VIDEO: Senate Democrats are Open for Questions

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What questions do you have about issues being considered at the Statehouse? Indiana Senate Democrats want to hear from you.

Take a moment to ask your question or questions at openforquestions.ideascale.com and vote to promote other questions you’d like to have answered. Senate Democrats will respond to the top 3 questions submitted before March 22.

Submit questions by simply signing in with a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, Open ID, Yahoo!, AOL or email address. Please join in on this dynamic, statewide conversation about Indiana’s future.

To stay up to date with the Indiana Senate Democrats, see a list of current legislation, and for links to our social media, be sure to visit our home page>>

Open for Questions Forum

What’s your question? Post and vote on others here.

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Senate Democrats’ 2013 priorities: Spur job creation, rebuild local roads, invest in education

Our state is in the midst of a challenging time, with unemployment hovering above 8 percent and many Hoosiers hopeful that better days are on the horizon. The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus’ 2013 legislative proposals and budget priorities will reflect the principles of rebuilding our economy, our schools and our local communities. Below are a number of the key legislative initiatives Senate Democrats will carry in the upcoming session.


Hoosier-HandshakeBlogHoosier servicemen and women in the workforce

Providing our veterans with good-paying jobs and paths to successful business ownership is an important way of showing our gratitude for their sacrifices.  Requiring a certain percentage of state contracts to be offered to veteran-owned businesses will help our veterans use their skills to create and maintain successful businesses.  Senate Bill 271 is authored by Senator Arnold.

Providing employers tax credit incentives to hire returning vets is another way the General Assembly can encourage the development of jobs for veterans at a time the Hoosier veteran unemployment rate is 8.3%. Senate Bill 504 is authored by Senator Tim Skinner.

“New hire” tax credits for smaller employers

New hire tax credits for smaller employers would provide Indiana’s small businesses with 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. Senator Taylor is authoring SB 427.

Download the PDF version of the Senate Democrats’ 2013 legislative agenda>>

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. Senate Bill 309 is authored by Senator Broden.

The “Work-share” option to avoid temporary lay-offs

A “work-share” option is already available to businesses in twenty-one states. “Work share” 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 workweek of their employees in lieu of layoffs. The affected employees receive a portion of the unemployment benefit they would receive if laid off. Senator Skinner is authoring Senate Bill 438.

Restricting employer use of consumer credit history in hiring

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 with exceptions for some careers.  In a time of economic recovery, we should remove all barriers to hard working Hoosiers finding well-paying jobs.  Senate Bill 299 is authored by Senator Greg Taylor.

Training-BlogTurnaround school oversight

Oversight of turnaround school management organizations will ensure guidance from the Indiana Department of Education to oversee organizations contracted by the state to take over underachieving public schools. The bill provides specific standards to regulate those private organizations contracted for public school takeovers.  Senator Earline Rogers is authoring Senate Bill 426.

Full-day kindergarten

Making certain that Hoosier children attend full-day kindergarten will ensure our children receive an early education to prepare for successful careers in adulthood.  Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, this bill requires a student to enroll in a full-day kindergarten program if the student is at least five years of age on August 1. Students in full-day kindergarten learn more in reading and math over the kindergarten year than those in half-day programs.  They also exhibit more independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers and reflectiveness than half-day kindergarteners.  Senate Bill 469 is authored by Senator Karen Tallian.

Access to early education

Access to universal pre-kindergarten means Hoosier children would have the opportunity to score higher on achievement tests, graduate from high school at a higher rate and be more likely to attend college than students who don’t have access to pre-k.  This bill requires Indiana Department of Education to establish standards, requirements, and guidelines for approving preschool education programs for children four years of age.  Senator Greg Taylor is authoring Senate Bill 602

Applying military service towards job training

Military medics return with vast practical experience and training in emergency response.  Requiring them to go through emergency medical response training upon returning is duplicative and creates a time lag in allowing vets to immediately begin working.  Senate Bill 290, authored by Senator Lindel Hume, would allow medics to test-into emergency response licensure and begin working while obtaining full licensure.

Combat to College program

A Combat to College program would provide veterans with the opportunity to have military education count towards college credits, have academic counseling, and access to job search assistance to ensure they receive the best, most efficient education needed to acquire work.  Senate Bill 410 is authored by Senator Richard Young.

Bridge-BlogHighway revolving loan fund

A revolving loan fund would provide low interest loans to counties and municipalities for certain construction projects, including construction of a bridge, culvert, highway, road, or street.  The quality and maintenance of Indiana roads, bridges, and other infrastructure is paramount to the state’s economic vitality and quality of life.  Senator Skinner is authoring SB 150.

Prioritizing local road funding

Diverting a portion of the gas tax to locals would provide counties, cities, and towns the funding and flexibility needed to progress on road and streets projects.  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.  Senator Skinner is authoring SB 440, SB 441, and SB 505.

