Bills Passing or Going Through Committee
House Bill 100—State Budget (author: Jeff Thompson-R): The much-anticipated Revenue Report came out on Wednesday. It indicated an additional $1.5 billion is available for lawmakers to implement in our state’s two-year budget of roughly $43 billion. The Senate passed its budget proposal right before its Tuesday deadline. It included no major increase in funding for the voucher program, although it does allocate more money to public charter schools. Overall K-12 funding comes in at over $1 billion. It also provides that the state will pay for all textbooks and curricular materials for Indiana students.
It does not fully fund most parts of Senate Bill 1, which aims to vigorously increase funding and support for mental health care in our state as well as the ability to refer some individuals taken into custody to mental health treatment. Also unfunded is the state’s share of fully operating the 988 mental health crisis line. Senate Bill 4, which seeks to implement the governor’s public health proposals, recommended by a multi-year bipartisan commission led by former Senator Luke Kenley, also was not given its full funding.
The frustrating part of the budget process is that it is now in conference committee. The Speaker of the House will appoint two Republicans and two Democrats, along with advisors from each chamber, to hammer out the details before both houses vote on final passage. If a Democrat dissents, they are often removed for a friendly Republican. Most of these negotiations take place out of public view or with limited transparency.
The best way to follow the budget developments is often on Twitter through people like Niki Kelly (@nkellyIN), Casey Smith (@SmithCaseyA), Brandon Smith (@brandonjsmith5), Arika Herron (@ArikaHerron), and Whitney Downard (@WhitneyDownard).
House Bill 1447—Third-Party Surveys [and Possibly Book Bans] (author: Donna Schaibley-R): Every session, a defeated bill is resurrected and placed within a completely unrelated bill during conference committee. Last year it was the end of permit requirements for carrying certain firearms. This year it could be book bans in libraries and schools. The Indiana Capital Chronicle reported late this week that language from former Senate Bill 12—which set out to remove legal protections from librarians and teachers for making available books that outsiders with a social conservative bent deem offensive—is back on the table. It is entirely possible that this language, which never passed either chamber, can be inserted into a bill that has passed each chamber.
The best chance to defeat this is to contact your state representative and/or senator’s office and urge them to keep this language out of any bill and only vote for language in bills that cleared committee and each chamber.
In addition to this haunting specter, this bill puts more stringent requirements on third-party surveys given to students and staff members at schools. These surveys provided important information to school officials regarding staff and student needs as well as a view of overall school climate. Residents of the HSE District may remember that our board recently voted to end a contract with survey company Panorama, which will cost the district $90,000 to terminate.
Senate Bill 486—Educational Matters (author: Linda Rogers-R): SB 486 passed the house on a mostly party-line vote on Monday. ISTA (Indiana State Teachers Association) was in attendance to register their righteous indignation. The senate has concurred on the house version but has not called the bill for final vote. The law is a bait-and-switch that touts itself as an “education deregulation” bill. Most of the bill contains language that relieves teachers of taking certain training programs intended to inform about issues arising in the lives of students and families, moving them to teacher preparation training. However, the latter part of the bill ends the mandate that administrators and teachers must have regularly scheduled “discussions” in regard to class size, school discipline, and other day-to-day issues coming up in the school environment and classroom. The bill will make these discussion meetings optional. This represents a change in policy that has stood in place for 50 years as a way to head off most labor disagreements between teachers and administration. These meetings are vital in ensuring school safety and positive learning environments. This bill is a union-busting bill aimed at undermining the ability of teachers to organize and confront administration on issues arising daily in their classrooms, in the hallways, and throughout the school environment. It also undermines school safety. The bill has not passed the senate in completed form, but will probably be brought up on Monday.
House Bill 1449—21st Century Scholars Enrollment (author: Earl Harris Jr.-D): The bill to automatically enroll students meeting the qualifications for the 21st Century Scholars passed both chambers in final form this week. Previously, a student had to apply while in the 8th grade and could not apply at a later time. Studies showed that nearly half of eligible students did not apply for a program that provides full college tuition at a state school and partial tuition at a private institution. The bill is on the governor’s desk waiting to be signed. (Read more from WFYI.)
Upcoming Items of Importance
Saturday, April 29—Sine Die: The General Assembly session ends on this day.
Upcoming: The Indiana Supreme Court is still yet to issue their final ruling on the constitutionality of the recent near-total abortion ban in Indiana. The case was argued in January, and there is no clear indication of when an opinion will be handed down. Until that opinion is handed down, the law cannot be enforced.
Issues Not Addressed or Marginally Addressed This Week
Recruiting and Retaining Quality Teachers for every classroom in Indiana
Increasing the number of quality, affordable daycare slots in the state of Indiana
For Further Reading or Listening
Session Sessions with Rep. Blake Johnson (D-Indianapolis)
This week includes a good discussion with Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) exploring the Conference Committee procedure and how he finds ways to impact legislation despite the Republican supermajority.
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