Description: Affairs E-Newsletter

Description: IndianaStateHouse2


March 11, 2011

      The Indiana General Assembly has reached the half-way point of its long session, and some bills have crossed over into the opposite chamber. Intense and extensive debates have occurred on the floor of both chambers, covering a wide variety of issues. Among the most hotly debated legislation on this year's agenda are immigration reform, education reform, right-to-work and the smoking ban.

      During the last eleven business days, the activities of the General Assembly have slowed, due in large part to a walk out by the House Democratic caucus that started on February 22. On March 3, the remaining House members passed a resolution to compel the missing Democrat members to return or else face fines of $250 a day begining on March 7. The House took further action by pushing back second and third reading deadlines for the second time. The original deadline was February 25, but has now been reset for a second time to March 16.  The result of the walkout means that many important bills are stalled, including the biennium budget proposal, HB 1001.

Immigration Reform
Senate Bill 590 mandates various changes concerning enforcement of federal immigration laws, including checking the citizenship or immigration status of individuals by local law enforcement agents. SB 590 passed the Senate and is pending in the House. 

Education Reform
Many different components comprise Governor Daniels' Education Reform package. Included in Senate Bill 1 are four major segments of education reform addressing: advisory boards, charter schools, license revocation, and performance evaluation. SB 1 passed out of the Senate and has been referred to the House.

Advisory Boards
SB 1 eliminates the advisory board of the Division of Professional Standards of the Department of Education.

Charter Schools 
SB 1 provides that at least 50 percent of the teachers in a charter school are required to be licensed as teachers, or be in the process of obtaining a license (unless the State Board of Education waives the limitation).

License Revocation
SB 1 requires the Department of Education to revoke the license of a school employee if the employee is convicted in another state or under federal statute of an offense that is comparable to the felonies for which the employee's license would be revoked if committed in Indiana.

Performance Evaluation
SB 1 establishes an annual staff performance evaluation that categorizes teachers as highly effective, effective, improvement necessary, or ineffective. It specifies that a teacher rated ineffective or improvement necessary may not receive a raise or increment for the following year.

Charter Schools
The last element of education reform is House Bill 1002, which focuses on the expansion of charter schools and allows charters to opt into the state health insurance plans as can their traditional public school counterparts. It requires uniform and consistent transfer of credits for students who transfer from a charter school to another public school. HB 1002 allows charter schools to lease or purchase unused school buildings owned by school corporations.

Scholarship Program and School Vouchers
Another component of education reform is House Bill 1003. This bill will increase the school scholarship tax credit that may be awarded for donations to a scholarship granting organization. It allows scholarship granting organizations to grant scholarships, more commonly known as vouchers, to families with income not more than 250 percent of the amount required for the individual to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program. It also prohibits a scholarship granting organization from limiting the availability of scholarships to students of only one participating school. HB 1003 passed the House by a vote of 58-35.

Labor Issues
House Bill 1468, known as "Right to Work," addresses labor issues. Specifically, the bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor for an employer to require an individual to:

  • Become or remain a member of a labor organization;
  • Pay dues, fees, or other charges to a labor organization; or
  • Pay to a charity or another third party an amount that represents dues, fees, or other charges required of members of a labor organization; as a condition of employment or continuation of employment.

The bill establishes a separate private right of action for violation or threatened violations. The bill exempts individuals employed in the construction industry, employed by the United States, or subject to the federal Railway Labor Act. However, this was one of the bills that was a major sticking point for the Democratic walk out.  Most believe this issue is not in play at the State House.

Senate Bill 575 deals with multiple topics, one of which is teacher collective bargaining. The bill provides that the statutory procedures for refusing to continue or canceling a teacher contract may not be modified by a collective bargaining agreement. It allows a teacher who has been suspended from duty pending the cancellation of a contract to be suspended without pay. This bill passed out of the Senate and has been referred to the House.

Smoking Prohibition
This bill prohibits smoking in public places, in enclosed areas of a place of employment, in certain state vehicles, and within 12 feet of a public entrance to a public place or an enclosed area of a place of employment. This bill provides exceptions to the smoking prohibitions for nursing homes and fraternal clubs. Private organizations such as these are allowed to designate separate smoking areas under this bill.

The Senate has been trying to stay on schedule by assigning House bills to Senate committees.  The House has not yet begun assigning Senate bills to committees. So far, only two pieces of legislation have been signed into law by the Governor: House Enrolled Act 1450, which is designed to bring the state's Unemployment Insurance fund back to solvency by 2020, and Senate Enrolled Act 32, which establishes voting centers as legal options for Indiana counties.

What's Ahead for the Rest of the Session
It is uncertain when the House will resume its duties with a quorum of 67 or more voting members in order to conduct business. What happens when the full House gets back to work remains a mystery, leaving even the most seasoned statehouse watchers wondering if the 2011 session will end on time on April 29.

         As executives look to improve their standing with consumers, they also need to consider their role and relationship with government.  When it comes to providing services, as well as understanding the regulatory and oversight of commerce and industry, executives who run successful organizations realize the importance of having a proactive partnership with government.

         If you have questions about Indiana legislation, regulation and procurement opportunities and how they could impact your business, please contact one of the professionals in the Ice Miller Public Affairs Group.

John Hammond
Thomas John
Lacy Johnson
Mark Shublak

Practice Group Specialists

Lesa Dietrick
Anne Doran
Carl Drummer

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader must consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader's specific circumstances.

Copyright (c) 2009-2011 Ice Miller LLP and its licensors. All rights reserved.