[r22] Working for Indiana’s most vulnerable

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I consider it a great honor and privilege to serve the people of House District 22. Each session, we have a set number of bills that we can file, and I always want to author legislative ideas that will have the most positive impact on our state. One issue that I have had the opportunity to work on through my role as Chair of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee is protecting Indiana’s most vulnerable. I am authoring two specific bills this session that do just that. House Bill (HB) 1222, which would provide a state tax credit for individuals that adopt a child, and HB 1014, which will speed up divorces of domestic violence victims.

HB 1222 would do two things. First, it would provide an adjusted gross income tax credit for individuals that qualify for the federal adoption credit. If enacted, qualifying Hoosiers would be eligible for a state tax credit equal to 10 percent of the qualifying federal adoption credit amount claimed on their federal income tax return starting in 2015. 

This legislation also establishes the Interim Committee on Adoption, which would research adoption programs in other states and within the state, make recommendations for improving adoption programs in Indiana and report their findings to the governor and the Department of Child Services. The committee, consisting of nine members appointed by the governor, would review the relationships between state agencies and private, faith-based and community organizations in other states to determine potential ways for Indiana to improve its adoption programs.

HB 1222 hits close to home as I have adopted children of my own. I know the adoption process is long and expensive, and a lot of times that’s the reason why some Hoosiers avoid adoptions in the first place. There are so many children waiting to be adopted by loving parents, and this bill will help bring families together. HB 1222 passed unanimously out of the House and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.  

On any given day in our state, over 1,000 domestic violence victims and their children find refuge in our state’s emergency shelters and transitional housing programs. Unfortunately, those experiencing domestic violence may return to their spouses many times before deciding to leave the relationship. When someone does make that decision to leave an abusive marriage, the last thing they need is to be stalled in the judicial process and be vulnerable to more violence and abuse.

Currently, Indiana law prohibits a court from conducting a final hearing earlier than 60 days after a petition for divorce. This bill would allow the court to wave the 60 day waiting period if one of the spouses has been convicted of domestic violence. The goal is to simply help the victims of domestic violence through the divorce proceedings in the fastest, practicable possible manner.  I am committed to making Indiana a zero tolerance for domestic violence and this bill is our first step in reaching that objective. I am proud to say that HB 1014 was passed unanimously by the House. 

I want spouses to know that they are not facing domestic violence alone and they have a voice. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please seek help. The resources are there to get out and develop a better life. I will continue to stand up for those who can’t at the Statehouse and will continue to work for what’s best for Indiana.