On Wednesday, the Indiana General Assembly voted to override the governor’s veto on House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1546, assuring that the measure now becomes law. The Indiana House of Representatives voted 68-23 to overturn the veto, clearing the way for a final 34-12 vote in the Senate.
The governor moved to block the engrossed act following the close of the legislative session, expressing concern over language that would retroactively reauthorize local taxing measures in Pulaski and Jackson counties.
Opponents of the effort to override the governor’s veto noted that in both counties, the authorization for collecting the taxes had expired but Hoosiers had continued to pay the levy. Supporters pointed to other measures within the bill, including language supporting the families of disabled Hoosier veterans, as reason to overturn the governor’s veto and see the measure to become law.
A veto override is a tool by which legislators can consider proposals passed during the regular session but rejected by the governor. To override the governor’s veto, both chambers must again pass the vetoed measure by a simple majority.
The General Assembly adjourned sine die and lawmakers will return to the Statehouse over the summer and fall to begin interim study committees.
Throughout the summer and fall when the Indiana General Assembly is not in session, interim committees and commissions are convened to conduct in-depth research and analysis on many complex issues facing the state. The recommendations formed over the next few months by the work of these committees –including public testimony– are included in proposals likely to be considered during the next legislative session. Most study committees must complete their work by November 1st.
The newly-established committee will take up whether the state will continue to roll out Common Core standards or proceed in a different direction. The committee will compare the state’s current standards to Common Core and consider best practices in developing and adopting Common Core standards. The committee will also examine the cost of implementation and hear testimony from teachers, testing experts, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction among others.
School Safety Interim Study Committee
Another new working group, the School Safety Interim Study Committee, will look to improve safety among the state’s schools and develop best practices for school resource officers hired under provisions laid out in Senate Enrolled Act 1. The bill provided schools with grant funding to hire officers to assist with school safety and security.
Commission on Education
The Commission on Education will study the effects of unprecedented school voucher expansion in Indiana. The committee will consider the academic performance and graduation rates of choice scholarship schools and how they compare to traditional public schools. The committee will also study the demographics of students receiving vouchers including income, race, and special needs of choice scholarship students as compared to those students enrolled in public schools. Overall, the committee will examine why parents choose to enroll their child in the school choice scholarship program, as well as the student growth and achievement for students enrolled in the voucher program over time.
The first regular session of the 118th Indiana General Assembly concluded in the early hours of April 27. Of the over 1,200 bills filed, 295 headed to the governor’s desk for final approval. Take a look at some of this legislative session’s most memorable moments, including floor debate over contentious issues like school funding and visits from Hoosiers across the state through previously unreleased images.
Legislators approved the state’s two-year, $30 billion budget early Saturday morning. The most important initiative debated during the 2013 session, House Bill (HB)1001 contains proposals advocated for by Senate Democrats, including increased local road funding, additional resources to address back-logged maintenance and building projects for the state’s public universities, and an appropriation for statewide programs for community corrections.
However, a number of Senate Democrats were dissatisfied with the budget’s lack of action on combating the state’s unemployment rate and unequal support for the state’s public education system as reasons to not support the budget. The approved budget includes the following:
Roads and Infrastructure
Throughout the session, Senate Democrats argued that rebuilding the state’s aging infrastructure would inject vital funding into local communities and reduce the cost of doing business for Hoosier companies. The budget diverts 1 percent of the sales tax and use tax for the General Fund to the Motor Vehicle Highway Funds – directing over $100 million in additional funding to local units each year. The proposal also creates the Major Moves 2020 Trust Fund, appropriating $200 million each year to be used for major highway expansion projects.
Cut in the previous two budgets, Senate Democrats pushed to fully restore funding for Indiana schools. While K-12 funding increases 2 percent over 2013 levels for 2014 and 1 percent in 2015, compared to 2011 funding, 183 schools will receive less in 2015 than they received in 2011. That’s means more than half the state’s schools will receive less funding in 2015 than they had four years earlier.
The state’s institutions of higher education receive $215 million to fund new university building projects. The budget also allocates $66 million per year in the form of incentives for universities that meet certain performance metrics set out by the Commission on Higher Education.
After nearly four months, the General Assembly declined to take action on enacting the federal health care reform in a way that works for Hoosiers. Since the onset of the legislative session, Senate Democrats have brought to light the possibility of creating 30,000 new jobs, injecting billions of federal dollars into local communities and providing more than 400,000 uninsured working Hoosiers with medical services through the enactment of health care reform.
