Indianapolis council to consider domestic-partner benefits

May 25, 2012

Domestic partners of Indianapolis city employees could qualify for benefits under a proposal filed by City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield.

The ordinance, to be introduced June 4, would apply to same-sex as well as opposite-sex partners.

Mansfield, a Democrat, thinks she has enough bipartisan support to pass an ordinance, and Mayor Greg Ballard is not threatening a veto.

“You do these kinds of things to attract and keep talented personnel,” Mansfield said.

Her proposal defines domestic partners as "two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutal caring, who have shared a residence for at least 365 days, and who have agreed to be jointly responsible for basic living expenses..." The partners must sign a "declaration of domestic partnership."

Domestic partners would be eligible for health insurance and pension benefits, and their children would be eligible for health insurance. 

Republican councilor Jack Sandlin said Friday he will likely oppose the ordinance because of the cost of expanding benefits.

"Why would we take on an expense when we can't fund our public safety department?" he asked.

The city has 7,451 employees eligible for health insurance benefits, and about 87 percent of them are enrolled, Controller Jeff Spalding said. With spouses and children, the city's total enrollment is 15,181.

Mansfield said she doesn’t know the potential fiscal impact of her proposal, but she thinks it won’t be great. The city already saves money through a spousal-exclusion policy, which is to say that spouses who can buy insurance through their own employers can’t use city benefits. That policy would apply to domestic partners, too.

One factor that would prevent abuse, Mansfield said, is that domestic-partner benefits are taxable, and therefore more costly to the employee.

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said the mayor would also want to look at the potential fiscal impact and ensure that the policy prevents fraud and abuse. “He’s open to taking a look at it if the council is able to pass something,” Lotter said.

Mansfield said she looked to Indiana universities, most of which offer some kind of domestic partner benefit, and the Town of Lawrence, which also offers the benefit, in drafting the proposal.

Domestic-partner benefits are becoming more common throughout the private sector, said Angie Brawdy, state council director for the Indiana chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. “More companies are seeing that as a recruitment tool.”

Mansfield has contemplated filing the proposal since 2010, before Democrats took control of the council. Even at that time, she thought there was enough support to pass an ordinance. 

“Overall, I just don’t think this is going to be a big deal,” she said.


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