Friday, March 21, 2014

Lawmakers officially concluded the 2014 session on March 13, one day before the constitutionally mandated end-date for short sessions. While legislators continued a decade-long focus on tax breaks for businesses and picking winners for the state’s economy, some of the Institute's policy agenda made it on to the General Assembly's radar. Below we highlight some Victories for working Hoosier families as well as Missed Opportunities. 

Legislative Victories
2014 legislative victories for working Hoosier families include the defeat of suspicionless drug-testing of TANF recipients, a study of part-time students by the state's Commission on Higher Education (a positive step towards closing Indiana's skills gap), expansion of mass transit for Central Indiana, increased infrastructure spending, and a pre-K pilot program. 

SB 330: Better Skills for Adult Learners
Description: Requires the commission for higher education to award part-time student grants totaling at least 50% of the available appropriation each fiscal year to adult students who are pursuing a program of study that will lead to a specific high demand, high wage job. Requires the commission to submit not later than November 1, 2014, to the legislative council a report that provides information about the part-time student population in Indiana, including the population's size, its financial need, its completion rates, and recommendations for increasing the population's completion rates using financial support and student incentives.
Last Action Taken: Passed the House & Senate; awaiting Governor's signature. 
Position - Support: The study of part-time learners will be a positive step forward for this population, which makes up nearly half of all Indiana college students. This measure is also a policy priority for the Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition. 

SB 176Central Indiana Transit
Description: Provides for the establishment or expansion of public transportation services other than light rail in an eligible county through a local public question placed on the ballot under an ordinance adopted by the fiscal body of the eligible county. Requires the department of local government finance to review and approve the language of a local public question. Provides that Delaware County, Hamilton County, Hancock County, Johnson County, Madison County, and Marion County are eligible counties. Requires goals for participation by minority business enterprises, veteran business enterprises, and women's business enterprises in the development of a public transportation project.
Last Action Taken: Passed the House & Senate; awaiting Governor's signature. 
Position - Support: A step in the right direction towards providing greater accessibility for low-income workers in Indiana to travel to and from work. Click here for a summary of the bill and here to show your support for mass transit. 

HB 1004 Early Learning Pilot Grant Program.
Description: Authorizes the office of the secretary of family and social services to establish a pilot program to make grants to certain entities that provide qualified early education services to eligible children who are four years of age. Establishes the prekindergarten and early learning study commission.
Last Action Taken: Passed the House and Senate; awaiting Governor's signature.
Position - Support: Indiana joins the 41 other states that provide pre-K funding for children who are at least four years-old, and while only a pilot program it is a welcome step in the right direction. Research on the benefits of early childhood education are abundant (particularly for low-income children who face barriers to economic mobility as adults), so examining (and implementing) the right design for Indiana is an action that is long-overdue. Thank you Governor Pence for making this a priority. 

Missed Opportunities
Work Sharing: Despite support from both labor and business interests, as well as bi-partisan support in the Indiana House, legislation that would have created a work share program to protect Hoosier jobs and provide flexibility to employers was not given a hearing in committee and was voted down as a second reading amendment offered by Senator Karen Tallian. This missed opportunity has cost the state federal reimbursement to the UI trust fund and $2,074,861 in outreach and implementation grants. Work share is a "win-win-win" for business, workers, and the state. See more on Work Sharing (research, media coverage and fact sheets) here.

Cliff Effect: The Institute called attention to our recommendations to address the cliff effect - policy design in work-support programs that act as barriers to employment and mobility for low-income families – during Restore Economic Mobility Day at the Indiana Statehouse and several communities around the state. While legislation was sidelined, in-roads were made on outreach and education.

Stay tuned throughout the year for new research, up-to-date information on summer study committees at the Indiana Statehouse, our role in federal policy that affects working families in Indiana, and much more. In 2015 we will continue to advocate for meaningful legislation and investments that reward hard working Hoosiers by ensuring they share in economic growth; reflect the economic reality of low- and middle-income Hoosiers by strengthening work support programs, and ultimately; equip all Hoosiers with the opportunity to obtain the skills necessary in order to attract high-paying, quality jobs that are necessary for a family’s economic self-sufficiency. Visit archives of Inside the Statehouse here.


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