Indiana saw its
lowest voter turnout in the 2014 mid-term elections with about 28 percent of
voters going to the polls, one of the bottom five states in the nation for
After another poor
showing this November -- with Porter County reaching a voting turnout of
just 21.09 percent -- State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, has filed
Senate Bill 135 to give voters more time to make it to the polls.
“We are dead last
in the U.S. for (voting). I think it’s terrible” she told the Chesterton
Tribune. “We need to find easier ways for registering voters and make
the process more automatic.”
The Indiana General
Assembly will reconvene starting on Tuesday, Jan. 5 in Indianapolis to hear
proposed bills. With a shorter session, legislators are limited to
introducing only a few bills this year as the last day is March 14.
If passed into law,
SB 135 would give county election boards the option, by majority vote, to
keep the polls open as late as 8 p.m.
voters who haven’t registered to vote by Election Day but are qualified can
complete a voter registration form when they go to the polls and present an
official form of identification. The voter would then be added to the
registration record by the voters registration office.
receiving their driver’s license who are qualified to vote can sign up to
vote while they are at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, unless they
specifically choose not to.
would also give voters the opportunity to apply for permanent absentee
voter’s status. Those who are eligible for the list would automatically be
sent absentee ballots by the County Clerk’s office each time there is an
election in the precinct. If three times there is no ballot sent back, the
voter would be removed from the list.
One of the reasons
for dismal turnouts in many counties is the high numbers of deceased persons
on voter registration lists, Tallian said. What SB 135 aims for is allowing
a voters registration office to put a voter to inactive status whenever
there is a notice by the United States Postal Office of an unknown or
“Something we can
try to do is keep the voting rolls up to date,” said Tallian.
Another proposal in
the bill is to call upon the state to study the use of offsite electronic
voting next year.
Next, in response
to a current law that makes parents of children attending private schools
eligible for a $1,000 deduction in taxable income per dependent, SB 136
authored by Tallian would make the deduction also obtainable for parents of
children in public schools.
In other education
matters, Tallian is one of the state senators on the School Funding
subcommittee. Tallian said that the state budget is closed this year but
school funding will be a topic discussed by the legislature, particularly
dealing with the performance funding grants for the A-F accountability
grades since there is a sizeable drop anticipated in how well students did
on the test. The test included stricter standards last year with the
elimination of the Common Core methods.
grades are to be released by the Department of Education later in January.
Tallian is ranking
minority member on the Senate’s Appropriation Committee and Pensions and
Labor. Other committees she’s a part of include Corrections and Criminal
Law, Environmental Affairs, and the Rules and Legislative Committee.
While on the
Environmental Affairs committee, Tallian said she has not heard about any
proposal to address issues with the development at the historic pavilion in
Indiana Dunes State Park. The 2015 legislature passed a bill to allow
alcohol for special events within 100 feet of the pavilion and parking lot.
Tallian said she
will be discussing the issues surrounding the Pavilion rehab project with
members of the Department of Natural Resources which has signed a lease with
Pavilion Partners LLC.
An emerging issue
for the 2016 assembly that will likely be a major discussion point, Tallian
said, is funding for local roads and state-owned highways. Governor Mike
Pence announced in October the “21st Century Crossroads” plan to use over $1
billion for 2017-2020 -- some from borrowing, some from reserves and about
half in budget appropriations -- to resurface 16,000 miles of state roads
and repair 5,200 bridges.
House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, offered a plan
using the sales tax collected on gasoline that would include giving counties
money to take care of their roads.
suggested plan, from Republican Senator Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, would
put $418 million into county roads from the local income tax (LOIT) held in
the state’s reserve accounts.
Tallian said her
party has criticized Hershman’s plan for not offering a solution for road
funding in the long term.
said that for 2016, she plans to reintroduce her bills to reduce the penalty
for possessing small amounts of marijuana and to raise the state’s minimum
Tallian has filed
SB 134 to establish a Hoosier Youth Corps program which will open up summer
internship opportunities to college students in local government and
nonprofit organizations “to help meet critical community needs.” Those who
complete the internship can receive a tuition grant of up to $2,500.
re-elected to her third full four-year term in 2014.