In true sports fashion, in order to be most productive and fair in the Statehouse and through the legislative process, both teams – the House of Representatives and the Senate – take a moment in the middle of the game, or in this case session, to review what has been accomplished. Most importantly at this halfway point the proposed bills now switch sides. Bills that have been passed by the House will move into the Senate for further consideration, and bills that have passed the Senate will come into the House to be discussed and debated.
But there is no halftime show at the Statehouse. After passing things along, legislators are right back to work, researching Senate bills and their fiscal and societal effects on Hoosiers. In this first half, 174 bills have passed the House into the Senate, and 220 bills passed from the Senate into the House.
All bills must be debated and discussed by both the House and the Senate. Every bill is important to someone, but I believe the bill that has the greatest impact on Indiana is House Bill (HB) 1001, the biennial budget. Our state’s budget is essential to Indiana being able to function and we are constitutionally obligated to pass this every other year. This year, the House included the largest amount we have spent on education with over 60 percent going towards K-12 and higher education. The proposed budget also invests over $80 million into programs to improve public safety such as funding for domestic violence assistance and increasing education for new and expecting mothers. While addressing the budget and public safety are of course top priorities for the House, both chambers are also focused on an emergency education provision. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 62, ISTEP testing, has passed out of both chambers unanimously.
SEA 62 was signed into law in February. The act provides that Department of Education can waive the social studies portion of ISTEP this year. Essentially, this shortens the statewide test by three hours for all students and up to an additional two hours for fifth and seventh grade students. ISTEP reform and education has taken a front seat this session, and I am proud to see we were able to do something to help shave hours off of our student’s tests.
It is exciting to see a piece of legislation that you author pass out of the House and I am proud that I have two bills, HB 1203 and HB 1208, moving forward to the Senate. HB 1203 works to allow microbreweries and farm wineries to sell beer and wine by the glass at trade shows and expositions within the same premises. Essentially, this would simplify existing alcohol laws and make regulation easier for excise police. House 1208 allows the Department of Natural Resources to establish a lottery to allow individuals to purchase a license to hunt an additional antlered deer within a one year period. This would give a hunter who didn’t get the buck that he wanted to have another chance to get one. Both of these bills apply to differing groups of Hoosiers, but aim to make life more convenient for Hoosier that they apply to.
We have taken time to consider every aspect of each bill that we have passed along to the Senate. Unlike sports teams, there will not be an individual winning team session; we hope that every bill betters our state. I look forward to seeing where the rest of session takes us and all we can do for Hoosiers.