to Celebrate”

Every year the fair brings together a variety of people from all walks of life in Indiana.  This year is “A Time to Celebrate” at the Indiana State Fair with the grand re-opening of the coliseum.   The coliseum is a historically rich building built in 1939 and host to everyone from President John F. Kennedy to the Indiana Pacers and the Beatles.

Summer of 2014 will be filled with many events happening in the newly-renovated coliseum including 4-H competitions and national touring concert acts.

The Indiana State Fair runs from August 1 – 17 and is open to all ages.  Check out the Indiana State Fair website for information on discounts and special events.

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Click here to check out a video about the coliseum renovations.  

Whether it be riding the rides at the midway, eating elephant ears, or seeing the world’s largest boar – some of our fondest childhood memories involve the Indiana State Fair.

We asked a few of the Senate Democrat Caucus staff members what they were looking forward to at this year’s Indiana State Fair, and this is what they had to say:

“I look forward to the fried Wisconsin Cheese vendor and then watch the Clydesdales driver teams, the Percheron Mare team cart.  Look forward to seeing the work done on the Coliseum.” –Donna

“I’m looking forward to the new craft beer options at the fair.  It’s a great way to showcase Indiana’s producers and introduce Hoosiers to new tastes.” –Adam

“The over-abundance of fried creations every year would definitely be up there on my list.” –Andrew

“Lemon shake-ups and the world’s biggest pig!” –Susan

“I like the 4-H horse and pony shows.” –Michelle 

“Elephant ears, Sutter’s salt water taffy, fish in the Natural Resources Building, riding the tractor train or walking the loop around to the other side.” – Emma

“The world’s biggest HOG!!! And that’s my favorite too, along with the winning hog litter.  I love the pioneer village too.  As for food, corn on the cob and caramel corn!” –Laura

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For more information on the Indiana State Fair go to www.in.gov/statefair/fair/

 

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Lanane on HIP restrictions: Once again, too many Hoosiers left behind

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) issued the following statement in response to an announcement from the state’s Family and Social Services Agency (FSSA) that the governor’s existing Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) is no longer accepting new enrollees.

“Once again we see how the governor’s reluctance to expand Medicaid has become a disservice to Hoosier families.

“For years, the Senate Democrats have been pushing for a plan to expand health care to over 400,000 working Hoosiers.

“If we had just put a plan into place sooner, we could have avoided these restrictions which now block the already limited number of HIP enrollees from the important health care access they need.

“I appreciate the governor’s recent commitment to working with the federal government on his new proposal, but once again, his indecision on how to expand health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act has left too many Hoosiers behind.”

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Special Group plates hot topic in Roads and Transportation Study Committee

An interim study committee met today at the Indiana Statehouse to discuss topics related to roads and transportation.  Amongst the legislators involved in the committee were Democrat Senators Arnold and Breaux.

The session began with a discussion and vote on specialty group license plate applicants.  Applications from various specialty groups were put through a rigorous selection process before heading to the legislature.  The top five license plates selected by the committee will be included in next year’s cycle at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

In 2013, House Enrolled Act 1279 created the special group recognition license plate committee consisting of eight members of the general assembly, and specified that the primary purpose of the committee is to make recommendations to the BMV regarding special group recognition license plates.

The Roads and Transportation Study Committee voted unanimously to send the Lincoln Boyhood Home and 500 Festival specialty group license plates to the BMV for final approval.  They will convene again in September hear annual reports from transportation agencies and in October to review renewal applications for specialty license plates.

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