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It's a Wrap! 2019 Session of General Assembly Yields Important Wins, Missed Opportunities to Advance Prosperity in Indiana

02 May 2019 10:14 AM | Anonymous

This year, Prosperity Indiana saw some important policy wins, but legislators also failed to enact bills that would have propelled community development in our state. Here's everything you need to know about how we spent the last four months as your voice in the Statehouse and the work ahead to help more Hoosiers achieve housing and economic security!

(Note you can enjoy a more dynamic review of session work and priorities by checking out a recording of our April 24 Policy Update webinar, covering updates regarding state, federal, and administrative priorities)

Setting the Stage

This year was a long-session for legislators, meaning they needed to pass a statewide budget and adjourn by April 29. In contrast to the chaotic end of last year’s session, the General Assembly actually adjourned late last Wednesday, April 24.

House and Senate Leaders started this year’s session with an agenda focused on passing a balanced budget, making changes to existing workforce development programs, increasing funding for the Department of Child Services, funding for schools, teacher pay and school safety.

Governor Holcomb outlined his priorities under the banner of his Next Level Agenda, urging legislators to take action to increase teacher pay, pass an inclusive bias-crimes bill, expand broadband services in rural Indiana, expanding the Next Level Jobs initiative, and make improvements to the Department of Child Services.

Progress to Bring About Prosperity

Based on member feedback and engagement, Prosperity Indiana started session with an ambitious agenda focused on expanded tax credit resources for affordable housing and community development, working to enhance tenant protections for renters and expanding consumer protections to help more low-income households build assets! Thankfully, more than 30 members attended our Statehouse Day on January 29 to help build support for our state agenda, despite the polar vortex reigning subzero temperatures down on our state!

Consumer Protections

Bill: SB 104/HB 1098 Sen. Greg Walker (R- Columbus) and Rep. Carey Hamilton (D- Indianapolis) introduced a primary priority for Prosperity Indiana—putting a stop to the payday debt trap in Indiana by instituting a 36 percent cap Click here for our one pager with more details

Outcome: This session saw an important success in that SB 104 not only received a comprehensive hearing, but received enough votes to advance out of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee. Unfortunately, on the week SB 104 passed out of committee, the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee voted to advance a bill (SB 613) that had a strip-and-insert amendment that dramatically expanded high-cost subprime loans and allowed for auto title lending. While SB 104 failed in a floor vote in the Senate, SB 613, passed and moved over to the House for consideration. Despite intense advocacy efforts from Prosperity Indiana and a coalition of more than 100 faith-based, veterans and social service organizations, the bill was approved in the committee. Fortunately, our collective advocacy efforts were successful in ensuring it did not have the votes to be approved on the House floor! Click here for more details on the bill.

Bill: 1495: Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis), Ed Clere (R- New Albany), and Rita Fleming (D- Jeffersonville) Prosperity Indiana joined partners the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana and the Indiana Institute for Working Families to support this bill that aimed to provide greater transparency and modest guardrails to land contracts for homeownership. As this article in the Indiana Lawyer describes, land contracts can be a viable alternative homeownership model, but without any clarity in state law in how to treat them, we have seen large scale sellers churning borrowers in and out of properties who lose all of their investments along the way. HB 1495 would have required the disclosure of basic information about the property and loan terms, such as the annual percentage rate of the contract, existing liens on the property, whether or not seller or buyer will be paying real estate taxes. It also would have required an FHA appraisal to allow borrowers to know some critical information about the property. For our coverage of this bill on our blog, see this post: https://www.prosperityindiana.org/Policy-News/7291254

Outcome: While the bill passed the House handily, the bill passed the Senate by only one vote on the guarantee it would be sent to Conference Committee to work out differences between House- and Senate-passed versions. Ultimately, on the final day of session, the House approved the Conference Report, but it did not get enough votes in the Senate to advance to the Governor’s desk.

Affordable Housing Tax Credits

Bill: HB 1616: Rep. Jim Pressel (R- Rolling Prarie) would have created/funded two new tax credits focused on expanding affordable housing and homeownership for low-income Hoosiers, complementing the existing Neighborhood Assistance Program. Click here for our one pager with more details.

