As we approach the end of session, bills are rapidly making their way through the process. If the House and Senate pass the same version of a bill, it is then sent to the governor for his signature. However, if the versions passed by each chamber differ in any way, the bill must return to the house of origin. Occasionally, the author of the bill will agree with the changes and then with the majority vote of the chamber, the bill will be sent to the governor. If the author does not agree with the changes, the bill is sent to a conference committee where a compromise is reached or the bills dies. Once a compromise is reached, both chambers must approve the changes before the bill goes to the governor.
This process ensures that only the best legislation passes through the process, many of which are widely supported such as Senate Bill (SB) 500, called education deregulation. This legislation is the result of more than a year and a half of collaboration between 27 school districts across the state. These districts provided input on the areas of education law and procedures that are unnecessary and restrict local control. The Indiana School Board Association and the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents also provided their expertise. The conclusion was that Indiana schools are being required to follow many burdensome, obsolete or unnecessary regulations that result in high expenditures and little return on investment. This legislation directly addresses that issue.
Part of supporting and improving Indiana’s education system is examining what we are already doing and changing things that are no longer effective. One of the most burdensome policies found in Indiana’s education law was the volume of reports required from schools. Schools are required to produce approximately 62 separate reports for various state agencies under current law, including reporting on their absence policy and summer enrichment programs. In order to simplify the process, this bill creates the School Data Reporting Committee to reduce unnecessary reports and consolidate forms to allow schools to focus more on education and less on administrative burdens. This committee will also create a clearinghouse to share data with other agencies. In addition to the repeal of many reporting requirements, SB 500 also ends the requirement that schools stock free material for parents and students in their libraries and frees schools from following a specific procedure when distributing obsolete curricula.
The House Republicans set strategic goals this session of passing a fiscally responsible budget, improving education and funding public safety. As we come to the end of session, I am confident that we have passed legislation that will contribute to these goals. SB 500 is one of many bills that will improve Indiana’s education system, ensuring that both students and teachers are provided with the support and resources they need to be effective.
On that note, the General Assembly has been spending a great deal of time working on our state’s biennial budget. After the House passed the budget, the Senate offered amendments. We will work out the differences in a conference committee. Our goal has been and continues to be crafting an honestly balanced budget that lives within our state’s means. The House proposed budget funds Hoosier education at unprecedented levels. As Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, I have heard countless testimonies from all sides, and I am confident that we will reach a meaningful compromise as the House and Senate work together to pass a fiscally responsible budget.
It has been an honor to serve you during the 2015 legislative session, and I appreciate the comments and concerns you have shared with me. Your feedback helps me make decisions that will best serve you as I represent your interests in Indianapolis. Please continue to share your thoughts with me as the session comes to a close. You can reach me at 317-232-9651 or at email@example.com.
Rep. Cherry represents portions of Hancock and Madison counties. He serves as Vice Chairman of Ways and Means. He also serves on the Local Government Committee and the Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee.