Miss or Make? How well did the General Assembly perform for working families in 2016?

by Andrew Bradley

Since the General Assembly left town to make room for the Big Ten basketball tournament, it seems appropriate to take a March Madness-style look at their record for working Hoosier families this session. At the beginning of the year, the Indiana Institute for Working Families drew up a gameplan of low- or no-cost policy options that would help restore economic opportunity for the more than 1 in 3 Hoosiers who live below economic self-sufficiency. We’ve been keeping track of legislation affecting working families all season. So what was the Assembly’s shooting percentage?

Session tipped off with a proposal to protect Hoosier jobs and skills through a ‘work-sharing’ program. Nearly 30 states successfully use similar programs, and the proposal had bipartisan support and backing from the unlikely duo of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana AFL-CIO. Yet even during a session when large layoffs were announced by Carrier & UTEC and we learned that Indiana is ranked #2 in the proportion of job losses due to Trans-Pacific Partnership-related imbalances, Indiana failed to even take a vote on work-sharing. MISS.

On the rebound, the Assembly made a slam dunk by expanding the state’s successful Individual Development Account program, which matches low-income Hoosiers’ savings toward a financial asset. With legislation captained by Senator Mark Messmer, IDAs will be able to be used to purchase vehicles for work or adult education, or for owner-occupied home rehab. In addition, IDA program eligibility will increase from 175% to 200% of the federal poverty level, better aligning with what it takes to be self-sufficient in Indiana. MAKE.

But the Assembly missed twice when given the chance to make Indiana’s safety net more responsive to poverty stuck at high levels since the recession. The legislature balked at eliminating the “asset test” for families qualifying for SNAP (nutrition assistance) despite extensive research and 36 states’ experience that asset limits are counterproductive. Similarly, another bill to reduce recidivism and impoverishment by lifting the lifetime SNAP ban after drug convictions failed. MISS and MISS.

A better shot came when the Assembly passed HB 1248, including a provision to extend eligibility for the EARN Indiana work-study program to part-time adult students. These work-based learning opportunities will help adults get the inside track to good-paying jobs, and will team up well with Indiana’s new YouCanGoBack.org initiative for adults to complete degrees and credentials.  MAKE.

While the Institute recommended legislation for fairer payday lending payment plans and truth-in-lending rules, the Assembly narrowly avoided going in the opposite direction with dangerous new long-term payday loan products that commentators called "sanctioned exploitation" at "loan shark rates". While the proposed new loans were blocked, stopping a turnover isn’t the same as making a bucket. MISS.

As the clock wound down, the Assembly decided to take another look at research showing that Indiana has over 420,000 driver license suspensions, over half for non-safety reasons. They recommended a summer study of suspensions & reinstatements for the indigent. Let’s call that a FREE THROW.

But not every play was in the gameplan. Indiana took a great shot with SB301, which will provide data to better align education and skills training with labor market and wage outcomes. The Assembly also took some unnecessarily bad shots against working families’ interests. With SB20, Indiana becomes the first state to prevent communities from finding solutions to the problems of ‘just-in-time’ scheduling for their own citizens. The Senate also failed to even vote on proposals for a voluntary fair scheduling program and family leave insurance. And the House committed a couple of flagrant fouls when they twice tried to insert a regressive tax combo into a road funding plan that would’ve hiked taxes for the bottom 80% of Hoosiers while gifting cuts up to $1,216 for the highest earners. That’s MAKE, MISS, MISS, MISS, and unneeded foul trouble against working families.

At the buzzer, the General Assembly scored a few points but passed on too many plays to make systemic improvements for Hoosier families, going 3 for 10 with just a .300 shooting percentage. Our home team should take the summer to study and practice the fundamentals so they’re ready to better execute a strategy for working families next season.

