Cook: Four bills progressing at legislative session halftime

Posted by: Devan Strebing & Shelby Seay  | Friday, March 10, 2017

The General Assembly recently reached the halfway point of session. Now, House bills move to the Senate for consideration and Senate bills move to the House. I have four proposals for new laws that are continuing to advance through the legislative process.

My first bill would allow students to enroll in specialty classes or trade programs at a different school or through an approved online provider, without having to transfer out of their current school. There may be certain situations, such as teacher retention or a lack of resources, that prevent schools from offering specialty courses and programs to students.

Under this proposal, the Department of Education would create a catalog of courses in subject areas and business/trade certification courses that would be available to students. All Hoosier students should have the opportunity to take classes that align with their career aspirations or interests. They should not be denied the opportunity to benefit from high-quality courses because of their geographical location or lack of teacher access.

The second bill that I have proposed would break down funding silos in our schools and direct more dollars into the classroom by creating two funds – an education fund and an operations fund – with the ability to transfer money between them. Indiana school corporations have limited budgetary flexibility when it comes to transferring funds for necessary expenditures. Only 57 percent of school funding reaches the classroom because the money is suspended.

If enacted, my legislation would take three of the four major property tax levies including capital projects, school transportation and school bus replacement, and combine them into one operational levy. The fourth levy, debt services, would remain separate. The revenue generated under the new combined levy would not be restricted by the narrow budgetary restrictions that affect the current system.

My third bill was proposed after a constituent contacted me about not being notified by law enforcement that her son was involved in a car accident. She was notified six hours later by the hospital chaplain telling her that her son had passed away. My bill would task the Bureau of Motor Vehicles with creating a database of emergency contacts that first responders could access in the event of serious accidents. This database would provide the necessary information for officers to notify family members in a reasonable amount of time during these critical situations. The BMV and police agencies have been supportive and have joined my efforts to enact this bill.

My final bill works to address situations where an animal is left unattended in a hot vehicle and law enforcement officers are not able to immediately respond. This proposal would provide civil liability to citizens who cause property damage when rescuing pets left unattended in another person’s vehicle. When removing an animal, a person would be required to first notify law enforcement and could only use a reasonable amount of force. The citizen would then be required to wait with the pet at the scene until an officer arrives.

The progress of these four bills can be tracked by visiting iga.in.gov. Please contact me with any questions or comments at H32@iga.in.gov or call 317-232-9793.

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State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

A high-resolution photo of Cook can be downloaded by clicking here