INDIANAPOLIS—The deadline for committee action on legislation advancing through its house of origin is fast approaching. A great deal of public testimony has been received on issues regarding mass transit, Sunday liquor sales, local road funding and Medicaid expansion. This brief summary highlights recent legislative activities in the Indiana General Assembly.
Senate and House Democratic leadership are pushing for the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the new federal health law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the guidelines of the ACA, Senate Bill (SB) 540, co-authored by Stoops, would expand Medicaid coverage to individuals earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($14,856 for an individual and $30,657 for a family of four). Several hundred thousand Hoosiers would benefit and the federal government would pay the full cost of the expansion through 2017. In addition, the bill would create a study committee to examine the creation of a state health insurance exchange to allow individuals and small businesses to shop for coverage. Democrats emphasized that the expansion of Medicaid would provide approximately 400,000 Hoosiers with health insurance, generate jobs within the health care industry, and significantly cut back on the nearly $3 billion spent annually in Indiana on uncompensated hospital care. SB 540 has not yet received a hearing by members of the Senate Committee on Health and provider Services.
However, this committee did approve SB 551, which takes a different approach regarding the ACA. This legislation would allow Indiana to opt into the ACA and qualify for federal assistance for Medicaid expansion through the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan. Committee testimony on SB 551 revealed that it is uncertain at this time whether the federal government will allow this approach. Additionally, the bill was amended by the committee to require the Department of Insurance, the Family and Social Services Administration, and the State Department of Health to prepare a report for the Health Finance Commission by August 1, 2013, concerning the establishment and implementation of a state exchange in Indiana. The bill now proceeds to the full Senate for its review.
A proposal designed to protect Hoosiers age 60 and older from financial exploitation is moving through the process. SB 382 creates the Senior Consumer Protection Act and provides that financial exploitation of senior citizens includes control over properties or illegal misuse of assets through fraud, extortion or intimidation. Individuals caught committing these acts would have their assets frozen, be issued an injunction and have to pay investigation or prosecution costs. In addition, the bill authorizes the Indiana Attorney General to take action to protect seniors from dissipation of assets. The proposal increases civil penalty costs from $50 to up to $5,000 per violation. Violations of trust including spouses, children, and attorneys would result in stiffer penalties.
More flexibility for schools
School corporations would have the flexibility to pay for certain contracted services through their capital project funds under SB 291. The bill provides that capital funds may be used for security, trash and snow removal, mowing, and lawn and pest control services. Currently, schools use general fund appropriations to pay for these services, while capital project funds only apply to building maintenance, repair, remodeling and technology. Providing this added flexibility will free up resources from school general funds that could go toward education as well as security measures to provide a safe environment for children. SB 291 has been approved by the Senate and now proceeds to the House for its review.
Legislation which requires the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to disclose information about taxpayer-funded incentives is working its way through the Senate. SB 162, co-authored by Stoops, requires corporations receiving incentives to submit an annual progress report to the IEDC, which would include the projected number of employees hired, the amount of jobs actually created and an expected amount of financial investment. In addition, the bill directs incentive funds to be revoked if the company does not meet conditions specified in the incentive contract.
Local road fundingSB 440 recently received a committee hearing in the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy. The bill provides that part of the sales tax collected on gasoline is to be allocated to counties, cities, and towns for road and street projects. The allocation is the tax on that part of the retail price, including federal fuel taxes and state fuel, sales, and use taxes, that exceeds $3. The bill further provides that the money is to be distributed to counties, cities, and towns on a quarterly basis based on their proportionate share of local road and street mileage. The amounts distributed may be used for the same purposes for which money from the Local Road and Street Account may be used.
House actionAdvocates pushing for public mass transit in central Indiana have gathered at the Statehouse several times this session in support of legislation that would authorize a public referendum on the issue for Marion and Hamilton counties. House Bill (HB) 1011 would allow voters in those two counties to decide whether to increase local income taxes to pay the local share of a 10-year, $1.3 billion transit expansion plan. The bill was approved by both the House Transportation Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. It now proceeds to the House chamber for consideration by the full body.
Legislation that would allow for Sunday liquor sales in Indiana is most likely dead for this session. The House Committee on Public Policy recently heard several hours of testimony both for and against HB 1146. However, no final action was taken on the bill. Indiana is the only state in the union that does not allow the retail sale of carryout liquor on Sundays.
February 21 Deadline for committee reports on Senate bills
February 26 Deadline for the Senate to consider Senate bills
March 4 Senate begins consideration of House bills
For information about bills being considered by the General Assembly, log on to www.in.gov/legislative. From this site, you can also watch the House and Senate in session as well as committee hearings.
Stay informed about bills and resolutions scheduled for action in both the House and Senate with BillWatch. This free online program, available at www.BillWatch.in.gov, allows you to track up to 10 bills and receive e-mail notifications only when action is taken on those bills. Senate Democrats offer up-to-date information at www.SenateDemocrats.IN.gov. Multimedia updates on the Senate’s daily activities are provided at The Briefing Room (www.INSenDems.wordpress.com) and Twitter at @INSenDems (www.twitter.com/INSenDems).
Visit the senator’s web site at www.in.gov/s40 and subscribe to receive periodic e-mails about action taken on major issues. Check out the senator’s Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/senatormarkstoops.
Personal contact with constituents has a direct impact on legislation considered and what ultimately becomes law. Use the contact information below to express your comments and concerns regarding pending legislation:
Mailing address: Statehouse, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Telephone: Call direct: 317-232-9847 or call toll-free: 800-382-9467, ext. 2-9847
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: A photo of Sen. Mark Stoops can be downloaded at http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_democrats/images/headshots/Stoops.jpg