Photo credit: By Washington and Jefferson College [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons goo.gl/eBJrbH 
Sunday, March 13, 2016

Inside the Statehouse - The Final Tally

It is a rare bill that survives the harrowing gauntlet of committee hearings and sessions in the Indiana General Assembly. Those that do manage to secure the necessary majority votes in both chambers are then signed by both the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate before traveling to the Governor's desk (and, typically, the Attorney General's to check for legality). If the Governor pens his name, the bill becomes law. A bill can also become law if the Governor takes no action for seven days. However, if the Governor vetoes, the bill can only become law if the House and Senate override the veto by majority votes.

The Indiana Institute for Working Families began this session with six low- or no-cost policy reforms that would support Hoosiers seeking economic self-sufficiency. This final update describes the outcomes of IIWF's efforts in these six areas, as well as a report on the fates of all the bills we tracked this session:

ALLOW INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT ACCOUNT PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS TO PURCHASE VEHICLES FOR WORK OR EDUCATION: SB 325, which expands the potential uses of Individual Development Accounts to include vehicles for work and adult education and also extends eligibility from 175% of federal poverty level to 200%, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Bradley testified in support of the bill in both the House Committee on Family, Children, and Human Affairs and the Senate Committee on Family & Children Services, noting that nearly a quarter of SNAP recipients and 40,000 recent high school graduates lacked a vehicle, inhibiting access to employment and education.    

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 and career-aligned work study. Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Bradley testified before the House and Senate Education Committee that this provision is likely to assist a portion of the 1.3 million Hoosiers who need to improve their skills to climb a career ladder to self-sufficiency.

REDUCE DRIVER'S LICENSE SUSPENSIONS FOR VIOLATIONS NOT RELATED TO SAFETY: Particularly in Indiana, where public transportation is scarce, a driver's license is necessary to secure and maintain employment. However, a majority of the 420,000 Indiana drivers who have had licenses suspended lost their driving privileges for non-safety related offenses, such as outstanding traffic tickets, failure to show proof of insurance, or unpaid child support. As IIWF's blog post on the issue also indicates, rising fees also present a barrier to license reinstatement. Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Bradley publicly thanked Representative Forestal for introducing HR 40 urging the Legislative Council to study the issue of suspensions and reinstatement at the House Roads and Transportation Committee. The resolution passed unanimously.

PROTECT PAYDAY LOAN BORROWERS FROM FALLING INTO DEBT TRAPS: After IIWF and other organizations expressed concerns, Representative Burton transformed HB 1340 from a bill allowing a high-cost long installment loan to a bill promoting a summer study on finance options for low-income borrowers, the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions heard testimony on an amendment allowing a similar product. IIWF issued an action alert and Program Manager Jessica Fraser testified against the new loan, drawing attention not only to the exorbitant interest rate but also the lowered income threshold to qualify for the loans. Fortunately, the amendment was defeated. SB 99, which would require Payday lenders to provide additional information to borrowers and establish a consumer-friendly installment loan option, did not receive a hearing, but IIWF hopes that the summer study will provide an opportunity to encourage further protections for low-income borrowers and to consider alternative options for access to loans.
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. IIWF Program Manager Jessica Fraser testified in support of the bill and it passed unanimously. However, the Appropriations Committee declined to hear the bill. Families will continue to be ineligible for SNAP benefits if their household has over $2250 dollars in countable assets, making it difficult for them to build the savings necessary to move out of poverty. 

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 stalled its progress. It never received a vote this session. 

Below, you can read about the fates of all the bills we tracked this legislative session. If you are pleased with Indiana Institute for Working Families' advocacy on behalf of hard-working Hoosiers, please consider making a donation to ensure that these efforts can continue. Subscribe here to be sure you receive these important updates next session, as well as notices of other relevant information and events throughout the year. You can also like the Indiana Institute for Working Families on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter.

