Legislators talk about short session at update
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]
About 40 people attended Saturday morning’s Third House Legislative Update hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and Harrison County Farm Bureau at the Government Center in Corydon.
Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, and state Reps. Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, District 70, and Steve Davisson, R-Salem, District 73, spoke about their work during this short session of the state legislative bodies (the state’s budget will be hashed out next year, making next year a longer session).
Engleman spoke about a bill that would have raised the minimum age for a girl to marry. She told of a girl who married a middle-age man who allowed her to work only in strip clubs. The girl eventually wanted to divorce the man but ran into obstacles, such as she couldn’t sign a rental lease or sign herself into a shelter, because of her age.
The girl ended up staying with the man until she was 21, Engleman said.
Because the proposed bill later had an unrelated amendment attached to it, Engleman said it was “derailed.”
Engleman, who said it’s a “privilege” to serve as the district’s state representative, said they are always listening to the state’s educators.
Citing that 451 bills were filed this session by the House, with 114 passed over to the Senate, and another 450 filed in the Senate, with 164 making it out to the House, Davisson talked about House Bill 1001 that would “hold harmless” teachers for two years following low ILEARN test scores statewide, HB 1002 that would decouple teacher performance evaluations from student test scores in the future and HB 1003 that would allow for flexibility regarding teacher training and licensure requirements.
“A lot of these (bills) are bipartisan,” Davisson said. “We don’t operate like they do in Washington, D.C.; we actually get things done.”
Other bills he mentioned the House worked on involved health care. Among them were HB 1004 that would eliminate “surprise” billing; that’s when a patient thinks they are using in-network services only to discover later that part of the services was considered to be out-of-network.
Touching on Senate Bill 346, Houchin talked about the possibility of discrimination against students who aren’t allowed to use certain tools as prescribed in their individual education plan during testing.
She said when asked what does it matter, she responded it matters to teachers, to school corporations and to her son, who is dyslexic, and others like him.
“The federal law changed in 2016,” Houchin said. “Since then, I think Indiana has been in violation … Why not determine what we can do for these students rather than say what we can’t do?”
The senator also touched on making broadband accessible to more people, especially in rural areas, mentioning a grant program that is flawed by its process. She contends the pre-challenge process to applying for the grant needs to be changed.
The last 30 minutes of the program, which was moderated by Matt Schickel, allowed for questions and comments from constituents.
Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., asked more about the broadband bill.
Houchin said every person on the committee had a different opinion than the chairman.
“We’re going to fight back and try to get it put in a different bill,” she said.
Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of the South Harrison Community School Corp., thanked Houchin for her common sense when it comes to students and testing, adding that there are people who seek to make a profit off of schoolchildren.
Schickel took a moment to pass on Steve Morris’ regrets for being absent from the update. Like last year, the Lanesville Community School Corp. superintendent missed because the high school girls’ basketball team was playing in the regional semi-final game that morning.
Cheryl Lone, a counselor for the South Harrison Community School Corp., asked about reader testing.
“The way we find out about things is from people like you,” Engleman said.
Nathan Broom, a member of the Indian Creek Trail Committee, asked if a date had been set for a third round of Next Level Trails grants. None of the legislators knew, but Houchin encouraged Broom to let them know if they submit application so they can provide a letter of support.
Kyle Nix and Steven Day asked questions pertaining to septic inspections and real estate compensation, respectively.
Broom also asked what can be done at the local level to create bipartisanship.
Houchin said Farm Bureau officials regularly visit the Statehouse to lobby for certain bills on behalf of its members.
“We’re always putting policies before politics,” Davisson said. “Try to be respectful to people who disagree. People have different opinions, different ideologies, but we can work together and find good common ground. … Ninety percent of our bills have had less than 10 ‘no’ votes.”
The program concluded with additional comments about education. One man contended that students “test all the time.”
Gary Byrne said he thinks it’s time to start fighting back against the federal government instead of always playing by their rules.
Engleman recognized Corydon Central High School and Ball State University graduate Jordan Wallace who is serving as an intern this session at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.
“She’s seeing how fast and furious we work,” she said.