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LANANE: SCOTUS decision paves way for Indiana’s own redistricting commission

INDIANAPOLIS–Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) released the following statement in response to the decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today affirms that independent redistricting commissions are constitutionally permitted to draw legislative maps and take politics out of the redistricting process.

“The end goal of the redistricting process should not be to benefit one party or the other. Rather, the goal of redistricting should be to create more competitive democratic elections and restore the confidence of Hoosiers and the integrity of the electoral process.

“It is my hope that the Special Interim Study Committee on Redistricting takes a hard look at this process, how we can improve it, and make this a reality before 2020. Not only is this possible, it’s what Hoosier voters deserve.

“Other states have implemented state redistricting provisions in their constitution or by state law to make their processes more balanced. Indiana unfortunately lags other states in this regard.

“Our current maps have resulted in two extremely conservative super-majorities, neither of which seem to reflect the reality of the Hoosier electorate.

“Besides the most basic federal rules, Indiana has no additional provisions that aim to preserve communities of interest, respect political boundaries, create competitive districts, or keep districts compact.

“These are all topics the Special Interim Study Committee on Redistricting should evaluate over the summer. Hoosiers deserve to have the best system in place to ensure that the voters are choosing their politicians instead of politicians choosing their voters.”

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LANANE: SCOTUS agrees, marriage equality a matter of fundamental fairness

INDIANAPOLIS – On Friday, Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) released the following statement in response to the United States Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Today’s ruling reinforces the belief that a solid majority of Hoosiers have already expressed: that marriage equality is a matter of fundamental fairness.

“This ruling makes even clearer the need to extend Indiana’s civil rights protections to members of the LGBT community.

“The journey toward equality in the Hoosier state has been winding but today’s decision signifies a momentous victory along that path.

“This decision gives ultimate resolution to same-sex couples recently married but unsure upon what legal ground their nuptials stood.

“This decision adds significance to the growing chorus of Hoosiers who have and continue to say it’s time to outlaw discrimination in Indiana.

“Today we celebrate progress. Tomorrow we begin anew our efforts to make sure everyone knows that Indiana is an accepting and welcoming state that does not discriminate.”

“This is a huge step in a long, winding journey of reaching marriage equality.”

“I am happy with this outcome but we are still far from where we need to be to reach Hoosier equality. The next step is to push even harder on expanding civil rights in our state Constitution to include same-sex marriage.”

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Lanane & Tallian applaud SCOTUS ruling, 160k Hoosiers maintaining coverage

INDIANAPOLIS—Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) and long-time advocate of the Affordable Care Act, State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling on King v. Burwell:

“Today’s decision is good news for Hoosiers. The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the spirit and intent of the Affordable Care Act.

“Today nearly 160,000 Hoosiers will rest easy knowing that they’ll continue to receive help in affording medical care.

“This decision once again legitimizes the legality of the Affordable Care Act and puts to rest any lingering doubt.

“This has always been about ensuring Hoosiers have access to affordable care and unfortunately, some politicians in our state have lost sight of that.

“Governor Pence and Attorney General Zoeller actively fought affordable care.

“We narrowly escaped the uncertainty statehouse republicans created for Hoosier families and their ability to continue to access health care on the federal exchange.

“Republican leaders had no back-up plan, and that is a clear failure in governing.

“The fact that they avoided 160,000 Hoosiers losing their coverage by a decision from the federal courts should have them breathing a sigh of relief.”

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Unemployment report shows significant declines in May

On Monday, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced Indiana’s May unemployment rate dropped yet again to 5.1 percent, a 0.3 percent decrease from April’s mark.

The national unemployment rate went up slightly to 5.5 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from April. Michigan’s unemployment rate also increased 0.1 percent and mirrors the national unemployment rate at 5.5 percent. Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio’s unemployment rates all remained steady for the month of May. Illinois’ rate remained at 6 percent, Kentucky at 5.1 percent, and Ohio at 5.2 percent respectively.

IN County with the highest unemployment rate: Vermillion at 7.1%
IN County with the lowest unemployment rate: Dubois at 3.2%

Employment Report (LAUS)

Jobs Report (CES)

DWD also announced last week that the department was awarded a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant (SPNEG) to help connect dislocated workers, including dislocated veterans and underemployed workers with employers in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health sciences, information technology and transportation, distribution, and logistics fields. More information on the grant can be found here>>

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TALLIAN: Governor Pence’s obstinacy may cost tens of thousands of Hoosiers health insurance

Republican inaction on state-run Marketplace means King vs. Burwell decision comes down to ‘coin flip’ for Hoosiers

INDIANAPOLIS – On Monday, State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) feared tax credits certain Hoosiers receive to help pay for health insurance could disappear pending a decision by the United States Supreme Court in a situation she says, Indiana Republicans chose to exacerbate.

