May 3, 2013
Legislative Session Wrap Up
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
The 2013 General Assembly ended late last Friday, April 26 or actually early on Saturday morning about 1:30 AM. The session proved to be significant in that it was unlike the two previous sessions. The respective caucuses and chambers found ways to work in a bipartisan manner and accomplish much, depending on one’s perspective. From ICC’s perspective, as in most sessions, there are reasons to be satisfied and things left undone or not done well.
Medical/ Chemical Abortion issue was addressed in SB 371. Clinics who prescribe RU 486 or other abortion inducing drugs will now have to comply with regulations for abortion clinics that perform surgical abortions. In addition, other regulations will ensure that women are not left without proper support for follow-up care as well as restrictions on how and when these drugs may be used. An outcome may well be fewer chemical abortions in Indiana. Also, Indiana’s informed consent law for all abortions was clarified and improved.
School choice program was improved in several substantive ways. More students will have opportunity for school choice in both the voucher and the scholarship tax credit programs. Students with special needs and those who are assigned to an F school will automatically qualify for a voucher, provided the family meets income eligibility requirements. This includes students who are already enrolled in a Catholic school. And siblings of those who have received a voucher will now be eligible for the voucher also. In addition, current Catholic school families who meet income requirements are eligible for a tax credit scholarship thru an SGO. This could qualify them for a voucher the following year. There were technical aspects of both programs that were addressed also: The tax credit can now be extended into multiple years for those taxpayers that may need this. Also the DOE is required to process voucher program applications in a timely manner.
Undocumented students who were enrolled in a university in 2011 can now return to school and qualify for in-state tuition rates. SB 207 passed with strong majorities.
HB 1182, Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment form, passed with the support of all members. The bill provides better communication between medical settings and more consistent care for the individuals who are at the end stages of life. Those seeking the change in the law sought and followed the advice of the Church regarding end-of-life care and dignity of life and the individual.
Early childhood education was addressed in a modest manner. HB 1004, Early education evaluation program, passed but was reduced to requiring the Division of Family Resources to gather data about the school readiness of low-income children who have been in quality programs that require a parental engagement component. It also establishes an early learning advisory committee to report on certain issues. The budget is where pre-K matching grant program of $2M/yr. was appropriated. The tax credits for quality child care were stripped out in the final hours.
SB 305, Child care regulations, passed and establishes basic health and safety requirements for providers that accept Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), such as sanitation standards, safe sleeping practices, written discipline process, minimum age of 18 years to supervise, orientation, medications inaccessible to children, child abuse training, volunteer definition (at least 8 hrs. /mo.) and parental consent to transport children. The bill also defines conditions (imminent danger) for emergency action and specifies that the Committee on Child Care will study due process this summer.
HB 1494, National criminal background checks, specifies comprehensive national background checks for child care providers and the types of crimes that would prohibit a person from working in child care. This bill will require fingerprinting for all newly hired staff (and volunteers working more than 8 hrs. /mo.) beginning in July and provides 1 year for current staff to have the check.
Medicaid expansion was left to the Governor to determine with the Federal authorities. The outcome of the health care for poor families, mostly working poor, is uncertain. It is hoped that with some flexibility granted by the Federal program the Governor will find a way to extend coverage for these families. The attempt to lower eligibility for prenatal coverage was stopped. Mothers will still be eligible up to 200 % of poverty.
Approval of a process to allow residents of Central Indiana to determine whether a mass transit system should be constructed was again delayed. This issue has been brought to the General Assembly for several years. Another study committee will review and report before next session.
In the end the Senate and House could not agree on the drug testing for TANF assistance, HB 1483. The bill died as the author was unwilling to accommodate a Senate provision to allow a third party to receive the benefit when children were involved.
Thank you for your interest and support throughout the session. Now we will turn our attention to Federal bills regarding freedom of conscience and immigration reform.