Inside the Statehouse: Week 4


This week marks the mid-point of the 2016 legislative session and an opportunity to review the slate of proposed working-family friendly bills, noting both the "potential victories," which include those bills that are moving forward and the "missed opportunities," or those bills that appear to be stalled. If your legislator authored one of the "missed opportunities" bills, you might consider thanking that member for proposing the legislation and encouraging that legislator to find a germane bill to amend their proposal into or to bring the issue forward again in the 2017 session.

Potential Victories

The Indiana General Assembly is advancing the several bills that would help working families move toward self-sufficiency. These bills include provisions to...

EXPAND USES OF SPECIAL SAVINGS PROGRAMS: One of the priorities in the Institute's Working Families Agenda is to allow Individual Development Account Program participants to purchase vehicles for work or education. SB 325, which will make this possible, passed  its third reading 50-0 and has been referred to the House. Similarly, bills are advancing in both the House (HB 1407) and Senate (SB 11) to establish Achieving a Better Life Experience accounts, which allow individuals to save tax-free for their children with disabilities.

SMOOTH THE PATH TO MEANINGFUL EDUCATION & CAREER OPPORTUNITIES: Another of the Institute's Working Families Agenda items includes opening the EARN Indiana Program to part-time adult students. HB 1248, which alters a number of state aid programs, does this and has been referred to the Senate. In addition, SB 301, which would improve data collection for workforce education and better align educational opportunities with high-demand, middle-skill jobs in Indiana, is also progressing. 

INCREASE ACCESS TO HEALTH & WELLNESS SUPPORTS: Bills promoting greater access to healthy food in food deserts have received attention in both the Senate (SB 15) and the House (HB 1077). The Healthy Indiana Plan, SB 165, which offers insurance benefits to low-income Hoosiers and their families, is also moving forward. Also, SB 132, which will permit individuals who have served sentences for felony drug convictions to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive its third reading on Tuesday, February 2.

Missed Opportunities

By failing to offer committee hearings to the following bills, the Indiana General Assembly has missed a number of important opportunities to support working families. These bills included provisions to...

INCREASE ACCESS TO WORK SUPPORTS & SAFETY NETS: Several legislators proposed bills that would increase access to work supports and social  and safety net. Among these were SB 377 and SB 341, would remove asset limits for SNAP recipients, HB1011 and HB1014, which would create worksharing unemployment benefits, and SB 210, HB 1328, and HB 1139,  which would expand or create paid leave programs. SB 210 got a hearing and Jessica Fraser, Program Manager at Indiana Institute for Working Families, testified in support of the bill, but it did not receive a vote. 

BOOST INCOMES FOR LOW-TO-MODERATE INCOME FAMILIES: Legislators put forward a number of bills that would directly or indirectly drive up income for low-to-moderate income working families. Some of these bills increased wages directly, including SB 211 or SB 369, which would have increased the minimum wage and HB 1072, which would have provided overtime for certain employees.  SB 319 would have allowed local governments to establish a common construction wage, and SB 346 would have required employers to pay a prevailing wage - as determined by the commissioner of the department of labor - on public improvement construction projects. Other bills increased income by reducing taxes or increasing tax credits, like SB 129, which would have increased the Indiana earned income tax credit, HB 1343, which would expand eligibility for the income tax deduction for dependents,  and HB 1050, which would have provided a sales tax holiday. 

PROTECT WORKERS: Legislators sought to establish several mechanisms to better protect working Hoosiers. SB 212 would have required employers to give advance notice to employees of their scheduled shifts and compensate them when they cancelled shifts without sufficient notice. SB 99 would have provided more information on small loans to consumers and offered a more affordable extended payment plan to help working families avoid the debt trap. SB 32 would have created more transparency in relation to the use of economic development incentives and recaptured taxpayer-funded incentives when recipients did not create or retain the specified number of jobs or pay the specified wages.    

PROMOTE GREATER ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION: SB 201 would have offered in-state tuition to any student who (1) attends a high school in Indiana for at least three years; (2) registers as an entering student at or enrolls in a state educational institution; and (3) graduates from a high school located in Indiana or receives the equivalent of a high school diploma in Indiana.