The Final Tally

SB 15: Fresh food initiative
Description: Urges the legislative council to assign to an appropriate study committee the topics related to the establishment of a food desert grant and loan program.
Final Outcome: Initially, this bill set up a grant and loan program for businesses operating within food deserts. It was amended in the Commerce & Technology Committee to include non-profits and passed the Senate 37-11. Lacking sufficient support in the House, the bill was amended in committee to propose a summer study on the issue of food deserts. It passed in the House 90-4 and the Senate concurred in the amendments 36-9

SB 20:  Workforce development

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.
Final Outcome: In the Pensions and Labor Committee, Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Bradley raised concerns that this bill would hamper local communities efforts to find solutions to the problems of "just-in-time" scheduling, which make it difficult for families to budget and arrange childcare. As this Indianapolis Star article on the issue notes, it is also another in a growing list of state policies that curtail local democracy. The bill was amended to request a summer study on employee misclassification and to expand the pool of individuals who can assist with unemployment insurance claims. It passed both the Senate and House.

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.
Final Outcome: Passed the Senate unanimously, but did not receive a hearing in the Public Health Committee.

SB 85 Fair Pay in Employment
Description: Provides that: (1) it is an unlawful employment practice to pay wages that discriminate based on sex, race, or national origin for the same or equivalent jobs; and (2) the civil rights commission has jurisdiction for investigation and resolution of complaints of these employment actions.
Final Outcome: Did not receive a hearing in the Pensions and Labor Committee.

SB 99Small loans
Description: This bill would have added 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.
Final Outcome:The bill was amended in the Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee but did not receive a hearing in the Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee.

SB 129Indiana earned income tax credit
Description: This bill proposed increasing the amount of the Indiana earned income tax credit from 9% to 10% of the federal earned income tax credit.
Final Outcome: The Appropriations Committee did not hear the bill.

SB 130 Eligibility for child care voucher
Description: Provided that beginning October 1, 2016, a child who is otherwise eligible for participation in the federal Child Care and Development Fund voucher program may continue to participate unless the child's family income exceeds the greater of 250% of the federal income poverty level or 85% of the state median income for the same size family
Final Outcome: The Committee on Family and Children Services declined to hear the bill.

SB 132 Food stamp assistance after a drug conviction
Description: Would have allowed individuals who were convicted of a drug offense but who were complying with the terms of their parole and who met the income eligibility criteria to access SNAP benefits. Institute Program Manager Jessica Fraser testified in support of the bill in both committee hearings, presenting compelling evidence that individuals with drug felonies experience significant barriers to self-sufficiency and need nutrition assistance.
Final Outcome: Passed the Senate 43-7 and the Committee on Family, Children, and Human Affairs heard testimony, but Chairman Frizzell declined to hold a vote due to the bill's fiscal impact statement.

SB 135 Voter registration and other voting matters
Description: Offered several changes to voting laws, including that a county election board could keep polls open past 6pm or establish satellite locations for early voting by majority vote. Allowed individuals to apply for permanent absentee voter status, to register at the polls, or to use motor vehicle license applications to serve as voter registration. Urged the study of electronic voting. 
Final Outcome: The Committee on Elections declined to hear the bill.

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.
Final Outcome: Passed the Senate and House. The conference committee report (compromise bill) passed the Senate 34-16 and the House 65-35.

SB 201 Resident tuition rate at state educational institutions
Description: Provides that an individual, except for certain nonimmigrants, 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 not earlier than the fall semester (or its equivalent, as determined by the state educational institution) of the 2015-2016 academic year; and (3) graduates from a high school located in Indiana or receives the equivalent of a high school diploma in Indiana; is eligible for the resident tuition rate beginning in the fall semester of the 2016-2017 academic year.
Final Outcome: The Appropriations Committee did not hear the bill. 

