Senator Lanane announcing the news that HJR3 will not be on the ballot this year.

LANANE: Full repeal of RFRA only way to restore credibility

INDIANAPOLIS – Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) released the following statement concerning Governor Mike Pence’s desire to clarify legislative intent of Senate Bill 101.

“I’m grateful the governor has recognized a need to reevaluate his decision to sign Senate Bill 101.

“He’s come to realize what business leaders and everyday Hoosiers from across our state knew all along: this divisive act has no place in Indiana.

“Legislative ‘tweaks’ are not enough.

“To restore trust and show Hoosiers and Americans that all are welcome here, this hateful law has to go.

“Only a full repeal will serve that aim.

“Democrats will vigorously pursue all legislative options to that end.

“Only then can we work to restore the credibility that the governor and republican allies have so flagrantly tarnished.”

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Sen. Lanane represents Indiana Senate District 25 which includes portions of Madison and Delaware counties, including the City of Muncie and the southeastern portion of the City of Anderson. For more information on Sen. Lanane, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit http://www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/S25 .

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RFRA and using words as weapons | By Senator Karen Tallian

Unusual, but I want to start by talking about guns. Each day in the Senate, I know that a few of my colleagues are sporting holstered guns under their suit jackets. I am not afraid of them. I know and trust them: they would never use their guns for anything other than defense – of themselves, and maybe even of me!

But imagine a new circumstance. Put that very same gun into the hands of a wild-eyed madman, running onto the Senate floor. I will be under my desk. It is not the weapon that is different. It is the motivation and unknown actions of the new person that causes my fear.

Words, too, can be weapons. And I ask you to review the federal RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) with that in mind. Passed by Congress in 1993 in response to a Supreme Court case, it was prompted by concerns of protecting religious rites of Native Americans. As originally enacted, RFRA was a bill to DEFEND the oppressed.

But circumstances have changed in our national culture since 1993. Just a short time ago, Indiana suffered through a long battle over a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Today, the Attorney General of California is under fire for refusing to draft and certify a ballot initiative proposal for a so-called Sodomite Suppression Act, which would mandate the execution of sexually active gay men and women. Yes. You read that correctly. What is the source of this kind of hate?

And in the midst of this turmoil, the “new” activists for Indiana’s RFRA reemerged. Is it coincidence that some of the people who fought the hardest to ban gay marriage in Indiana are once again front and center? They tried to pass off their “religious freedom” language as a harmless duplication of the federal version. But we suspect that their motives are no longer to defend the oppressed, but to use these words as a weapon of social aggression and discrimination.

When you cavort with those who spout hatred, you should not be surprised that your motives are suspect.

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 http://www.IN.gov/s4.

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Senator Lanane recaps this year's legislative session during a press conference in his office on Friday morning.

Lanane: Governor Pence and Republicans should be ashamed of RFRA

INDIANAPOLIS—Upon signage of Senate Bill 101 by the governor, Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) released the following statement:

 “No matter how privately Governor Pence tries to put his stamp of approval on this terrible bill, the fact remains that he and the Republicans in the General Assembly who passed it, own this unnecessary and unwanted law and its consequences.

 “Although not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation.

 “Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards; things which I believe most Hoosiers reject.

 “It can only hurt our state’s economy and our desire to be welcoming to every person.

 “I’m disgusted that they made this a priority over everything else, fast-tracked the process, and then were too ashamed to sign this bill anywhere but behind closed doors.”

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A closer look: Examining the costs and benefits of raising Indiana’s minimum wage

UPDATE: Recent income data from the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis show Indiana making little progress in putting more money in the pockets of working Hoosiers.

44 states saw their residents’ per capita personal income grow faster than Indiana’s. While the rest of the nation’s average per capita personal income grew at nearly 4 percent to $46,129, Hoosiers’ incomes grew significantly slower – 2.5 percent – and average incomes were more than $6,000 less at $39,433.

For years, Hoosier incomes have failed to pace the national average. In 2004, Hoosiers made 90 percent of the national average per capita income. In 2014, Hoosier incomes had fallen to about 85 percent of the national average.

Since 2004, income earned through investments and benefit transfers like Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance and Medicaid grew the fastest in Indiana.

