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>>

VIDEO: Taylor aims to increase child care protections

State Senator Greg Taylor has been involved in numerous proposals aiming to raise standards of child care for Indiana. Senate Bill 305 seeks to streamline and strengthen standards for child care providers across Indiana by establishing safety and sanitation guidelines in areas such as bathroom hygiene and transportation safety for facilities that are licensed and accept Child Care Development Fund vouchers as payment. The legislation also equalizes standards and investigative procedures across private care providers and child care services offered through religious establishments.

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Call for public study of Marion County overhaul denied

Sen. Breaux debates an amendment to SB 621

Sen. Breaux debates an amendment to SB 621 that would create a committee to study the impact of eliminating Marion-County Council’s at-large seats. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 13-37.

On a party-line vote, members of the Indiana Senate rejected an amendment to study a major overhaul of Marion County government. The amendment to Senate Bill (SB) 621, proposed by Assistant Democratic Leader Jean D. Breaux, would have created a summer study committee to examine the impact of eliminating the City-County Council’s At-large councilor seats and reducing mayoral residency requirements, among other significant changes.

Sen. Breaux’s proposal to study the move aimed to lengthen the conversation on the issue; however, it was rejected, 13-37. Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, particularly those representing areas within Marion County, expressed their disappointment that more public discussion was not had before passing such a substantial shift of power.

SEN. BREAUX: “I was hoping, with the amendment I offered to 621, to do as I said on the floor and that is to slow this process down…”

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SEN. LANANE: “It seems very clear to me that the elimination of the…”

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SEN. LANANE: “I was disappointed our amendment was defeated because…”

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SEN. TAYLOR: “I think the amendment would have done something we always do in the legislature. We allow the public to have public input…”

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VIDEO: Sen. Taylor on the need for an independent redistricting commission

Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) explains his bill, Senate Bill 302, which would create an independent redistricting commission to draw General Assembly and congressional district lines for more competitive elections.

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Senate Democrats respond to State of the State address

Indiana Governor Mike Pence gave his first major gubernatorial address on Tuesday, delivering his State of the State speech to a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly. In what was expected to be a major policy announcement, the governor again remained light on specifics when it came to his legislative agenda.

Several Indiana Senate Democrats have released the following statements in response to Governor Pence’s State of the State address.

SEN. LANANE: “I thought there were some things in there I could agree with him upon, certainly in terms of his proposals with assisting veterans. Our caucus…”

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 SEN. LANANE: “He tried to make the case for his ten percent tax reduction. I’m not sure that he actually did that…”

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SEN. LANANE: “Again, I thought that his overall speech was a good speech…”

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SEN. BREAUX: “I think the election was pretty clear. I think the voters are saying all of this education reform…”

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SEN. ARNOLD: “My main concern about it was when he talks about…”

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SEN. TAYLOR: “I thought Gov. Pence left a lot of things to be desired. I really would love to see…”

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Senate Democrats’ comments from Feb. 1 “Right to Work” floor debate

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?…”

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SEN. SIMPSON: “Right to work is a race to the bottom, it’s a downward spiral…”

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SEN. ROGERS : “There’s a different relationship between management and unions now and we don’t need to interfere…”

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SEN. SKINNER: “I don’t believe for a minute that companies are going to flock to Indiana…”

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Senate approves “Right to Work” bill over Democrat objections

Despite numerous objections by Senate Democrats, the Indiana Senate voted 28 to 22 to approve Senate Bill (SB) 269, the controversial “Right to Work” bill, on Monday. Senate Democrats argued that the legislation will be harmful to Indiana workers, working families and local economies by lowering average incomes statewide. Democrats also argued that the legislation is unnecessary due to current federal protections for those who choose not to join organized labor and that no concrete evidence has been presented showing that not having this policy has stifled job growth in the state. Nine Republicans voted with the 13 Democrats in the Senate in opposition to the bill.

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Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson says the bill doesn’t confer rights, but instead makes it illegal for unions to make employees who benefit from negotiated salary, safety and benefit terms pay their fair share of the cost of providing those benefits.

SEN. SIMPSON: “This so-called “Right to Work” bill is not conferring any rights to a job on anyone…”

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State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) said the issue is really about the ability to join as a collective voice and the strength of the middle class embodied by the union movement.

 SEN. TALLIAN: “This legislation is a classic class fight between unfettered, unrestricted, unregulated capitalism…”

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State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said the legislation is about paying one’s fair share. He also questioned the wisdom in the state’s interference in contracts between employees and employers as proposed under the bill.

SEN. LANANE: “There is one thing that I think is absolutely true, that is that this bill will hurt unions…”

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State Senator John Broden (D-South Bend) says Right to Work will set off a decline in wages because every study shows that where an industry is unionized, wages are higher for all workers in the area not just those in the union.

SEN. BRODEN: “After having heard all the debate…”

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SEN. BRODEN: “Every study shows that where an industry or area is unionized…”

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State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said the legislation will hurt working class families and lower wages.

 SEN. TAYLOR: “This is an effort by people to stomp on the interests of working class citizens…”

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State Senator Tim Skinner (D-Terre Haute) said he is concerned that the message this bill sends is counterproductive for workers and businesses. He says he is convinced that this bill will bring wages down, not help families make a living in Indiana.

SEN. SKINNER: “I taught in a very blue collar area of Terre Haute. A lot of kids whose families were in unions…”

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State Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) said she is concerned that the legislation will begin a spiral of low quality jobs with lower wages in Indiana.

 SEN. BREAUX: “My fear is that if we introduce ‘Right to Work’ that not only will we see a decrease in wages…”

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State Senator Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) said the legislation targets a fabricated problem at the expense of working families in the state.

 SEN. MRVAN: “I think this ‘Right to Work’ law is phantom issue…”

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Last week, Senate Democrats offered a number of amendments to the bill, including a referendum proposal that would allow the law to be voted on by the public.

SB 269 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. A companion bill, House Bill 1001, is also now moving through the House and may be voted on in that chamber on Tuesday. Either of the bills could become law if approved by both chambers, as Governor Daniels has committed to signing the legislation into law.