Indiana currently ranks 36 in the country for best place to have a baby – regrettably, to the Indiana Senate Democrats, that’s not at all surprising. We draft numerous bills each year aimed at improving Indiana and making it a better place for families to live. Unfortunately, our bills are often blocked or ignored, and this year was no exception. All but two of our bills that would have addressed serious issues that contribute to our low family ranking never made it out of the legislature. Check out some of the legislation we offered this past session that would have made Indiana a better place to start a family.
One of the reasons Indiana ranked so poorly in the “2019’s Best & Worst States to Have a Baby” is because of our high infant and maternal mortality rate. Two bills drafted by Senate Democrats last session to address these issues were Senate Bill (SB) 412 Medicaid addiction treatment for pregnant women and SB 416 Medicaid coverage for doula services. The first would have provided Medicaid coverage for substance abuse to pregnant women struggling with addiction throughout the duration of their pregnancy, up to one year after they had given birth, regardless of income. Though this legislation could have helped address both the infant and maternal mortality rate, it never received a committee hearing. While SB 416 did successfully make it out of the legislature, the $20,000 in funding to cover doula services was inexplicably cut from the budget at the last minute. Another proposal that could have helped address our abysmal maternal and infant mortality rates was SB 352 Consent to pregnancy services of a minor. This bill would have allowed pregnant minors to consent to necessary pregnancy-related services without parental permission. This proposal was voted down by the supermajority and never made it out of the Senate.
Earlier this year, a national early education research group determined that Indiana’s pre-kindergarten program wasn’t accessible enough to qualify Indiana as a state that had a state-funded pre-k program. This shortcoming does little to help promote Indiana as a good place to have a baby and start a family. Indiana’s lack of sufficient pre-k programs was an issue Senate Democrats worked to address this session. We drafted SB 338 Prekindergarten pilot program eligibility and SB 346 Prekindergarten pilot program to expand our pre-kindergarten program to all Indiana counties and expand the eligibility requirements. Though another bill, drafted in the Indiana House of Representatives, passed out of the legislature to expand the program to all counties, the eligibility requirements were not changed, and there was no funding attached to the bill. We’re certain that without larger reforms, the state’s pre-k program will still not be considered up to par when compared to the rest of the country.
Senate Democrats also attempted to make Indiana a better place to have a baby by creating a much-needed voluntary family leave insurance program in the form of SB 496. Our absence of such a program contributed to our low ranking in “best places to have a baby,” and passing this legislation would have helped to address this shortcoming. Though this bill progressed out of the Senate, it never made it out of the House of Representatives. Our SB 15 Child care and development fund eligibility sought to expand who was eligible to participate in the federal Child Care and Development Fund voucher program. This was yet another bill that never received a committee hearing.
SB 440 TANF eligibility and SB 444 Medicaid based statewide health plan were two more bills offered by Senate Democrats that sought to address issues in our state that have made it an undesirable place to have a child. SB 440 would have expanded the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and made necessary changes to the way eligibility is determined. SB 444 would have established an Indiana Statewide Health Plan within the Medicaid program. Both these bills would have served to make Indiana a more welcoming place for families, but neither made it out of the legislature.
Despite having these proposals blocked, Senate Democrats understand that we must continue fighting to improve Indiana in necessary areas – areas that could make our state a more favorable place to start a family and raise a child. When Indiana is ranked 36th in the nation for best place to have a baby, we know without a doubt that our state is failing Hoosiers and that we must do everything in our power to rectify that.