SB 210:  Family leave insurance program 
Description: Requires the department of insurance to establish, not later than January 1, 2017, a family leave insurance program (program) for the purpose of providing benefits to employees who elect to participate in the program. Requires that: (1) the program be voluntary for both employers and employees; (2) both employers and employees make contributions to the program to fund benefits; (3) employee contributions be made by payroll deduction; (4) the benefit eligibility requirements established for the program include, at a minimum, the requirements that qualify an employee for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act; Family leave insurance program.
Final Outcome: The Pensions and Labor Committee heard testimony on the bill, but did not vote. IIWF Program Manager Jessica Fraser testified in support of the bill and IIWF will publish a policy brief on the issue in the next couple of months.

SB 211Minimum wage
Description: Would have increased the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $11.25 an hour.
Final Outcome: The Pensions and Labor Committee did not hear the bill.

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.
Final Outcome: 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 without a vote. 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.
Final Outcome: This bill passed both the Senate and House.

SB 225 Property tax exemption for affordable housing
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. 
Final Outcome: This bill passed the Senate but did not receive a hearing in the House.

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. 
Final Outcome: The Committee on Pensions and 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.

SB 251 Indiana out of school time learning fund
DescriptionEstablishes the out of school time learning advisory board for a three year period
Final Outcome: Passed the Senate and House.

SB 265Sales tax district for healthy food programs
Description: Allows the fiscal body of a county to designate a special food desert district if the district is located in a census tract with low median income and low access to the nearest supermarket as determined by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas. Provides that if a district is designated, an additional 1% sales tax applies to retail transactions within the district. 
Final Outcome: The bill did not receive a hearing.

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.
Final Outcome: Passed the Senate and House.

SB 319Local government common construction wage
Description: Allows the legislative body of a political subdivision to adopt an ordinance requiring the political subdivision to establish a common construction wage for public work projects awarded by the political subdivision, with some exceptions.
Final Outcome: The Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure declined to hear the bill.

SB 320Work ethic certification and grant
Description: Establishes the work ethic certification program under which a student who develops skills necessary for success in higher education or employment receives a work ethic certificate upon graduation. Provides a grant to school corporations in the amount of $200 for each student who received a work ethic certificate in the school year ending in the previous fiscal year.  
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing, but the concept was amended into SB 93.

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.
Final Outcome: Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst at IIWF, was among several testifying in support of the bill. It passed both chambers unanimously.

SB 333Road funding
Originally, this bill moved excess reserves from the general fund to the state highway fund. It was amended in the House to include the regressive tax package described by our guest blogger, Lisa Christensen Gee, Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Final Outcome: Ultimately, the House and Senate passed HB 1001, which will transfer state reserves to both the state highway fund and the local road and bridge matching grant fund. The bill also authorizes counties to impose higher excise and wheel taxes.

SB 341Removal of asset limits for SNAP eligibility
Requires the division of family resources to: (1) implement within the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) an expanded eligibility category, which does not consider an individual's value of assets in determining SNAP eligibility; and (2) notify the United States Department of Agriculture of the implementation of expanded categorical eligibility under SNAP.
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing, but SB 377 was heard.

SB 346Prevailing wage
Among other provisions, Senator Tallian's bill would have required that, whenever the actual costs for the construction of a public improvement are at least $150,000, a contractor or subcontractor shall pay the workers employed in the performance of work for the construction of the public improvement a rate of wages that is not less than the prevailing wage determined by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor.
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing.

SB 369: Minimum wage for certain Indiana employees
Description: After: (1) June 30, 2016, increases the minimum wage paid to certain employees in Indiana from $7.25 to $12.00
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing.

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.
Final Outcome: Jessica Fraser, Program Manager for IIWF, testified in support of the bill, noting that 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. While the bill passed the Committee on Family and Children Services, it was not heard by the Appropriations Committee.

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. It was later amended into SB 20.

HB 1001: Road funding
Description: This bill proposed an increase in Indiana's gas and cigarette taxes and a decrease in income taxes. The effect of this package would have been a net increase in taxes for the bottom 80% of Hoosier taxpayers and a net return of approximately $1200 for the top 20%. The Senate Appropriations Committee removed the tax provisions.
Final Outcome:This bill was heard in conference committee and a compromise bill transferring reserve funds to both the state highway fund and the local bridges and roads matching grant passed both the House and Senate.

