This session, 16 legislative items were introduced in the Senate that would directly impact veterans and their families in our state. These items range from resolutions promoting programs for veterans, to tax credits for veterans and those who rent homes to them, as well as allowing access to medical marijuana. This legislative session only three items were approved by the full Senate; Senate Bill (SB) 96, SB 262, and Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 4. These three items have passed the House of Representatives, and the two bills have now moved onto the governor as Senate Enrolled Acts.

Senate Bill 96 extends the Veterans Pilot Program through 2020, which offers medical treatments for veterans. This program provides assistance for certain health care professionals to provide diagnostic testing and hyperbaric oxygen treatment to veterans. The current program expires in 2019. Along with the extension, the bill required the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with the State Department of Health, to give a final report to the governor, and relevant legislative leaders. State Senators Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) and Senator David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) are co-authors of SB 96. The bill passed both the House and the Senate and has moved onto the governor, eligible for passage.

Senate Bill 426, authored by State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary), would have provided that a disabled veteran wouldn’t be charged for a fee for a Golden Hoosier Passport, which allows unlimited access to state parks and other Department of Natural Resources properties. SB 426 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 437, authored by State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), would have provided a tax credit for small businesses employing an individual who is receiving unemployment benefits and returning from military service who qualifies as a new employee. SB 437 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 authored by State Senator David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) honored the work of the United Association of Union Plumbers, Pipefitters, Welders, Sprinklefitters, and Service Techs of the United States and Canada on their Veterans in Piping Program (VIP). This program, which is offered on eight military bases, and lasts 18-weeks, gives active military the skills to transition into a career in this field. While the program has been active for many years, Senator Niezgodski used this platform to raise awareness for the program. Senators Tim Lanane (D-Anderson), Karen Tallian (D-Portage) and Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) were added as co-authors to the resolution that passed out of the Senate with a voice vote.

Senate Bill 307 authored by State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage), would have established a medical marijuana program which permits caregivers and patients with recommendations from physicians to possess a certain quantity of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions The bill would have established a specific state agency to oversee the program, and review its overall effectiveness. The bill would have helped Hoosier veterans, who have made it clear that medical marijuana is an important alternative to the opioids which are provided by the VA. This is the 8th consecutive year that Sen. Tallian has offered legislation to reform the medical marijuana laws in Indiana. SB 307 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 343 authored by State Senator Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) would have changed the standards for eligibility for children of veterans to receive tuition and fee exemption. This bill aimed to make college a more affordable option for children of veterans. SB 343 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 344 authored by State Senator Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) would have created a scratch-off lottery game to benefit Indiana veterans by giving a portion of the profit from those tickets into the Veterans Homelessness Assistance Fund. This bill would have also established the aforementioned fund. SB 344 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 262 requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to give a disabled Hoosier veteran a permanent disabled placard when requested. State Senators Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) is a co-author of SB 262. The bill has been signed by the governor and now goes into law.

Senate Bill 104 would have established a veterans court fund aimed at assisting and funding veterans courts around the state. It also encouraged the creation of a study committee on the topics of funding more veterans courts throughout Indiana and the current funding of existing veterans courts in Indiana. Veterans courts allow for a treatment style approach to crimes committed by veterans, with the understanding that many veterans are afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and other diseases which can be the root of their committed crime. The veterans courts use this as a way to help correct the problem upstream, rather than handing out punishments which may only further debilitate the veteran. SB 104 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 198 would have allowed nonresident, disabled veterans to get a hunting and fishing license at the same cost as an in-state license, for use at certain veterans events. SB 198 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 204 would have ensured that state educational institutions give students who are members of the Indiana National Guard or in the army reserves a tuition refund or credit for the academic term they missed or the option to re-enroll in the courses which they were not able to complete because of active duty status. SB 204 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 253 would have created a registry of private employers, local units of government, and labor unions in Indiana who have a voluntary veterans’ preference employment policy through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. This bill would have allowed veterans to make informed decisions about where to apply for work after service. SB 253 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 283 would have provided tax credits for veterans residing in Indiana, and would have required the Veterans Affairs Commission to work to recruit active military during the last six months of their military service to live and work in Indiana. SB 283 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 396 would have given a property tax deduction for veterans who are individually unemployable, as well as provided property tax deductions for the spouse of an individual who died while serving in the military or naval forces of the United States. SB 396 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 403 would have required that each state agency review veterans’ programs which are administered by the respective agency and adopt emergency rules for any programs that don’t currently have them implemented. SB 403 failed to receive a committee hearing.

Senate Bill 414 would have given landlords of a veteran a property tax deduction. SB 414 failed to receive a committee hearing.