“This was a 100 percent avoidable situation. Now, as a result of Republicans’ inaction, nearly 160,000 Hoosiers are a coin flip away from losing,” said Tallian. “Instead of taking proactive steps to defuse this, Republicans have been more than happy to watch our state careen toward the edge.”

Those steps include SB 417, a proposal Tallian offered during the 2015 legislative session that would have created a health insurance exchange managed by state officials and effectively bypassed the issue the King vs. Burwell case is set to determine. Republicans have been absolute in their refusal to negotiate a solution and failed to advance Tallian’s initiative, leaving no backup plan for families receiving tax credits.

“For many Hoosiers, these tax credits are the difference between affording health care for their children and being forced to go without. That’s a situation no parent should have to face,” said Tallian. “Governor Pence and his Republican allies have proven unwilling to move beyond partisan politics to find a solution and as a result, some families could see their premiums jump by 270 percent.”

If a decision by the Supreme Court invalidates tax credits provided through federally-run health insurance Marketplaces, Tallian believes Indiana lawmakers would be forced to act immediately.

“We cannot and will not abandon Hoosier families,” said Tallian. “There’s no backup plan, no contingency. Other states like Delaware and Pennsylvania have hedged to avoid calamity. If the Supreme Court rules against tax credits, the governor will be forced to call a special session for lawmakers to create a state-run exchange.”

In 2009, the Indiana Legislative Service Agency estimated a special session cost taxpayers at least $75,000 per week, a cost Tallian believes taxpayers wouldn’t have to bear again had the General Assembly considered her earlier proposal.

Sen. Tallian represents Senate District 4 which encompasses portions of northern Porter County and Michigan, Coolspring and New Durham townships in LaPorte County. For more information on Sen. Tallian, her legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/s4.

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Health insurance, King vs. Burwell and what it means for ordinary Hoosiers

The United States Supreme Court is poised to issue a decision concerning tax credits provided to low and middle-income Americans to offset the cost of health insurance. The case before the Supreme Court – King vs. Burwell – concerns the 34 states that opted to allow the federal government to run the states’ Marketplace – the online portal where Americans purchase health insurance. It hinges on the legislative intent of drafters of the Affordable Care Act and whether federally-run Marketplaces can provide tax credits directly to consumers in those 34 states.

In Indiana, Republican leadership chose to allow federal officials to manage Indiana’s Marketplace and depending on the ruling, Hoosiers receiving tax credits may see their support vanish.

What is the Marketplace?

To expand coverage and help make choosing the right health insurance plan more convenient, the Affordable Care Act created the Marketplace for people without employer-provided coverage and earning too much to qualify for Medicaid (about $24,000 for a family of four). For example, self-employed Hoosiers or small business owners could compare plans on the Marketplace and purchase health insurance that meets their family’s needs.

What are tax credits?

To help offset the cost of health insurance, the Affordable Care Act made tax credits available to families purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace. Enrollees with household incomes between $24,250 and $97,000 for a family of four (100 to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level) could qualify for tax credits to help offset some of the cost of monthly health insurance premiums. In Indiana, the average tax credit for consumers with Marketplace-purchased health insurance coverage was $320 per month.

Nearly 160,000 Hoosiers could have to pay more

So if the Supreme Court decides federally-run Marketplaces cannot provide consumers tax credits, it throws into question whether tens of thousands of Hoosiers will continue to be able to afford health insurance. A June 2015 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation noted more than 180,000 Hoosiers have purchased health insurance through the Marketplace and nearly 160,000 – 88.5 percent – receive tax credits.

A lot more

Those tax credits on average help Hoosiers offset monthly insurance premiums by $320 or $3,840 annually. If those credits are barred by the Supreme Court, Hoosiers with Marketplace-purchased health insurance would see their premiums jump 271 percent, the 16th largest increase in the nation.

It impacts folks across the state

If the Supreme Court does invalidate how tax credits are distributed in Indiana, communities across the state will feel the impact. In fact, areas of Crown Point and Greenwood have the most at stake as communities in those cities have the highest number of consumers who have purchased insurance through the Marketplace.

2015 Marketplace Enrollment by Indiana County

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Click for an interactive map of Marketplace health insurance enrollments by Indiana county.

2015 Marketplace Enrollment by Zip Code

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Click for a deeper dive into Marketplace enrollments and how the King vs. Burwell decision may affect your neighbors’ coverage.

2015 Marketplace Enrollment by House District

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Click and explore Marketplace Enrollments by Indiana House Districts.

2015 Marketplace Enrollment by Senate District

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Click and explore Marketplace Enrollments by Indiana Senate Districts.