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.
Final Outcome: The Committee on Employment, Labor, and Pensions heard testimony on the bill, but declined to vote.

HB 1046: Sales of bullion or currency
Description: Provides a sales tax exemption for transactions involving the sale of: (1) coins that are permitted investments by an individual retirement account under federal law; (2) bullion that is a permitted investment by an individual retirement account under federal law; or (3) legal tender. Authorizes the secretary of state to issue a temporary registration to a foreign entity that wishes to sell precious metals bullion or currency at a trade fair or coin show in Indiana and is not otherwise lawfully authorized to conduct business in Indiana.    
Final Outcome: As this bill moved through each chamber, a number of working-family-friendly sales tax and earned income tax credit amendments were proposed but failed to garner sufficient support. The bill passed the House and Senate.  

HB 1050: Sales tax holiday
Description: Provides a sales and use tax exemption each year beginning on the second Friday of August 2016 and August 2017 through the following Sundays (sales tax holiday) for the following items: (1) Clothing, if the sales price does not exceed $100. (2) A school supply, school art supply, or school instructional material, if the sales price does not exceed $15.
Final Outcome: The bill did not receive a hearing.    

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 the part of a state tax refund not attributable to the state earned income tax credit otherwise due to the debtor
Last Action Taken: This bill survived its first committee hearing, but was not taken up in Ways and Means.

HB 1072: Overtime compensation
Description: Provides that certain employees must be paid compensation for employment in certain circumstances at a rate not less than 1.5 times the regular rate at which the employee is employed and, under certain circumstances, not less than two times the regular rate at which the employee is employed.
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing.  

HB 1077: Healthy food financing program 
Description: Establishes the healthy food financing fund (fund) and healthy food financing program (program) under the administration of the Indiana housing and community development authority (IHCDA). Provides that the purpose of the fund is to provide financing in the form of loans or grants for projects that increase the availability of fresh and nutritious food in underserved communities.
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing.  

HB 1078: Supplemental nutrition assistance program
Description: Allows individuals convicted of a drug offense to be eligible to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program under the federal opt out option.
Final Outcome: The Senate version of this bill received a hearing in the House, but neither HB 1078 nor SB 132 received a vote in the Family Children and Human Affairs Committee.  

HB 1139: Paid sick and safe leave 
Description: Provides that certain employers shall provide paid sick and safe leave to employees, accrued at the rate of one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours of employment. Establishes conditions to entitlement to sick and safe leave. Provides that the commissioner of labor shall enforce paid sick and safe leave for employees.    
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a committee vote.  

HB 1194: Prepaid college tuition 
Description: Establishes the Indiana prepaid college program. Requires the Indiana education savings authority to administer the program. Provides for the advance payment of tuition (including registration fees) at a community college or state university. Provides that the tax credit for 529 education savings plans includes money contributed to the prepaid college program.
Final Outcome: The Education Committee declined to vote on the bill.   

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.
Final Outcome: Passed both chambers unanimously.

HB 1265: Indiana minimum wage
Description: Provides that employers that are subject to the minimum wage provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are subject to the Indiana minimum wage. (Current law provides that employers that are subject to the minimum wage provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are not subject to the Indiana minimum wage.) Provides that the Indiana minimum wage is inapplicable to employees who provide companionship services to the aged and infirm.
Final Outcome: The Committee on Employment, Labor, and Pensions did not hold a vote on the bill.  

HB 1328: Paid sick leave for certain employees
Description: Provides that certain employers shall provide paid sick leave to employees of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of employment, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave a year. Provides that the commissioner of labor shall enforce paid sick leave for employees and shall adopt rules to implement paid sick leave.    
Final Outcome: The Committee on Employment, Labor, and Pensions did not hear the bill.  

