INDIANAPOLIS-State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has introduced a number of bills to be considered by the 2013 General Assembly, three of which update Indiana's policies on funding for full-day kindergarten, worker's compensation benefits and the de-criminalization of marijuana.
Funding mandatory full-day kindergarten
Senate Bill (SB) 469, which would make full-day kindergarten enrollment mandatory not later than the fall term of the school year in which the student becomes five years of age. Sen. Tallian says it is time to require and fund full-day Kindergarten in a way that is long-term and sustainable.
"Legislators have made early childhood education a priority for several years," said Sen. Tallian. "But until now, legislators have skirted funding full-day kindergarten. So it's about time we take that step."
The state currently provides funding for half-day programs and does not require students to attend kindergarten. SB 496 will finally require students to attend full-day kindergarten prior to entering first grade and allow pupils to be counted as full students for funding purposes.
Worker's compensation benefits
Sen. Tallian has also filed a bill to increase insurance benefits for employees who are injured on the job. Worker's compensation is an insurance program in which employers pay a premium to cover benefits for employees in the event of a workplace injury. With worker's compensation, an employee gives up the right to sue an employer for "negligence" or "fault" in exchange for assured but limited coverage. Every state has some form of a worker's compensation program. SB 470 would increase the weekly amount of worker's compensation benefits accrued by an injured person from $975 to $1,170.
"The legislature raises the benefit level periodically, but this has not been done for years," explained Tallian. "Indiana now provides some of the lowest compensation benefits nationally."
Sen. Tallian has filled a version of this bill every year since entering the legislature in 2006, but the bill has never been heard in a Senate committee. She continued, "It's about time."
De-criminalization of Marijuana
SB 580 would lessen the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana in Indiana. Following extensive testimony and review during a 2011 study committee, the proposal's goal is to reduce criminal penalties for personal possession of small amounts of marijuana. The impact could also mean less state and local criminal justice resources spent on marijuana-related arrests, prosecution and sentences.
"We lock up our children. We give them criminal records. We waste valuable court time and a lot of state money to maintain this prohibition, " said Sen. Tallian. "As we all know, prohibition does not work."
The bill would make possession of less than two ounces of marijuana a Class C infraction, decriminalizing the possession. If a person possesses more than two ounces or has two or more prior marijuana convictions in the past five years, the person may be charged criminally, although, the penalties are reduced from current criminal statute. The also bill specifies penalties for driving while under the influence of marijuana and authorizes the licensed cultivation and production of industrial hemp.
"Whether we're talking full-day Kindergarten, worker's comp, or marijuana policy- it's about time for the legislature to seriously consider these proposals," continued Sen. Tallian.
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.
NOTE: A photo of Sen. Karen Tallian can be downloaded at http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_democrats/images/headshots/Tallian.jpg