This could have been avoided but Hoosier Republicans blocked a potential solution

During the 2015 legislative session, Senate Democrats – led by Sen. Karen Tallian – offered a proposal to move control of Indiana’s Marketplace to state health officials. By setting up a state-run Marketplace, lawmakers could have avoided what amounts to a quarter-flip deciding whether the nearly 160,000 Hoosiers receiving tax credits will continue to. The bill was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

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5 Summer trips for Hoosier travelers

Indiana boasts a number of vacation spots covering an array of traveling preferences. Here are our top 5 vacation and staycation ideas, for everyone from adventurist to wine connoisseur, and in between.

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Outdoor Adventure: A rapid river in Indiana may sound like a fantasy, but the Blue River in Southeastern Indiana Cave Country offers easy rapids with incredible scenic views.  Rent your kayak or canoe from Cave Country Canoes and spend the day, or multiple days, paddling down the mighty Blue River.

conner prarie

Historic Hoosier Living: If you are searching for a more educational activity, why not visit Conner Prairie, an interactive, living museum that replicates life in Indiana from the days of the earliest Native Americans to the early days of statehood.  The outdoor museum offers fun for all ages and is only minutes from the thrills of Downtown Indianapolis.

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Food & Beverage Tours:  It’s summer and Indiana is full of opportunities to get out and explore Indiana’s ever-growing beer and wine industry.  So why not leave the kiddos at home and enjoy one of the many regional Wine Trails and Brewery Tours? However,  we know it isn’t always easy to just leave the children at home, there is a place that they may also enjoy.  The Albanese Candy Company, theonly tour-friendly gummi-candy company in the U.S.

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Festivals: If you are searching for a way to celebrate that German heritage that many Hoosiers share, why not take a weekend and travel to Jasper, Indiana for the Annual Strassenfest? This week of weinershnitzel and bier is so German that you may see more lederhosen and hear more Dutch accents than any other time in our state. If heavy German food and whimsical dress don’t suit your fancy, head on up to Plymouth, Indiana for the annual Marshall County Blueberry Festival.  You can sample hordes of blueberry inspired treats, take part in a 15k run, fly in hot air balloons, or just spend time at the carnival.

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Drive-Ins:  Lastly, for those looking for a trip close to home, why not try out one of the classic drive-in movie theaters that dot our state?  These eclectic summer adventures are perfect for first dates and families alike, offering all sorts of movies and diner food.  Get out the bug spray and blankets and head out to one of these great outdoor theaters: Tibbs Drive-in (Indianapolis); Starlite Drive-in (Bloomington); Georgetown Drive-in (Floyd County); Huntington Twin Drive-In (Huntington); Lakeshore Drive-in (Monticello); Holiday Drive-in (Rockport).

For a full list of Indiana’s tourist destinations visit http://www.visitindiana.com. There you can also find the Travel Indiana app where you’ll be able to watch videos, view photo galleries, see up-to-date event calendars, read feature stories and more—all in one window.

No matter your destination, the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus wish you a fun and safe summer of travel!

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Keeping kids safe: Summer safety tips

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Summer in Indiana is under way and with the warm weather comes the opportunity for outdoor activities. The Indiana Department of Child Services has compiled a number of resources to ensure fun in the sun for Hoosier families without incidents of drowning or overheating.

Water safety

Kids, cars, and overheating

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Click here for a full list of tips and tricks from the Indiana Department of Child Services to keeping you and your family safe.

 

 

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2015 Interim Study Committees announced

Every summer the Indiana General Assembly constructs study committees and commissions to explore a variety of topics concerning the bills and laws from the past session. The recommendations from these studies are likely to be a blue print for bills proposed in the upcoming session. Committees are made up of members from the General Assembly and serve as one-half of its voting membership.

The following is a list of the interim study committees and commissions as well as the topics they are assigned:

  • Issues related to facilitating an Indiana based local farm and food product economy.
  • The production and use of hemp oil produced from industrial hemp.
  • Offenders facing difficulties reentering the workforce after being released from penal facilities.
  • Review Indiana’s adult protective service laws.
  • Evaluate adult protective services units and programs
  • Identify the best practices for adult protective services programs.
  • Consider a stateside program to assist with county level adult protective service programs.
  • Review abuse prevention, financial exploitation, and physical and mental abuse of the elderly.
  • Evaluate current funding levels for adult protective services.
  • Review the retrieval of DNA samples from those arrested for a felony.
  • Emerging technology platforms and their impact on crimes involving sexual assault, blackmail, and bullying.
  • Various programs and policies for victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking.

Interim Study Committee on Courts and Judiciary

  • Review the caps on damages under the Medical Malpractice Act and potential improvements to the medical review panel process.
  • Jurisdictions of existing courts and the creation of an additional commissioner for the Marion County Circuit Court
  • Availability of identifying information in adoptions.
  • School testing and reporting requirements and their impact on school corporations, testing requirement, data collections, and both state and federal requirements.
  • Special education topics for developmentally delayed children including funding, current resources, and the cost of providing additional services to kindergarten and first graders.
  • Whether the ISTEP program should be replaced with an alternative statewide assessment.
  • Regulations concerning alternative energy production, co-generation, and small hydro facilities.
  • Provision of affordable broadband services in under-served areas.

