Final negotiations: Many bills approved, other still moving
While more than 70 bills have been approved by both chambers and advanced to the governor for final consideration, negotiations on other legislation will continue through next week. Final versions of each bill must be approved by a majority vote in both chambers by midnight on Friday, April 29.
The following summary highlights issues still before the General Assembly:
The Senate Republicans’ budget plan has cleared the Senate, with several notable changes from the House Republican plan. The plan, contained in House Bill 1001, now must return to the House where the author can concur or dissent on the Senate’s changes. If the author dissents, the bill will go to a conference committee where differences will be negotiated.
The Senate proposal spends $13.8 billion the first year and $14.2 billion the second year, with an ending combined reserve of more than $1 billion at the end of the two-year period. The Senate plan got a unexpected boost as April’s state revenue report indicated state revenue is now projected to be $762 million above earlier projections due to an improved economy. As a result, the Senate budget plan includes $150 million more than the House plan for K-12 education, some of which would fully fund full-day kindergarten statewide, provide top performing teachers with merit pay increases, and provide start-up funding for new charter schools. That funding, however, would only partially restore funding cuts made over the last two years to Indiana’s public schools.
State funding provides a variety of services. This chart shows how funds were appropriated under the most recent state budget, approved in 2009.
Legislation has been approved by the Senate to establish new boundaries for Indiana’s 50 Senate districts, 100 House districts, and nine congressional districts for the next 10 years. Senate Bill (SB) 256 includes the proposed Senate districts put forth by the Senate Republican majority. An amendment offered by Democrats including their proposed maps, which were based on a regional approach with an emphasis on logical boundaries and keeping neighborhoods, towns and other communities together, was rejected along a party line vote earlier in the week. Two other amendments offered by Democrats were also rejected. One would have allowed for the extension of the adoption of new maps to November to allow more time for public input. The third defeated amendment would have allowed the new maps to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice for compliance under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Acts of 1965 to ensure that minority voting rights are protected. SB 256 was approved by a vote of 36-13.
In addition, newly drawn congressional districts included in SB 258 gained approval by a vote of 37-12. Both bills now advance to the House for its consideration. The proposed House districts are also included in HB 1601 and the House proposed congressional districts are included in HB 1602. Those bills are scheduled to be heard in the Senate Elections Committee on Monday, April 25.
For more information on the redistricting process and to view the proposed maps, visit www.redistricting.IN.gov.
A contentious bill that would redirect state funds from a public school to pay for tuition and fees at a private school through a state voucher program has been approved by the Senate by a vote of 28-22. Under HB 1003, vouchers for students in grades 1 through 8 would be limited to $4,500 per school year. The bill also would limit the number of vouchers available to 7,500 the first year, 15,000 the second year, and no cap after that.
In addition, voucher eligibility would be limited to families with certain incomes. For families who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program (annual income less than $40,800 for a family of four), they could receive a voucher equal to 90 percent of the public school corporation’s per-pupil funding. With a household income of about $61,000, a student could receive a voucher in the amount of 50 percent of the school corporation’s per-pupil funding. Estimates by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency indicate this proposal will likely redirect $92M from public schools over the next two years.
The House must approve Senate changes made to the bill before it can advance to the governor.
One of several bills introduced this year to change how employees organize through unionization, House Bill 1203 would require all union formation votes to be done by secret ballot. The bill would eliminate the option for employees to organize under the traditional card sign-up process where employees sign authorization cards stating they want a union in their workplace. The bill would allow an employer to engage in a union organization campaign, as long as the involvement did not conflict with the National Labor Relations Act or another federal law or regulation concerning labor relations or labor organizations. The bill was previously approved in House, and approved in the Senate by a vote of 35-13. It has been returned to the house with where Senate amendments must be considered.
Similar language was proposed in a constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 10, which failed to advance in the House this year. In January, the National Labor Relations Board advised the Attorneys General of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah that similar constitutional amendments approved in those states, which govern the method by which employees choose union representation, conflict with federal labor law and, therefore, are pre-empted by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The Senate also advanced House Bill 1216, a bill that will raise the threshold for the application of the common construction wage statute from $150,000 to $250,000 for contracts awarded in 2012 and to $350,000 for contracts awarded after December 31, 2012. The bill was amended in the Senate to move language regarding union agreements for public works projects for further study instead of enactment. The bill now urges an interim legislative review on the use of labor agreements on public works projects and job classifications used in a common construction wage determination. The bill was previously approved in the House, approved in the Senate this week by a vote of 27-22, and will now return to the House for consideration of the Senate changes.