This Week
  
SB 132:  Food stamp assistance after drug conviction
Description: Allows certain individuals who were convicted of a drug offense but have not been convicted of another drug offense in the previous five years before applying for food stamps to receive food stamps. Permits individuals who have had a conviction in the past five years but who are receiving specified treatment and drug and alcohol testing to receive food stamps.
Last Action: Second reading: ordered engrossed
Next Action: Third Reading, 2/2/2016, 1:30pm, Senate

HB 1340:  Long term small loans
Description: While originally this bill would have allowed lenders to offer long-term small loans at 20% of the principal per month, the bill was amended to urge the legislative council to assign a study committee on the topic of granting lenders the authority to make long term small installment loans.
Last Action: Second reading: ordered engrossed
Next Action: Third Reading, 2/2/2016, 10:00am, House
 
Last Week
  

HB 1248: Higher education matters
Description: Among other provisions, this bill amends the definition of "eligible student" for purposes of the EARN Indiana program to include adult, part-time students.
Last Action Taken: Referred to the Senate
Our Position: Support. The amendment to this bill would pave the way for adult learners to access more meaningful, career-aligned work-based learning opportunities. 
 
HB 1344:  Unemployment insurance
Description: Abolishes the Indiana unemployment compensation board and transfers the board's duties to the Department of Workforce Development. Provides that not later than the fourth week after the week an individual begins receiving benefits, the individual must visit and receive an orientation to the services available through a one stop center in order to maintain eligibility to receive benefits.
Last Action Taken: Referred to the Senate
 
SB 165:  Healthy Indiana Plan
Description: Repeals the prior healthy Indiana plan statutes and makes revisions to the currently operating healthy Indiana plan. Repeals statutes governing the high risk Indiana check-up plan.
Last Action Taken: Referred to the Senate

SB 206:  FSSA matters
Description: Makes a number of changes to the Family and Social Services Agency.
Last Action Taken: Second reading: ordered engrossed
 
SB 217 Township assistance payment of electric bills
Description: Allows a township trustee to make an advance deposit of township assistance funds in the township's trustee's account with an electric service provider to pay for a township assistance recipient's electric usage charges as those charges are incurred. 
Last Action Taken: This bill was amended to exclude investor-owned utilities at their request. It passed.
Our Position: Support. This bill enables township trustees to assist low-income customers with prepaid utility accounts.

SB 301: Workforce Development
Description: Requires the department of workforce development (DWD), commission for higher education, Ivy Tech Community College, and regional work councils to use data on expected workforce needs to identify imbalances in the courses and certifications offered and develop recommendations for the career and technical education courses to be offered at high schools.
Last Action Taken: Third reading; passed; Roll Call 46: yeas 50, nays 0
Our Position: Support. This bill will help low-income Hoosiers learn about and prepare for middle-skill jobs, a pathway to economic self-sufficiency.

SB 400: Employee misclassification
Description: Urges the legislative council to assign to the interim study committee on employment and labor or another appropriate interim study committee during the 2016 legislative interim the topics of employee misclassification, payroll fraud, and the use of independent contractor status.
Last Action Taken: Referred to the House
 
SB 210:  Family leave insurance program
Description: Requires the Department of Workforce Development to establish a voluntary family leave insurance plan.
Last Action: The Committee on Pensions & Labor heard testimony on this bill. Jessica Fraser, Program Manager of the Indiana Institute for Working Families, pointed out that low-income families tend to have even less access to paid leave than the general population and that new mothers who return to work after taking paid leave are about 40 percent less likely to report receiving public assistance and food stamps in the year after a child's birth than those who take unpaid leave. The Chair did not allow a vote on the bill.
Our Position: Support.

SB 285:  Employment of unauthorized aliens
Description: Prohibits an employer from knowingly employing an unauthorized alien and authorizes the attorney general to investigate complaints, verify work authorization of employees, and, under certain conditions, notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Last Action: A number of individuals and organization representatives testified on this bill. The Chair declined to hold a vote on the bill.

SB 132:  Food stamp assistance after drug conviction
Description: Allows certain individuals who were convicted of a drug offense but have not been convicted of another drug offense in the previous five years before applying for food stamps to receive food stamps. Permits individuals who have had a conviction in the past five years but who are receiving specified treatment and drug and alcohol testing to receive food stamps.
Last Action: Committee report: do pass, adopted
 

Subscribe here to receive these updates via email. From time to time, if an unfavorable or favorable bill is moving forward, we will also send Action Alerts with detailed information on how to act and/or who to contact to influence legislation. For more frequent updates, you can like the Indiana Institute for Working Families on Facebook and follow us on TwitterThe Institute also welcomes your donations to ensure that working families continue to have a voice at the Statehouse.

