- Indiana lawmakers are progressing with plans to prioritize legislation aimed at improving the availability and affordability of child care.
- To keep bills alive for the session, they must pass through at least one chamber by Tuesday.
- Indiana, like other states, is addressing child care challenges with proposed measures including deregulation and incentives for businesses.
Indiana lawmakers’ plan to prioritize legislation that would make child care more available and affordable is largely on track as they near a key deadline in this year’s legislative session, though Democrats warn that financial support in the state’s next budget would be essential to meeting those goals.
The Legislature would need to pass bills through at least one chamber by Tuesday to keep them alive for the session, but lawmakers often alter or add proposals to other legislation before the session ends in mid-March.
Indiana is among a number of states proposing legislative solutions this year to tackle the availability and affordability of child care, with a few measures seeking to undo regulations and incentivize business clearing early deadlines in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
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The average cost for child care in Indiana is $166 per week, according to Brighter Futures Indiana, a partnership between the state’s Family and Social Services Administration and the nonprofit Early Learning Indiana. The younger the child, the more expensive the care.
Senate and House Republicans, and Gov. Eric Holcomb listed improving access and affordability as a top priority for this session.
Senators approved an agenda item Tuesday with bipartisan support meant to address accessibility to care. The bill would expand eligibility to a child care subsidy program for employees of the field with kids of their own. Lawmakers in Colorado and Nebraska have introduced similar measures. In Nebraska, the state is looking to implement a program that would cover 100% of child care costs for professionals in the field.
The Indiana bill would also lower the minimum age of child care workers to 18 and, in some instances, to 16.
Child care organizations and other business groups support the proposal. Holcomb does as well, and has included parts of it in his own annual agenda. Supporters say the lack of affordable child care in Indiana keeps people out of all corners of the workforce.
“It is an infrastructure issue for the state of Indiana,” Republican state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, who authored the bill, told lawmakers Tuesday. “It affects every aspect of our economy.”
Although Democratic lawmakers supported the bill in its floor vote, they said attention must remain on the issue into next year, when the state creates a new budget.
Another bill awaiting a Senate vote before Tuesday’s deadline would provide property tax exemptions in varying degree for for-profit centers and companies that establish on-site child care for their employees.
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Across the Statehouse, lawmakers want to roll back some regulations on child care providers. A Republican-backed bill would make a facility license good for three years, up from two, and allow certain child care programs in schools to be exempt from licensure. It also would let child care centers in residential homes increase their hours and serve up to eight children, instead of six.
The bill advanced to the Senate on Tuesday. State Rep. Vanessa Summers, a Democrat, said in a statement that she was “horrified” by the bill’s advancement.
“Rolling back regulations is not the answer – making real investments in child care infrastructure is the answer,” Summers said. “I am extremely disappointed in this body’s willingness to put children in harm’s way.”
Republican leaders have said undoing some operational requirements eases burdens on the businesses.