Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Indiana General Assembly is in Session!

While much of the news is centered on the United States Congress and the federal budget, Indiana’s General Assembly is currently in session, proposing laws that will go into effect as early as July 1st, 2018.

The Indiana General Assembly (IGA) is a bicameral legislative body, similar to the U.S. Congress. It consists of a House, with 100 members serving 2-year terms, and a Senate, with 50 members serving 4-year terms. A major difference between the IGA and the Congress, is that Indiana runs on a 2-year budget cycle. We are currently in the middle of our budget cycle, and so the IGA is in a short legislative session, running from January 3rd-March 14th, 2018. Although this is a short session, many of the proposed bills will have quite an impact on Hoosiers across the state.

One of the most important bills for those dealing with food insecurity is Senate Bill 11, “Eligibility for supplemental nutrition assistance.” This bill would remove a restriction that prevents certain individuals convicted of drug offenses from receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps). Indiana is one of only four states that does not allow these individuals to receive SNAP benefits.

SB 232, “Access to nutritious food program,” would establish a program under the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, with the goals of “(1) distribution of fresh and nutritious food; and (2) education in food preparation and nutrition in food deserts.”

HB 1285 calls for stricter eligibility and identification requirements for those who receive SNAP benefits or Medicaid from the Family and Social Services Administration of Indiana. The bill proposes identity verification at least four times a year, as well as work requirements for receiving certain funds. The IGA will have a committee conduct a summer study on these possible changes and their cost.

Other bills of interest...
SB 418, “Bias motivated crimes,” would be Indiana’s Hate Crime law. In response to events around the country and the world, it is time Indiana took a stand to protect those from being discriminated against for the race, religion, or sexual orientation. It would also require all crimes of this nature to be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This bill has support from the leading legislators and will likely be enacted.

SB 93 / HB 1390, both of these bills deal with fair and equal pay. These bills would make it illegal to pay discriminate wages, based on sex, race or national orientation for the same job. If passed, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission would have jurisdiction over complaints.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce provides a wonderful resource about the process of how bill proposals become law.

To follow current proposals and proceedings consider joining Ping the People. Receive daily updates on the bills you care about.

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