Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Indiana's 2010 Legislative Session

Welcome to the 4th edition of FV Indiana's Guide to the Legislative Session. This year brings a "short session" with the session that began today, January 5, 2010 ending no later than March 14, 2010. The current recession will create significant stresses on resources and limit which issues are addressed during the session. This session provides many opportunities for Families to be involved, share your experience and build relationships with legislators that will impact current and future decisions. This guide is intended to be a reference issue; in it you will find information on how a bill becomes a law, definitions and translations of acronyms and information on the House and Senate leadership. We encourage you to contact your legislator, make the effort to introduce yourself , share your perspective and continue to build a 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?year=2010&session=1&request=all

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 plans for K-12 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 http://www.in.gov/apps/sos/legislator/search/

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

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
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797

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 2009 General Assembly convened on Jan. 5th and will end no later than March 14th.

Stay Informed
Groups that provide legislative updates and Action Alerts
Family Voices Indiana

The ARC of Indiana
Information on the ARC's legislative agenda and general legislative information including link to sign up for action alerts.

Indiana Government
Session information including Bill Watch (information on bills, votes, resolutions, etc.).

Indiana General Assembly
Indiana General Assembly website.

Indiana PTA
State and national legislative information from Indiana PTA.

Indiana DOE
Legislative update service regarding K-12 education policy provided by the Indiana Department of Education.

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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