Jobs and economic fairness bills awaiting committee hearings

Members of the Indiana Senate Democratic caucus have filed a legislative package for the 2012 General Assembly that would put Hoosiers back to work, help rebuild our state and promote long term sustainability for small businesses. As part of the Senate Democrats’ 2012 Legislative Agenda, the caucus members are now actively seeking hearings for these bills in the senate standing committees.

The Indiana Senate Democrats believe that jobs should be the number one priority for the General Assembly this year. With unemployment at 9 percent and a lowering of income that has put us 41st in the nation per capita, Hoosiers need all the help they can get when it comes to employment opportunities and economic fairness.

Giving small businesses tax breaks, reducing discrimination against the unemployed and leveling the playing field between Main Street businesses and online businesses are just some of what the Senate Democrats are focusing on this session to get Hoosiers working again.

To voice your support for these bills: Contact your State Senator and the members of the senate standing committee to which the bill has been assigned (see committee assignments at the end of each bill description). Contact information for every State Senator is available on the General Assembly’s website.

2012 Jobs and Economic Fairness Bills:

Senate Bill 100: Leveling the playing field for Main Street business through online sales tax collection
Indiana retailers, who employ more than half a million Hoosiers, are losing an estimated $2.9 billion in business annually to online retailers. The proposed legislation would require all online retailers with any presence in the state to collect sales tax, leveling the playing field for local businesses and providing the state with an estimated $200 million in uncollected sales tax revenue. The bill is authored by Sen. John Broden (D–South Bend) who offered a similar measure in 2011.Senate Committee: Tax and Fiscal Policy

House Bill 1506: Work share to avoid temporary lay-offs
An option already available to businesses in 21 states, known as a “work share” option, evens out the economic highs and lows for businesses and allows them to keep workers on the job during slow periods. The program allows employers to reduce the work week of their employees in lieu of layoffs. The affected employees receive a portion of the unemployment benefit they would receive if laid off relative to the reduced work hours.

For example, if an employer could schedule employees to work four days (32 hours) a week for six months as an alternative to layoffs, the employer would develop a plan and apply to the state for a work-share unemployment benefit option for the employees. If the plan is accepted with a 20 percent reduction in work hours, the employees would apply and receive 20 percent of the unemployment benefit for which they would be eligible if completely laid off. Senate Democrats will support the House bill authored by Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan (D-Indianapolis) on this issue.

Senate Committee: TBD

Senate Bill 217: Directing state sales tax to local road funding
The quality and maintenance of Indiana roads, bridges and other infrastructure is an essential component to Indiana’s economic development and our quality of life. Less money is being devoted to local roads, and the results are evident around the state with crumbling asphalt, closed bridges and rural roads turned back to gravel. It’s not a funding crisis, it’s a matter of priority.The state needs to prioritize resources to preserve existing roads and bridges before embarking on new highway projects. More costs to Hoosiers through tolls and fees on taxpayer-funded roads and bridges are unacceptable, as is shifting the repair costs to future generations.

Senate Bill 217 would provide that 0.67 percent of state sales tax revenue be distributed to counties, cities and towns (instead of the state general fund) based on those entities’ share of local road and street mileage. The distributed sales tax revenue would be used for street projects. This legislation is authored by Sen. Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute).

Senate Committee: Tax and Fiscal Policy

Senate Bill 219:  Low interest loans for local roads
Senate Bill 219 provides another way to ensure that Hoosiers are not driving on rapidly deteriorating roads. This bill would establish a highway revolving loan fund to provide low interest loans to counties and municipalities for construction projects. $1.5 million would be appropriated to the fund, which would be administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation. This legislation is authored by Sen. Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute).Senate Committee: Appropriations

Senate Bill 358: Directing gas tax to local road funding
Senate Bill 358 would direct that part of the sales tax collected on gasoline sales be allocated to counties, cities and towns for road and street projects. This bill is one more way to ensure that Indiana roadways stay safe and usable. This legislation is authored by Sen. Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute).Senate Committee : Tax and Fiscal Policy

Senate Bill 197: Hiring Hoosiers for public works contracts
Taxpayer money spent on state contracts should help put Hoosiers to work, not profit out-of-state companies. The proposed legislation would require that public works projects be awarded to companies and subcontractors that can guarantee at least 80 percent of the employees working on the project are Indiana workers. This proposal was introduced last session as SB 369-2011 and is authored this year by Sen. Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte).Senate Committee: Commerce & Economic Development

Senate Bill 205: Helping Indiana’s unemployed
A second proposal aimed at helping the unemployed would prohibit using language in job ads that discriminates against unemployed people. During a time of such high job loss in Indiana, unemployed workers should not be further punished for economic conditions they cannot control. Similar legislation has been approved in New Jersey and is pending in New York. The bill will be authored by Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis).Senate Committee: Pensions and Labor

Senate Bill 261: Ending credit history discrimination for most jobs
Past credit decisions should not hold individuals back from gainful employment. Under proposed legislation, an employer would be prohibited from using an applicant’s credit history for hiring and employment purposes. Exceptions would include managerial positions and positions with the Attorney General, local government, law enforcement, or those where credit history consideration is required by federal law. The bill is authored by Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis).Senate Committee: Pensions and Labor

Senate Bill 189: Extending to small businesses a tax break for hiring new workers
Indiana’s small businesses deserve the same tax benefit for new hires that is available to larger companies under the New Employee Tax Credit established in 2010. The proposed legislation would eliminate the 10-employee minimum qualification now required under the program, providing any sized business with a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the wages paid for qualified new hires during a 24-month period. This proposal was introduced last session as SB 583-2011 and is authored this year by Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis).Senate Committee: Tax and Fiscal Policy

Senate Bill 366: Helping Hoosier small business owners and entrepreneurs expand
Small businesses and entrepreneurs would benefit if the state followed through on a program created with bipartisan support but not funded under the recent Republican state budgets. The program is designed to provide low-interest loans to Indiana businesses for start up or expansion costs through a revolving state fund. Since the fund has languished under the direction of IEDC, the proposal would move the fund to the Indiana Finance Authority where other state revolving funds are managed. A similar proposal was introduced last year and the legislation will be authored this year by Sen. Vi Simpson (D–Elletsville).Senate Committee: Appropriations

Senate Bill 163: Corporate accountability for economic incentives
Businesses that receive taxpayer-funded incentives for job creation should be held to their end of the deal. Legislation will again be offered by Senate Democrats in 2012 to require the recapture of funds from businesses that receive state incentives but fail to make the level of capital investment, create the number of jobs, or pay less than the wages specified in the agreement. In addition, those deals would be subject to disclosure under the state’s Open Records Act and published on the Transparency.IN.gov website for public view. This bill is authored by Sen. Lonnie M. Randolph (D-East Chicago).Senate Committee: Commerce & Economic Development