Political Notebook

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Indiana senators fear worker cuts, Asian carp

Four senators, including Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly, are asking congressional budget negotiators to consider their legislation that would change the definition of full-time employees under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Donnelly is a co-sponsor of the Forty Hours is Full Time Act, which would set the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time employee as one who works at least 40 hours a week. The law considers full-time employment as at least 30 hours a week and will require large employers to provide health insurance to those workers starting in 2015 or face fines.

Donnelly is joined in the request by bill sponsor Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and co-sponsors Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. They announced Wednesday they had sent their request to Senate Budget Committee leaders who are members of the Senate-House budget conference committee.

The four senators wrote in a letter to the leaders that “some businesses have reduced their employees’ work to 29 hours per week, to ensure workers are considered ‘part time’ for purposes of PPACA.If more businesses follow suit, millions of American workers could find their hours and their earnings reduced.”

In June, Fort Wayne Community Schools reduced the work hours of 610 employees from 30 a week to 25.

The senators' letter went to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Also Wednesday, Donnelly and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., were among 16 senators of both parties from Great Lakes states who asked the Army Corps of Engineers to identify measures that need to be taken to keep Asian carp from spreading to the lakes.

“Please explain what decisions and authorizations will be necessary to allow for implementation of a comprehensive approach to address invasive species,” the group of senators said in a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army.

“We are committed to working with you and to quickly identify a long-term approach to a problem that could have devastating effects on our region’s economy, environment, and way of life,” the senators wrote.

In July, the Army Corps announced a dozen projects it said would help control the migration of Asian carp. Those projects include rebuilding and raising an earthen berm in Eagle Marsh on the southwest side of Fort Wayne.

Eagle Marsh links the Wabash River, where Asian carp have been found, and the Maumee River, which feeds Lake Erie. Conservation officials fear that floodwaters could carry the fish over the berm along the Graham-McCulloch Ditch if it is not built higher.