 






Sunday, January 31, 2016

In Appreciation of Indiana's State Earned Income Tax Credit


By Jessica Fraser, Institute Program Manager

Last fall, the Indiana General Assembly’s Interim Study Committee on Fiscal Policy discussed the Legislative Services Agency’s most recent review (herein referred to as the Tax Review) of Indiana’s state tax incentives, including the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.  On the whole, the findings of this review were very favorable to the state’s refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, declaring that it did in fact make an (albeit in some cases small) impact on both reducing poverty and incentivizing work. But there are two steps Indiana can take to simplify the state’s EITC and make it work better for more Hoosiers.

This comes as no surprise, as the Indiana Institute for Working Families has testified before the General Assembly and its study committees many times; the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit is our nation’s most successful anti-poverty program, and the State EITC, although much smaller, is part of the EITC’s success story.  

During this Week of Action for CFED partners, the Indiana Institute for Working Families and the Indiana Asset and Opportunity Network are focusing on expanding and amending the Earned Income Tax Credit in Indiana. To learn more about the EITC and the condition of Indiana’s economy, please visit the CFED’s 2016 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit for low- to moderate- income working individuals and families. The credit reduces the tax burden placed on workers by offsetting payroll and income taxes. The credit is refundable, meaning that if the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, the difference is given back to the taxpayer. Thus, earned income is put back into the pockets of working individuals and families.

Indiana has a state refundable credit that is partially based on the federal credit. Previous to 2011, Indiana’s credit was a simple 9% of the federal credit; however, in the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the credit was “decoupled” from the federal credit, and set to be 9% of what a taxpayer’s credit would have been if it were calculated based on the federal formula prior to the EITC expansion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment This means that the Indiana credit no longer provides larger benefits for families with 3 or more children and does not have extended income eligibility thresholds for married couples, as the federal credit has since 2009, an expansion made permanent in 2010. .

Despite decoupling, the Indiana EITC works with the federal credit to lift families out of poverty.  Nationwide the federal EITC lifted 6.2 million people out of poverty, making it the most effective anti-poverty tool in our arsenal.  In 2012, the Indiana and federal credit together lifted more than 65,000 people out of poverty; nearly 6,000 of those that moved above the poverty line can be attributed specifically to Indiana’s credit. (Tax Review, p. 14) This reduction in poverty results in meaningful improvements for children in poverty.  A recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report cites a variety of studies showing the positive impacts of the credit on everything from higher test scores and greater college enrollment to a greater likelihood of working and having higher earnings when the children enter adulthood. 

The reason the credit is effective at promoting work is in its design. For families with very low earnings, the value of the EITC increases with each additional dollar earned, up to a maximum benefit. This structure encourages folks earning the least to work more by letting them keep more of what they earn to cover their basic needs. Once taxpayers reach the maximum benefit, the benefit level plateaus and eventually phases out for those with higher incomes; however, this phase out is well-designed to extend into self-sufficiency, meaning that this is one of the few anti-poverty programs that does not have a ‘benefits cliff’.  Indiana’s Tax Review cited studies that showed this increases labor participation, particularly for single mothers. (pp. 13-14)

Just over half a million Hoosiers claim the Indiana credit, the number of claimants has increased an average of 2.6% a year between tax years 2004-2013. The interactive county-level map below shows the number of state claimants, the average amount of the credit per claimant and the total amount of state EITC claims.




In the 2015 Status of Working Families report, the Institute set out recommendations related to Indiana’s Earned Income Tax Credit. Enacting these two proposals for the EITC will simplify the tax code, eliminate the marriage penalty, and address the regressivity of Indiana’s tax policies.

·         Eliminate the Marriage Tax Penalty by returning the state credit to a simple percentage of the federal credit.  Recoupling would also reinstate the expansion of the credit for larger families.

