Only two weeks remain until the Senate committee hearing deadline passes. If any bills remain unheard by their assigned committees, they will effectively be dead for the 2019 legislative session. So far, Senate Democrats have received committee hearings for 18 of our bills. Here’s where each of those bill stand at this time:
State Senator Lonnie Randolph’s (D-East Chicago) protective orders and employment proposal made it out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary with a vote of 9-1. SB 16 would protect workers by making it illegal for their unemployment benefits to be disqualified when they have been discharged from employment due to filing a protective order. Employees terminated for filing a protective order would also be allowed to bring action against the employer. The proposal is currently awaiting amendments on the Senate floor.
State Senator Eddie Melton’s (D-Gary) tax increment financing proposal was approved with a vote of 35-13 in the Senate and awaits a hearing in the House of Representatives. SB 83 would allow a redevelopment commission to use up to 15 percent of property taxes to repair public ways, sewers, central water and sewer systems, roads, sidewalks and levees. This bill will have a great impact on the further development and upkeep of Indiana’s public spaces. The House will not begin to hear Senate bills until March.
SB 153, authored by Sen. Randolph, has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it awaits a hearing. The health facility employee criminal background check proposal would require health facilities to obtain a criminal background check for all employees. It would also provide immunity to employers who discharge a worker due to their criminal history.
Sen. Randolph’s fire protection district per diems proposal would raise the amount that a member of the Board of Fire Trustees could earn each day. Currently, a board member from a fire protection district can earn up to $20 a day–Sen. Randolph’s bill would raise that amount to $100 a day. SB 156 was approved by the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.
SB 182, authored by Sen. Melton, would give Hoosiers the opportunity to access their driver’s license on their mobile device. This legislation was first approved unanimously by the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee and further approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously. SB 182 is now eligible for amendments by the full Senate.
SB 210, authored by State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) aims to reduce the license reinstatement fee that individuals must pay to have their licenses removed from suspension. The proposal, which was unanimously approved in the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, has been re-assigned to the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy and is awaiting a hearing.
State Senator Frank Mrvan’s (D-Hammond) sex offender and child care services proposal has garnered a great deal of bipartisan support and was approved by the Senate Committee on Family and Children Services unanimously. SB 258 would make it illegal for individuals on the sex offender registry to work in child care services. This proposal is currently available for a vote by the full Senate.
Reporting on worker misclassification
State Senator David Niezgodski’s (D-South Bend) proposal, SB 289, was unanimously approved by the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee. SB 289 requires multiple state departments to report on how many workers are improperly categorized and how much money the state has lost as a result of this issue. Misclassified workers are ineligible for overtime and basic labor protections afforded to employees, and often find themselves underpaid. The bill now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
The Senate Education and Career Development Committee unanimously approved Sen. Melton’s proposal that would alter eligibility for the state’s pre-kindergarten pilot program. SB 338 would remove a federal requirement that mandates that guardians of children wishing to enroll in our state’s prekindergarten pilot program must be employed. This requirement bars guardians who are disabled or grandparents who care for their grandchildren and are retired from allowing their children to receive a vital early education. The proposal was reassigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee due to its fiscal impact and awaits a hearing in the committee.
Sen. Mrvan’s SB 374 would require children of veterans to maintain a satisfactory grade point average in order to be eligible for tuition and fee exemptions. It would also eliminate a former restriction that limited a child’s tuition exemption based on the percentage of the parent’s disability rating. SB 374 is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and The Military.
A bill to start solving some of the emerging problems found in the Department of Child Services (DCS) will be heard in the Senate Committee on Family and Children Services in two weeks. Sen. Niezgodski’s SB 398 will create an environment supportive of adoptive parents by requiring DCS to provide adoption subsidy payments to the parents of adopted, special needs children. With the large amount of bipartisan support it has received thus far, SB 398 has the potential to truly impact our foster and adoptive care systems.
