Friday, March 17, 2017

Paid family and medical leave, SNAP asset limits, and adult literacy were high on the priority list this week as the Institute met with lawmakers and testified in committee meetings. Your calls and emails to legislators were appreciated - the study of paid family and medical leave passed and is headed to the full House!

This week...
GOOD NEWS! The Indiana House Committee on Employment, Labor, and Pensions voted 12-0 this morning to pass SB 253, a bill calling for a study on ways to expand access to paid family and medical leave for working Hoosiers. Erin Macey from the Institute was there to testify on how paid leave helps keep families healthy, workers productive, and businesses attractive to employees. Thank you for your calls and emails supporting the bill. It will now move to the House floor; please let your representative know that you would like him or her to support the bill when it is called for a vote:

SB 154 Asset limitation for SNAP eligibility (Merritt) was heard on Wednesday morning in House Family, Children, and Human Affairs. Lawmakers asked some great questions about the logistics of applying and receiving SNAP, like what happens when the state distributes assistance in error and what effects have been seen in states that removed asset limits? Legislators also asked about the use of SNAP by Hoosier families, wondering if alcohol and tobacco can be purchased with SNAP dollars (they cannot) and what are SNAP households buying? These questions generated a valuable discussion about the program and its administration. The bill was held for 1-2 weeks so that committee members can file amendments. We expect an amendment that will lower the asset limit from $10,000 in the current language, to $5,000 and remove the self-attestation. We would prefer that self-attestation stay in the bill as it protects vulnerable Hoosiers who are currently denied or cut off from SNAP due to either difficulty producing the necessary paperwork or caseworker errors. However, increasing the asset test to $5,000 is an important step forward in improving access to SNAP and helping to mitigate the SNAP benefit cliff. 

In committee:
SB 114 Professional licensing (Kruse) passed 8-0 from the House Committee on Government Reduction.

HB1002 Transportation infrastructure funding (Soliday) had many people there to speak both in support and opposition. The discussion was around how taxes are used and the appropriateness of a gas tax increase, which is a regressive tax that disproportionately affects low-income families. It was held for further discussion.  

SB 440 Various tax matters (Holdman) passed 20-0 with a minor amendment. 

HB 1439 FSSA matters (Kirchhofer) was held in committee. The discussion revolved around an extension of the Medicaid period for incarcerated individuals. Currently, Medicaid is suspended one year before being terminated; this bill would suspend it for two years. 

SB 42 Pro bono legal services fee (Grooms) postpones the current sunset provision for the pro bono legal services fee from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2022. It passed 10-0 in House Courts and Criminal Code.

SB 346 Donation of certain local funds to a foundation (Grooms) was brought about because a community foundation was having trouble knowing how they could use the proceeds from the sale of a hospital in their area. This bill was held. 

SB515 Tax administration (Hershman) was held. The conversation in committee centered on the effects on the agriculture industry, the increase in military income deduction, and the effect on manufacturing. 

HB 1004 Prekindergarten education (Behning) passed. Prior to passing, the committee passed amendment #20 9-0. The amendment makes HB 1004 look like SB 276, which gives foster children in the state the ability to be looked at first for Pre-K, includes a $16 million budget with $6 million in expansion, removes the provision that requires two annual inspections and changes it to random/when needed evaluations, removes the provision for a longitudinal study, earmarks technology based at-home early education, and renames the bill to Pre-K pilot program. The amended bill passed the committee 8-1. It is committed to Senate Appropriations.  

HB 1281 Various higher education matters (Sullivan) held for a week as requested by Commission for Higher Education for an amendment.  

HB 1384 Various education matters (Behining) included quite a bit of discussion ranging from vouchers to homeschooling to concern over schools being held accountable for students leaving the school and what that means for graduation rate calculation. This bill was held for amendments, one of which the Institute hopes will include adult literacy language. Stay tuned!

HB1308 Various professional licensing matters (Zent) passed 7-0 out of Senate Commerce and Technology.

On the floor:
In the House, SB 412 529 education savings plan matters (Koch) was voted upon. Some opposed the exclusion of 529 accounts from asset tests for public assistance which brought forth a discussion on breaking the cycle of poverty and the necessity of low-income families to be able to save for their children’s future while still receiving the state assistance they need to meet basic needs. It passed 93-1.

SB 253 Study of voluntary paid family and medical leave (Tallian) will move to 3rd reading calendar next week. Remember to let your representative know you’d like them to support this bill when it comes for a vote. You can find your legislator here.

SB 307 Veteran preference for employment and training (Hershman) passed the House Employment, Labor, and Pensions committee 12-0 with several legislators asking to sign on. The bill was passed this week, but there is an amendment filed that would change the bill to use the “Hoosier veteran” definition already in Indiana code instead of the “veteran” definition in the bill.

In the Senate, HB 1080 Commission on improving the status of children (Frizzell) passed 37-11 and was returned to the House with no amendments.

HB 1268 Traffic amnesty program (Shackleford) passed committee 7-0 out of the Senate committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. Andrew Bradley from the Institute was there to testify on the importance of a study on traffic amnesty as access to a driver’s license is often vital to employment and self-sufficiency. It was on 2nd reading Thursday.

Next Week...

In committee:
SB 346 Donation of certain local funds to a foundation (Grooms), SB 507 Economic development (Head), and SB 515 Tax administration (Hershman) will be heard in House Ways and Means Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at 10:30 in Rm 404.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 will see HB 1154 Unemployment insurance (Leonard) heard in Senate Pensions and Labor at 10am in Rm. 233 and HB 1523 Search fee for public records requests (Richardson) in Senate Local Government at 1:30pm in Rm. 130.

Thursday, March 23, 2017 will see HB 1539 Financial institutions and consumer credit (Burton) in Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions at 9am in Rm. 130 and HB 1626 Study of universal service for telecommunications (Negele) in Senate Utilities at 10am in Rm. 233.

On the floor:
Monday, March 20, 2017 at 1:30pm
Senate 3rd reading – HB 1268 Traffic amnesty program (Shackelford)
House 2nd reading – SB 307 Veteran preference for employment and training (Hershman)
House 3rd reading – SB 114 Professional licensing (Kruse) and SB 253 Study of voluntary paid family and medical leave (Tallian)

The schedules above are current as of March 16, 2017. It is always important to verify the scheduling of bills and sessions on the General Assembly website as these can and do change.

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