Sunday, March 13, 2016


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
Description:
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
Description:
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
Description:
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.  

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