Monday, January 21, 2008

2008 Legislative session

Welcome to the 2nd edition of FV Indiana's Guide to the Legislative Session. This guide is intended to be a reference issue; in it you will find information on the budget process, how a bill becomes a law, definitions and translations of acronyms and information on the House and Senate leadership. If you are in a district with a new legislator, make the effort to introduce yourself and share your perspective. If your legislator is returning continue to build your relationship. Watch FV Indiana and other sources for action alerts as the session progresses. If you have information about the session to share please contact fv.indiana@gmail.com


How A Bill Becomes Law
Legislation 101 Any legislator in either chamber (House or Senate) can initiate a bill on any matter. The Indiana Constitution provides that all appropriations and revenue-raising bills MUST originate in the House. To introduce a bill, a member files it with the Clerk. The bill is first read to the chamber, at which time each member has a printed copy to study. After the first reading, the bill is assigned to a committee. On the next legislative day, the bill is read for the second time so it will be ready for action when it comes out of the committee. Much of the "work" on a bill comes in the committee. Members of key committees, and particularly committee chairs, can be very influential in modifying the language of a proposed bill and determining whether or not it advances to a vote by the full house. Amendments (changes in the original bill) or even complete bill substitutions may be offered by the committee that studies the bill or by a member from the floor. Sometimes there may be several versions of one bill before the committee can agree. If a committee reports favorably on a bill (a majority of the committee votes for it), it is returned to the full house for a third reading and possibly further debate. Most bills passed out of committee are passed by the full house, but they may be altered, sometimes dramatically, or perhaps not voted upon at all.

Parliamentary maneuvers are sometimes very confusing to spectators, but these rules help to maintain order. Sometimes a bill's opponents can use parliamentary procedures to block a vote on a bill they cannot defeat or amend to their liking. Assuming that a bill survives such parliamentary maneuvers, the vote is taken. If a measure receives a majority of votes, it is passed and sent to the other chamber for consideration and goes through the whole process again. The second chamber can amend the bill, pass it as is or defeat it. If the legislation is amended, it is returned for consideration by the originating chamber. When the House and Senate disagree about amended portions, the presiding officers of each body appoint members to a conference committee which tries to find an acceptable compromise which must be approved in identical form by a majority of both houses. If the second chamber passes the bill without any changes, it is sent to the Governor, who can sign it or veto it. If he signs it, it becomes law; if he vetoes it, the bill "dies" and would have to be reintroduced another year unless the veto is overridden by the legislature, which is rare.

All bills vetoed by the Governor are sent back to the presiding officer of the house of the General Assembly where it originated with a list of reasons for the veto. The Governor's veto can be overridden by two-thirds of the votes in each house. When this happens, the bill becomes law. All bills introduced in the current session, as well as their current status in the process and any amendments, can be viewed on the state website at http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo .

Take Action! Advocacy Questions and Answers

How can I take action on legislation?
1. Form a relationship with your representatives and senators by calling, emailing, faxing, and scheduling meetings to tell them about how their decisions on the budget and laws affect the quality of life for you and your family.
2. Consider focusing your efforts on key issues such as the Medicaid waiver waiting list, ensuring that any plan for full day kindergarten supports inclusive education practices or First Steps co-pay and cost participation concerns.

How can I contact my state representative or senator?
Every member has an email address and an office phone number at the statehouse. The most effective ways to communicate are by personal contacts, be they emails, phone calls or face-to-face meetings. Legislators prefer to hear from their own constituents directly and may not pay attention to mass emails or form letters, especially from people outside their districts. Many legislators even invite constituents with concerns to contact them at home or via cell phone. Information about legislators is available on the state website at www.in.gov/apps/sos/legislator/search.

How do I contact other state agencies?
The State of Indiana is found at: www.in.gov and contains links to all state as well as many federal and local web resources.

When is the General Assembly in session? The Indiana legislature is part-time and rotates between a four-month session in odd-numbered years and a three-month session in even number years. This year's legislative session runs from Jan. 8 through mid-March.

Stay Informed Groups that provide legislative updates and Action Alerts

Family Voices Indiana http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FVIndiana/files Click "advocacy how to's" file.

The Arc of Indiana http://www.arcind.org/legislative_information_page.htm Information on the Arc's legislative agenda and general legislative information including link to sign up for action alerts at: http://capwiz.com/thearc/mlm/signup/

Indiana Government http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo Session information including Bill Watch (information on bills, votes, resolutions, etc.).

Indiana General Assembly http://www.ai.org/legislative/index.html Indiana General Assembly website.

Indiana PTA http://www.indianapta.org/legislative.htm State and national legislative information from Indiana PTA.

Indiana DOE http://www.doe.state.in.us/legwatch/welcome.html Legislative update service regarding K-12 education policy provided by the Indiana Department of Education.

The 2008 legislative session is planning to focus on property tax relief. This is still something for families to watch because funding formulas will affect school districts and possibly other local agencies which provide services to people with disabilities. There are also several bills which have been introduced that could affect Hoosier families and individuals with disabilities. FV Indiana encourages its members to form relationships with local legislators so they understand how such legislation may impact you or a loved one. You can sign up for any of the legislative alerts mentioned in this bulletin, and/or Bill Watch. Family Voices will monitor those alerts and post any bills which require action by our members.

Who Are My Elected Officials?
Locate Your Legislators, Learn House and Senate Leadership and Committee Assignments
Visit www.in.gov/apps/sos/legislator/search to identify your legislators. You can mail and phone your legislators at the following:

House of Representatives
Indiana House of Representatives
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2786
(317) 232-9600
(800) 382-9842

Senate
Indiana State Senate
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2785
(317) 232-9400
(800) 382-9467

TDD Telephone Numbers
TDD (317) 232-0404
TDD (800) 548-9517

The Governor
The Honorable Mitch Daniels
Office of the Governor
Statehouse
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797 (317)232-4567 www.in.gov/gov/

Senate Leadership
Senate President Pro Tempore: David Long Senate

Democratic Floor Leader: Richard Young

House Leadership
Speaker of the House: B. Patrick Bauer
Republican Leader: Brian C. Bosma

2007 Key Legislative Committee Chairs House Education Committee Greg Porter, h96@in.gov Indianapolis

House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee Vanessa Summers, h99@in.gov Indianapolis

House Insurance Committee Craig Fry, h5@in.gov Mishawaka

House Public Health Committee Charlie Brown, h3@in.gov Gary

House Public Policy Committee Trent Van Haaften, h76@in.gov Mount Vernon

House Ways and Means Committee Bill Crawford, h98@in.gov Indianapolis

Senate Appropriations Committee Bob Meeks, s13@in.gov

LaGrange Senate Education & Career Dev. Committee Teresa Lubbers, s30@in.gov Indianapolis

Senate Health & Provider Services Pat Miller, s32@in.gov Indianapolis

Glossary Become familiar with these commonly used acronyms

Appropriation: a specific amount of money that is intended for use by a specific state program
FSSA: Family and Social Services Administration (in charge of Medicaid & First Steps)
DD: Developmental Disabilities
DOE: Department of Education
FY: Fiscal Year
HB: House Bill
HR: House Resolution
SB: Senate Bill
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Family Voices of Indiana will share advocacy opportunities and updated information on issues that impact Indiana families of children with disabilities or special needs.If you would like to receive notices,please join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FVIndiana
We're also on the web at:
http://fvindiana.blogspot.com/

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