·         Increase The State’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 9% to 25% of the Federal EITC. A stronger EITC will help bring balance to Indiana’s regressive tax system and help to reduce income inequality in Indiana.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Horror! A New Payday Loan Product is Proposed in Indiana


By Mike Poletika, Research Associate

House Bill 1340 is bad. Not just bad, but monstrously bad. Strong words, but the specifics of the new long term payday lending bill should send shivers down your spine. At a time when more than 1 in 3 Hoosiers lives below economic self-sufficiency, HB 1340 would allow a single payday loan to take up to 10% of the average borrower’s gross annual income, with a horrifying 320% APR. Just imagine the damage to low-income families and the drain on Indiana’s economy – terrifying!

If you’ve never been unfortunate enough to take out a payday loan, it works  by a borrower taking out a loan between $50 and $605 that is secured by a post-dated check or direct access to a bank account. Then, the borrower must repay the loan principal and finance charges on his or her next payday. With annual percentage rates (APR) up to 391%, payday loans often become debt traps, where borrowers receive a loan, repay on their next payday, and then do not have sufficient funds to make it until the following payday. To make ends meet, they take out another loan for the next payday. Rinse and repeat.

HB 1340 allows payday lenders to make a new type of small dollar loan that, in some ways, is actually more harmful to consumers than existing payday loans. Unlike the existing type of loan, which have balloon payments, long term small loans are repaid in installments. On the face of it, not all installment loans are bad. In fact, we support the installment loan structure in Senate Bill 99. However, the way in which interest is paid on the long term small loan in HB 1340 is frightening.

The bill allows lenders to charge 20% interest on the origination amount each month of the loan’s duration. Say a borrower received a $2,000 at origination (the highest borrowable amount), with equal loan repayments each month for a year. Each month a borrower would have to pay about $167 on the principal plus $400 in interest. Over the course of a year, the interest on a $2,000 payday loan adds up to $4,800, for a total of $6,800 owed. The APR on this type of loan is a whopping 320%, making this not a loan, but a trap.

Complicating matters, there is a protection that limits the repayable amount (the principal + interest) to 10% of the borrower’s annual gross income. So the typical payday loan borrower, whose annual gross income is $25,000, is limited to taking out a loan with a total repayment of $2,500. Of that $2,500 the borrower is only getting $735 loaned to them  but has to pay back $1,764 in interest on top. This means that over 70% of the total loan repayment is interest. Research from Pew shows that the typical borrower can only afford to use 5% of their income to make loan payments without having to borrow again.

While the structure of the interest payments is the most glaring problem with HB 1340, there several other features of the bill that have the potential to harm consumers. Currently, payday lenders can take borrowers to court to reclaim unrepaid debts. This bill attempts to allow lenders to seek attorney fees from the borrower if the lender wins the case. Because borrowers tend to be low income folks who cannot afford an attorney for small claims court, the scale is tilted toward the borrowers in nearly all of these cases. Having the ability to recover attorney fees also reduces the incentive to do thorough underwriting of the loan.

There may be an amendment that changes some of the key loan terms, yet still keeps the loan’s overall exploitative structure. Instead of capping the loan at $2,000, the amendment would set the upper borrowable amount at $1,000. The loan term would be reduced to six months, and the interest would be 10% on the origination amount. Even if this change was made by amendment, the APR is still horrifically high and a borrower would have to pay about $267 per month in interest and the principal, or $1,600 in total over the course of the loan.

Ultimately, borrowers who take out the loan product proposed in HB 1340 could face financial ruin, threatening a Hoosier economic recovery that is already slow in reaching many working families. The terms of HB 1340 are exploitative and the interest rates are usurious.  In order to protect Hoosier consumers, the Indiana Institute for Working Families calls on the General Assembly to defeat HB 1340 in committee.


Photo credit: "Payday loan shop window" by Gregory F. Maxwell <gmaxwell@gmail.com> PGP:0xB0413BFA - Own work (Original caption: “By Uploader”). Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Commons goo.gl/LXkIX6

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Inside the Statehouse: Week 3




This past week, the Institute saw many of the bills from our Working Families Agenda move forward, including bills to remove SNAP asset limits and strengthen Individual Development Accounts, with only one at a seeming standstill so far. Here's a look at the current status of the Institute's 2016 policy agenda:

ELIMINATE THE SNAP ASSET LIMIT TO HELP FAMILIES WEATHER THE SNAP "CLIFF":The Family and Child Services Committee heard testimony on SB 377, which would remove asset limits for SNAP recipients. As Jessica Fraser, Program Manager of the Indiana Institute for Working Families, pointed out, the asset limit prohibits families from building a bridge to self-sufficiency. It is likely that this bill will be heard in the Appropriations Committee this week.  

