Voluntary family leave insurance program

State Senator Karen Tallian’s (D-Ogden Dunes) family leave bill is heading to the Indiana House for further review. On Monday, the Senate approved SB 496 with a vote of 30-19. If signed into law, SB 496 would direct the Indiana Department of Insurance (DOI) to start formulating a plan to create a voluntary paid family leave program. By tapping into DOI’s expertise, Sen. Tallian hopes to design an affordable family leave insurance program that any Hoosier worker could buy into.

Taxation of short-term rentals

Another one of Sen. Tallian’s bill was approved by the Senate on Monday. With a vote of 35-14, SB 497 will now make its way to the House for further consideration. With the huge explosion of short term rental properties, like AirBnB and VRBO, it was necessary to remind property owners that rental income is subject to sales tax. This bill defines who must remit sales tax for rental properties but also gives a tax break to those who only rent out their residence for less than 15 days a year.

Workers’ compensation

Sen. Tallian’s workers’ compensation proposal was approved by the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee on Wednesday. This bill, SB 358, increases the benefits for workplace injuries for the next three years. These benefits are usually on a schedule for yearly increases, but recently, that has not been the case. The last increase occurred in 2016. Sen. Tallian’s goal is to make sure that Hoosier working families have continued access to the compensation benefits to which they are entitled. SB 358 will be heard by the full Senate next week.

Adoption subsidy payments

Sen. Niezgodski’s lauded adoption subsidy bill, SB 398, was unanimously approved by the Senate Family and Children Services Committee on Monday. Many adoptive parents have been asking for such legislation, which would require the Department of Child Services to provide adequate subsidy payments to adoptive parents. Since the bill has a fiscal impact, the Appropriations Committee would need to review it as well. Unfortunately, the chair of the committee, Sen. Mishler, refused to hear the bill by the deadline. Sen. Niezgodski is hopeful that there will be another opportunity this session for this proposal to still be moved through the legislature.

Lead testing of school drinking water

On Monday, State Senator Lonnie Randolph’s (D-East Chicago) SB 297 received unanimous approval in the Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs. The proposal would regulate the testing of drinking water in every school within Lake County. In the compliance with the national primary drinking water regulations for lead and copper, water in the schools would be required to be tested annually. Sen. Randolph’s proposal will now be eligible to be called before the full Senate and receive amendments.

TANF eligibility

The Senate Committee on Family and Children Services unanimously approved State Senator Stoops’s (D-Bloomington) SB 440 on Monday. The proposal would require the Division of Family Resources to amend the state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. Under Stoops’s legislation, the income eligibility requirements for TANF would be set at phased in specified percentages of the federal income poverty level. The bill would increase certain payment amounts for individuals and be annually adjusted using the Social Security cost of living adjustment rate. Sen. Stoops’s proposal would also authorize emergency rule making concerning payments. If adopted, changes to the TANF program would go into place January 1, 2020. Sen. Stoops’ proposal will now go before the full Senate to be further considered.

Right to use Lake Michigan shore for recreation

Sen. Tallian’s SB 553 is still waiting to be voted upon in the Senate. If no amendments are proposed this week, the bill should be voted upon next Monday. SB 553 defines the right for the public to use the Lake Michigan shoreline for recreational activities. Coupled with the newly formed Indiana Dunes National Park, this bill would cement in law the public’s right to the state’s lakeshore.

Grants from state disaster relief fund

Sen. Niezgodski has another proposal that will be reviewed by the full Senate. SB 513 increases the amount of money individuals can receive during a natural disaster. When a catastrophic event occurs in Indiana, Hoosiers deserve enough funds to be able to overcome disasters when they occur. SB 513 was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be going to the Senate floor next week for a vote.

Proof of identification

On Monday, Sen. Niezgodski’s SB 139 was narrowly defeated in the Senate Committee on Elections with a vote of 4-5. This proposal would have allowed public and private university students to use college-issued identification (ID) cards to vote in elections. It’s essential that the state’s students have the opportunity to engage in the political process, no matter which college or university they are attending. Sen. Niezgodski was deeply troubled that students will still not be able to utilize this convenient and secure method to vote.

Redistricting Standards

Two amendments were filed to assure that the voice of Hoosiers calling for fair redistricting were heard. State Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) offered an amendment to SB 105 to ensure that future redistricting would not favor a person or political party. State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) also authored an amendment that put forth the idea of a bipartisan redistricting commission. Both of these amendments were struck down by the Republican supermajority.

Driver’s license suspension, restriction, and reinstatement

State Senator Greg Taylor’s (D-Indianapolis) driver’s license suspension, restriction, and reinstatement proposal has passed out of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee with full support.  SB 210 would reduce the license reinstatement fees that individuals are required to pay in order to remove their license from suspension. It will now be eligible to be heard and amended by the full Senate.

Public transit funding

On Tuesday, Sen. Stoops’ SB 285 was approved in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee with a vote of 11-3. The proposal would allow the county council in certain counties to impose a special income tax to fund public transportation operations or a rural transit assistance program. The bill will now move to the Senate floor to be amended and further deliberated.

Senate Resolution 14

On Tuesday, Sen. Randolph’s senate resolution urging the legislative council to study issues related to the regulation of railroad crossings, was heard in the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee, but not voted on. The chairman of the committee, Sen. Alting (R-Lafayette) gave Sen. Randolph the opportunity to speak on his proposal, but stated, before Sen. Randolph began, that he would not be moving the legislation forward. After Sen. Randolph spoke on the bill, Sen. Alting implored that a study committee would not effectively address the problem, claiming that it would cost money and time that was not necessary. The proposal, which could have provided the legislature with essential information about issues with the regulation of railroad crossings, died in committee without a vote.