On Tuesday, Governor Mike Pence announced Indiana had reached an agreement with the Obama Administration to offer health care to … Continue reading →
The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus’ priorities for the 2015 session align legislative action with the needs of real Hoosiers. While the … Continue reading →
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states were given the ability to expand Medicaid services to their … Continue reading →
Each year, the state’s Political Organization for Women’s Education and Representation(POWER) offers scholarships to non-traditional women students, whose education was delayed or interrupted, with a vision to succeed despite any adversities life has presented. Applicants must also be in pursuit of an education in Indiana with an interest in giving back to their communities. This scholarship is not intended for recent high school graduates or women who are eligible for or have already received other significant financial aid.
Do you know someone who would like to apply? Check out eligibility requirements and the online application here>>
The money provided by the POWER scholarship may only be used to pay for tuition and fees at an educational institution. The scholarship check will be made directly to the institution with instructions to apply the funds to the student’s current account to pay for school tuition, books and fees. If awarded, scholarship funds will be available as of January 2016 and may be paid toward tuition, books and fees from that time until the full scholarship funds are used or the fall of 2019, whichever is first.
Eighteen scholarships will be awarded, with two per Congressional district, at $750 each. One scholarship will be awarded to a non-traditional woman who is enrolled in courses at a higher education institution in the state of Indiana. The second scholarship will be awarded to a non-traditional woman who is majoring full-time in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics program (STEM) at a higher education institution in the state of Indiana.
Organization Day, the first official day of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session, was held on November 17. 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. Continue reading →
INDIANAPOLIS – Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D–Anderson) released the following statement responding to Senate Republicans’ legislation, Senate Bill 100.
“I applaud my Republican colleagues for entering the debate in a detailed manner. I look forward to reviewing those details in the coming weeks.
“What I do know is that Hoosiers do not condone discrimination and will not accept half measures or carve-outs.
“Our duty remains. We must send the strongest, most clear message; Indiana must move beyond RFRA and discrimination in any form will not be tolerated. To that degree, I look forward to the work ahead.”
As we take time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women this Veterans Day, the Indiana Senate Democrats would like to send a special Thank You to our Hoosier service members on active duty, reservists, National Guard, veterans and their families.
Hoosiers have always answered the call to defend our nation. The Indiana Senate Democrats would like to thank and recognize those Hoosier servicemen and women, and their families, who have provided photographs spanning decades of military service. Below, you will find those images of the brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces, and some of the inspiring quotes they provided when submitting their photos.
Ed Ortiz, United States Army, Vietnam
“I am proud to have served Indiana and our country, just as the brave men and women who served before and throughout our nation’s history. Many made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation against threats to our freedom, our religious rights, our homeland, and our citizens.
INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, State Senator Karen Tallian announced a legislative package to make voting more convenient for Hoosiers. Tallian described an immediate need to modernize the voting process following what is likely to be a second year of historically low voter turnout in Indiana.
“Last year, Indiana had the lowest voter turnout in the country and I’m certain this year we’re not too far off that dubious distinction again,” said Tallian. “We can cross our fingers and hope things get better or we can make some common sense reforms and ensure Hoosiers can exercise their right to vote without jumping through hoops.”
The legislation Tallian intends to introduce would address a litany of what she describes as “low-hanging fruit” concerning voter turnout. Her bill would allow county election officials to keep polls open longer, move early satellite voting locations outside the county clerk’s office, allow busy Hoosiers to mail in their ballot and register quickly on Election Day.
“It is difficult to say whether low voter turnout is due to busy lives, procedural difficulties, or voter apathy,” said Tallian. “However, as legislators, it is our obligation to do as much as we can to minimize the obstacles caused by the first two sources and that is what I intend to address.”
The bill would automatically register Hoosiers when they provide the necessary credentials to obtain or renew their driver’s license. Tallian also has her eye on the future. Her bill would urge Indiana lawmakers to study the feasibility of online voting.
