Thursday, March 16, 2017

After a slow start to the second half of the legislative session, things heat up next week as the Institute will be testifying on bills to increase SNAP accessibility, study a state paid family and medical leave policy, and study a traffic amnesty program. This week is also National Consumer Protection Week bringing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and issues like financial transparency to the forefront.

National Consumer Protection Week

It’s National Consumer Protection Week, and with the state payday bill behind us, the Institute for Working Families has been paying close attention to national legislation related to Hoosiers’ watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). To date, the CFPB has handled over 8000 complaints from Hoosiers on everything from unfair mortgage lending to debt collection practices.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress want to target the CFPB or roll back rules it has created to protect consumers. Representative Hollingsworth and Representative Messer have both signed on to H.J. Res 73, which would block CFPB “know before you owe” transparency rules and other basic protections regarding prepaid cards. Consumers use these cards to control spending: you pay an upfront fee and then get to spend the money you put on the card. A few prepaid card companies, including Netspend, a Georgia-based company, want to see a rollback of the law because they charge additional fees, such as overdraft or monthly maintenance fees. The rules do not preclude fees, but set stricter guidelines and require more transparency.

It is also important to note that more and more employers are giving employees their paychecks pre-loaded onto similar cards, and New York State’s efforts to ensure that wages aren’t eroded by fees recently failed. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rules, which include notifying employees that they can request wages by other means, may be the only line of defense. Following us on facebook and twitter is a great way to keep up with what's happening on this and related consumer protection fronts.

Things to watch out for in the second half of the session:

Payday lending language to appear as an amendment
While we hope that the strong opposition to a new payday product with over 200% APR will keep the language from becoming law, we are watching relevant bills in case an amendment is offered. Join our mailing list to be alerted if action is required on this issue.

SB 312, the ban ‘Ban the Box’ bill
The video at the beginning of this IndyStar article highlighting some people whose lives are improved by fair hiring ordinances is worth three minutes of your time. Sometimes legislation seems abstract, but this shows people who are turning their lives around and simply need a chance to show their skills. The NAACP is taking notice of this bill, so we hope their involvement will help stop this legislation.

Adult literacy
Look for an amendment in an education or workforce bill asking for the state to report the need for job-driven adult literacy training. 

Bills in Committee this past week:

HB 1001 Biennial budget (Brown) was heard in Senate Appropriations with conversations ranging from tobacco tax increases to funding for sexual assault victims to teacher mentors to higher education to FSSA and DCS issues. The Institute will continue to monitor this as discussions continue. 

HB 1080 Commission on improving the status of children (Frizzell) passed out of committee 6-0 and allows for the hiring of an executive director for this commission. It will be on 3rd reading next week.

SB 412 529 Education savings plan matters (Koch) passed out of committee 9-1. This bill removes this education savings account from being included as assets when applying for certain public assistance and grants and scholarships given by commission for higher education. It will be on 3rd reading next week.

SB 440 Various tax matters (Holdman) and SB 507 Economic development (Head), and SB 198 Career and technical education (Long) were all heard in House Ways and Means.

HB 1004 Prekindergarten education (Behning) and HB 1281 Various higher education matters (Sullivan) were heard in Senate Education and Career Development this week. HB 1004 had 20 people testifying in a mix of opposition and support, with issues like cost and availability as major discussion points. Erin Macey testified on behalf of the Institute urging legislators to invest in Hoosier families, many of whom cannot afford high quality Pre-K, but who benefit as a whole when their children are learning and they are able to work or pursue education. 

Next week:

In committee:HB 1178 Voter registration opportunity for all motor vehicle transactions (Kersey) is in Senate Elections on Monday 3/13 at 11am in Rm. 431.
SB 253 Study of voluntary paid family and medical leave is likely to be heard in the House Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions at 8:30am on Tuesday 3/14. Erin Macey will testify in support of studying state solutions to increase access to this employee benefit, sharing data from the Institute's recent report with analysis and recommendations for Indiana. SB 114 Professional licensing (Kruse) is scheduled in House Select Committee on Government Reduction for 8:30am on Tuesday 3/14 in Rm. 156-DHB 1002 Transportation infrastructure funding (Soliday) will be heard on Tuesday 3/14 at 9am in the Senate Chamber. This issue has been addressed by Democrats and Republicans, and the Institute will continue to follow its progress. HB 1268 Traffic amnesty program (Shackleford) will be heard on Tuesday 3/14 at 9:30am in Rm. 130. Andrew Bradley from the Institute will be there to testify in support as it can help working Hoosiers retain access to transportation, a critical aspect of work and educational attainment. 

SB 154 Asset limitation for SNAP eligibility (Merritt) will be heard on Wednesday 3/15 at 8:30am in Rm. 156-A. Jessica Fraser from the Institute will be there to advocate for this bill, helping increase food support access to working Hoosier families. HB 1439 FSSA matters (Kirchhofer) will be heard on Wednesday 3/15 at 9am in the Senate Chamber. The Senate Education and Career Development committee will meet on Wednesday 3/15 at 1:30pm in the Senate Chamber where members will vote on HB 1004 Prekindergarten education (Behning) and HB 1281 Various higher education matters (Sullivan), and hear testimony on HB 1384 Various education matters (Behning).

On 3rd reading:

HB 1080 Commission on improving the status of children (Frizzell) will be on 3rd reading in the Senate on Monday 3/13 at 1:30pm.

SB 412 529 education savings plan matters (Koch) will be on 3rd reading in the House on Monday 3/13 at 1:30pm.

The following bills have been assigned to committee, but have not been scheduled. From here bills can be scheduled for a hearing or ignored. Not calling a bill for a hearing can be a strategy to stop legislation - something we may want for the bills we oppose, but would hate to see happen to the bills we support. The legislative process is a double-edged sword.

SB 8 Forfeiture (Boots) to House Courts and Criminal Code

SB 9 SNAP and drug convictions (Merritt) and SB 242 Indiana Housing First program (Merritt) to House Family, Children and Human Affairs

SB 227 Foreclosure counseling and education fee (Merritt), SB 277 Healthy food initiative program (Head), SB 515 Tax administration (Hershman), and SB 559 Property tax exemption for affordable housing (Eckerty) were sent to House Ways and Means. 

SB 276 Prekindergarten education (Holdman) to House Education.

SB 307, a bill that would provide preference to veterans and their spouses for employment and training, was referred to House Employment, Labor, and Pensions.

SB 558 Leases and sales of real property (Holdman) was sent to House Judiciary. 

The schedules above are current as of March 9, 2017. It is always important to verify the scheduling of bills and sessions on the General Assembly website as these can and do change.

You can see the updated list of ALL the bills the institute is following this session here. For daily updates, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. If any of the live bills interest you, sign up for our mailing list where you will get action alerts on these and other issues. We welcome your donations to help us keep doing what we do.

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