[r53] Cherry Chat: Bringing Additional Relief to Hoosiers (2/7/2012)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Start Date: 2/7/2012
End Date: 2/7/2012

The Statehouse for weeks has been a scene of hectic chaos, but this week, it is a scene of mellow democracy. Even with protestors, walkouts and celebrity sightings around the city, we were able to pass some monumental pieces of legislation last week to bring true relief to Hoosiers statewide.

More specifically, we passed House Bills (HB) 1269 and 1376.

HB 1269, which I co-authored, would allow Indiana to remove itself from the federal government’s universal health care mandate—an issue I have heard a lot from constituents about. Indiana would adopt a Heath Care Compact or HCC as an alternative to the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and allow the state to remove itself from the existing Federal law.

The current Federal health care law will impact about 6.5 million Hoosiers and will come with an exceeding $2.3 trillion annual price tag. So we worked to find an alternate solution for the Hoosiers who don’t agree with a price tag of that magnitude or believe health care is a one-size-fits-all issue.

The HCC is considered an interstate compact, which is an agreement between two or more states that can be adopted as part of the law in each state. If it is signed into law in Indiana, it then has to be approved by Congress and signed by the president before it can be implemented.

Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas are included in the list of states that have all passed HCC, along with 18 other states who are currently considering legislation.

HB 1269 passed last Tuesday afternoon with a 61-35 vote. It is expected to be assigned to a Senate committee sometime this week for further discussion.

Along the same road of bringing further relief to Hoosiers, HB 1376 provides additional funding to state fair stage collapse victims, full day kindergarten programs, while also improving the Automatic Taxpayer Refund.

The legislation doubles the amount of compensation available for state fair stage collapse victims by raising the aggregate liability limit from $5 million to $10 million.  We understand that no amount of money fixes the horrific situation that occurred last summer. However, we needed to do what is fair and reasonable for those involved and their families to provide more than what is currently in state statue.

In addition, the legislation would also double the per student grant for full day kindergarten programs to schools by providing an additional $80 million in funding.

HB 1376 would also prioritize refunds to taxpayers and distribute these refunds fairly. Current projections indicate that more than four million Hoosiers could receive a refund of at least $50 each when they file their 2012 tax returns next spring.

Finally, the legislation would maintain the state’s commitment to send a portion of any “excess reserves” to the Pension Stabilization Fund to help pay teacher pension obligations.

HB 1376 passed out with a 96-2 vote and will also be assigned to a Senate committee sometime this week for further discussion.

If you wish to follow these two pieces of legislation or others, I encourage you to visit www.in.gov/legislative for the most up-to-date information. You can also call my office at 1-800-382-9841.

Session might have gotten off to a rocky start, but we were able to overcome and still accomplish a lot during the first half.