“More than 120 million Americans filed their taxes online last year,” said Tallian. “If it is possible to make that process safe and secure, then I believe we should take a serious look at what it would take to move elections firmly into the 21st century.”
In 2014, just 28.8 percent of Hoosiers voted, worst in the nation according to a report from Nonprofit VOTE. The same report noted that between the two most recent midterm elections, Indiana voter turnout decreased 25 percent.
Preparing for Election Day
The 2015 municipal elections will be held on November 3, 2015. Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Election Day. Here are a few basic FAQs for Election Day. If you do have any questions about your right to vote, contact the Indiana Election Hotline at 866-461-VOTE (866-461-8683). Continue reading →
At the final meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Education, lawmakers, educators, and stakeholders met to discuss how to attract and retain students pursuing education training and tackle Indiana’s apparent teacher shortage. According to a recent study by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs has dropped by 50 percent between 2009 and 2013.
Testimony during Monday’s eight-hour committee included Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and other state and industry leaders. Some outcry was expressed from teachers who traveled to the Statehouse to testify when they found they would not be permitted to contribute until well into the evening. Educators that did speak noted that the committee lost valuable insight from every-day professionals who have experienced the impact of reform efforts enacted by the legislature and how those reforms have effected classrooms.
Blue Ribbon Commission and Teacher Shortage
In order to address Indiana’s teacher shortage, members heard recommendations from the IDOE’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators. The commission is comprised of 49 members – educators, key stakeholders and legislators – and is tasked with developing strategies and to help recruit and retain quality educators in Hoosier schools.
Retention, Compensation and Completion: by the numbers
The presentation by IDOE cited areas of teacher shortage in areas including Exceptional Needs, Business Education, Math, English, and Science and highlighted the impact poverty has retention rates of educators.
In 2011, educators in schools with low Free and Reduced Lunch enrollment were seven percent more likely to be retained than those in schools with children experiencing higher levels of poverty. While retention rates have dropped overall since 2011, turnover in high poverty schools – where teacher consistency is a key part of success – has fallen faster. Retention rates at schools with a high Free and Reduced Lunch population fell by 15 percent between 2011 and 2013, compared with only a seven percent decline in lower poverty schools.
When it comes to pay, Hoosier teachers are currently facing salaries that lag behind the national average. For example, the national median elementary classroom teacher salary in 2014 was $54,120 while Hoosier elementary school teachers saw a median salary of $49,310. Put another way, Indiana teachers earns about 91 cents for every dollar an average teacher in the United States makes.
Additionally, the number of students enrolling in and completing teacher preparation programs continues to decline. According to the United States Department of Education, in 2009 nearly 20,000 Indiana students pursued teacher preparation courses. In 2013, that number decreased to 8,991 students looking to complete a degree in education.
The complete findings and recommendations of the commission will be presented at their last meeting on December 7. Preliminary recommendations released by the commission are set to include legislation to address:
- Compensation, Career Options/Ladder and Leadership Opportunities, Recognize/Support Ongoing Learning
- Positive Press
- Streamline, Pare Down, and Clarify Role of Standardized Tests; Revise Teacher Evaluations
- Recruit a Diverse Workforce; Offset Preparation Costs
- Clinical Experiences for Teacher Candidates
- Revise Professional Development
More on the Blue Ribbon Commission, including presentations given to the committee can be found here.
If you or someone you know has served in our armed forces, we would like to feature your photo of the service member in uniform in a special message from the Senate Democrats. Please submit your photo with the name and branch of service of those pictured to INSenDems@gmail.com. Also please include an answer to the following question, if possible.
“I am proud to have served/serve Indiana and our country because_____.”
(Selected photos will be used in a public photo and/or video message. Permission for this use is implied by your submission.)
Days after the governor announced his short-term plan for increasing road funding for state maintained roads, highways and bridges, the Interim Committee on Roads and Transportation held a meeting to discuss long-term alternatives and options that would potentially provide more funding for local counties, cities and towns to maintain their infrastructure.