ALLOW INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT ACCOUNT PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS TO PURCHASE VEHICLES FOR WORK OR EDUCATION: SB 325, which would expand the potential uses of Individual Development Accounts to include vehicles for work and adult education, passed through committee and is eligible for its second reading in the Senate this week. 

OPEN THE EARN INDIANA PROGRAM TO PART-TIME ADULT STUDENTS: An amendment to HB 1248 has changed the definition of "eligible student" for the purposes of the EARN Indiana program, allowing part-time adult students to access this source of financial aid. The bill passed committee and had its second reading. It is scheduled to receive a vote Monday at 1:30pm in the House.  

REDUCE DRIVER'S LICENSE SUSPENSIONS FOR VIOLATIONS NOT RELATED TO SAFETY:While a bill overhauling the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is currently making its way through the House, it does not include provisions to reduce these suspensions. The Institute for Working Families will continue its efforts to amend a bill germane to the issue and find ways to continue legislative study of the potential solutions.

PROTECT PAYDAY LOAN BORROWERS FROM FALLING INTO DEBT TRAPS: SB 99, which would require Payday lenders to provide additional information to borrowers, has been referred to the Committee on Insurance and Financial Institutions. We are also monitoring HB 1340, which would create a new long-term small loan that charges consumers up to 20% of the principal at origination per month.   

ESTABLISH A WORK-SHARING PROGRAM: Although a number of groups testified in support of work sharing at its hearing on January 19th - including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Institute for Working Families - the questions raised regarding implementation of the program appear to have stalled its progress. It is likely that this bill will not receive a vote this session. 

Subscribe here to receive these updates via email. From time to time, if an unfavorable or favorable bill is moving forward, we will also send Action Alerts with detailed information on how to act and/or who to contact to influence legislation. For more frequent updates, you can like the Indiana Institute for Working Families on Facebook and follow us on TwitterThe Institute also welcomes your donations to ensure that working families continue to have a voice at the Statehouse.

Check below to see what else is coming up this week and what happened last week to the other bills we have been tracking.

Please note that the schedule below is current as of January 22, 2016. It is always important to verify the scheduling of bills and sessions on the General Assembly's website as these can and frequently do change.


This Week
  
HB 1248: Higher education matters
Description: Among other provisions, this bill amends the definition of "eligible student" for purposes of the EARN Indiana program to include adult, part-time students.
Last Action Taken: Second reading: ordered engrossed
Next Action Time & Location: Second reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, House
Our Position: Support. The amendment to this bill would pave the way for adult learners to access more meaningful, career-aligned work-based learning opportunities.  
HB 1344:  Unemployment insurance
Description: Abolishes the Indiana unemployment compensation board and transfers the board's duties to the Department of Workforce Development. Provides that not later than the fourth week after the week an individual begins receiving benefits, the individual must visit and receive an orientation to the services available through a one stop center in order to maintain eligibility to receive benefits.
Last Action Taken: Second reading: ordered engrossed
Next Action Time & Location: Third reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, House

SB 165:  Healthy Indiana Plan

Description: Repeals the prior healthy Indiana plan statutes and makes revisions to the currently operating healthy Indiana plan. Repeals statutes governing the high risk Indiana check-up plan.

Last Action: Second reading: ordered engrossed
Next Action Time & Location: Third reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, Senate

SB 206:  FSSA matters
Description: Makes a number of changes to the Family and Social Services Agency.
Last Action: Committee report: amend do pass, adopted
Next Action Time & Location: Second reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, Senate

SB 217 Township assistance payment of electric bills
Description: Allows a township trustee to make an advance deposit of township assistance funds in the township's trustee's account with an electric service provider to pay for a township assistance recipient's electric usage charges as those charges are incurred. 
Last Action Taken: This bill was amended to exclude investor-owned utilities at their request. It passed.
Next Action Time & Location: Second reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, Senate
Our Position: Support. This bill enables township trustees to assist low-income customers with prepaid utility accounts.

