Our state is in the midst of a challenging time, with unemployment hovering above 8 percent and many Hoosiers hopeful that better days are on the horizon. The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus’ 2013 legislative proposals and budget priorities will reflect the principles of rebuilding our economy, our schools and our local communities. Below are a number of the key legislative initiatives Senate Democrats will carry in the upcoming session.
Providing our veterans with good-paying jobs and paths to successful business ownership is an important way of showing our gratitude for their sacrifices. Requiring a certain percentage of state contracts to be offered to veteran-owned businesses will help our veterans use their skills to create and maintain successful businesses. Senate Bill 271 is authored by Senator Arnold.
Providing employers tax credit incentives to hire returning vets is another way the General Assembly can encourage the development of jobs for veterans at a time the Hoosier veteran unemployment rate is 8.3%. Senate Bill 504 is authored by Senator Tim Skinner.
New hire tax credits for smaller employers would provide Indiana’s small businesses with the same tax benefit for new hires that is available to larger companies under the New Employee Tax Credit established in 2010. The proposed legislation would eliminate the 10-employee minimum qualification now required under the program, providing any sized business with a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the wages paid for qualified new hires during a 24-month period. Senator Taylor is authoring SB 427.
Indiana retailers, who employ more than half a million Hoosiers, are losing an estimated $2.9 billion in business annually to online retailers. The proposed legislation would require all online retailers with any presence in the state to collect sales tax, leveling the playing field for local businesses and providing the state with an estimated $200 million in uncollected sales tax revenue. Senate Bill 309 is authored by Senator Broden.
A “work-share” option is already available to businesses in twenty-one states. “Work share” evens out the economic highs and lows for businesses and allows them to keep workers on the job during slow periods. The program allows employers to reduce the workweek of their employees in lieu of layoffs. The affected employees receive a portion of the unemployment benefit they would receive if laid off. Senator Skinner is authoring Senate Bill 438.
Past credit decisions should not hold individuals back from gainful employment. Under proposed legislation, an employer would be prohibited from using an applicant’s credit history for hiring and employment purposes with exceptions for some careers. In a time of economic recovery, we should remove all barriers to hard working Hoosiers finding well-paying jobs. Senate Bill 299 is authored by Senator Greg Taylor.
Oversight of turnaround school management organizations will ensure guidance from the Indiana Department of Education to oversee organizations contracted by the state to take over underachieving public schools. The bill provides specific standards to regulate those private organizations contracted for public school takeovers. Senator Earline Rogers is authoring Senate Bill 426.
Making certain that Hoosier children attend full-day kindergarten will ensure our children receive an early education to prepare for successful careers in adulthood. Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, this bill requires a student to enroll in a full-day kindergarten program if the student is at least five years of age on August 1. Students in full-day kindergarten learn more in reading and math over the kindergarten year than those in half-day programs. They also exhibit more independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers and reflectiveness than half-day kindergarteners. Senate Bill 469 is authored by Senator Karen Tallian.
Access to universal pre-kindergarten means Hoosier children would have the opportunity to score higher on achievement tests, graduate from high school at a higher rate and be more likely to attend college than students who don’t have access to pre-k. This bill requires Indiana Department of Education to establish standards, requirements, and guidelines for approving preschool education programs for children four years of age. Senator Greg Taylor is authoring Senate Bill 602.
Military medics return with vast practical experience and training in emergency response. Requiring them to go through emergency medical response training upon returning is duplicative and creates a time lag in allowing vets to immediately begin working. Senate Bill 290, authored by Senator Lindel Hume, would allow medics to test-into emergency response licensure and begin working while obtaining full licensure.
A Combat to College program would provide veterans with the opportunity to have military education count towards college credits, have academic counseling, and access to job search assistance to ensure they receive the best, most efficient education needed to acquire work. Senate Bill 410 is authored by Senator Richard Young.
A revolving loan fund would provide low interest loans to counties and municipalities for certain construction projects, including construction of a bridge, culvert, highway, road, or street. The quality and maintenance of Indiana roads, bridges, and other infrastructure is paramount to the state’s economic vitality and quality of life. Senator Skinner is authoring SB 150.
Diverting a portion of the gas tax to locals would provide counties, cities, and towns the funding and flexibility needed to progress on road and streets projects. Less money is being devoted to local roads, and the results are evident around the state with crumbling asphalt, closed bridges, and rural roads turned back to gravel. Senator Skinner is authoring SB 440, SB 441, and SB 505.