Friday, January 27, 2017

The legislature kicked into high gear this week as committee meetings and floor sessions resumed after a long Inauguration weekend. Institute staff have been hard at work meeting with legislators, crafting testimony, and working with partners to move forward legislation that supports Hoosier working families. This week, the Institute testified on critical nutrition assistance, early education, and payday loan protection bills. Next week PreK will be up for amendments and further discussion, and a paid family leave study gets its first hearing.

This Week: 
The Institute's director, Jessica Fraser, provided testimony to the Senate Family and Children Services committee in support of SB 154, which would remove asset limits for SNAP determination and eligibility. The bill was not voted on in committee, but we are hopeful the Chairman will bring this bill before the committee next week for a vote. If your legislator is on the committee, give them a call and ask them to encourage a vote on this bill. If your legislator is not on the committee, give Chairman Grooms a call - thank him for hearing the bill and encourage him to bring it to the committee for a vote. 

Good news! SB 9, which the Institute supports, was also heard in the Senate Family and Children Services committee and passed 8-1. It will move on to hopefully be heard by the full Senate. This bill says that as of January 1, 2018 Indiana elects to opt out of the federal law prohibiting individuals convicted of certain drug offenses from receiving supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) assistance, previously known as food stamps. You can also see Indianapolis Business Journal's write up here. 

On Wednesday, the Senate Education and Career Development committee heard testimony on SB 276*. This bill would add five counties to the prekindergarten pilot program. It would also establish a prekindergarten pilot program fund that would manage the grants given to pilot schools and carry out a longitudinal study on the students in the program. Lastly, the bill appropriates $20M to the fund for each of the next two fiscal years.

The Institute supports early childhood education, but wants to ensure Head Start is still being utilized to its fullest potential. The socialization, education, and wrap-around services it offers are key in helping low-income families prepare for kindergarten. Testimony lasted for over 3 hours! Erin Macey, policy analyst at the Institute, testified about the value of Head Start in both early learning and wrap-around support for low-income Hoosiers.

*SB 276 will be held for 2 weeks so that amendments can be filed. 

On Thursday, the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions committee heard testimony on SB 474* which would require disclosures about the interest rates on payday loans as well as limited amount repayment plans ($50 if paid bi-weekly, $100 if paid monthly) after the first loan. (Current statute says payday loan companies can offer this after the third loan.) The Institute supports this bill. Disclaimers can help consumers make educated decisions and short term repayment plans can keep consumers from falling into the debt trap. However, its important to note that disclaimers alone are not enough to protect consumers from these dangerous predatory loans. 

Jessica Fraser testified on this bill detailing the negative effects of payday lending without the short term repayment option as well as the possible benefits to consumers when disclosures show them how much is typically taken out and owed in interest.

*SB 474 will be held for 2 weeks for further discussion.

Next week:
Committee Action

SB 253:  Paid Family and Medical Leave (Tallian) will be heard in the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 10:00 am in Rm. 233. 
SB 463: Worker Misclassification Issues (Tallian) will be heard in the the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 10:00 am in Rm. 233. 
SB 276: Early education grant pilot program (Holdman) will be up for amendments and voting in the Senate Education and Career Development committee on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 1:30 pm in the Senate Chamber.
HB 1004 Prekindergarten education (Behning) will be heard in the House Education committee on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 8:30 am in the House Chamber.

Floor Action 
Second Reading
HB 1439 FSSA matters (Kirchhofer)
HB 1539 Financial institutions and consumer credit (Burton)
Third Reading
HB 1281 Various higher education matters (Sullivan)
Passed to other chamber
HB 1080 Status on Improving the Status of Children (Frizzell)
Bills that relate to our Legislative Policy Agenda can be found below. For the full list of bills the Institute is tracking, see this Inside the Statehouse.
  • A PATH TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY: Put families on a path to self-sufficiency by protecting them from high-cost payday loans and predatory lending products. Support asset-building and financial literacy training by increasing funding for individual development accounts (IDAs). 
    • SB 245: Long term small loans (Holdman) Oppose
    • SB 474: Small loans (Melton) Support

  • INVESTMENT IN TWO-GENERATION SOLUTIONS: Investments in Head Start, preschool and the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) ensure that young children continue to learn and grow while their parents work or seek further education. 
    • SB 276: Early childhood grant pilot program (Holdman)
    • SB 325: Voluntary prekindergarten program (Stoops)

  • REMOVE BARRIERS TO ADULT EDUCATION & WORKFORCE TRAINING: Allow for better coordination of skills training, higher education and necessary support services. Increase support for the Indiana Adult Student Grant and the WorkINdiana training program, and create Indiana’s first fund for job-driven adult literacy.
    • HB 1008: Workforce development (Huston) Support
    • HB 1464: Work sharing unemployment benefits (Carbaugh) Support

  • ASSISTS & REBOUNDS: Help Hoosiers rebound more quickly from tough times by removing the asset test from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility requirements and raising Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility to 50 percent of the federal poverty level.
    • SB 9: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and drug convictions (Merritt) Support
    • SB 154: Removal of asset limits for SNAP eligibility (Merritt) Support
    • SB 527: TANF eligibility (Stoops) Support
    • SB 528: Removal of asset limits for SNAP eligibility (Stoops) Support

  • QUALITY OF LIFE & QUALITY OF WORK: Ensure that all working Hoosiers can balance work, family and household budgets through policies that promote fair scheduling, paid leave and high-quality, well-paying jobs. 
    • HB 1183: Employee paid sick leave (Lawson) Support
    • HB 1442: Paid sick and safe leave (Porter) Support
    • SB 3: Paid personal leave (Randolph) Support
    • SB 253: Paid family and medical leave program (Tallian) Support
    • SB 318: Minimum wage (Mrvan) Support

  • BUILD A MORE JUST HOOSIER ECONOMY, STARTING WITH EQUITABLE BUDGET CHOICES: Make equitable budget choices that remedy Indiana’s regressive tax structure, increase economic mobility for working families and promote a more just economy for all Hoosiers.
    • HB 1001: Biennial budget (Brown) Monitor
    • HB 1002: Transportation infrastructure funding (Soliday) Monitor
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