SB 301: Workforce Development
Description: Requires the department of workforce development (DWD), commission for higher education, Ivy Tech Community College, and regional work councils to use data on expected workforce needs to identify imbalances in the courses and certifications offered and develop recommendations for the career and technical education courses to be offered at high schools.
Last Action Taken: Amended on second reading to allow the president of Ivy Tech to make recommendations regarding candidates for the role of vice president and ordered to engrossment.
Next Action Time & Location: Third reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, Senate
Our Position: Support. This bill will help low-income Hoosiers learn about and prepare for middle-skill jobs, a pathway to economic self-sufficiency.

SB 400: Employee misclassification
Description: Urges the legislative council to assign to the interim study committee on employment and labor or another appropriate interim study committee during the 2016 legislative interim the topics of employee misclassification, payroll fraud, and the use of independent contractor status.
Last Action Taken: This bill was amended and renamed in committee, shifting the purpose from establishing a presumption that employers correctly classified independent contractors to proposing a summer study committee on the issue of employee classification.
Next Action Location & Time: Second reading, Monday, January 25, 1:30pm, Senate

SB 210:  Family leave insurance program
Description: Requires the Department of Workforce Development to establish a voluntary family leave insurance plan.
Last Action: First reading: referred to Committee on Pensions & Labor
Next Action Time & Location: Committee hearing, Wednesday, January 27, 9:00AM, RM 233
Our Position: Support. Jessica Fraser, Program Manager at Indiana Institute for Working Families, will testify in support of the bill on Wednesday.

SB 285:  Employment of unauthorized aliens
Description: Prohibits an employer from knowingly employing an unauthorized alien and authorizes the attorney general to investigate complaints, verify work authorization of employees, and, under certain conditions, notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Last Action: First reading: referred to Committee on Pensions & Labor
Next Action Time & Location:  Committee hearing, Wednesday, January 27, 9:00AM, RM 233

Last Week
SB 15:  Fresh food initiative
Description: Establishes the food desert grant and loan program within the state department of health's division of nutrition and physical activity (division) to assist new businesses, existing businesses, and other legal entities to offer fresh and unprocessed foods within a food desert.
Last Action Taken: The appropriation was removed from the bill and it passed the Senate 37-11. Curious to know how your senator voted? Check here

SB 20:  Restrictions on employer scheduling policies

Description: Provides that a local governmental unit may not establish, mandate, or otherwise require an employer to provide to an employee who is employed within the jurisdiction of the unit a scheduling policy that exceeds the requirements of federal or state law, rules, or regulations, unless federal or state law provides otherwise.
Last Action Taken: Passed the Senate and referred to the House. See how your senator voted here.

SB 76 Military service and Medicaid eligibility
Description: Allows an individual (and the individual's dependent) who is: (1) an active member of the armed services of the United States or the national guard; (2) a legal Indiana resident; (3) assigned for duty or deployed outside Indiana; and (4) eligible for Medicaid waiver services or Medicaid assistance; to maintain Medicaid eligibility and remain on Medicaid waiver waiting lists.
Last Action: Passed the Senate unanimously and referred to the House.

SB 99 Small loans
Description: Adds transparency requirements for small loans, including the median number of days that a borrower is indebted and the median number of small loans entered into during a calendar year.
Last Action: Language inserted into vehicle bill, assigned to the Committee on Insurance & Financial Institutions.

SB 165:  Healthy Indiana Plan
Description: Repeals the prior healthy Indiana plan statutes and makes revisions to the currently operating healthy Indiana plan. Repeals statutes governing the high risk Indiana check-up plan.
Last Action: Second reading: ordered engrossed

SB 206:  FSSA matters
Description: Makes a number of changes to the Family and Social Services Agency.
Last Action: Committee report: amend do pass, adopted
SB 212:  Employee work schedules
Description: Requires retailers employing 15 or more employees to provide a good faith estimate of the minimum number of shifts an employee may expect per month and the hours and days when those shifts will generally be scheduled. Requires 14 days notice of work schedules and compensation when an employer changes the schedule after the 14 days notice. Requires an employer to offer part-time employees additional hours before hiring additional part-time employees.
Last Action Taken: In spite of compelling testimony in support of the bill by both Senator Tallian, D-Portage, and Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst at IIWF, the bill was held. Senator Tallian pledged to bring a similar bill to the committee next session.
SB 217 Township assistance payment of electric bills
Description: Allows a township trustee to make an advance deposit of township assistance funds in the township's trustee's account with an electric service provider to pay for a township assistance recipient's electric usage charges as those charges are incurred. 
Last Action Taken: This bill was amended to exclude investor-owned utilities at their request. It passed.
Our Position: Support. This bill enables township trustees to assist low-income customers with prepaid utility accounts.

