This week we paid close attention to 16 key pieces of legislation that were on the Senate calendar to be considered for 2nd and 3rd reading at the deadline for legislative action. Here are the proposals that have been approved by the Senate and are moving to the House of Representatives for further consideration, and a number of measures that have been halted in the legislative process:
Proposals Moving forward:
Urging the Department of Education to support teachers who teach a diverse curriculum, passes 40-9
Senate Resolution 17 would urge the Department of Education to avoid legal conflicts, intimidation, and dismissal of teachers who speak freely on subject matters in their classrooms. Senate Democrats are concerned that the resolution would provide protection for teachers in public schools who expose their personal religious beliefs in a public school classroom. The bill was approved by the full Senate 40-9 and now moves to the House of Representatives.
Precinct consolidation, passes 38-11
SB 220 would consolidate precincts in Lake County that have fewer than 600 active voters. Concerned about voter suppression and potential decreases in voter turnout due to polling place location changes, Senator Melton (D-Merrillville) offered an amendment to decrease the trigger for precinct consolidation from 600 to 500. The amendment failed to pass and the bill was sent to third reading. On Tuesday, the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 38-11, and it now moves to the House for further consideration.
Mental health education and screenings, passes 26-23
In 2015, 55 teenagers committed suicide, which ranks Indiana first in the nation for incidents of teen suicide. Senator Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) authored SB 435 to include mental health awareness in the Indiana health education curricula and establish a mental health wellness education program in Indiana. The proposal would allow governing bodies of school corporations to provide mental health screenings to students with written consent from the student’s parent in order to identify at-risk youth. Additionally, the proposal would require the Indiana Department of Education to provide schools with the resources on mental health wellness. On Monday, the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 26-23, and it now moves to the House for further consideration.
E-Liquids, passes 49-1
A bill approved in 2015 to provide safety regulations on the e-liquid industry wreaked havoc throughout Indiana as providers attempted and failed to meet the restrictions of the law. Parts of the act were deemed unconstitutional by the 7th Circuit Court because of regulations placed on out-of-state manufacturing operations. SB 1 seeks to correct current law by removing date restrictions and requirements for an initial e-liquids manufacturing permit. SB 1 was approved by the full Senate by a vote of 49-1 and now moves to the House for further consideration.
Supplemental nutrition assistance program and drug convictions, passes 34-16
A longtime Senate Democrat proposal, SB 9 would preclude Indiana from the federal law that prohibits individuals convicted of certain drug offenses from receiving SNAP assistance, beginning January 1, 2018. The proposal was amended in committee to include a statute stipulating that individuals receiving the assistance must pass periodic drug and alcohol tests in order to continue. Former Senator John Broden authored similar legislation in 2012, but it failed to make it out of the Senate. SB 9 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 34-16 on Tuesday, and it will now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Asset limitation for SNAP eligibility, passes 34-16
SB 154, co-authored by Senators Stoops and Randolph, would remove consideration of an individual’s asset value as a determining factor for SNAP eligibility. Often times, values of assets are not an adequate representation of an individual or family’s need. This bill would ensure that more low-income Hoosiers are getting the assistance they need to survive and thrive in their communities. SB 154 was approved by a vote of 34-16 on the Senate floor and now moves to the House of Representatives.
Prekindergarten education, passes 41-9
SB 276 extends the reach of the prekindergarten pilot program currently offered in Indiana. Originally appropriating $22 million towards prekindergarten, the proposal was amended in committee last week to reduce funding to only $16 million with $1 million allocated to a new online home-based prekindergarten program. Senate Democrats offered four separate amendments to rid the proposal of the online program and to increase the funding and eligibility of the program to expand the reach of prekindergarten in the state of Indiana but failed to garner support to get them passed. The proposal was approved by the Senate, as it stood, by a vote of 41-9 and it will now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration as a standalone bill and in budget negotiations.
Post-exposure prophylaxis reimbursement, passes 50-0
Senator Lanane authored SB 279, which would allow for reimbursement of charges for HIV preventative treatment for sexual assault victims. Current legislation stipulates that discretionary reimbursement be issued for the service, meaning sexual assault victims treated for post-exposure HIV have to pay out-of-pocket for the medication. This common-sense legislation would remove this statute, extending an arm of compassion to those facing already traumatic experiences. SB 279 was approved unanimously on the Senate floor Tuesday and now heads to the House for further consideration.
Mass traffic obstruction, passes 34-16
Last week in the Local Government Committee, members of the committee voted to remove all language from SB 285. On Monday, the Senate voted on an amendment to send SB 285 to a summer study committee. The Senate approved the proposal on final reading Tuesday with a vote of 34-16. SB 285 now moves to the House of Representatives.
Sanctuary policies and postsecondary educational institutions, passes 35-15
Legislation that would prohibit state-supported universities from enacting sanctuary policies passed the Senate 35-15 on Tuesday. SB 423 would expand current state law to include state-supported universities for purposes of enforcing federal immigration laws. The committee amended the bill last week to exempt students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. There are seven state educational institutions in Indiana covering 30 primary campus locations. Currently, no state universities have declared themselves as “sanctuary campuses.”
DNA for felony arrestees, passes 36-13
SB 322 would require every person arrested after December 31, 2017, to submit a buccal swabbed DNA sample. Senate Democrats believe that this bill is excessive and unnecessary, as there is currently no need to establish a medical backlog of convicted criminals. Still, SB 322 passed 36-13 and moves to the House for further consideration.
Abortion, child abuse, passes 36-13
SB 404 would require that an unemancipated pregnant minor receive consent from a parent or legal guardian in order to receive an abortion. SB 404 would also prohibit a person from aiding or assisting a young woman in obtaining an abortion without the consent of a parent or legal guardian, allowing civil damages to be claimed as retribution. SB 404 was approved 36-13 by the full Senate on Tuesday.
Indiana Housing first program, passes 47-3
In 2015, over 1,000 homeless individuals reported to suffering from a mental illness in Indiana. Over 1,000 also reported suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Senator Tallian (D-Portage) proposed SB 242 to provide housing and support services to individuals with a serious mental illness, chronic addiction or mental illness with a chronic addiction. Additionally, the proposal aims to provide support services and rental assistance for program participants. The proposal was approved by the Senate 47-3.
Enforcement of vehicle weight restrictions, passes 50-0
SB 295 seeks to void any points accrued by commercial vehicles for violations of commercial weight limitations under the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) points system after December 31, 2015. The proposal also prohibits the BMV from assessing any further points on these vehicles for violating weight restrictions. The proposal passed the full Senate unanimously and now moves to the House.
Proposals That Failed:
Senator Taylor’s bias crimes proposal failed to make it out of committee, so he co-authored a proposal championed by a Republican colleague. However, SB 439 wasn’t called down to the Senate floor on second reading Monday, its last opportunity to advance before the deadline. Senator Taylor will still push for bias crimes legislation to ensure Indiana doesn’t remain one of only five states without added penalties for bias-motivated crimes.
School calendar, fails 25-25
SB 88 would have prevented public and accredited nonpublic schools from starting the school calendar before the last Monday in August. Although the motivation of this bill was aimed at assisting rural communities where many students need longer summers to assist their families on the farm, it would have infringed on local government’s decisions and would not assist the many urban communities in the state.