House Republicans advance key agenda items in short session

Posted by: Erin Reece  | Thursday, March 10, 2016

STATEHOUSE (March 10, 2016) – As the 2016 legislative session wrapped up Thursday, House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said significant progress was made on big issues facing Indiana.

House Republicans set out with legislative priorities focused on funding Indiana’s infrastructure needs, supporting educators and schools, replacing ISTEP and curbing the illegal drug epidemic in Indiana. Bosma said while House Republicans pushed for a comprehensive road funding plan this year, a compromise was struck that will address local and state needs over the next two years and meets a number of other caucus goals.

“We reached a compromise on road funding, which addresses our state’s immediate road funding needs while ensuring legislators come back next year to discuss a more comprehensive, long-term plan,” Bosma said. “House Republicans knew in January that passing a long-term plan might take more than one session. The plan we passed today puts us in a strong position as we move forward with discussions this summer and begins the process of transferring gasoline sales tax to dedicated road funding.”

Bosma said the plan, House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1001, directs $186 million upfront to a local road and bridge matching grant account. The bill also redirects 1.5 cents of the 7 cents of sales tax on gasoline to the matching account as a source of ongoing funding and codifies the current equivalent of one cent already being dedicated to road funding. About $328 million would go toward state road and bridge preservation and maintenance over the next two years. In addition, about $505 million in local option income tax reserves currently held by the state will be returned to local units with $330 million dedicated to roads.

The bill also creates a task force, which will conduct a deep-dive study this summer into state and local road funding needs and options. The bill now moves to the governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.

Supporting Educators, Schools
In January, House and Senate leadership worked closely with the governor’s office and superintendent of public instruction to identify solutions to address several issues with last year’s ISTEP. House Enrolled Act 1003 and Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 200 were enacted in the outset of session to ensure last year’s scores do not unfairly penalize Hoosier teachers and schools, since the state transitioned to a new, more rigorous test. The governor already signed both bills into law. Under HEA 1395, ISTEP would be phased out by July 2017 and a new commission will provide recommendations for a more streamlined and accurate test.

Legislators also passed HEA 1002 establishing the “Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship" to provide the best and brightest students, who also commit to teaching in Hoosier schools for at least five years, with up to $7,500 per year to cover tuition. Bosma, author of the bill, said the Commission for Higher Education will be responsible for implementing and promoting the program, and $10 million has been appropriated for the program.

Under HEA 1005, school districts would have the option to devise and implement their own Career Pathways and Mentorship Program, which would recognize and reward teachers who take on extra roles and leadership positions. Along with strengthening teacher background checks, the bill allows school corporations the option to offer supplemental pay to teachers who teach advanced placement and dual-credit courses. The bill also removes barriers to license reciprocity.

House Enrolled Acts 1395, 1002 and 1005 now move to the governor for his consideration.

Curbing Illegal Drugs
House Republicans supported efforts to toughen penalties for drug traffickers, restrict criminals’ access to meth-making materials while also focusing on substance abuse and treatment options.

To keep the worst drug dealers behind bars, HEA 1235 imposes mandatory minimum sentences. This means those dealers convicted of dealing meth or heroin with a prior felony drug dealing conviction would serve at least 10 years.

As the number one meth-producing state in the nation, Indiana needed to act to restrict the ingredients used to manufacture meth. Pseudoephedrine (PSE) is a key ingredient used in meth and often found in cold, flu and allergy medications. Senate Enrolled Act 80 maintains Hoosiers’ legitimate access to PSE without a prescription, but if a purchaser does not have a relationship with the pharmacy, pharmacists have the option to sell them an extraction-resistant product or a smaller package of PSE. If the purchaser refuses the alternative options, they would be required to obtain a prescription. To help keep PSE out of the wrong hands, HEA 1157 makes it illegal for all individuals convicted of a meth-related felony to possess these medications without a prescription. The National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), a real-time electronic logging system used by pharmacies and law enforcement, would be instructed to issue stop-sale alerts in real time when meth-related felons attempt to purchase PSE without a prescription.

House Enrolled Act 1102 would increase collaboration between the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, probation departments, community correction agencies and all local criminal justice agencies that receive any funding from the Department of Correction (DOC) for community supervision of adult offenders. This bill would allow the DOC, with approval by the Indiana Budget Agency, to provide additional grants to county jails to implement evidence-based mental health and addiction forensic treatment services. These pieces of legislation now move to the governor’s desk where they could be signed into law.

-30-

House District 88 includes the northeast corner of Marion County and portions of Hancock and Hamilton counties.