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IHDC Leader GiaQuinta outlines agenda that includes teacher pay hikes, hate crimes law, and voting reform

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INDIANAPOLIS – In his first major speech as Leader of an Indiana House Democratic Caucus that he called the most diverse in state history, State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) called today for lawmakers to take immediate action on a variety of issues to improve the quality of life for Hoosiers.

That action should include passage of legislation to improve teacher pay, expand pre-K throughout the state, enact a hate crimes law, protect the health care of people with pre-existing medical conditions, make it easier for Hoosiers to vote, and provide a nonpartisan drawing of legislative and congressional districts.

Speaking to House members as they returned to the Statehouse for the 2019 legislative session, GiaQuinta took a moment to note the skills being brought to the table by a 33-member House Democratic caucus that, for the first time in state history, is made up of a majority of women. It includes African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and for the first time in caucus history, an Asian-American. It ranges from a 26-year old lawmaker to a representative that will have served 50 years in the Indiana House when his current term finishes.

“The Indiana House Democrats now seated in this chamber represent the most diverse caucus ever in the history of this state,” said GiaQuinta, who noted that such diversity will allow House Democrats to “better advocate for the resolution of some of our state’s most pressing issues, which have been set aside for too long.”

Those include a need to increase pay for teachers in Indiana, as well as expand pre-K throughout the state.

“We must raise education funding to allow for an increase in teacher pay,” GiaQuinta said. “It is our responsibility to address this crisis. And we need to do it now. We do not need to discuss the issue for another year…or two years…or three years.”

GiaQuinta noted studies already have proven the value in pre-K programs, and said, “We must embark on a bold expansion of the program to give all children across this state access to pre-K education.”

At the same time, GiaQuinta called for protecting funding for public schools, and asked for greater accountability for the state’s voucher, charter, and virtual school programs.

The lawmaker asked his colleagues to finally pass a hate crimes law in Indiana, emphasizing that our state is one of only five without such protections.

“Not only is this the right thing to do, our failure to act is bringing us the kind of ‘undue national attention’ that cannot help but impact our efforts to attract new businesses and investments to our state,” GiaQuinta said.

He went on to call for supporting the Holcomb administration’s plans to reform the scandal-plagued Department of Child Services (DCS), citing the need to act decisively rather than issuing reports voicing concerns, as was the practice by previous administrations.

Rather than waiting for Washington, DC, to act on affordable health care reform, GiaQuinta said Indiana lawmakers should act to provide protection for Hoosiers who stand a very real risk of losing that coverage. We can begin by ensuring there are protections for Hoosiers with pre-existing medical conditions.”

Finally, GiaQuinta said “it is time…way past time…for us to do something to make it easier for people to vote in Indiana.”

Proposed reforms would include making it easier for Hoosiers to both register and vote, and finally placing the responsibility for drawing legislative and congressional districts into the hands of nonpartisan officials.

“We are fond of talking about how well we are doing in creating an environment for business, yet we still fall short when it comes to creating a better place for Hoosiers to live,” GiaQuinta said.

“Many of the things Indiana House Democrats want to see should have occurred many years ago, but it is never too late to do what is right.”

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