Interim Study Committee on Environmental Affairs

  • Solid waste management districts to determine whether changes should be made to statutes governing solid waste management districts.
  • Water distribution systems relevant to the White, Wabash, and Ohio River basins.
  • Interim Study Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance
  • Property or casualty insurance coverage for an innocent co-insured.

Interim Study Committee on Fiscal Policy

  • A multi-year review, analysis, and evaluation of all tax incentives.
  • Review the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit program
  • Review statute governing the use and approval of school corporation capital projects funds.
  • Alternative means of agricultural assessment.
  • Whether a uniform food and beverage tax should be enacted if adopted by local governments.
  • Public records requests for police body camera video.
  • The effects of annexation laws on economic development projects.
  • Reducing the size of the Indiana Code by identifying statutes that are obsolete, superseded or no longer applicable.

Interim Study Committee on Pension Management Oversight

  • Review and report on all requests for changes in a public pension program.
  • Needle distribution and collection programs as part of a comprehensive response to reducing disease transmission due to intravenous drug use. The study must include a review of the appropriate criminal penalties for drug offenses and drug paraphernalia related offenses and the use of problem solving courts.
  • The report of the Department of Insurance with information concerning :
    • The Department’s accident and sickness insurance or health maintenance organization consumer complaint process.
    • Current definitions in accident and sickness insurance policies and health maintenance organization contacts for “investigatory”, “experimental”, or similar terms used for denials of claims.
    • Accident and sickness health insurance health maintenance organization claim data concerning denials of claims in the previous three calendar years.
    • A review of the data described above for denials because a procedure was deemed experimental, investigatory, or a similar term and a comparison of these procedures and whether, with data available, the Medicaid and Medicare programs consider these procedures to be experimental or investigatory.
  • Whether smoking should be prohibited in bars, casinos and private clubs.
  • The fiscal impact of prohibiting smoking in bars, casinos and private clubs.
  • Whether e-cigarettes should be defined as tobacco products and subject to smoking bans.
  • E-cigarette taxation.
  • The fiscal impact of an increase in the cigarette tax.
  • Possible funding sources for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs.
  • The impact of the tobacco tax on smoking rates and healthy living ratings relative to other states.
  • The impact of smoking upon families and pregnancy.
  • The costs incurred by the state as a result of smoking during pregnancy and smoking within families.
  • The fiscal impact of changing existing laws regarding cigarette tax distribution.
  • The sale by a motor vehicle manufacturer of new motor vehicles directly to consumers other than through an independent franchised new motor vehicle dealer that has a physical place of business capable of performing complete warranty service on motor vehicles produced by the manufacturer.
  • Use of enterprise zone money for public transportation.
  • Blocked railroad grade crossings.
  • Steps the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is taking in response to the BKD Operational Assessment.
  • Advise the BMV regarding the suitability of a special group to have a special group recognition license plate.

Code Revision Commission

  • Prepare technical correction language to implement SEA 441-2014 (tax matters) and SEA 500-2015 (obsolete education statutes).
  • A multi-year project to re-codify (and revise as necessary to facilitate understanding of and compliance with) part of all of Titles 4 and 5 (general government operations).
  • Alternative methods for establishing districts for the election of members of the General Assembly and members of Congress from Indiana.

Budget Committee

  • Pay discrepancies in the Indiana State Police Department and how pay scales in the Department compare to city, county and surrounding state law enforcement agencies.

Committee on Improving the Status of Children

  • Teen suicide prevention.
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Indiana April unemployment report shows significant declines

On Thursday, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced Indiana’s April unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent, a 0.4 percent decrease from March’s mark.

The governor and the DWD cite growth in private sector employment and an overall employment growth rate reaching “historic” levels as the main causes for the decline in the state unemployment rate. However, research organizations like the Indiana Institute for Working Families note that  additional data should be considered– such as labor force participation rate and future labor force growth – when interpreting the most recent unemployment numbers. Their analysis can be found here>>

The national unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.4 percent, a 0.1 percent decline from March. Kentucky and Michigan both saw declines in unemployment for April, with Kentucky dropping 0.1 percent to 5.0 percent overall and Michigan dropping 0.2 percent to 5.4 percent overall. Illinois’ unemployment remained unchanged at 6.0 percent from March to April, and Ohio experienced slight increase of 0.1 percent to 5.2 percent respectively. Of the five Midwestern states included in the report, Indiana has seen the smallest decline in overall unemployment since April 2014.

IN County with the highest unemployment rate: Vermillion at 6.9%
IN County with the lowest unemployment rate: Dubois at 2.9%

Employment Report (LAUS)

Jobs Report (CES)