[r54] Rep. Saunders: A Week full debates (2/11/2011)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Start Date: 2/11/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/11/2011
Although we had a rocky week last week due to the inclement weather, I don't think it will compare to what lays ahead for us this week.

Since the Statehouse was closed for business on Tuesday and Wednesday, we have this week to make up for lost time. Meaning, we will schedule more committee meetings, hear more debates and cast more votes. In addition to a hectic schedule, we are planning to hear some debates concerning some-what controversial legislation.

One of the biggest issues, being the budget, received its first public hearing this week in the House Ways and Means Committee. Members presented House Bill 1001 on Monday to the committee, and began hearing, what I am guessing will be, a long list of people providing public testimony.

Even though members are just now starting to hear the budget bill, they have been working on the language for some time now. However, with Indiana's revenue and unemployment slowly improving, it will be interesting to see how the budget-writing process rides out this session.

Job creation is next on the list. We have several bills on the calendar-majority of them I discussed in last week's column. If you didn't get the chance to read, you can visit my website at www.in.gov/h54. The legislation addresses tax credits for small businesses, incentives for businesses to renovate rundown buildings and pushes to increase entrepreneurial programs-to name a few.

Those bills should be receiving a hearing this week in committee and possibly a debate on the House floor.

In addition to budgets and jobs, we should be hearing some more controversial bills that might be handed down this week, including legislation about charter schools and the marriage amendment, and it's only the beginning of the week.

House Bill 1002 helps more communities, other than Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Gary, to create charter schools in their community, if they so choose to do so. For those of you that have not heard the term, a charter school is a public school that gives parents an additional educational option for their students.

They provide parents a different option or atmosphere for their student, who may not be succeeding in their current setting. Charter schools are set up similar to most public schools. However, some cater to special needs or specific subjects, but all are held to the same accountability as traditional public schools.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions out there on both sides of the argument concerning charter schools-where the schools get their funding, teacher qualifications, program accountability, etc.-which is why it has become such a controversial subject. But since their creation in 2001, Indiana has established 60 charter schools with more than 22,000 students attending-all of which have a great success rate-and more than 3,500 students on the waiting list.

But as I said, charter school legislation won't be the only issue debated this week. I am expecting to hear a debate on the sanctity of marriage in the Indiana constitution. This issue presents itself almost every year, when legislators propose an amendment to protect Indiana's constitution by defining constitutionally   marriages between one man and one woman. If passed, this would give Indiana citizens the right to vote on how they feel on this issue.

Thirty other states already have an amendment in place.

A bill doesn't have to be controversial in order to get a discussion. There are plenty more bills getting handed down and discussed, and I plan do my best to report what is going on in Indianapolis-especially if it effects us here in House District 54.

But you don't have to wait for me to give you the good news-you can also visit www.in.gov/legislative and search for any legislation you are interested in reading about or checking the status of. In addition, you can call my office for additional assistance at 1-800-382-9841.