INDIANAPOLIS-The 118th Indiana General Assembly is now underway. Committee hearings, the first step of the legislative process, take center stage as they begin to meet regularly with full agendas. Legislation must gain committee approval before advancing to the House or Senate floor for consideration by the full body. Establishing a two-year state budget to fund government services and schools will be the most important issue to tackle this session. Initiatives pertaining to job creation, education issues and child services will also be among top issues for lawmakers to consider this year. A total of 621 bills have been introduced for consideration in the Senate and 615 in the House of Representatives. State legislators will be reviewing these proposals over the next four months. By law, the legislature must conclude business by April 29.
Over the past several months, the State Budget Committee has been conducting public hearings to receive funding requests from state agencies and public universities. Committee recommendations will then be included in a state budget proposal, which must originate in the House of Representatives. Although the legislature will be considering a budget bill over the next few months, budget negotiators will wait for the next fiscal forecast in April to make final decisions on state appropriations. A few of the issues that will impact budget deliberations include funding for transportation needs, full day kindergarten and pre-school programs, higher education initiatives, and implementation of health care reform.
Health care reform
Several Senate Democrats rolled out a plan that would implement a state-based health care exchange for Indiana with benefits and coverage defined by Hoosiers. Included in Senate Bill (SB) 540 are three components that address both the exchange and the expansion of health care to working Hoosier families. The bill would also create a study committee under the Department of Insurance to evaluate the best options for essential benefits.
Senate Democrats host Latino Roundtable
Senate Democrats recently hosted their first Latino Roundtable at the Statehouse, which provided community leaders from around the state an opportunity to speak with legislators about some of the challenges facing the Hoosier Latino community. Education was a top concern with discussion focused on teaching English at an earlier age, establishing mentors for high school students, and breaking down barriers to a college education. Future meetings will include discussions on health care, the criminal justice system, and cultural awareness.
Members of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development have heard several bills including SB 120, which would require school corporations and accredited nonpublic elementary schools to include cursive writing in its curriculum. The committee also heard several hours of testimony both for and against SB 193, a bill which would require that the state Board of Education may not adopt any common core educational standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. In addition, the legislation would void any previous action taken to adopt common core educational standards. Both bills were held for further consideration.
Legislation that would tighten existing law regarding background checks on school employees has gained the approval of the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. SB 160 would amend current law to require school corporations to conduct a national criminal history background check on all job applicants. Testimony revealed that information received from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is updated regularly. (Current law allows for state background checks to be conducted, which are not as current as NCIC.) SB 160 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
Upcoming Senate deadlines and events
January 18 Deadline to assign Senate Bills to committees
January 22 State of the State Address
January 23 State of the Judiciary Address
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 http://www.billwatch.in.gov/, allows you to track up to ten bills and receive e-mail notifications only when action is taken on those bills.
Senate Democrats offer up-to-date information at http://www.senatedemocrats.in.gov/. Multimedia updates on the Senate's daily activities are provided at The Briefing Room and Twitter at @INSenDems.
Visit the senator's web site at www.in.gov/s47 and subscribe to receive periodic e-mails about action taken on major issues. Check out the senator's Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/senatorrichardyoung.
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. Richard D. Young, Jr., can be downloaded at http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_democrats/images/headshots/Young.jpg