INDIANAPOLIS –State Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) has authored numerous initiatives this session focusing on employment for people with disabilities, public transit funding and the establishment of a voluntary pre-kindergarten fund, which has been successful in the five counties where a pilot program already exists.

 

Voluntary pre-kindergarten program

Studies show that pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) programs are vital for the educational development of children. However, Indiana is one of only 10 states that does not have a fully-funded Pre-K program. Senate Bill (SB) 325 would establish a voluntary Pre-K program and fund using state tax dollars to fund a high-quality program. Currently, a Pre-K Pilot Program implemented in 2014, covers only five counties and does not accommodate all eligible children in those counties.

 

Employment of individuals with disabilities

Indiana’s Commission on Rehabilitation Services aids individuals with disabilities in securing and retaining employment. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is over 70 percent. SB 390 seeks to change the priority for state funding to promote full time employment options and support throughout the state, rather than placing emphasis on segregated workshops.

 

Local public transit funding

Senate Bill 371 would permit Monroe County to expand public transportation within the county for seniors, workers, and students who don’t have access to reliable transportation with the creation of a local income tax levy. The new rate must be at least .1 percent or 10 cents per $100 earned, and could not exceed .25 percent or 25 cents for each $100 earned. Sen. Stoops is authoring an additional bill, SB 391, which would allow all Indiana county councils to authorize an income tax levy for public transportation. The General Assembly must grant permission before counties can authorize new local income taxes.

 

Presumption of parenthood

SB 393 establishes the status of motherhood for both members of a female same-sex couple with children. Under SB 393, the wife of the biological mother of a child would also be the child’s mother. The child must be born while the women were married to each other, or born no more than 300 days after the dissolution of a marriage.

 

Cost-benefit analysis of state forest logging

Recent industrial logging in Southern Indiana’s state forests has generated considerable debate. SB 394 requires the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to prepare and publish a cost-benefit analysis concerning the harvesting and sale of timber from state forests. DNR would be required to publish the report and make it available for review on its website for a minimum of 30 days.

 

Eligibility for childcare voucher

Monthly child care expenses comprise a sizeable expense for Hoosier families. The federal government assists working families in covering the costs for quality child care through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) voucher program. SB 369 increases the maximum household income to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or 85 percent of the state’s median income. Currently, families lose eligibility for CCDF vouchers when household income surpasses 170 percent FPL. Under current rules a family of four would lose CCDF funding if their income exceeds $41,310. Under SB 369 the same family would qualify for CCDF until their household income exceeded $75,216.

 

Indiana earned income tax credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an anti-poverty tool used by the state and federal government to help ease tax burdens on low-income, working families. Indiana’s EITC is a fixed percentage of the tax payer’s federal EITC amount. SB 370 would raise the current state EITC from nine percent to 10 percent.

 

Emergency medication in schools

Current Indiana law allows for schools and school corporations to store and fill prescriptions for epinephrine. SB 392 expands the definition of “emergency medication” to include epinephrine, albuterol, and naloxone. The bill provides for certain immunities from liability and requires the school nurse or school employee to file a report with the Indiana Department of Education each time emergency medication is administered.

 

Indiana’s electoral vote

The Constitution of the United States calls for the president to be elected by electors and not directly by individual voters. Under provisions in SB 372, Indiana would enter into an agreement with other states to cast electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, and not the popular vote of individual states. The language would not become binding until enough states, constituting a majority of electoral votes, join Indiana.

 

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Sen. Stoops represents Indiana Senate District 40 which encompasses Bloomington and Monroe County. For more information on Sen. Stoops, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit https://www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/S40.

A photo of Sen. Stoops is available at: https://www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/16731816417_b9ac7cdb9c_o.jpg