HB 1340: Long term small loans 
Description: The initial bill proposed that lenders be allowed to offer a long term small loan charging 20% interest per month on the original principal of the loan, with loan values of up to $2000. This was converted to a summer study in the House Committee on Financial Institutions and passed the House. As the bill crossed chambers, an amendment offering a slightly less outrageous small loan was proposed. After several hours of testimony, the Senate  Insurance & Financial Institutions Committee voted down the amendment. IIWF Program Manager Jessica Fraser testified in the Senate committee hearing that the product would likely trap more low-income borrowers in a cycle of debt.     
Final Outcome: The bill recommending a summer study passed both the House and Senate.

HB 1343: Income tax deduction for dependents
Description: Provides that a taxpayer may claim the $1,500 additional dependent deduction for a dependent child for whom the taxpayer is the legal guardian.    
Final Outcome: Ways and Means did not hear the bill.
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.
Final Outcome: Passed the House and Senate.

HB 1397: Education loan information 
Description: Representative Austin's bill would have required postsecondary educational institutions to provide information regarding: (1) federal education loans in all printed and online financial aid materials issued or distributed by the institution and with private loan applications provided or made available by the institution; and (2) private loan information with any private loan information included as part of the institution's financial aid or loan package and with any list of private loan lenders provided by the institution. It also required that this information be provided to the Commission for Higher Education.
Final Outcome: This bill did not receive a hearing in the Education Committee.  

Please note that the information above is current as of March 10, 2016.  

16 Reasons to Raise Indiana’s Minimum Wage in 2016

    (Click on bottom of image to enlarge)

By Mike Poletika

In Indiana, minimum wage workers are expected to live on $7.25 an hour. How can they do this? Well, the simple answer is they can’t. Research shows that the current federal minimum wage, which Indiana uses, cannot sustain a family living on a basic needs budget, one that allows individuals and families to be self-sufficient without allowances for things like dining out or sending kids to after-school activities. To make up for their budget shortfalls, minimum wage workers must either work a ludicrous number of hours, as described in Reason 6, or rely on public, charitable, or family assistance. Minimum wage workers putting in time on the job should be compensated for their hard work at a rate that enables them to be self-sufficient and have sufficient time to care for and spend with family. As productivity increased by 72.2% from 1973 to 2014, the typical worker’s hourly wage increased by only 9.2% during the intervening 41 years. Simply from a worker productivity perspective, it’s time for workers to get the raise they have earned! As session draws to a close tomorrow, another year has passed in which legislation aimed at raising the minimum wage was not even given a public hearing (SB 211 and SB 369). Below is a list 16 reasons why Indiana should have raised the minimum wage in 2016.

