Friday, March 29, 2019

This week, the Institute grappled with some unpleasant surprises: unexpected hearings, unwanted amendments, and new hurdles for good bills to overcome. We weathered a rocky week with the help of caffeine, fellow advocates, and the optimism that can only come from knowing you are doing everything you possibly can to bend the arc of justice in the right direction. 

SB 613: Massive Expansion of Payday and Subprime Lending Gets a Hearing

Despite being the worst consumer credit bill in decades, SB 613 was scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday at 10:30am. Public notice of the hearing wasn't posted until Monday afternoon.

Even so, opponents of the bill packed the room. Two lobbyists spoke in favor of the bill, and twelve individuals representing veterans, churches, community groups, and consumers spoke against the bill.

Institute Senior Policy Analyst Erin Macey kicked off the testimony, walking committee members through the array of dangerous new products and changes to long-standing consumer protections, while also noting that many, many Hoosiers are already struggling with the debts they have. “Is the best solution we can offer them more and even higher-cost debt?" she asked committee members. "That’s not a lifeline, it’s an anchor.”

Our friends at Prosperity Indiana spoke about the size and breadth of the coalition fighting this bill, noting, “Unanimously, all of these voices have come together to say that the bill’s expansion of payday and subprime loans will only leave borrowers worse off and make the work of supporting communities more difficult.”

Brightpoint Community Action Agency Director Steve Hoffman made the trek down from Fort Wayne to oppose the bill as well. He was followed by veteran Stephen Bramer, who spoke about his own experience with payday loans. “SB 613 is a bad bill,” Bramer told the committee.

Chairman Burton closed the hearing by saying there is zero chance the bill will pass out of committee as is, but this leaves us wondering - what will the “fixes” look like? Even with changes to rein in the worst abuses, we suspect Hoosiers will be offered usurious loans at rates currently considered to be criminal loansharking. Let Chairman Burton and your House member know that the only appropriate “fix” to SB 613 is to kill it. Call (317) 232-9600 and find your legislator here

HB 1628: Prekindergarten Program Eligibility May Be Amended to Further Restrict Eligibility

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee considered HB 1628, which would change the eligibility requirement for Indiana’s On My Way PreK Program. The current version of the bill prioritizes working families under 127% of poverty, but then opens access to “limited eligibility” children who do not meet these criteria.

An amendment is being offered that would further narrow the pool of “limited eligibility” children significantly to only those whose parents or guardians can demonstrate that they receive Social Security or Social Security Disability. The amendment will be voted on next Tuesday. Institute Senior Policy Analyst Erin Macey testified on the bill, reminding the committee that PreK is first and foremost about 4-year-old children “who do not choose whether their parents or guardians are working or not, retired or not, living with a disability or not. We value and appreciate that the General Assembly is taking steps to ensure equality of opportunity for all children living in financially distressed households.”

She also noted that before the program contained a work requirement for parents, it had the “added benefit of allowing families who are not yet employed to seek and secure new employment. In both year 1 and 2 cohorts, about a third of families noted that having their child in On My Way PreK allowed them to obtain new employment.”

If you have thoughts about the prekindergarten program work requirement, please contact Senate Education committee members before they vote next Wednesday.

HB 1141: Traffic Amnesty Program Amended

Senate Tax and Fiscal committee heard HB 1141 on Tuesday morning, where it was amended to remove amnesty for court costs and the option for a payment plan, among other unpleasant surprises. 

Policy Analyst Amy Carter testified in support of the bill in its original form, noting that, "It’s important to look at the whole financial burden including court and reinstatement fees. Allowing for a reduction in both and allowing for a payment plan on the reduced fees will unlock opportunities for legal driving to jobs and training for low-income Hoosiers, and help employers fill the skills gap." She also pointed out that over the last decade, median income in Indiana has risen only 9% while basic costs have increased 60%, illustrating why some Hoosiers are not able to pay traffic and reinstatement fees no matter how badly they need a valid license to get to work, school, and job training. 

It passed committee 11-0 and was amended on 2nd reading to push the date back to allow time to set the system in motion. 

SB 440 TANF Eligibility Must Clear Another Committee

The week started off great on SB 440, the bill that we have been supporting to increase eligibility and benefit levels for the TANF program. The bill passed out of House Family and Children 12-0!!  We were thrilled by this strong committee vote.  We found out that the bill would be recommitted to House Ways and Means and we began meeting with members of that committee. From our initial meetings, it seems SB 440 may have a harder time in this committee.  Please reach out to committee members and ask them to support SB 440.  

(800) 382-9842 - House Democrats
(800) 382-9841 - House Republicans

Republican Committee Members: 
Co-Chair: Rep.Todd Huston-  Ask Rep. Huston to Please grant a hearing to SB 440. 
Rep. Bob Cherry 
Rep. Mike Karickhoff
Rep. Bob Heaton 
Rep. Steve Davidson
Rep. Dan Leonard
Rep. Jeff Thompson
Rep. Brad Barrett
Rep. Ed Clere (He is a bill sponsor THANK HIM for his hard work on this bill!)
Rep. Dave Heine
Rep. Jack Jordan
Rep. Peggy Mayfield
Rep. Sharon Negele
Rep. Holli Sullivan
Rep. Cindy Ziemke (She is a bill sponsor THANK HER for her hard work on this bill!)

Democrat Committee Members: 
Rep. Greg Porter 
Rep. Chris Campbell 
Rep. Ed Delaney
Rep. Carey Hamilton
Rep. Earl Harris 
Rep. Sheila Klinker 
Rep. Cherrish Pryor
Rep. Melanie Wright  (Rep. Wright also voted for this bill in House Family and Children! Thank her for her support). 

One pleasant surprise we received was the outstanding response to our call for donations to support our work. Thank you for your generosity!! Surprise or not, our work continues until Sine Die. 

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