Busy Day at the State House Sees Key Legislation Pass
Since the Indiana House Democrats finally returned from their self imposed five week spring break to Urbana, Illinois (complete with a swimming pool and cush hotel hot tubs), legislation has been hopping down at the State House with Speaker Brian Bosma doing his best impression of Chris Farley impersonating Newt Gingrich when he first took over as Speaker of the U.S. House in 1995. Today was no different with three issue successes leading the way; education reform, pro-life measures and the state budget.
The highlight, as Nick mentioned in an earlier post, seemed to education reforms, primarily the passage of school vouchers which passed handily 56-42. Not only does the bill promote competition, it no longer chains students to failing schools and empowers parents get their children out of those schools. In a press release, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett said:
“Members of Indiana’s House of Representations took a courageous step today to offer more Hoosier students high quality educational options—options that suit their individual needs. This bold move is a critical piece of our comprehensive efforts to transform the current culture in our schools. I hope today’s action on HB 1003 is a positive indication of even more good things to come for Indiana’s students.”
The only downside I can see to this bill is that it establishes a cap on the amount of vouchers that can be handed out in the first two years, 7,500 in the first year and 15,000 in the second. This was part of the compromise to get Democrats to return to their tax payer funded jobs here in Indiana representing the people who voted for them (just a reminder of who the bosses really are, and it’s not under some rug in South Bend). The silver lining to the cap is that it only lasts two years.
There were major victories for the pro-life movement today, specifically with the passage of HB 1210, which is one of the most comprehensive pieces of pro-life legislation in the country. According to Indiana Right to Life, HB 1210..
…carries multiple provisions including the establishment of the state’s interest in protecting pain-capable unborn children after 20-weeks gestational age, opting-out Indiana from abortion coverage required under state health exchanges under the new federal health law, and a requirement that women considering abortions be given an expanded range of information provided both orally and in writing.
Also there was tighter regulations passed (HB 1474) on pregnancy termination reports, specifically for abortions done on girls under the age of 14, that would help lead to streamline the reporting of child sexual abuse.
Of course, the closer for the day was the passage of the state budget. So what’s in the budget? Well, first of all, it’s a balanced $27.9 billion, two-year budget bill that does not include any tax increases and allows Indiana to maintain the stable and sound fiscal environment
Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of what’s in the bill:
- Appropriations for state agencies: Most appropriations are 15 percent below their appropriations in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011; the main exceptions include Medicaid, Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association and pensions.
- K-12 Education Funding: It preserves current statewide tuition support funding for K-12 schools for both 2012 and 2013. The budget funds most Department of Education’s grant programs that are related to student instruction, including full-day kindergarten and textbook reimbursements. It does eliminate extra grants for small schools, restoration grants and ensures funding reflects enrollment.
“We have pushed for years to even out the disparities between schools that get too much per-pupil funding and the schools that get too low of an amount,” said Chairman Espich. “In addition, the money needs to follow the student—we shouldn’t be funding a ghost child during this economy.”
- The budget also aims to move each school district toward its target amount of per-pupil funding. Most districts are currently above their target amounts.
- Higher Education Funding: The budget does not authorize any new capital projects or fund any repair/rehabilitation projects in favor of restoring the three percent operation reduction. The budget also limits tuition hikes on Hoosier college students by allowing the Commission for Higher Education to set binding tuition increase targets.
- Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and Medicaid: Fully funds Medicaid forecast—assuming FSSA’s estimated administrative savings targets will be met. Restores funding for CHOICE in FY1013 and allows FSSA to direct more resources to the Aged and Disabled (A&D) Waiver program.
- Department of Child Services: Fully funds Department of Child Services’ requested budget, which was lower than their 2011 appropriations.
- Pensions: Fully funds Actuarial Required Contributions (ARC) for all state pension obligations.
The next step for all of these key pieces of legislation is the State Senate. I’m not saying all of these will cruise through (*cough* GOP super majority *cough*), but I think there is a fair chance that they will.
Either way, today was a success for Hoosier families, both born and unborn.