Leader GiaQuinta reflects on 2021 session and House Democrat priorities
INDIANAPOLIS – As the gavel fell on the 2021 Legislative Session until an undetermined future date, House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) highlighted the work done by the Indiana House Democratic Caucus on their legislative priorities.
“This session was wholly unprecedented,” GiaQuinta said. “We had to adapt to an ever-changing environment and find new ways to approach the legislative process in light of the pandemic. However, in uncertain times, House Democrats stood steady in fighting for Hoosiers.”
Several House Democrat priorities were made possible this year, including:
Supporting traditional public schools and raising teacher pay
“For too long, the traditional public schools used by the vast majority of Indiana students have watched as their funds are diverted into unaccountable charter and private schools. At the same time, stagnating teacher pay has created a growing crisis of losing talented young educators to neighboring states that pay more. We fought this session on behalf of our schools and teachers and are happy to keep our commitment to fully fund schools that switched to online classes in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, a major increase in our budget for local and traditional public schools and the initiation of a program to hopefully give our teachers the pay raises they deserve.”
Pushing bipartisan solutions to criminal justice reform
“Last summer we came together with Governor Holcomb and our colleagues across the aisle to recommit to the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus' agenda for criminal justice reform. I am proud to be able to say that we unanimously passed House Bill 1006 to mandate de-escalation training, enforce body-cam use and stop problematic officers from simply moving to a new department. It is a strong first step in crafting a more just Indiana for all Hoosiers and restoring faith in our law enforcement system.”
House Democrats will continue fighting for the priorities that didn't see success this session:
Helping small businesses and working families
“Our Hoosier families and local businesses proved strong in weathering the challenges posed by COVID-19. We fought to get them support not just to fuel their recovery, but to build back a better, more supportive economy than we had before. We proposed a work share program, paid family and medical leave, a sales tax exemption for children's diapers and a modernization of the state minimum wage. While we were able to secure valuable bipartisan recovery grants for small businesses, we could have done much more for the Hoosiers hit hardest by the pandemic.”
Reducing the cost of high-quality health care
“In the midst of a pandemic, the importance of affordable health care has never been clearer. But Hoosiers are still stuck paying higher drug prices than all of our neighboring states. At every stage of the 2021 session, we fought to regulate the middlemen in the pharmaceutical industry who drive up prices, and mandate transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. This will continue to be one of our top priorities. No one should have to choose between putting food on their table and paying for their medicine.”
Fostering fair and secure elections
“The right to vote is the foundation of all our freedoms. This year, we fought again to take politics out of the redistricting process. House Democrats strongly believe that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. Also, last year we regrettably saw our state refuse to expand mail-in voting in the middle of a pandemic. We fought this session to remove barriers to the vote by allowing all Hoosiers to vote by mail. This will remain a priority going forward, as we successfully blocked legislation that would have made it harder to exercise this right.”
Unfortunately, better results could have been accomplished for Hoosiers if House Republicans weren't distracted by petty infighting.
“We've watched as bills were passed that would impede local health departments from protecting their citizens (SB 5), launch pointless, unconstitutional attacks on the governor for doing his job (HB 1123), devalue the teaching profession by lowering standards (SB 205), give away tax-funded school buildings to for-profit private schools (SB 358) and strip protections from our state's vital wetlands (SB 389).
“We have to work together to put aside special interests and partisan platform promises to focus on the needs of Hoosiers. We got some good work done this session, but there is much more work left to do. The House Democratic Caucus will continue to listen to the people and look ahead to build a better tomorrow for our great state.”