The Indiana A&O Network policy team worked on three pieces of legislation this session. The first, a proposal to eliminate asset limits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was introduced by Senator Vaneta Becker as Senate Bill 377. Several members of The Network and the broader human services community worked in support of this bill, including Prosperity Indiana, Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF), representing Indiana Community Action Association (INCAA), Indiana Association of United Ways (IAUW), and Feeding Indiana's Hungry. The unanimous bill passed its first hurdle, the Senate Family and Children's Affairs Committee, but unfortunately moved no further. It was recommitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee where it was not given a hearing.
The second item the team worked on included reforms and an expansion of Indiana's Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. Senate Bill 325, authored by Senator Mark Messmer, expands program eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and allows participants to use savings for owner occupied rehab, as well as vehicle purchase. Again, several advocates worked on this issue, including Prosperity Indiana, IIWF, INCAA, IAUW, as well as a local community action agency Tri-Cap, which came to the hearing to testify and share client testimonials. SB 325 enjoyed unanimous support all the way through the legislative process and has been signed by the Governor.
The final item was an issue the policy team opposed. House Bill 1340, authored by Representative. Woody Burton, started in the House as a new payday loan product. INCAA's public policy consultant Kathy Williams and The Network team worked together to assemble a broad-based coalition of opposition that included the faith community and veteran's groups. This opposition and an overall unease around the new product terms compelled the House Committee to amend the bill and send it to a summer study committee.
On the Senate side, an amendment was brought to committee by the chair, Senator Holdman, to once again create a new payday loan product, this time with slightly better terms. The product would have still allowed very low-income people to borrow $1,000 over six months at somewhere between 180-240% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). The rate is noted because interpretations of the language differed. The Network team met one-on-one with most of the committee to discuss concerns. Many people in opposition came to testify against the bill. The amendment was defeated by a 6-2 vote, leaving the bill as it was – a study committee on payday lending. The Indiana A&O Network will be prepared to participate in the study if it takes place, however; we do not expect the study to be assigned.