1.    Outdated:  There is not one county in Indiana where where working full time at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is sufficient to support even a single adult, as shown in our new Indiana Self-Sufficiency Standard 2016 report. When looking at self-sufficient hourly wages across the state, the low is Vermillion County at $7.96, the high is $11.39 in Hamilton County, with the median self-sufficiency wage across all Indiana counties at $8.78.
2.    25 Years Without a Raise: Waiters and waitresses in Indiana are paid $2.13 per hour by their employers (29% of the minimum wage). The last time they saw a raise was a quarter-century ago (1991), even as the industry has seen strong growth and profitability. According the National Women's Law Center, gender gaps and poverty rates for tipped workers are smaller in states where the tipped minimum wage is equal to the minimum wage. 
3.  Wage ErosionBecause the value of the minimum wage has been left to erode due to inflation, more workers are earning poverty wages. Reducing the erosion of wages would be a good step towards reducing income inequality. The U.S. Conference of Mayors cited the "dramatic decline" in the value of the minimum wage in their recent 'Income and Wage Gaps Across the US' report. The inflation-adjusted minimum wage in 1968, when it was at its peak, has the same buying power as $10.90 in 2015 dollars.
4.    It's Not Just for Teens AnymoreContrary to common perception, less than a quarter of workers earning the minimum wage (or close to it) are teens; 56% are women, 28% are raising families and 44% have at least some college education. According to the Brookings Institution, “the worker likely to be affected by a raise in the minimum wage today is a woman in her 30's working full-time, with a family to support." 
5.  Gender Gap: In 2014, Hoosier women earn just $0.75 cents to each dollar their male counterpart earns (the 9h largest gender gap in the U.S.). Because 2/3rds of minimum wage workers are women, raising the wage (and the tipped wage) is a good step towards equalizing pay. According to a GovBeat analysis of EPI's report, 20% of female workers in Indiana would be directly affected.
6.    Working Towards Self-Sufficiency: In Indiana, the median number of work hours at the minimum wage for a single adult to become self-sufficient is 48 hours per week. The number of hours increases significantly to 108 hours for a single adult with one preschooler and one school-age child. For a family with two adults, a preschooler, and a school-age child, each adult would need to work 64 hours for the family to be self-sufficient.
7.    Housing: A full-time minimum wage worker in Indiana, who works 40 hours per week for four weeks, earns $1,160 per month. The median Fair Market Rent for a single adult across Indiana’s counties is $526, equaling 45% of a minimum wage worker’s monthly wages. This is 15% more than the rule of thumb that housing costs should be about 30% of a worker’s monthly income.
8.  Childcare: The cost of childcare almost exceeds monthly earnings for minimum wage workers. For families with one preschooler and one school-age child, the median cost of childcare across Indiana’s 92 counties is $942. Comparing that expense to the monthly minimum wage for a full-time worker, there is little incentive for parents to work at the minimum wage.
9.    637,000: That's how many Hoosiers (23.4% of the workforce) would get a raise in 2016 if Congress raised the wage to $10.10 per hour, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. This includes those affected directly (436,000 making less than $10.10) and indirectly (201,000 making just above the minimum wage whose wages would be pushed up due to pay scale adjustments). Fortunately, Indiana lawmakers can give a raise to Hoosier workers, instead of waiting for Congress to act.
10.  $1,000,000,000: According to the same EPI analysis, this large scale policy tool for working families would equal a cumulative raise of nearly one-billion dollars for Hoosiers.  Like tax breaks for low- and middle-income workers, raising the minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of working families. 
11.  Growing the Tax Base: Standard and Poor's cites rising income inequality as "contributing to weaker tax revenue growth", making it more difficult for state and local governments to invest in education and infrastructure.
12.  Myth of a Spike in Unemployment: Critics of raising the minimum wage often argue that an increase will cause a spike in unemployment. However, decades of research has shown this argument is unfounded. Two recent meta-analyses of research on minimum wage increases during the 1990s found that “the minimum wage has little or no discernable effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers.”
13. Economic Growth: In a stagnant economy, increasing wages can lead to economic growth. Low-wage workers tend to spend any additional income they receive on their basic needs. If the minimum wage increases, these workers would pump money into the economy, boosting GDP which would produce job growth in the broader economy.
14. Future Generations: Low wages not only affect adults, but children as well. Children whose parents work for the minimum wage live below the federal poverty line. Research has found that children being raised in poverty have lower academic achievement, poorer nutrition, fewer job prospects as adults, and worse physical health than their more affluent peers. Raising the wage will help ameliorate the deleterious effects of poverty on children.
15. A Moral Imperative: Not only is raising the minimum wage an economic imperative, it is also a moral one. In an open letter to Congress, over 350 faith leaders urged legislators to raise the minimum wage, writing “legislation requiring employers to pay a living wage is indispensable to ensuring that no worker will suffer the indignity of poverty.”
16. Public Opinion: A strong majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage. According to a 2015 New York Times poll, 71% of respondents favored raising the minimum wage to $10.10. It’s time for legislators to listen to their constituents.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

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