INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly is underway and State Senator Jean D. Breaux (D-Indianapolis) has authored a number of initiatives that focus on issues including equal pay in employment, various health issues, and public safety.

Equal pay in employment

Senate Bill (SB) 71 would provide that it is an unlawful employment practice to pay wages that discriminate based on sex, race, or national origin for the same or equivalent jobs. In addition, the proposal would provide that the Civil Rights Commission has jurisdiction for investigation and resolution of complaints of these employment actions.

Testing for lead poisoning for children receiving Medicaid

After the high-profile lead poisoning events in Flint, Michigan and East Chicago, Indiana, Sen. Breaux authored SB 491 that would require the Indiana Department of Health to take the necessary steps to increase blood testing for lead poisoning for children receiving Medicaid. The proposal would require the department to prepare and publish a report of the results on the department’s website, and share the results with local health departments to improve treatment of lead poisoning. According to the Legislative Services Agency (LSA), only 29.5 percent of Medicaid-eligible children, aged one to six, were tested in 2012. Sen. Breaux noted that children in low-income, minority populations around the state are more susceptible to lead poisoning, and hopes that testing children on Medicaid is the first step to identifying where state resources should be sent to assist local communities with lead poisoning.

Handgun training

Under SB 123, a person who applies for a license to carry a handgun after December 31, 2017, would be required to first complete an eight-hour handgun safety and training program, unless the person is a law enforcement officer, a retired law enforcement officer, or an active or honorably discharged member of the Armed Forces. Additionally, the bill would eliminate a requirement that an applicant for a handgun license must inform the officer to whom the application is made of the reason the applicant is applying for the license.

Health curriculum

SB 66 would require the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Education to work together to identify and report to the General Assembly appropriate academic standards and curricula concerning health education for K-12 students. According to Sen. Breaux, academic standards and curricula for health education have not been updated since 2010.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) Youth Risk Behaviors Survey

In an effort to identify critical health events and youth behaviors in Hoosier students, Sen. Breaux authored SB 570 that would require school corporations and charter schools to administer the CDC Youth Risk Behaviors Survey. The CDC administers the survey to identify student’s risky behaviors – such as drinking, smoking, use of e-cigarettes, texting while driving, among others – and assists schools with developing school policies and programs to decrease these incidents. Sen. Breaux noted that schools can play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and help them to establish lifelong healthy behaviors.

Forensic treatment services grants

SB 389 would add individuals who are in the juvenile justice system as those who may receive mental health and addiction forensic treatment services. The bill would also remove the age requirement for eligibility to receive those services.

Patronizing a prostitute

SB 124 would increase the penalty for patronizing a prostitute who is less than 18 years of age to a Level 6 felony resulting in six months to two and one half years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Currently, the penalty is a Class A misdemeanor.

Marriage

SB 68 would repeal statutory language in the state constitution that restricts marriage as a union between only a male and female. The measure would also repeal language stating that marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana. This bill comes as a response to Obergefell v. Hodges, the federal Supreme Court decision on marriage in 2015 allowing same-sex couples to be legally wed in all 50 states.

Study of drug pricing and access

SB 69 urges the Legislative Council to assign an interim committee a study of prescription drug pricing and access to specialty prescription drugs. The bill also requires submission of a report and recommendations to the Legislative Council. Sen. Breaux proposed this legislation to help combat the large price increases Hoosiers have been experiencing with their prescription drugs and medications.

Consular identification

A consular identification is issued by foreign governments to citizens living abroad and is an official form of identification, but is not an official proof of address. SB 70 would require a state agency, political subdivision, or an employee of either, to accept a consular identification document submitted by an individual as valid identification in most situations.

Mental health loan forgiveness

SB 125 would appropriate $1 million over the next two years to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction for deposit in the loan forgiveness account to be used by the division for purposes of providing loan repayments for certain mental health professionals. Sen. Breaux is proposing this legislation to aid in the fight to curb the drug abuse and addiction epidemic in Indiana.

Availability of funds to the recycling board

SB 65 would allow the Indiana Recycling Market Development Board to make loans or grants without the approval of the governor and the budget agency, as previously required. It would stipulate that the loans could not exceed 10 percent of the balance in the fund on the first day of the state fiscal year.

Annual customer reports by energy companies

SB 67 would require public or municipally-owned electric or natural gas utility to annually report to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission certain data concerning customer accounts and low-income customer accounts.

Database of health facility investigations

SB 388 would establish the Public Statewide Health Facility Investigation Disclosure Registry to be implemented and maintained by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). It sets forth requirements of the registry and requires the ISDH to generate an annual report regarding the number of substantiated complaints. In addition, the bill would allow the ISDH to fine a health facility for failing to disclose information concerning a substantiated complaint.

These bills are awaiting committee hearings.