In 2004, Indiana families earned $50,683 on average. That number fell to $45,766 in 2012. Since 2006, Hoosier median household incomes have consistently been down year-over-year. This legislative session, Senate Democrats have proposed increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 to arrest this trend and begin putting more money in the pockets of Hoosier families. Opponents of raising the minimum wage frequently point to jobs losses and the young age of those affected as reasons to block any measure. A closer look reveals raising the minimum wages positively affects nearly a quarter of the Hoosier workforce and disproportionally benefits women and workers older than 20 years old.

How many Hoosiers are affected by raising the minimum wage?

A study released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) examined the impact of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 as proposed by the US Senate and provides a point of comparison for language being offered in the Indiana General Assembly. The study estimates Indiana’s workforce at 2,726,000 workers and of those, 23.4 percent would be positively affected by an increase in the minimum wage. That amounts to nearly 650,000 Hoosiers.

PovertyHouseholds

[Click] An interactive look at how many Indiana households earned $15,000 or less in 2013. A worker earning $7.25 an hour makes $15,080 annually.

Who benefits from raising the minimum wage?

Cutting against common perception, 87 percent of Indiana workers positively affected by an increase in the minimum wage are 20 years of age or older. Of the 637,000 workers impacted by a hike in the minimum wage to $10.10, 56 percent are women and more than 175,000 workers with children would benefit (that’s a total of nearly 300,000 Hoosier children living in more economically stable homes).

I make more than minimum wage, how does this help me?

Some workers making more than the minimum wage would indirectly benefit from an increase as employers adjust their pay scales to compete in the labor market. Known as the “ripple effect”, the EPI study estimates that more than 200,000 Hoosiers would indirectly benefit from a minimum wage hike, seeing their salaries increase to remain competitive.

What about businesses having to lay off employees to pay higher salaries?

A recent study from the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) examined analysis on the minimum wage and labor trends dating back to the early 1990s and concluded that minimum wage has “little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers.”  Firms have a number of mechanisms to absorb the expense of higher wages like shifting the firm’s composition toward higher skilled workers, increasing worker productivity, reducing hours or simply accepting a smaller profit margin. The study argues the most significant benefit of a higher minimum wage is a reduction in labor turnover and the resulting cost savings to firms.  This lack of decrease in employment is demonstrated in another study reported in the Business Insider.   A 2011 survey of fast food restaurants in Alabama and Georgia asked managers how they offset costs with previous minimum wage increases.  Only 8% thought that firing current employees was at all important to make up for lost wages, instead management took several steps to increase efficiency and productivity to compensate for the higher labor costs.  The authors of the study write that If minimum wage laws have substantive effects on employment, these should be evident among the most-affected businesses, such as fast food restaurants.

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LANANE: Why the governor is right to spend the money

By Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson)

Word Count: 254

The governor is absolutely right to push for the $7.5 million it will take to hire the 100 new family case managers and 17 supervisors the Department of Child Services needs to meet state caseload standards and protect children. There may be skeptics in his own party questioning the wisdom of paying for more caseworkers even after the state has added hundreds since 2012.  The simple fact is this is the right thing to do.

A core function of state government is protecting those without a voice. Neglected and abused children don’t have a family support system to fall back on, frankly they have very few people in their corner at all. The network of volunteers, advocates, providers and caseworkers are often these children’s only backstop. Ensuring the Department of Child Services has the resources to keep caseloads manageable and prevent cases of child abuse or neglect from slipping through the cracks is an absolute responsibility of lawmakers.

For state government, there is no higher priority than protecting children. The fact that some among the governor’s party are unable or unwilling to recognize this simple truth is alarming. I commend the governor for doing the right thing and will lead the legislative effort in the Senate to get these caseworkers hired immediately.

Our commitment is to those who can’t speak up for themselves. Too often those voices fade from the conversation over spending priorities. The governor is right to make a down-payment toward saving future lives. It’s my hope lawmakers can make a similar choice.

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Indiana sees slight rise in January unemployment report

On Wednesday, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced Indiana’s January unemployment rate increased slightly to 6.0 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from December’s mark.

The national unemployment rate also rose slightly to 5.7 percent with Indiana slightly above the national average. Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio all saw either declines or no change in their unemployment rates in January. Illinois’ and Michigan’s unemployment rates both declined 0.1 percent, with Illinois’ rate falling to 6.1 percent and Michigan’s rate falling to 6.3 percent in January. Kentucky and Ohio saw no monthly change in unemployment rates and remained at 5.5 percent and 5.1 percent respectively.

