The good, the bad and the ugly: GiaQuinta account of the 2023 legislative session

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“Mr. Speaker, I move that we do now adjourn sine die” never sounded so good. For those of you unfamiliar with Statehouse terminology, sine die means “that the legislative session has officially come to an end..

Not unlike any other sine die, the conclusion of session is always defined by chaos, conflict and ultimately compromise. Lawmakers scrambled into the early hours of the morning to pass a budget and send the remaining bills to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk for final consideration. 

The Good 

It might surprise many folks but most of the legislation that passes through both chambers does so with bipartisan support. It’s easy for me to vote yes on any bill that would make Indiana a better place to work, live, play and stay. 

House Democrats proved their place as pragmatic problem solvers in the legislative process:

·         State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. continued the work and legacy of Governor Evan Bayh with House Enrolled Act 1449. This critical education bill will automatically enroll Hoosier high schoolers into the 21st Century Scholars program.

·         State Rep. Maureen Bauer fought for the health of Indiana’s first responders with House Enrolled Act 1219. Firefighters, both current and former, will now be able to receive testing for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure.

·          State Rep. Carolyn Jackson advocated for our youngest Hoosiers with House Enrolled Act 1138 which will test drinking water in childcare and preschool facilities for lead. 

Other monumental bills made it over the finish line that will have a positive impact on Hoosier families. Although  Indiana’s investment in health services fell short of the level experts recommended after decades of neglect, Senate Enrolled Act 1 and Senate Enrolled Act 4 will deliver transformative investments in Indiana’s mental and public health sector, $100 million and $225 million respectively. SEA 1 it sets a crisis response system for mental health. SEA 4 establishes a public health commission to modernize core public health services. These bills hopefully mark just the start in Indiana being a healthier state. 

The Bad 

Call me biased, but there are bound to be bad bills in a state with full Republican control. One of the most egregious Republican acts this session was the cuts to traditional K-12 public schools. Our local traditional K-12 public schools educate 90% of Hoosier students, yet the GOP transferred money from the hands of public schools to private pockets with $1 billion dedicated to vouchers. The privatization of education has left those that serve the majority of students cash strapped with many districts seeing no increases or an effective budget cut. 

The Ugly                                                                                                                                                                                                       

I am deeply troubled by the Florida-style culture war legislation that the supermajority passed this session. These bills are “ugly” in the truest sense of the word – designed to tell some of the most vulnerable kids and people in our state that they don’t belong in our communities. ‘Hoosier hospitality’ has to mean something, as my colleague Rep. Ed DeLaney has said before. Let’s put these issues to rest once and for all and focus on the issues that matter most to hard-working Hoosiers. 

I was never sure if the long-held tradition of lawmakers shredding bills or throwing them up into the air at the end of the session was out of celebration or exasperation. I guess this year it may have been a bit of both. 

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