State Senator Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond

February 6 – 9, 2017

Major deadlines are fast approaching for action to be taken on more than 1200 bills introduced this session. Legislation approved by its house of origin will advance to the opposite chamber for its consideration beginning in early March. Proposals approved by both chambers proceed to the Governor for final action. This brief summary focuses on some of this week’s legislative action taken by the Senate.

Senate committee action

The Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law approved Senate Bill (SB) 439, a proposal targeting hate crimes. The bill seeks to allow judges to consider imposing tougher sentences on crimes motivated by bias with the intent to harm or intimidate an individual because of certain perceived or actual characteristics such as a victim’s race, religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation. The bill was amended to include protections for public safety officials. Indiana is one of only five states without a bias or hate crime law. It now proceeds to the full Senate for further review.

The committee also advanced SB 15, legislation that would establish a hemp oil registry for certain physicians, individuals and caregivers for use in the treatment of children with intractable epilepsy. The bill establishes a pilot study registry for physicians who want to study the use of hemp oil in the treatment of intractable epilepsy, and encourages state educational institutions to research the use of hemp oil in the treatment of the disease. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) would be required to develop and maintain both registries. In addition, SB 15 provides civil, criminal, and administrative immunity for physicians in the use of hemp oil, and it exempts caregivers and individuals from criminal penalties for possession or use of hemp oil if they are registered with the ISDH.

The Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy received testimony this week on SB 364, a proposal dealing with child care tax credits. The bill seeks to afford some economic relief to working families for the costs of child care by providing up to $500 if the family’s income is less than $37,000. The bill provides that the credit would be equal to the lesser of an amount ranging from $50 to $500, depending on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, or 20% of the taxpayer’s employment related child care expenses. The bill provides that the credit would go into effect in 2018. The committee held the bill for further action next week.

Legislation authored by Mrvan, SB 435, would require a school corporation’s health education curriculum to include mental health wellness education. In addition, the bill provides that school corporations may provide mental health screenings to students, and that the Department of Education shall provide schools with resources regarding mental health wellness upon request. Testimony on the bill revealed that Indiana ranks first in the nation for teen suicides. SB 435 has gained committee approval and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Under an approved amended proposal, students would not begin school until the last Monday in August if SB 88 becomes law. The Committee on Education and Career Development this week approved the bill that also would extend the effective date until July 2018.

The committee advanced SB 337, legislation to allow for the study of ethnic history in schools. The bill was amended to make the class an elective course requiring at least 15 students to enroll to offer the course in a classroom or if less than 15 enroll, then it would become an independent study course.

Several bills have been introduced that take different approaches for expanding the state’s successful prekindergarten pilot program currently in place in five Indiana counties – Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh. Some lawmakers are calling for additional funding so more eligible children within those counties can participate, while others would like to see the program expanded to additional counties. The committee is hearing SB 276, which would expand the current program to five additional counties and appropriate $20 million for the program for each of the next two years. Further action on the bill is expected next week.

Senate approved bills advance to House

Certain companies would be required to collect Indiana sales tax on web purchases under SB 545. Approved by a vote of 42-1, this proposal would require companies who do not have a physical presence in Indiana that sell more than $100,000 in products or conduct more than 200 transactions annually within the state to collect and remit state sales tax. Testimony revealed that under the bill’s passage, the state could possibly reap close to $200 million annually in unpaid sales tax revenue.

SB 117 would require that each high school United States history course must include the study of the structure of state and federal governments. Students enrolled in this course would be required to take the U.S. Civics Test prepared by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. School corporations would determine whether a passing score on the test is required to receive course credit. The bill was approved by a vote of 39-6.

Despite ardent opposition, controversial legislation that would immediately waive 16 and 17-year old suspects to criminal court (bypassing juvenile court) who commit robbery of a pharmacy advanced out of the Senate by a vote of 36-12. SB 170 seeks to give jurisdiction to the federal court in the case of juveniles who rob a pharmacy and indicate, or imply, that they possess a weapon. Those opposed to the bill expressed concerns regarding juveniles being sent directly to adult courts.

Two bills affecting veterans gained Senate approval this week. SB 307, authored by Sen. Mrvan, requires the Department of Workforce Development to provide a veteran or the veteran’s spouse priority for placement in any federal or state employment or training program administered by the department, if the veteran has been honorably discharged and meets eligibility requirements. Current law applies only to members of the National Guard. SB 351 provides that a veteran who qualifies for a disabled Hoosier veteran license plate would also be entitled to receive a disability parking placard for inside the automobile.

How to participate in the legislative process

To voice your support or concerns on pending legislation:

  • Write a letter or send an email to your legislator.
  • Call your legislator.
  • Request to meet with your legislator.
  • Express your support on social media and have others join the cause.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper.

Upcoming Senate deadlines

February 23 – Senate committee deadline for hearing Senate bills

February 28 – Deadline for Senate bills to be heard by the full Senate

March 1 – Senate begins review of House bills

April 29 – Deadline to conclude business for this session

To learn more about bills moving through the General Assembly, log on to www.in.gov/legislative. Also from here, you can watch the House and Senate in session and committee hearings. Senate Democrats offer up-to-date information at www.indianasenatedemocrats.org. Multimedia updates on the Senate’s daily activities are provided at The Briefing Room (www.INthebriefingroom.wordpress.com) and Twitter at @INSenDems (www.twitter.com/INSenDems).

Visit my website at www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/S1 and subscribe to receive periodic e-mails about action taken on major issues.

Check out my Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/senatorfrankmrvan.

Personal contact with constituents has a direct impact on legislation considered and what ultimately becomes law. Use the following contact information to express your comments and concerns regarding pending legislation:

Mailing address:            Statehouse, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Telephone:                    Call direct:  317-232-9532 or call toll-free:  800-382-9467, ext. 2-9532

Email address:              s1@iga.in.gov