IN County with the highest unemployment rate: Vermillion at 9.7%
IN County with the lowest unemployment rate: Hamilton at 4.6%

Employment Report (LAUS)

Jobs Report (CES)

MarchMadness

Senate Dems’ Bracket Challenge

State Senator Greg Taylor and State Senator John Broden sit down to discuss their bracket selections for the Senate Dems’ Bracket Challenge to promote the March Against Hunger and Gleaner’s Food Bank.

To participate, fill out your bracket here>>

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Statehouse Update: DCS understaffing and caseload management

The Department of Child Services (DCS) was established in January 2005 by an executive order of Governor Mitch Daniels to provide more direct attention and oversight in two critical areas: protection of children and child support enforcement.

That same year, the legislature approved funding for the new agency in the state’s budget and enacted best practices for caseload management of family case managers. Family case managers are tasked with investigating and serving abused and neglected children and their families.

A legislative working group determined that the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) recommendations for caseload management would be adopted to ensure that every child and family in need of services is properly cared for. Those standards state that each case manager shall have no more than 12 active cases relating to initial assessments of child abuse and neglect cases, and 17 children monitored and supervised in ongoing cases. These caseload standards are commonly referred to as the 12/17 caseload standards. DCS has experienced staffing problems in the past and has had difficulty meeting these standards.

At a December Budget Agency hearing, DCS officials stated that only 1 of the state’s 19 regions were currently in compliance with the state law mandating the 12/17 caseload standards. They went on to say that DCS would need an additional 77 family case managers across the state in order to meet the requirement. However, the agency did not request any additional funding to hire the case managers needed to be comply with the law, and instead suggested a study of the standards.

DCS testified that reports to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline rose 71 percent in 6 years and Hotline staff fielded nearly 190,000 reports in 2013. The Hotline received an average of 539 calls per weekday in 2013. From 2013 to 2014, the number of Children in Need of Services (CHINS) cases rose nearly 8 percent from 13,684 to 14,763. The state of Indiana defines a Child in Need of Services as a minor who has experienced abuse, neglect, sexual abuse or other negative conditions. A full definition is available here, In their presentation, DCS officials also noted the agency was wrestling with negative turnover among its family case managers. More than 1 in 6 family case managers left the agency altogether in 2013. The top reasons cited for leaving DCS were job pressure/work-related stress and workload.

Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane wrote a letter to the governor raising concern with DCS’s refusal to meet standards enacted to protect children. Senator Lanane wrote a letter to DCS Director Bonaventura requesting more information regarding the agency’s 12/17 compliance in advance of their meeting to discuss issues surrounding DCS. The meeting is scheduled for December 16.

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Indiana counties’ compliance with the 12/17 caseload standards and how many family case managers are needed to meet the standards.

Click for an interactive look at how poverty impacts school corporations across the state.

A closer look: The school funding formula

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, the state appropriated an estimated $6.67 billion in total K-12 tuition support, or money directed to schools to pay for classroom expenses, teacher and administrator salaries and other non-building or transportation-related outlays. Tuition support is scheduled to fund more than 955,000 students attending traditional public schools, nearly 28,000 in charter schools, 7,900 in virtual charter schools and nearly 30,000 students attending private schools using tax dollar-funded vouchers.

The amount each Indiana school corporation or charter school receives is determined by a formula constructed by Indiana lawmakers. While not directly funded by the school funding formula, vouchers used to attend private schools draw funding “off the top” of the same appropriation as traditional public schools and charter schools – meaning vouchers are funded first, lowering the overall pot of funding left for traditional and charter schools.

The funding formula

Charter schools and traditional public schools are primarily funded by the state school funding formula. The formula takes into account a number of factors affecting Indiana schools – including previous funding levels, poverty among the student population, special education students, academic honors diplomas and other items – to determine the total state funding each school corporation receives. The Indiana General Assembly passes biennium budgets, meaning enrollment and funding are based on projections. The budget passed in 2013 set funding levels for schools through Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Indiana’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. Continue reading

Intro

The Teacher Project

Senate Democrats asked for Hoosiers to share their stories about the positive impacts teachers make on our state. We asked for input, in 40 words or less, by finishing one of these statements:

A teacher made a difference in my life by _____.
OR
I teach because ____.

The following slideshow includes all of the responses that we received. Thanks to everyone for their participation in The Teacher Project.

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