Today was the last day of the 2014 General Assembly and there were several bills relevant to ISTA and teachers that needed final attention.
For most of the outstanding bills, the details were hammered out yesterday, but a few were open to further work today. Most notable, the INPRS annuity savings account bill (HB 1075), the guns in trunks on school property bill (SB 229), and the Preschool Pilot Program bill (HB 1004). Roll Call tally sheets on all of these bills will be shared when they become available on-line.
HB 1075 (INPRS ASA CALCULATION AND PRIVATIZATION)--As reported yesterday, the value of your lobbying work all fall and during this session came to the fore with an improved interest rate calculation focused in on those most near to retirement. If there was a doubt as to whether your voice was heard this session, that was erased when the Speaker chose to call HB 1075 as the very last bill tonight before sine die adjournment. All along, this was a bi-partisan issue and tonight's votes in the House and Senate reflect that: 89-0 in the House and 42-5 in the Senate.
Word in the hallways was that the Speaker himself (State Rep. Brian Bosma; R-Indianapolis) spearheaded the renewed interest in finding an improved calculation and ISTA certainly thanks him for that. According to the floor discussion, he worked with Minority House Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) to revive the discussion. The improvements would not have been possible without the mutual support of the President (State Senator David Long; R-Fort Wayne) and Minority Senate Leader Tim Lanane (D; Anderson).
As you may remember from last week's blog, a conference committee was convened to announce a formula calculation that would begin this fall at the 10-year US Treasury note rate plus 1.5%. Using current rates as a guide, this would have amounted to 4.16% (from the current 7.5% rate used). As presented last week, conferees believed that based upon the Governor's stance, no further changes would be acceptable. ISTA advocated for a better formula and asked our legislative champions to keep working on this bill--and then we asked you to take a moment during last weekend to make one final push with legislators and the Governor. ISTA cannot remember the last time that a bill as inherently complicated as this one had such universal understanding and awareness by rank and file legislators. That is all to your credit for telling your stories.
Under the enacted version of this bill:
- The annuity discount rate will be 7.5% through September 30, 2014.
- Beginning October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, the rate will be 5.75% (which is the highest proposed rate we've seen since early in the session when the House passed the bill out).
- Beginning October 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016, the rate will be the greater of the interest rate for similar annuities being purchased in the private market as determined by INPRS or 4.5%.
- Beginning January 1, 2017, INPRS will be permitted to outsource this work--which gives us all time to work this issue into the deeper future.
We all knew going into the session that the 7.5% was never going to be maintained. The goal was to get the best rate possible for as long as possible. The enacted version gives some degree of breathing room for those most on the bubble to retirement. Most importantly, the uncertainty over the terms for the immediate future is now over and if interest rates rise in the longer run, so too will the monthly annuity benefit payment rise. Every potential retiree will have to crunch his/her own numbers to determine what course of action is best. Everyone's story will be different.
ACTION ITEM: There are a number of legislators to thank besides the leaders listed above--and we know we will miss some, so please forgive. But clearly, State Representatives Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) and David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) and State Senators Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville) and Karen Tallian (D-Portage) were working on this from the very beginning (last summer). And Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) became a conferee on the bill just this week. His support became invaluable. Finally, and this is the absolute truth: Please thank your own state representative and senator for taking the time to understand this issue and for caring enough about it to repeatedly go to their legislative leaders to call for more work.
You can contact all of these legislators by clicking here.
SB 229 (FIREARMS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY): One of the more controversial bills this session, SB 229 authorizes a person who legally possesses a firearm to possess the firearm in a locked trunk, glove compartment of a locked car, or otherwise stored out of plain sight in the person's locked car without threat of having committed a felony. The bill further exempts from this authorization:
- any high school student unless the high school student is a member of a shooting sports team and the principal has approved the person keeping the concealed firearm in the high schooler's car on the days of competition or practice; or
- a former student of the school if the student is no longer enrolled in the school due to disciplinary action taken within the last 24 months.
While the enacted version is an improved bill over prior versions, ISTA opposed SB 229 as part of a broader coalition of stakeholders who regularly work with children or in an environment that is surrounded by children. One of the key points of opposition has been that SB 229 prohibits a local school board from developing its own policy with regard to regulation of firearms on its own school property.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 75-24 and the Senate by a vote of 38-10.
HB 1004 (PRESCHOOL PILOT): No concept enjoyed greater theoretical mass support than preschool. But, out of the gate, HB 1004 became a lightening rod of sorts primarily because of what became known as "SECTIONS 10 and 11"--which would have provided yet another automatic path to K-12 vouchers for preschoolers and their siblings. The most recent report by DOE on the status of the voucher program in Indiana tells us that an astonishingly 40% of current voucher students NEVER attended a public school first (8,036 voucher students of 19,809 voucher students). Without having attended public school first, each voucher directly cuts into the funds available for public education (period). It is that simple.
So for much of the session, the voucher "poison pill" language plagued HB 1004. ISTA opposed HB 1004 on a few fronts, but primarily because of SECTIONS 10 and 11.
ISTA is pleased to announce that the enacted pilot program does not include a voucher connection. That is not to say that in subsequent sessions this will not come back--but for this session, under this pilot program, there is no tie to Indiana's voucher program.
Under the conference committee report, the state will use $10 million in funds in the first year that had reverted under the state's Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and FSSA will administer the five-county program that begins this fall. An additional up to $5 million can come from private donations/federal funds. A preschool and early learning student commission will convene this summer as well.
ISTA supports this version of HB 1004. It passed the House and Senate by votes of 92-8 and 40-8, respectively.