Language included in the budget bill, HB 1001, transfers $250M in FY 14 to the Medicaid Contingency and Reserve Account. HB 1001 also provides that FSSA may not implement a waiver or Medicaid state plan until they have developed a sustainable financing plan for a Medicaid state plan amendment or waiver and plan has been reviewed by State Budget Committee. In addition, HB 1001 authorizes the governor, with budget committee review, to negotiate with the federal government to receive Medicaid block grants.
On Monday, Senate Democrats offered eighteen substantial amendments to House Bill (HB) 1001, legislation crafting the state’s next biennial budget. Proposed changes to the measure included investments in the areas of education, infrastructure, and health care.
“Hoosier families know that sound fiscal footing relies on a foundation of good investments,’ said State Senator Karen Tallian. “Our budget recommendations are comprised of strategic contributions our state can make now that pay off in the long-run.”
Sen. Tallian, who serves as Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, continued saying that proposed changes to the budget reflect discussions Hoosier families have around their kitchen tables and endows the state’s resources towards strengthening Indiana’s network of communities.
Improving Hoosiers’ health
Budget proposals offered by Senate Democrats included initiatives to expand health care coverage to 400,000 working Hoosiers. Recommendations included expanding Medicaid when the cost is fully paid for by the federal government, structuring an expansion after the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan and creating a contingency plan if the governor’s proposed expansion is rejected. Democrats continued to reiterate the 30,000 jobs expanding coverage would create as a strong basis to cover more Hoosiers, though the initiatives were rejected along party-line votes.
Sen. Tallian explained why offering an alternative health care component was an important addition to the budget:
SEN. TALLIAN: “The Senate Democrats today offered four amendments that would have addressed Medicaid expansion, health care expansion for Indiana…”
(Length – 02:09)
Investing in pre-k, capping voucher funding
Acknowledging the strong support for the importance of early education and the need to oversee the state’s school voucher program, Senate Democrats offered a package of amendments to improve educational outcomes for all Hoosier children. An initiative offered by State Senator Earline Rogers would have created a pilot preschool program to evaluate best practices. An additional amendment would have separated the funding appropriated to the state’s voucher program and capped the amount of funds diverted from public schools.
SEN. ROGERS: “Well, what it would have done was, for us to stop and take a look at the vouchers and to not proceed until we were certain that the dollars were there for the other public schools…”
(Length – 00:32)
SEN. ROGERS: “We’ve always thought that early childhood education was the missing piece of the puzzle that we needed for education reform. You know studies show…”
(Length – 01:21)
Rebuilding local roads
An amendment offered by Senate Democrats to restore transportation funding back to the levels included in the House-passed budget were rejected along party lines on Monday. The amendment would have allowed more flexibility and control for local governments. Senate Democrats aimed to give those communities additional infrastructure funding to be allocated to where attention is most needed in their communities. State Senator Tim Skinner authored the amendment as a means of injecting immediate dollars into communities to begin their local roads projects.
SEN. SKINNER: “Well, I think every one of us recognizes that we have not done enough in the last few years because of the recession to stay on top of the funding that we need for local roads…”
(Length – 00:39)
Senate Democrats will continue to push for these common sense initiatives as the budget process moves forward.
In February, the Indiana Senate Democrats launched an interactive campaign to learn what you wanted to know about state government. Over 300 constituents weighed in, recording 90 questions and logging more than 5,000 votes.
The three most popular questions and answers straight from Senate Democratic Caucus members are featured below. Thank you to those citizens who participated in this online conversation.
“Citizens United turned corporations into people. One state is even considering a law to allow corporations to vote in elections. It’s time for Indiana to ban corporations from buying our politicians and running (ruining) the Great State of Indiana.” – Brett from Shelbyville, IN
“With all the money that was cut from education, and the new tax credit we are getting, why can’t we try to fight back now to invest in education and get some or most of those funds back? I don’t know any other country that doesn’t recognize that they must invest in the education of their country’s children to survive and to strive forward. Every time there are cuts, it is in education.” – Community member
Benefits for Elected Officials
“Seeing how the rest of the country is struggling, and our debt just keeps increasing with no end in sight, and no help from our politicians, don’t you think that politicians should be the first in line to help cut the deficit by eliminating their endless perks and lifetime benefits?” – Anthony from Munster, IN