Bill: HB 1234: Rep. Jim Pressel (R- Rolling Prarie) also introduced HB 1234, a bill that would have created/funded a state Affordable Housing Tax Credit program. Click here for our one pager with more details HB 1234.

Outcomes: Unfortunately, with the state budget constraints, the House Ways and Means Committee did not opt not advance funding for programs beyond those identified in leadership priorities. Prosperity Indiana will continue conversations with House leaders about the scale of affordable housing needs across our state to lay the groundwork for increased funding in the 2021 budget session.

Renter Protections

Prosperity Indiana worked to introduce two critical bills aimed at addressing serious habitability concerns and increase tenant protections to help curb the eviction crisis in our state.

Bill: SB 422: Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores) indtroduced a bill to allow a renter to be able to get out of a lease if a unit was not habitable upon move-in and to update our notice to quit statute, that allows a 10-day window for a tenant to cure if they fall behind on rent, so that it would apply to all leases instead of just oral/informal leases. Click here for our one pager with more details.

Outcome: This bill received a hearing that allowed Prosperity Indiana to outline the scale of the eviction crisis in our state, but the Chairman introduced an amendment that blunted the effectiveness of the bill, so the language that was voted out of committee did not improve landlord-tenant law in a way that made it worthwhile to advance.

Bill: SB 524: Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) introduced SB 524, as comprehsenive statement on the numerous updates to our state’s landlord-tenant laws that are needed to bring about greater housing stability. The bill included provisions to allow for rent withholding, expand legal aid in eviction court, seal eviction records in cases where the court does not enter a judgement, limit security deposits and increase the timeframe for notice of rent increases. Click here for our one pager with more details. 

utcome: this was an ambitious bill that ultimately did not receive a hearing, but it is critical to our state to implement some of these changes and Prosperity Indiana will continue legislator outreach on the need and scale of the eviction crisis in our state to advance these goals over the summer and fall before the next legislative session

Successes of Interest to our Network Beyond Top PI Priorities

HB 1628 passed and expands the On My Way Pre-K  to be offered statewide while the funding levels would remain about the same at $22 million per year. Importantly, the bill removed barriers to enrollment in the program. Sen. Melton was successful in amending the bill to permit parents or guardians to qualify if they receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits to help reduce barriers to enrollment.

HB 1141 passed and addresses the traffic and license reinstatement fees, providing a temporary amnesty program where fees can be reduced by 50 percent so fewer drivers are forced to choose between driving illegally or losing their jobs, childcare, and education.

SB 111 passed and provides $100,000 in annual grant opportunities for community- and faith-based substance abuse programs. The bill also provides $50,000 annually to the community- and faith-based substance abuse transportation assistance grant program.

Legislation Dominating Headlines:

HB 1001, the budget bill for the year, passed with the following spending outcomes: $753 million in increased school funding, this includes $539 million in added tuition support, and $140 million for school districts to spend based on their priorities (with discussion focused on the need to increase teacher pay), and $74 million more for statewide grant programs, including school safety funding.

HB 1002- is a workforce bill that passed and would expand the eligibility for high school students interested in applying for new state workforce grants that will help pay for students to receive credentials in certain fields. The bill also prioritizes funding for workforce programs deemed to be high achieving and provide more resources for schools to partner with employers on work-based learning opportunities.

Bias Crimes- The Governor was active in advocating for an inclusive Hate Crimes bill, alongside Prosperity Indiana members and partners, and while SB 198 did pass. The language omitted gender identity from the list of protected classes, falling short of goal of human service and civil rights organizations that have fought for an inclusive hate crimes bill for years.

Gaming – HB 1015- A comprehensive gambling bill was passed to legalize sports betting, both at bricks-and-mortar facilities and on mobile devices statewide. It also includes payments to four cities in the state that anticipate revenue loss due to new casinos and likely authorizes a new casino in Terre Haute.

Prosperity Indiana
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Indianapolis, IN 46204 
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