State Senator Jean Breaux’s (D-Indianapolis) proposal to allow Medicaid insurance to cover doulas, or individuals who helped guide a pregnant woman through childbirth was approved with a vote of 10-2 by the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee. SB 416 was unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
State Senator Karen Tallian’s (D-Ogden Dunes) SB 496 was approved with a vote of 10-1 in the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee. This bipartisan bill directs the Department of Insurance (DOI) to develop a proposal creating an insurance program that would provide wages for working families who need to take leave. By tapping into DOI’s expertise, we can design an affordable family leave program available to any Hoosier. SB 496 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
SB 497, authored by Sen. Tallian, was heard in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. This bill seeks to define how sales taxes are collected for rental properties. More importantly, it would allow those who utilize pass-through entities, like AirBnB, to qualify for tax deductions. SB 497 is being held for further consideration in committee.
Sen. Tallian’s proposal, SB 498, was unanimously approved in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This bill is revolutionary — it would establish a paramedicine program, meaning Hoosiers who have limited mobility or lack of access to primary care would have the opportunity to receive medical help outside a hospital environment. By empowering paramedics to be able to provide in-home care, as well as make such visits billable by Medicaid, the state can limit the misuse of emergency services and save money.
SB 512, authored by Sen. Niezgodski, was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor. His proposal restores the ability for airline service employees to organize and manage their busy lives through shift trading. The ability to engage in shift trading is allowed under contract but it is not allowed for employees working overtime. A number of states have already made these legislative changes, so it behooves Indiana to be the next.
The Senate unanimously approved Sen. Melton’s SB 523 which would allow counties to establish a property tax amnesty program. This program would give taxpayers the opportunity to pay back late taxes without the added burden of high interest rates and penalty fees. SB 523 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. The House will not begin to hear Senate bills until March.
Sen. Breaux authored SB 621, which would exempt nonprofit organizations in Marion county from property taxes if their organization’s mission is bettering an economically distressed community. This proposed legislation was unanimously approved by the full Senate and awaits a hearing in the House. The House will not begin to hear Senate bills until March.
Senate Democrats’ Agenda Proposals: Where are they now?
The Senate Democrats’ SB 204 requires that insurance companies doing business in Indiana must provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. With all the talk in D.C. of removing this important protection, and court cases threatening to do the same, this bill would ensure insurance companies cannot circumvent the coverage people in Indiana need the most. No Hoosier, no family, should ever face financial ruin due to a medical bill. This bill has been assigned to the Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee and Senate Democrats are fighting to make sure it receives a hearing. Email the Chair to help this proposal get a hearing: Senator.Bassler@iga.in.gov.
Across the country, 33 states have taken the appropriate steps to legalize the use of medical cannabis as a treatment option for patients with diseases such as cancer, seizures, chronic pain and PTSD. Indiana Senate Democrats believe that Hoosiers should have the same access to treatment as Americans in other states. That is why we support Sen. Tallian’s SB 357 legalizing medical marijuana in Indiana. This bill is currently in committee and has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. Email the Chair of the Senate Health and Provider Services committee to ensure this bill gets a hearing: Senator.Charbonneau@iga.in.gov.
Our public school teachers are being drastically underpaid, less than any of our neighboring states, for the important work they do. It is long overdue to raise teacher salaries in this state, and Indiana Democrats are the only ones with a bill to actually make that happen this year. Sen. Melton filed SB 399 to provide teachers with a 5% pay increase over two years. This bill is currently in committee and has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. Contact the Chair to help this proposal get a hearing: Senator.Mishler@iga.in.gov.
There are dozens of other Senate Democratic proposals awaiting committee hearings. If there are any proposals you feel should be given a fair chance, visit www.iga.in.gov to see what committee the bill you feel passionate about has been assigned to and reach out to the appropriate Chairperson to voice your support for a committee hearing. The deadline for hearings is February 21, 2019. All bills not heard by this date are defeated.