The committee heard testimony from elected officials, academics, and consultants focusing on the condition of Indiana’s infrastructure and how to fund projects. Officials with Purdue University’s Local Technical Assistance Program estimated it would take $1 billion in immediate funding to repair the roads and bridges local governments currently keep up. A Tippecanoe County Commissioner highlighted how large a piece local roads and bridges are of the state’s overall infrastructure puzzle when he pegged the percentage of roads maintained by local units of government to be 90 percent of Indiana’s total road miles.
Earlier in the week, the governor announced a plan to spend $1 billion over the next four years to rehabilitate state-owned and maintained roads, highways and bridges. The “21st Century Crossroads” proposal provides no funding for locals to maintain and rehabilitate roads and bridges. Funding for the governor’s proposal would come from:
- Spending $241 million of the state’s $2.1 billion budget reserve
- Using bonds to borrow an additional $240 million
- Taking an early $50 million distribution of interest earnings on proceeds from the 2006 Indiana Toll Road lease
- Refinancing existing bonds to save $26 million
- An increase in funding from the legislature’s current $100 million appropriation, used now for interstate widening, to a $150 million a year for the next three years that is dedicated to improving existing state transportation assets
Senate Democrats argued that while it’s progress that the Governor now acknowledges Indiana’s infrastructure needs attention, his plan doesn’t provide the resources to improve the roads and bridges most Hoosiers start and end their travels on.
For every one centerline mile of road the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) maintains (approximately 11,000 miles), cities, towns and counties maintain nearly nine (around 84,000 miles total). For every structurally deficient bridge INDOT must repair (320 bridges total), locals have five (1,532 bridges total).
A visualization of the drastic difference between locally-owned roads (left) and state-owned roads (right) can be seen below:
Dependent on gasoline tax revenue, funding for roads has remained flat or decreased with the emergence of more efficient vehicles and fewer miles being driven. Even when revenue from gasoline tax remains flat, the purchasing power of that revenue erodes over time as a result of inflation. Committee testimony hit on a variety of additional funding options including hiking the state gas tax, last raised in 2003. A consultant noted the current gas tax of 18 cents per gallon amounts to a monthly total of $20 a month per household and an increase to the national average of 24 cents a gallon could generate up to $500 million annually. Other options discussed would be diverting more money from the state gas tax to locals. Finally, testimony called for improving and streamlining the process by which local units of government could implement a wheel tax, as 51 counties in Indiana have already done.
This was the last meeting of the Interim Committee on Roads and Transportation. The final report of the committee with recommendations for the General Assembly should be made available in the coming days.
INDIANAPOLIS – On Tuesday Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) issued the following statement in response to Governor Pence’s infrastructure announcement.
“It’s reassuring that Governor Pence now acknowledges that Indiana’s infrastructure needs attention, but it seems the scope and immediacy of that need continues to elude him.
“His proposal is a drop in the bucket when you consider Indiana’s infrastructure situation as a whole.
“Even now, the governor makes what he calls a ‘significant’ infrastructure investment with traditional construction season winding down and no new dollars available until July 2016.
“We can repave state highways all we want, the fact is the majority of roads in the Hoosier State are maintained by local governments.
“For every one centerline mile of road the Indiana Department of Transportation maintains, cities, towns and counties maintain nearly nine. For every structurally deficient bridge INDOT must repair, locals have five.
“Until we have a comprehensive plan for state and local governments to fund infrastructure in a sustainable way, the governor’s announcement is the equivalent of filling potholes.
“For the safety of Hoosier drivers and passengers and for economic growth, the governor is not moving fast enough. The condition of Indiana’s roads and bridges requires action now.”
State Senator Jim Arnold provides a legislative update on various issues as the 2015 Indiana legislative session enters the final weeks.
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) held an media availability in response to the governor’s request to hire 100 new Department of Child Services (DCS) caseworkers bringing the state into compliance with current caseload standards. Sen. Lanane initially raised concerns after a November budget meeting showed DCS was out of compliance with state law. Since then, he has led the effort to ensure appropriate caseload standards are met.