INDIANAPOLIS—Lawmakers are in the midst of reviewing and making crucial revisions to legislation that has already gained the approval of one chamber. Committee activities dominate session schedules as senators consider approved House bills and stay abreast of the movement of their initiatives under review in the House of Representatives. This brief summary highlights some of the progress taking place on bills moving through the process.
Budget hearings continue as the Senate Appropriations Committee completes its review of state agency and university budget requests. Moving forward, committee members will begin its in-depth review of the House-approved $30 billion budget proposal contained in House Bill (HB) 1001 on April 4 when changes are expected. Also, budget negotiators will take into account a mid-April revenue forecast that will provide a clearer picture of how to complete work on HB 1001. In addition, the forecast will undoubtedly have an impact on the likelihood of the governor’s proposed income tax cut.
School health care clinic pilot project
The Senate is considering HB 1328, a bill that would require the state Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to develop and implement a pilot project to establish a health care clinic located in an elementary school or high school to provide health care services to students and their families. The bill was amended by members of the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee to include underserved rural areas of the state in the pilot project, and to provide services in the area of behavioral health. HB 1328 also requires FSSA to report to the Health Finance Commission on the status of the pilot program. The bill now proceeds to the full Senate.
The Senate Committee on Education and Career Development recently received several hours of testimony on legislation that would expand the state’s private school voucher program. Among the provisions of HB 1003, one would amend current law to remove a program requirement that eligible students must attend public school for one year prior to receiving a voucher. Other expansions in the bill include students with disabilities, siblings of children receiving vouchers and children in foster care, all whose families must meet the program’s income limits.
Opponents of the bill expressed concerns that vouchers already take valuable funding away from public schools, and the expansion would be more costly to public schools at a time when previous cuts to education funding have yet to be restored. Others questioned the unknown costs associated with the proposed expansion and whether it is prudent to expand the program without studying the impact of the current system. Another concern raised is that the constitutionality of school vouchers is currently being challenged before the Indiana Supreme Court, and any expansion now would not be prudent. The bill was held in committee for further consideration.
Increased protections for law enforcement
The Senate unanimously approved legislation that will provide communities with another tool to be more informed during incidents involving police officers. HB 1151 creates a Blue Alert program for law enforcement officers who are killed, seriously hurt or missing in the line of duty. Additionally, the bill requires the Indiana State Police (ISP) to operate the program and determine use of broadcasts by participating television and radio stations and electronic bill boards. ISP also administers the Silver Alert program, which broadcasts information about missing and endangered adults. The legislation now advances to the governor for final consideration.
HB 1093, a proposal to increase accountability for individuals who harm police dogs, has also gained Senate approval. The bill requires a court to order a person convicted of mistreating a law enforcement animal or interfering with the actions of the dog while assisting a police officer, to make restitution to the person or agency that owns the animal for reimbursement of replacement costs if the animal is permanently disabled or killed. According to testimony on the bill, the cost of a law enforcement K-9 ranges from $8,000 to $12,000, while some training fees can total up to $15,000. In addition, the measure was amended to allow an interim study committee to consider appropriate penalties for persons who harm a law enforcement animal. HB 1093 must now return to the House for consideration of changes made to the bill by the Senate.
Medicaid expansion update
Legislation to expand the state’s Medicaid program is languishing in the House Public Health Committee. Senate Bill (SB) 551 provides for a 3-year expansion of the program. Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs, and those costs would taper down to 90 percent by 2020 with states making up the difference. According to the Indiana Hospital Association, taking action now would create 30,000 jobs within the state’s health care industry and provide affordable health care to more than 400,000 Hoosiers. However, opponents of SB 551 and the ACA have concerns regarding the funding of the expansion, which puts the bill’s passage in jeopardy.
Mass transit update
The Senate Committee on Local Government approved legislation to allow for expanded mass transit in Central Indiana after much testimony both for and against the proposal. HB 1011 would allow Marion and Hamilton counties to decide through a voter referendum if residents would want to be part of a model mass transit district partially paid for through an increase in local income taxes. The 10-year expansion project would cost approximately $1.3 billion. About $600 million of those costs would be federally-funded. If successful, this district model could be utilized in other areas of the state. The bill now goes to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee for further review.
Bills advanced to governor
Veterans pursuing educational opportunities following their military service will benefit under legislation approved by both chambers and now headed to the governor for final consideration. Senate Bill (SB) 115 requires state universities, with more than 200 enrolled veterans, to establish a Combat to College program. Under the program, colleges would provide veteran students with centralized locations for admissions, registration and financial services, academic guidance programs and job search assistance. The measure also requires reasonable accommodations be made available at the school’s fitness facility for disabled veterans and counseling services for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the program’s coordinator would be responsible for the development of veteran-based internship programs and coordinating with departments to inform veterans about state and federal benefits.
SB 290 will assist qualifying military veterans who have previous training in medical service fields to obtain an Indiana emergency medical service provider license without requiring additional education. In addition, veterans who require additional training would be issued temporary licenses by the commission.
HB 1359 provides that all of the rights, powers, privileges, and immunities that may be exercised by a redevelopment commission in blighted or deteriorating areas may be used to implement a program for age-restricted housing, including levying a special tax, issuing bonds or entering into leases, and allocating incremental property tax revenue. The legislation will allow cities and towns to establish this program for age-restricted communities to meet a growing housing demand among seniors.
April 4 Deadline for Senate committee hearings on House bills
April 10 Deadline for Senate to hear House bills
April 29 By law, the legislature must conclude business by midnight
For information about bills being considered by the General Assembly, log on to www.in.gov/legislative. From this site, you can also watch the House and Senate in session as well as committee hearings.
Stay informed about bills and resolutions scheduled for action in both the House and Senate with BillWatch. This free online program, available at www.BillWatch.in.gov, allows you to track up to 10 bills and receive e-mail notifications only when action is taken on those bills.
Senate Democrats offer up-to-date information at www.SenateDemocrats.IN.gov. Multimedia updates on the Senate’s daily activities are provided at The Briefing Room and Twitter at @INSenDems.
Visit the senator’s web site at www.in.gov/s40 and subscribe to receive periodic e-mails about action taken on major issues. Check out the senator’s Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/senatormarkstoops.
Personal contact with constituents has a direct impact on legislation considered and what ultimately becomes law. Use the contact information below to express your comments and concerns regarding pending legislation:
Mailing address: Statehouse, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Telephone: Call direct: 317-232-9847 or call toll-free: 800-382-9467, ext. 2-9847
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Stoops represents Indiana Senate District 40, which includes portions of Monroe County, including the City of Bloomington. For more information on Sen. Stoops, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/S40.
NOTE: A photo of Sen. Mark Stoops can be downloaded at http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_democrats/images/headshots/Stoops.jpg