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Honoring those who serve

As the nation takes time this Veterans Day to honor the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces, the Indiana Senate Democrats would like to send a special Thank You to our Hoosier veterans and their families. Their sacrifice and service to our country deserves our gratitude each and every day.

For generations, Hoosiers have taken up the call to defend our nation. Earlier this fall, a number of those servicemen and women and their families reached out and provided the Indiana Senate Democrats with photos of themselves and their loved ones serving this country. Below, find those images of the Indiana men and women who bravely served in our nation’s armed services. Continue reading

VIDEO: How to shape state policy

Five steps to taking your idea to the General Assembly

Building legislation from the ground up

Indiana lawmakers depend on the input of their constituents for guidance when they tackle complex issues and shape the state’s public policy. Follow along as one Hoosier citizen worked on an issue important to her and how her action affected state policy regarding local food options.  Now it’s your turn, follow these five steps on how to bring your expertise on issues to bear and help Hoosier legislators.

Open for Questions: Your top five questions answered

In December, the Indiana Senate Democrats launched an interactive campaign to learn what you wanted to know about state government. The Open for Questions campaign recorded 136 questions and 3,973 votes were made on those questions.

The five 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.

“If the senators work for the people how come we can’t cut their pay or reduce their benefits? Do you think we should start voting on pay raises or benefit packages for you?” -DC from Dyer, IN

“If students who receive voucher money to attend private school are dismissed (kicked out) mid-year and return to the public school, do the private schools return any of the money to the public school fund?” -Paul from South Bend, IN

“As the Indiana population continues to age, what can Indiana legislature do to ensure appropriate care (physical and mental) of its’ older adults living below the poverty line?” -Angie from Indianapolis, IN

“How will the legislature deal with the families who pulled their kids from private schools for one year so they can get voucher money forever thereafter? Is this not “playing” the system? A gold mine for private (religious) schools?” -Brian from Chesterton, IN

“When will a law be passed that prohibits those in public offices from receiving more than one paycheck from the same government unit?” -JLp465 from East Chicago, IN


Video: Simpson and Lanane react to one-sided debate on “Right to Work” bill

Senator Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) and Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) address the rushed approach and lack of debate on Senate Democrat amendments to the so-called “Right to Work” bill. The divisive legislation was heard on second reading in the Indiana Senate today.

Video: 2011 Session in Review Slideshow

The 2011 legislative session of the 117th Indiana General Assembly ended on April 29th, and 231 bills were sent to the governor’s desk for final action.  Click below to view the Session in Review slideshow to learn more about some of the issues that were covered during the legislative session.

Democrats call for Senate action on jobs package

Senate Democrats held a press conference today to call on Republicans today to begin hearing a package of legislative proposals aimed at spurring business activity and creating new jobs in Indiana. Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson (D-Ellettsville) and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus say the proposals would improve Indiana’s job market and generate income to support families and communities.

Senator Vi Simpson and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus

The bills focus on fostering entrepreneurial ventures and leveraging small business investments as well as additional accountability for state funds directed at job creation. Funded through the redirection of existing resources from ineffective programs to those that better serve Indiana’s employers and workers, the proposals require no new state funding or new taxes.

In a memo to Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee Chair Sen. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis), the Democrats requested that four bills containing these proposals be scheduled for a hearing in the committee.

Included in the “Real Ideas, Real Jobs” package proposed by the Senate Democrats:

  • “Small Business Concierge Team” for one-stop service to start-ups and expanding businesses (SB 348)
  • Capital Access Fund for entrepreneurs and start-ups (SB 435)
  • New hire tax credits for smaller employers (SB 583)
  • Redirect job creation funds to successful initiatives (SB 435)
  • Give preference in state contracts to companies that use Indiana labor (SB 369)
  • Immediately begin work on state infrastructure and university construction projects

Watch video from the press conference

Video >>

Listen to audio from the press conference

Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson’s remarks:


Comments from Senate Democrat Assistant Leader Tim Lanane:


Comments from Senator Greg Taylor, author of SB 583:


Continue reading

Alternative sentencing and community corrections

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee traditionally has a heavy interim workload, and this year is no exception. Among the topics assigned for review in 2010, the committee is looking at state’s alternative sentencing programs, community corrections and parole and probation matters.

Despite the first decline in nearly 40 years in state prison populations nationwide, Indiana’s prison population increased by 5.3% – more than any other state – from 2008 to 2009.    – “Prison Count 2010” by the Pew Center on the States

Watch the video update recorded after the meeting by committee member Sen. Lindel Hume of Princeton:

Also from the committee hearing:

The Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, another group that meets during the legislative interim, will also being playing a similar role as part of a comprehensive review of Indiana’s criminal code and sentencing policies. Announced in June 2010 by Gov. Daniels, the review will be conducted through a partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center and is aimed at improving public safety by reducing recidivism and managing the growth of Indiana’s prison population. A steering committee will share proposals with the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, which will provide recommendations to the General Assembly by November 1, 2011.

Read earlier posts on the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Committee’s work on Sexting>> and The impact of methamphetamine>>