Sunday, February 7, 2016


The dust has settled after a four-week flurry of hearings and votes; when legislators return from a long-weekend breather, the second half of the 2016 session will get underway. Bills that passed in their house of origin will be sent to the second house and assigned to a committee. The committee chair may or may not choose to hear the bill; we urge you to call or write the committee chairs of the favorable bills below to make time for them on their agendas.

The committee hearing in the second house is also the public's last opportunity to testify for or against the bill. Once bills pass out of committee, they will receive two readings on the second house floor. On second reading, legislators may amend the bill, and on third reading, the bill receives a roll call vote. If the second house passes an amended a bill, it must go back to the house of origin for a vote. Approval in the house of origin sends the bill to the governor's desk; denial sends it to a conference committee to see if a compromise can be reached. Conference committees also try to reconcile the differences between bills on similar topics.

As the bills cross houses, the Indiana Institute for Working Families will be pushing for enactment of the following:

Bills We're Fighting For

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. This is part of our 2016 working families agenda.
Last Action Taken: Passed unanimously and referred to the House.
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.

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: Passed unanimously and 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, fulfilling another piece of our working families policy agenda

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 Taken: Passed 43-7 and referred to the House.
Our Position: Support. Individuals who have served sentences for felony drug convictions often need access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as they rebuild their lives.

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: Passed unanimously and referred to the House.
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 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!
Our Position: Support. Working families throughout the state have limited access to fresh produce; in fact, Walk Score ranked Indianapolis worst in the nation for easy access to grocery stores. Some research has linked food deserts - or locations where affordable, nutritious food is difficult to obtain - to health problems such as diabetes. 

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 Taken: Passed the Senate unanimously and referred to the House.
Our Position. Support. The Indiana Institute for Working Families supports creating greater access to aid for those who need it.

SB 225 Property tax exemption for affordable housing
Description: Establishes standards for affordable housing property to be exempt from property taxation when the property does not otherwise qualify for a property tax exemption.
Last Action Taken: Passed the Senate and referred to the House.
Our Position. Support. The SB 225 clarifies that if a non-profit organization owns a property where it provides 100 percent affordable housing units to low income individuals/families (those earning 80% AMI or below), then the property will be considered property tax exempt. Currently, many counties already recognize this charitable purpose and approve the exemption, but there are counties where the exemptions are challenged and the legal fees and taxes are forcing nonprofits to stop providing this service entirely while the critical need for affordable rental housing persists.


SB 251 Indiana out of school time learning fund
Description: Creates the Indiana out of school time learning fund to fund before and after school programs operated through schools.
Last Action Taken: Passed the Senate and referred to the House.
Our Position. Support. Afterschool and summer programs keep youth safe during high crime hours, inspire learning, and support working families. According to a 2014 Afterschool Alliance report, 83% of respondents with a child in an afterschool program agreed that the afterschool program helped them keep their job and 85% said that the program gave them peace of mind while at work. 

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.
Our Position. Support. We welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue about employee classification, particularly as misclassification can render a worker outside the scope of important employee protections, such as wage, hour, and equal employment opportunity laws, as well as ineligible for certain required and voluntary benefits, such as employer-sponsored health care, pensions, unemployment, and social security.

HB 1340 Long term small loans
Description: Originally, this bill would have allowed Payday lenders to offer consumers long-term small loans that charged up to an astronomical 20% interest on the original principal balance per month. The bill was amended and now urges the legislative council to assign to the interim study committee on the topic of granting lenders the authority to offer long term small installment loans.
Last Action Taken: Referred to the Senate.
Our Position. Support. We welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue about Payday lending and its effects on working families.

SB 217 Township assistance payment of electric bills
DescriptionAllows 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 : Passed unanimously and referred to the House.
Our Position: Support. This bill enables township trustees to assist low-income customers with prepaid utility accounts.


Bills We Oppose


SB 20 Restrictions on Employer Scheduling
DescriptionProvides 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 : Referred to the House.
Our Position: Oppose. Just-in-time scheduling, where employers give little to no notice of work schedules and number of shifts, creates many challenges for working families. It can make it difficult to budget, secure childcare, or take on other employment. We support local units of government maintaining the right to require that employers to give employees more notice and/or compensating the employee if they change the schedule without sufficient notice. 

SB 165 Healthy Indiana Plan
DescriptionCodifies the Healthy Indiana Plan and requires legislative action to change essential components of the plan. 
Last Action Taken : Passed third reading and referred to the House.
Our Position: Oppose. While we support the Healthy Indiana Plan, we do not support codifying it in statute at this time because we are concerned it could jeopardize waiver renewal negotiations between the state and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and would hamper the ability of consumer advocates to pursue changes to the program outside of the legislative 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 For more frequent updates, you can like the Indiana Institute for Working Families on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter. The Institute also welcomes your donations to ensure that working families continue to have a voice at the Statehouse.

Please note that the schedule below is current as of February 7, 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
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: The Committee on Family, Children, and Human Affairs heard testimony Tuesday on the bill and an amendment that will streamline administration. Jessica Fraser, Program Manager at IIWF, testified, noting that ex-felons face many barriers to self-sufficiency. Allowing access to SNAP would help buffer the shortfalls in income they often experience as they struggle to overcome stigmas and secure employment.

SB 217 Township assistance payment of electric bills
DescriptionAllows 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. 
Next Action Time & Location : Committee hearing, 8:30am, Thursday, February 11, Committee on Local Government, Room 156-B
Last Action Taken: Passed unanimously and referred to the House.
Our Position: Support. This bill enables township trustees to assist low-income customers with prepaid utility accounts. 
 
Last 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: Passed 43-7. How did your senator vote?

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: Passed 95-1. See the roll call here.
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: Passed unanimously.
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. 

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