INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly has begun discussing proposals in the 2015 legislative session. State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has authored a number of initiatives, focusing on issues related to medical marijuana, minimum wage, education and taxes.

Medical marijuana

To allow those in need of medical marijuana for compassionate use, Sen. Tallian drafted SB 284 to establish a medical marijuana program and permit caregivers and patients who have received a physician recommendation to possess a certain quantity of marijuana for treatment.

Minimum wage

In 2004, Indiana families earned $50,683 on average. That number fell to $45,766 in 2012. Since 2006, Hoosier median household incomes have consistently been down year-over-year. Nearly 650,000 Hoosiers would be positively affected by Sen. Tallian’s proposal, Senate Bill (SB) 41, which would increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

Indiana EITC

SB 145 seeks to boost lower income families by decreasing their tax burdens. Sen. Tallian’s initiative incentivizes work by raising the Earned Income Tax Credit from 9% to 10% when families meet certain requirements. The aim of the proposal is to help put more dollars in the pockets of low and middle- income Hoosiers.

ADM for full-day kindergarten

Currently kindergarten students are counted as a half pupil for purposes of school funding when enrolled in a full-day kindergarten program, which is an important building block for the future success of children.  SB 40 would count students as one pupil beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

School corporation capital projects funds

SB 49 would make permanent the authority of schools to use capital projects funds to pay for the purchase, lease, maintenance, or repair of maintenance vehicles. Schools currently have to reauthorize every two years.

Environmental license plate fees

Currently, out of the $40 Hoosiers pay for an environmental license plate, $15 goes to the BMV as an administration fee. Sen. Tallian drafted SB 110 to cut that administration fee to $5 so that the rest of the revenue will go towards the Indiana Heritage Trust Fund (IHTF) after December 31, 2015. The IHTF provides funding for eligible projects dealing with state parks, state forests, nature preserves, fish and wildlife areas, and outdoor recreation, historic, or archaeological sites.

Unemployment insurance overpayments

Previously bus drivers received an unemployment benefit during the summer, but are now considered seasonal employees and ineligible for unemployment benefits. Bus drivers are being told they must repay the benefits they received during past summers. SB 111 would implore the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to waive the repayment.

Choice scholarships

SB 184 seeks to cap the unlimited number of Choice Scholarships that may be awarded per year at 20,000 beginning July 1, 2015. During the 2013-2014 school year, 19,809 vouchers were distributed totaling more than $81.1 million.  A cap on vouchers would increase the funding from the educational budget to go towards other pressing issues.

Employee’s right to scheduled employment

Employees affected by call-in shifts that get cut an hour before the shift begins or when they arrive at work would be protected under SB 416. The initiative aims to hold employers accountable for these hours by making them pay employees half of the unworked hours, as scheduled, if the employee is sent home, released from work early or the entire shift is terminated.  The proposal would also require an employer that fails to post a schedule or pay an employee for the unworked hours to be liable to the employee for the amount of the unpaid wages and for an equal additional amount as liquidated damages in order to help ensure workers’ expected wages.

Indiana health exchange

About 155,000 middle class Hoosiers would lose tax incentives to help afford health insurance through the federal exchange because of a lawsuit submitted by Gov. Pence and Attorney General Zoeller.  Sen. Tallian’s SB 417 would set up a state exchange in Indiana to circumvent the lawsuit and ensure Hoosiers receive needed tax subsidies.

Inmates and Medicaid applications

SB 418 is aimed at helping the Department of Corrections and local sheriff departments by pulling down federal funds to pay for care of prisoners.  The initiative would allow each to apply for Medicaid and receive more federal funding on behalf of an inmate who has been hospitalized for at least 24 hours during their detention.

Local government finance

School buses are the essential transportation mode to ensure students are able to make it to school. However, the local funds used to support school transportation have begun to see significant shortfalls. SB 505 would appropriate $100 million every year beginning in 2016 from the state General Fund to be used to reduce school corporation transportation fund levies. It would give counties, cities, and towns the authority to impose their own individual property tax levy for an infrastructure fund which would thus continue to provide children the ability to get to school.

Sen. Tallian represents Senate District 4 which encompasses portions of northern Porter County and Michigan, Coolspring and New Durham townships in LaPorte County. For more information on Sen. Tallian, her legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/s4.

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