SB 245 Drug testing of unemployment insurance applicants
Description: Requires individuals who have either been discharged from employment because of unlawful use of a controlled substance or who have been employed in an occupation for which drug testing is regularly conducted to undergo a drug test as a condition of eligibility for unemployment benefits. 
Last Action Taken: The Committee on Pensions & Labor heard testimony on the bill. Due to significant concerns about the ability of the bill to achieve its stated aim, the Committee Chair held the bill.
Our Position: Oppose.

SB 301: Workforce Development
Description: Requires the department of workforce development (DWD), commission for higher education, Ivy Tech Community College, and regional work councils to use data on expected workforce needs to identify imbalances in the courses and certifications offered and develop recommendations for the career and technical education courses to be offered at high schools.
Last Action Taken: Amended on second reading to allow the president of Ivy Tech to make recommendations regarding candidates for the role of vice president and ordered to engrossment.
Our Position: Support. This bill will help low-income Hoosiers learn about and prepare for middle-skill jobs, a pathway to economic self-sufficiency.


SB 325: Individual Development Accounts
Description:
Expands the allowable uses of IDAs to include purchase of vehicles for work or adult education, and for owner-occupied rehab of homes located in Indiana. Increases from 175% to 200% of the federal income poverty level the maximum annual income that an individual may have to qualify for an account.
Last Action Taken: Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst at IIWF, was among several testifying in support of the bill. It passed the Committee on Family and Children Services
Our Position: Support. Allowing savers to use IDAs to purchase vehicles for work or adult education increases access to jobs and skills development, particularly for the great majority of Hoosiers without reliable access to public transportation.


SB 377: Removal of asset limits for SNAP
Description: Requires the division of family resources to: (1) implement within the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program (SNAP) an expanded eligibility category, that does not consider an individual's value of assets in determining SNAP eligibility; and (2) notify USDA of the implementation of expanded categorical eligibility under SNAP.
Last Action Taken: Jessica Fraser, Program Manager for IIWF, testified in support of the bill. It passed the Committee on Family & Children Services and will be heard by the Appropriations Committee.
Our Position: Support. By eliminating the asset limit, Indiana would encourage savings and be better able to help families develop good saving behavior. Asset limits force families to spend down longer-term savings in order to continue to receive SNAP benefits, which creates a cycle of reliance
on those benefits.
SB 400: Employee misclassification
Description: Urges the legislative council to assign to the interim study committee on employment and labor or another appropriate interim study committee during the 2016 legislative interim the topics of employee misclassification, payroll fraud, and the use of independent contractor status.
Last Action Taken: This bill was amended and renamed in committee, shifting the purpose from establishing a presumption that employers correctly classified independent contractors to proposing a summer study committee on the issue of employee classification.

HB 1014:  Work sharing unemployment benefits
Description: Establishes a work sharing unemployment insurance program, which would pay unemployment benefits to employees whose hours and wages have been reduced.    
Last Action Taken: The Committee on Employment, Labor, and Pensions heard testimony on the bill, but declined to vote.   
Our Position: Support. This bill would mitigate the effects of reduced hours and wages on household budgets.    

HB 1054:  Garnishment of state tax refunds
Description: Provides that if a debt has been reduced to a judgment in Indiana and the judgment has not been satisfied, set aside, or discharged in bankruptcy, the judgment creditor may garnish a state tax refund otherwise due to the debtor.
Last Action Taken: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means

HB 1248: Higher education matters
Description: Among other provisions, this bill amends the definition of "eligible student" for purposes of the EARN Indiana program to include adult, part-time students.
Last Action Taken: Second reading: ordered engrossed
HB 1344:  Unemployment insurance
Description: Abolishes the Indiana unemployment compensation board and transfers the board's duties to the department of workforce development and provides that not later than the fourth week after the week an individual begins receiving benefits, the individual must visit and receive an orientation to the services available through a one stop center in order to maintain eligibility to receive benefits.
Last Action Taken: Second reading: ordered engrossed



Sunday, January 24, 2016

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