Indiana lawmakers assess legislative session at halfway mark

Indiana News

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Halfway through this year’s Indiana legislative session, lawmakers are still figuring out how to give raises to public school teachers and a way to create a hate crimes law.

They are two of many bills still on the table.

Teacher pay

 

Democrats came out swinging Tuesday and tried to poke holes in the Republican budget proposal when it came to teacher pay.

“I think that might have been one of the problems with the House bill,” Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane from Anderson said. “Was when you go district to district, there wasn’t language in there to make sure the job could get done in each district. We’re going to have to look at that.” 

House Democrats said they presented specific plans on how to give raises to teachers but were shot down.

“We had 5 percent each year in the biennium specifically earmarked for teacher pay. It’s just not that complicated,” said House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta from Fort Wayne.

Republicans said they believe it is best that local school districts decide how to handle the specifics of teacher pay.

“We’re happy with the (House Bill) 1003 approach,” said Speaker of the House Brian Bosma on Tuesday. “Where we monitor and encourage every school at the local level to make those decisions. But, to prioritize teacher salaries, that’s our goal.”

Bosma said $60 million in teacher appreciation grants and more money is on the way to districts.

“Plus, there’s $611 million, new dollars that are available to go to teachers at the local level,” Bosma said. “Plus the $70 million that will be generated every year in savings through our one-time payment on teacher retirement. Their (the Democrats’) assertion is meaningless. It is inaccurate.”

The House budget bill with the education spending will now head to the Senate.

Hate crimes bill

Lawmakers on both sides are hopeful they’ll pass a hate crimes law, but the specifics of the bill remained at issue Tuesday.

Last week, the Senate passed an amended hate crimes bill that is drastically different than what the bill’s authors intended. A list of protected characteristics was stripped out on the Senate floor. That list included race, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. The action drew swift criticism from, state organizations, lawmakers from both sides, and Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Democrat Lanane said, “I am hoping the governor’s leadership will come to the forefront now and, with that leadership, the pressure can be put on. I know that your caucus will put the pressure on to restore that list in the hate crimes bill. We think that that is important.”

Republican Bosma said, “I understand the advocates desire for a list. I really believe there needs to be a discussion of compromise in that regard and still have a bill that covers everyone, including those that are desired to be on the list. I think that’s the right approach.”

Bosma said he hopes lawmakers pass a hate crimes bill that gets Indiana off the list of five states that do not have such a law on the books.

The Republican governor, Holcomb said last week there’s a lot of work to do on the hate crimes bill and time still to do it. 

House speaker’s priorities

Bosma said the 10 priority bills for his caucus are now before Senate lawmakers for consideration: 

  • House Bill 1001­: The Republican’s balanced-budget proposal. The budget includes $611 million in new K-12 funding over two years. $30 million a year for teacher appreciation grants and the maintenance of the $100 tax credit for teachers for classroom supplies. In addition, the budget would fund the Indiana Department of Child Services at current spending levels. 
  • House Bill 1002. The proposal was designed to promote early and continuing career exploration and navigation, reinvigorate career and technical education courses and encourage completion of certifications or postsecondary credentials. 
  • House Bill 1003. The measure was designed to encourage schools to shift more existing and future dollars to Hoosier classrooms by setting a target for public schools to spend at least 85 percent of state funding on instructional expenses. 
  • House Bill 1004. The measure could implement recommendations from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s school safety report to improve physical security at schools and mental health resources for students. 
  • House Bill 1005. If approved, Hoosiers would no longer elect the school superintendent of public instruction beginning in 2021 instead of 2025. The job would be an appointment. 
  • House Bill 1006. The bill contains what are designed to be reforms for the Indiana Department of Child Services: reducing family case manager loads and allowing foster youth to receive services and participate in independent living programs into their early 20s. 
  • House Bill 1007. The bill aims to engage more at-risk expecting mothers in early prenatal care, and require medical providers to give verbal substance-use screenings to pregnant women as a way to improve and increase referrals to addiction treatment. 
  • House Bill 1008. The bill would create professional growth and advancement opportunities through teacher career ladder models. 
  • House Bill 1009. The measure would create residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom. 
  • House Bill 1010. The bill would phase in an income tax exemption for military retirement pensions and increase the assessed value eligibility cap for the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption.
  • APP USERS: View the video of Speaker Bosma online

Democrats speak about priorities

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