INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly has discussed several proposals to start the 2015 legislative session. State Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) has authored a number of initiatives, focusing on issues related to crisis intervention, public transportation and food assistance programs.
Crisis intervention teams
As many as 64 percent of inmates in local prisons suffer from mental illness according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). SB 380 would require law enforcement training academies to include Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training in initial training and in continuing education training. Currently many police programs do not have funding to implement officer training and by recognizing mental illness, officers could properly and more efficiently de-escalate situations. CIT would have to assist law enforcement in responding to crisis situations involving individuals with mental illness, substance abuse issues, or both mental illness and substance abuse issues.
Public transportation corporations
In order to provide transportation for more residents of Monroe County, SB 379 would allow the county council to expand Bloomington’s public transportation corporation to include the entire country. The two transportation systems are essentially competitors but working together to provide transportation throughout the county would hugely benefit rural and urban communities. The fiscal body of Monroe County would adopt an ordinance to impose a County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) rate which must be between .1 and .25 percent to fund the expansion.
Removal of asset limits for SNAP food assistance program
Assets such as houses and cars are considered liquidable and are included as criteria when calculating an individual’s eligibility for the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) which often disqualifies people who live far below the poverty level and don’t meet SNAP qualifications. SB 549 would require the Division of Family Resources to implement within SNAP an expanded eligibility category, which does not consider an individual’s value of assets in determining SNAP eligibility and notify the United States Department of Agriculture of the implementation of expanded categorical eligibility under SNAP. By eliminating asset limits, the proposal encourages Hoosiers on SNAP to maintain homes and vehicles and better pursue employment opportunities.
Renewable energy standards
In an effort to incorporate more sustainable energy for citizens and reduce carbon emissions, SB 378 would require utility to supply a certain percentage of its total electricity supply from renewable energy resources and would establish the Renewable Energy Resources Fund to receive penalties by those suppliers that fail to do so. The proposal would also require the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to adopt guidelines to assist utilities that participate in the Voluntary Clean Energy Portfolio Standard Program in complying with the new renewable energy standards.
Sen. Stoops’ proposal, SB 114, would classify the elegant sea lily (Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus) as Indiana’s state fossil. This fossil appeared in Indiana around 350 million years ago and was fossilized as limestone, a major industry in the state. Stoops worked with members of his district, including an Indiana University professor to draft the proposal.
Visually impaired preschool services
The teachers that currently work for visually impaired preschool children programs are doing so for free. SB 381 would require the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services (DDRS) to enter into an agreement to establish a partnership with Visually Impaired Preschool Services Incorporated to provide vision assessments and early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities who are in need of vision services. The proposal would make an annual appropriation of $500,000 to fund these services.
Indiana promise scholarship program
SB 513 would establish the Indiana promise scholarship program and fund for students attending postsecondary educational institutions to earn associate degrees immediately after high school. Currently, an associate degree costs around $2,963 according to College Board.
Designated wild areas
In the public’s interest to offer more natural recreational land, SB 548 would provide that 13 specified areas within certain state forests are designated wild areas to help eliminate a current logging issue. Certain activities would be prohibited or allowed within a designated wild area and responsibilities for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and divisions that manage designated wild areas would be established.
Elimination of property tax caps
Senate Joint Resolution 14 would eliminate the constitutional property tax caps in an effort to generate more revenue to spend in underfunded areas. Indiana property taxes are very low especially in comparison to neighboring states like Illinois. Sales taxes were raised in 2008 to compensate for these caps.
Tank registration and water threat minimization
SB 312 would require the owner of an above ground storage tank that has a capacity of at least 200 gallons and that is used to contain any liquid other than drinking water or residential heating fuel to register the tank with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). The person responsible for the operation of a public water system that uses surface water as a source of drinking water would be required to develop and maintain a surface water threat minimization and response plan under SB 312. The proposal would also specify certain contents that a surface water threat minimization and response plan must include and requires that the plan be submitted to and approved by the Commissioner of IDEM.
Sen. Stoops represents Indiana Senate District 40, which includes portions of Monroe County, including the City of Bloomington. For more information on Sen. Stoops, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/S40.