Indiana lawmakers, chamber outline legislative priorities

Indiana News

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Red for Ed Action Day is planned for Tuesday because it coincides with Organization Day in advance of the 2020 state legislative session.

Legislators will return to the Statehouse to lay out their 2020 session agendas.

Right out the gate at Monday’s legislative leaders’ panel at the Indiana Chamber’s legislative priorities event, lawmakers got straight to Tuesday’s planned Statehouse rally that’s expected to draw tens of thousands of teachers.

“Glad they’re participating in the process. We’ve dealt with 15,000 people before at the Statehouse,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican. “We’ll do it again.”

“I think it’s great. I think it’s a tremendous lesson for the students in terms of democracy and citizen participation,” said state Sen. Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson.

It’s expected to be one of the largest rallies in recent memory.

“K-12 public education is the biggest thing we do in our state. It’s more than 50% of our budget. We want them at the table when we have those conversations,” said Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, a Republican from Martinsville.

“Showing up tomorrow will demonstrate that they’re serious about their issues, they’re serious about improving funding for their students,” said Rep. Terri Austin, a Democrat from Anderson.

The goal of Tuesday’s teacher rally dubbed Red for Ed Action Day is threefold: Teachers want better pay, more school resources and to not be held responsible for the mostly less-than-stellar scores on the new ILEARN statewide standardized test.

“I think we all agree. I think they should all be held harmless because of the situation.” Lanane said.

“We’re happy to have that conversation. Tomorrow’s going to be a full, busy, spirited day. That’s part of how our system works and I’m looking forward to it,” Bray said.

More than 100 school districts will be closed Tuesday to allow teachers to attend the rally. That means hundreds of thousands of students won’t be at school.

“Little concerned about the stress its placed on parents. Particularly single-family parents that have to find alternate child care arrangements. There are a lot of kids that rely on schools for their meals,” Bosma said.

Legislative priorities

Teachers are top of mind for lawmakers

“I would say for House Democrats, teachers, teacher pay, treating teachers as professionals is one of our top priorities, if not our top priority,” Austin said.

State lawmakers also talked about a vaping and raising the cigarette buying age to 21.

Bosma said, “Tomorrow, I’ll personally endorse both the age for vaping and the age for cigarettes to 21. It’s the right thing to do. I’ve heard exactly what Rod (Bray) said and from other parents of middle schoolers that this is not just a high school issue now. This is something that’s dominating discussions among middle schoolers on this vaping.”

Lanane said, “We need to come up with a tax that makes sense. A tax that would be discouraging to youth participation of vaping.”

Also, Senate Democrats said they want to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession statewide.

“Our point is not legalization of marijuana. It still would be illegal. But we just need to stop putting people … stop throwing them in jails and our judicial system with people who are arrested for possession of minor amounts of marijuana,” Lanane said.

Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber, said, “We oppose the legalization of both recreational or medical marijuana. The latter, because the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, has not approved marijuana for any valid medical purpose.”

The state chamber of commerce has posted its 2020 legislative priorities online.

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