GiaQuinta details the top ten missed opportunities from the 2019 legislative session
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said today that the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly had a number of missed opportunities to improve the quality of life for Hoosiers.
“At the start of the 2019 session, I encouraged lawmakers to take immediate action on issues that could have improved teacher pay, expanded pre-K, protected health care, and passed an inclusive hate crimes law,” GiaQuinta said. “We were able to convince the Republicans to make sure that Hoosiers with pre-existing medical conditions are covered under all insurance plans issued in Indiana, a proposal that was part of the new state budget.
“But the Republicans chose not to act on so many other priorities that it must be said this session was a giant missed opportunity to help the people of Indiana,” he continued. “Here is what we could have done in 2019:”
RAISED TEACHER PAY NOW
In addition to several other Democratic proposals, State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) introduced a proposal to take money generated from the renegotiated Indiana Toll Road agreement to pay for a 5 percent raise for every full-time Indiana teacher. This proposal would have given teachers a significant pay raise in the same amount of time – two years – that the Governor’s teacher pay commission will take to simply study the issue.
FUNDED STATEWIDE PRE-K
State Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) offered an amendment to the biennial state budget that would have expanded the pre-K program to include all eligible providers in every county in Indiana. In addition, it would have increased pre-K scholarship funding from $44 million to $175 million for the biennium.
PASSED A HATE CRIMES LAW THAT PROTECTED ALL HOOSIERS
Republicans approved a hate crimes law that will not specifically protect people from crimes that are biased in nature because of their gender, gender identity, age, or ancestry. House Democrats attempted to include those protections no less than seven times, but were rebuffed by Republicans on each occasion. Now Indiana has a law that doesn’t get us off the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) list of states that have no hate crimes law.
PROTECTED AT-RISK CHILDREN
While fully funding the Department of Child Services (DCS) was considered a priority by all lawmakers, the final state budget approved by Republicans reduced funding for the agency by $70 million from Governor Holcomb’s proposal. House Democrats advocated for fully funding DCS, and attempted to make sure the agency met legally-defined caseload standards. State Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) offered an amendment to follow a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision that would have compelled DCS to hire more caseworkers if caseload limits are not met. That amendment was rejected by House Republicans.
FOCUSED SCHOOL SAFETY ON MENTAL HEALTH
House Democrats attempted to focus debate about safety in Indiana’s schools on strengthening mental health services. An amendment offered by State Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) that would have allowed school corporations to use money from the Secured School Fund for school-based mental health services was included in House Bill 1004, then removed from that legislation and the state budget in the session’s final hours. House Republicans rejected an effort to allow more school districts to apply for Secured School Fund grants, as well as a proposal from State Rep. Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) that would have dedicated up $100 million a year to improve school security infrastructure and increase the number of School Resource Officers in Indiana schools.
PROTECTED HEALTH CARE
State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) saw two efforts to provide affordable health care for Hoosiers turned down by House Republicans. Those proposals would have prevented Indiana’s attorney general from using any state funds in efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would have developed a plan to import prescription drugs from Canada to reduce costs for Hoosiers. The first proposal was defeated on a party-line vote, while House Republicans refused to allow debate or a vote on the second proposal.
HELPED WORKING FAMILIES
State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) offered a three-point plan to support working families across Indiana. The plan would have increased the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, frozen the Corporate Income Tax Rate at 2018 levels and redirected that money to increase the earned income tax credit from 9 to 11 percent, and studied the benefits of paid family medical leave. The plan was rejected by House Republicans.
APPROVED MEDICAL MARIJUANA
House Republicans refused to allow debate or vote on proposals authored by State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) that would have taken steps toward legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Indiana. One proposal would have created a medical marijuana program to enable patients and caregivers who have received a physician’s recommendation to possess a certain quantity of marijuana for treatment of chronic and treatable medical conditions. It also would have established a regulatory agency to oversee the program, and created an opportunity for further study of the benefits of medical marijuana in Indiana. A second plan would have provided a medical defense for any person charged with possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana or paraphernalia like pipes, bongs, and grinders. The defense would have been applicable only if a physician provided written certification that the person suffers from a terminal or serious, untreatable illness, and the medical benefits of the treatment outweigh the risks.
FROZEN TUITION AT INDIANA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
House Republicans rejected a plan offered by State Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. (D-East Chicago) to curb the rising costs of pursuing a higher education in Indiana. His plan would have locked in tuition rates for students attending any public university in Indiana at the levels they paid their freshman year, effective starting in the 2019-2020 academic year.
HELD FAILING VIRTUAL CHARTERS ACCOUNTABLE
House Republicans did agree with House Democrats that a legislative study of Indiana’s scandal-plagued virtual charter school industry was needed. However, House Republicans rejected other measures of accountability that would hold virtual charters to the same standards as traditional public schools. Those proposals offered by State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) would have prevented any failing virtual charter schools from continuing to operate after their charter was revoked, expired, or not renewed because of mismanagement or academic failure, allowed only the state Department of Education to authorize a virtual charter school, and required parents of students in virtual charter schools to meet with educators twice a year to review the student’s academic progress. This would have ensured that a student being taught in a non-traditional setting is making progress similar to students learning in a classroom.