Rep. Austin elected to leadership role, releases legislative priorities for 2021 session

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INDIANAPOLIS —State Representative Terri Austin (D-Anderson) was recently elected as Caucus Chair for the Indiana House Democrats.

The Caucus Chair is one of the top three leadership roles elected by the members of the House Democratic Caucus. In this role, Austin will help to develop the caucus legislative priorities and agenda, lead caucus meetings and function as the leadership liaison between caucus members and staff.

In addition to being Caucus Chair, Austin will be the Ranking Minority Member on the House Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee and serve on three other committees: Public Policy, Rules and Legislative Procedures, and the Statutory Committee on Ethics.

“It is a privilege to be regarded as a leader among my peers, especially in this particular role,” Austin said. “I'm thrilled to have this new responsibility and look forward to serving my colleagues throughout the 2021 Session.”

Regarding her legislative priorities, Austin will be focusing on four main concerns in the 2021 Session, including topics like financial recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, election reform, teacher pay and education funding, and college hazing.

“We haven't seen such devastating financial consequences like this in a very long time, and it will take a very long time for families, small businesses and nonprofits to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic. It is vital for the General Assembly to find a way to provide Hoosiers with the assistance they need to survive the coming year. I have seen too many of our small businesses in Anderson close their doors forever because of the toll this pandemic has taken on their finances. Others are barely hanging on.”

Due to the unprecedented voting issues of this year, Austin also plans to file a bill to address the disastrous general election issues that resulted in wait times of up to six hours for some voters.

“In America, voting shouldn't be this hard nor should it require waiting in line for hours on end, and if it is, we're doing something wrong.  I personally witnessed lines extending more than the length of a football field, voters having to wait several hours just to exercise their Constitutional right, and the elderly and disabled waiting despite their medical weaknesses and demands to cast their votes this year. This was simply unacceptable.”

As a former teacher herself, Austin will also prioritize raising teacher pay and protecting students and teachers from further education cuts.

“After 20 years as a classroom teacher for Anderson Community Schools, I have a deep understanding of the issues facing teachers and students as their funding continues to dwindle. Now more than ever, we need to protect the funding allotted to them and ensure that they continue receiving aid wherever possible. Teachers have been putting it into overdrive since March. Students and families have had to adapt to impossible circumstances – the least we can do is provide the funding they need to continue doing the incredible work with which they've been tasked.”

Austin will also reintroduce her hazing bill, formerly House Bill 1396, which requires postsecondary educational institutions to develop and conduct a plan on hazing, in addition to mandating reports of hazing allegations.

“I will continue to persist on this matter until there is harsher punishment for hazing offenses and assistance is provided to those who are injured due to hazing. This legislation is long overdue and I intend to see it through.”

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