Numerous proposals are receiving committee hearings and advancing through the legislative process. Priorities this session include establishing a new two-year state budget plan (House Bill (HB) 1001), and developing a long-term funding plan to support the state’s road and infrastructure needs (HB 1002). Both bills are currently under negotiations in the House of Representatives. The following brief synopsis recaps some of this week’s action taken by the Senate.

Senate committee action

Senator Mrvan serves on the Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Military. The committee heard several bills this week including:

  • Senate Bill (SB) 382 provides that driver’s licenses and permits and state identification cards for certain veterans and surviving spouses shall be issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) without charge. Testimony revealed that having the BMV maintain a database of discounted licenses to veterans would assist the Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs to proactively seek out veterans who have earned benefits. The bill was held for further action next week.
  • SB 307 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 from service and meets eligibility requirements. Current law applies only to members of the National Guard. The bill gained committee approval and proceeds to the full Senate.
  • 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. The bill passed unanimously and proceeds to the full Senate.

Senator Mrvan also serves on the Committee on Family and Children Services, which received testimony this week on a bill he authored – SB 435. This proposal would require a school corporation’s health education curriculum to include mental health wellness education. In addition, the bill provides that the governing body of a school corporation may provide mental health screenings to students, and that the Department of Education shall provide a school corporation with resources regarding mental health wellness upon request by a school corporation. Testimony on the bill revealed that Indiana ranks first in the nation for teen suicides. The bill gained approval and now proceeds to the full Senate for its review.

Several bills have been introduced this session that take different approaches to expanding the state’s 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 on Education and Career Development, of which Mrvan is a member, 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. The bill is still under committee review. Indiana is just one of 10 states that does not invest in fully-funded prekindergarten, an investment that has a $4 return for every public dollar invested.

Education bills approved by Senate

  • SB 87 would require schools to include cursive writing in the curriculum. Supporters believe all students should know how to sign their name and be able to read cursive writing. Opponents argue that this decision should be made on the local level. Cursive writing was removed from school curriculums in 2012. The bill was approved by a vote of 34-14 and advances to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
  • SB 29 would require schools to provide an elective course on Indiana studies. Approved by a vote of 47-3, this proposal proceeds to the House for its review.

The Committee on Civil Law made significant changes to SB 60, a bill that would increase the salaries of state officers. The bill would tie the salaries of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor of State, Treasurer of State, Attorney General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction to the salary paid to Marion County circuit court judges. Currently, these circuit court judges earn $141,311 annually. After much debate, the committee amended the bill to request only a review of state officer salaries by an appropriate summer study committee. The amended bill now proceeds to the full Senate.

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 by the General Assembly and what ultimately becomes state law. Please contact me to express your concerns regarding pending legislation or if I can be of assistance.