Lawmakers OK college tuition, meth, voucher, drug testing measures

The Indiana General Assembly has tackled numerous topics as the end of the session looms and last-minute wrangling on bills proceeds.
Posted on April 19, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 19, 2013 at 3:27 p.m.

The end of the Indiana legislative session for 2013 looms and state lawmakers are scrambling to finish business, notably a two-year budget for 2014 and 2015.

That’s not the only thing, though. Here’s a glance at some notable issues facing lawmakers:

Tuition for undocumented immigrants:Senate Bill 207, passed by the Indiana House last Monday, April 15, in a 70-23 vote, was returned to the Senate with amendments for reconciliation. The Senate approved the measure 35-15 on Feb. 26.

The bill would let undocumented immigrants who were enrolled in a public college here as of July 1, 2011, pay the lower in-state tuition rate, partially reversing a 2011 measure making all undocumented immigrants pay the higher non-resident rate.

Among the contingent serving Elkhart County, Sens. Carlin Yoder, Joe Zakas and Ryan Mishler all voted for the measure. They’re all Republicans and Yoder is one of the bill’s co-authors.

In the House, Reps. Tim Wesco, Rebecca Kubacki and David Ober voted for the measure. Reps. Neese and Culver voted against it. All five are Republicans.

Drug testing of public assistance recipients: House Bill 1483, which calls for drug testing of recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits in certain circumstances, passed in the Senate 38-12 on April 10. It passed in the Indiana House on Feb. 25 in a 78-17 vote and now it’s the focus of reconciliation.

Per the Senate version of HB 1483, those suspected of drug use based on new required screening would be subject to random drug testing as a condition of receiving TANF benefits, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Those who fail could continue to receive benefits, but they’d be required to get treatment. Benefits would stop for three months if they tested positive for drug use, among other stipulations.

Supporters see it as a way of getting drug abusers into treatment while foes have noted few resources to provide affordable drug treatment programs for those impacted.

TANF is cash assistance geared to low-income families with kids.

All five representatives and three senators representing Elkhart County voted for it

School vouchers: The Indiana Senate approved House Bill 1003, which would expand the state’s school voucher program, in a 27-23 vote last week. Now lawmakers from the House and Senate are working on a compromise version.

The House approved a version in a 57-36 vote on Feb. 21.

The Senate version, scaled-back compared to the House version, according to the Associated Press, would let siblings of students getting vouchers qualify for the program, which provides public funds for families sending their kids to private schools. It would raise the value of each voucher by $200, from $4,500 to $4,700, far below the expansion proposed by the House to $6,500. The House version would eliminate the one-year period students must wait before being eligible for the voucher while the Senate version would axe the waiting period only for those attending “failing” schools.

In the House, Culver, Kubacki, Ober, Wesco voted for HB 1003 and Neese voted against it. In the Senate, Yoder and Zakas voted for it while Mishler voted no.

Methamphetamine: A measure tightening restrictions on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, key ingredients in meth, passed with strong support in the House, 44-4, and the Senate 91-1.

Senate Bill 496 sets annual limits on how much ephedrine or pseudoephedrine may be sold to individuals in a year’s time, 61.2 grams, among other things. The aim is to hamper access to the drug among those who use it to make meth.

All Elkhart County representatives voted for the measure but Culver, who was excused from the House vote. The three senators serving Elkhart County voted for it.


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