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Organization Day kicks off 2015 legislative session

Organization Day, the first official day of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, was held on November 18. Traditionally held in mid-November, Organization Day provides an opportunity for new rules to be adopted and for legislators to make arrangements for the upcoming legislative session. The Indiana Senate and House of Representatives now stand in recess and will reconvene on January 6, 2014.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane laid out key issues for lawmakers to tackle during the 2015 session, including working to give Hoosier families a raise.

Democrats continue the push for affordable health care: A video timeline

This video timeline outlines a number of times Senate Democrats have called for the governor and Statehouse Republicans to expand healthcare to working Hoosier families over the last two years.

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.

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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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HJR-3: where the proposal stands

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.

Going forward

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>>

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Video: Lanane reacts to the passage of HJR-3 by Senate Rules committee

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.

Video: Lanane pleased his cultural diversity proposal cleared committee process

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane was pleased his proposal that would require law enforcement agencies to enhance education on cultural diversity and U nonimmigrant Visas (U-Visas). U-visas would not serve as a shortcut to citizenship, but instead a vehicle of cooperation with law enforcement to solve a crime.

VIDEO: Lanane responds to the State of the State

Senator Tim Lanane  responds to Governor Pence’s State of the State address on January 14, 2014. Lanane questions the lack of leadership and solutions from the governor when it comes to economic growth, unemployment, and health care.

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Lanane on the start of the 2014 legislative session

The second session of the 118th Indiana General Assembly has reconvened and lawmakers have begun considering numerous proposals. While regular business was delayed due to inclement weather affecting most of the state, the Senate came to order and assigned bills to their respective committees. Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane said he and fellow caucus members are ready to focus on a number of measures crafted to improve the lives of Hoosier working families.

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Health Finance Commission holds first meeting to discuss ACA options

The Health Finance Commission met Tuesday to discuss the status of a number of high-profile Indiana health care issues. Lawmakers heard from Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) Secretary Debra Minott, who laid out what priorities the administration has pursued since the close of the 2013 legislative session. The secretary noted that FSSA had met with federal officials and discussed a three year extension of the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP). The plan is administered with a federal waiver that expires at the end of this year and covers nearly 40,000 low-income Hoosiers with more than 50,000 on a waiting list to receive services. When pressed by lawmakers, Minott admitted than the administration had not pursued an alternative to expanding Medicaid health services to more Hoosiers.

Download FSSA’s presenatation to the Health Finance Commission on June 25>>

Under the proposed expansion through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility would extend to Americans earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level –  $14,856 for an individual or $30,657 for a family of four. Senate Democrats stress that if Indiana does not expand Medicaid services to Hoosier working families,  Indiana will forfeit as many as 30,000 high-paying jobs, an estimated $10 billion in federal money through 2020 and 400,000 Hoosiers will miss out on health care coverage for up to a year.

Read more on federal health care reform in Indiana>>