State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) appeals to the public to contact local legislators and show their support for public schools in the closing weeks of the 2013 legislative session. Share this video on Facebook and Twitter, and contact your local legislator at 1-800-382-9467 to show your support.
State Senator Karen Tallian led several Senate Democratic initiatives to improve the 2013 biennial budget for Hoosiers in House Bill 1001. Senate Democrats sought funding for a pilot pre-kindergarten education program, oversight of school voucher expansion through a summer study committee and additional funding to improve local infrastructure. The Senate Democratic Caucus will continue to push for these initiatives as the proposal moves through conference committee.
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…”
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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…”
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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…”
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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…”
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Senate Democrats will continue to push for these common sense initiatives as the budget process moves forward.
A complete listing of Senate amendments can be found at: http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo?year=2013&session=1&request=getBill&docno=1001 .
State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has introduced a bill that would decriminalize marijuana in the state of Indiana. SB 580 has been assigned to the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law and would lessen the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Following extensive testimony and review during a 2011 study committee, the proposal’s goal is to reduce criminal penalties for personal possession of small amounts of marijuana. The impact could also mean less state and local criminal justice resources spent on marijuana-related arrests, prosecution and sentences.
The bill would make possession of less than two ounces of marijuana a Class C infraction, decriminalizing the possession. If a person possesses more than two ounces or has two or more prior marijuana convictions in the past five years, the person may be charged criminally, although, the penalties are reduced from current criminal statute. The also bill specifies penalties for driving while under the influence of marijuana and authorizes the licensed cultivation and production of industrial hemp.
Update: On June 4 the State Budget Committee selected Deloitte from 10 companies to conduct the audit. The cost of the audit is not yet known as it will be conducted on an hourly fee basis. No timeline was set by the committee, but it is expected to be finished by the end of the year. More details on what the audit will include>>
The State Budget Committee is gearing up for their next meeting in Vincennes to hear presentations from numerous departments on their fiscal standing. Among other topics, the committee is expected to review and discuss the independent audit of the Indiana Department of Revenue proposed by Senate Democrats earlier this year.
The audit, which comes on the heels of multiple fiscal blunders by the Daniels administration, seeks to remedy past errors and unearth any future mistakes. The initial two mistakes occurred within the IDOR and following multiple calls to action, Senate Democrats secured the commitment to review the policies and procedures of the department at an early April State Budget Committee meeting.
Following the April meeting, two more fiscal issues came to head; An April excise tax distribution error by the Office of the Auditor followed by the discovery of late fees charged to several departments under the Daniels administration. In total, over $527 million has been mismanaged on a statewide level.
Senate Democrats have repeatedly called for more legislative oversight and a wider audit of the state’s fiscal condition as the 2013 Budget Session grows nearer.
Senate Democrats rallied one last time on Wednesday to speak out against the contentious “Right to Work” bill as it gained passage in the Indiana State Senate. With a vote of 28 to 22, House Bill 1001 was sent to Governor Daniels who promptly signed the legislation this afternoon. Click the links below to listen to Senate Democratic Caucus members floor comments in opposition to the legislation. (Read more about events of Feb. 1 >>)
SEN. SIMPSON: “Weeks and months from now I want you to ask yourself this question; Was it worth it?…”
SEN. SIMPSON: “Right to work is a race to the bottom, it’s a downward spiral…”
SEN. ROGERS : “There’s a different relationship between management and unions now and we don’t need to interfere…”
SEN. SKINNER: “I don’t believe for a minute that companies are going to flock to Indiana…”