District 74 Legislative Survey Results
In mid-January many of you received the District 74 Legislative Survey. Over 1,625 in total returned the survey with just over 1,200 mailing it in and the other 400 completing the on-line survey. To all those who provided this valuable input, let me thank you and apologize that we were limited to a small handful of questions. Let me share the results and a few comments about the status of each.
The first question asked if Indiana should "opt out" of the provisions for the federal health care law: 55 percent were in favor, 33 percent against, and 12 percent undecided. Many share the concern that unfunded mandates are bad for Indiana as our state cannot constitutionally create a deficit like our federal government. It appears President Obama and Congress is reconsidering the options of states, as well.
The second question asked if you supported a statewide smoking ban: 52 percent are in favor, 41 percent against, and 7 percent undecided. This bill passed the House including some important exemptions for over 21 establishments such as bars and casinos. This softened version, in conversations with many of you, makes it more palatable for those who were against it.
"Do you favor the elimination of the township board and transferring its oversight function to the county council?" This time 45 percent disagreed, 35 percent agreed, and 20 percent remained undecided. Though several bills were offered, none have made it to the floor of the House. This feedback, I believe, demonstrates a preference for local control, particularly in our district's rural counties.
"Do you support a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman?" This was the clearest response of the survey: 72 percent said yes, 22 percent said no and 6 percent were undecided. We did vote on the Constitutional Amendment in the House and it passed consistently with the will of our district. The resolution now goes to the Senate for approval and then would have to go through a similar process in two years qualifying it to be placed on the ballot as a referendum which would allow all Hoosiers to decide if this shall become a constitutional amendment.
The question of, "Should package, convenience and grocery stores be allowed to sell beer, wine and liquor on Sunday?" 52 percent said no, 40 percent yes, and 8 percent were undecided. This bill is a grave concern to our small town liquor stores which fear the economic impact of allowing Sunday sales. It did not make it out of committee this year.
The last two questions focused on education, which has gotten a lot of attention in this session. The first question asked, "Do you think that a teacher's students' improvement in test scores should be one factor in a teacher's pay?" The results were: 48 percent said yes, 42 percent said no, and 10 percent were undecided. Legislation to evaluate teachers and implement merit pay passed the Senate in Senate Bill 1 and we expect to hear it in the House. SB 1 has many teachers concerned about what will be measured and how much the evaluation will impact their pay. I believe the current SB 1 legislation will get a considerable additional "overhaul" in the House to help address the very legitimate concerns of teachers. I will keep you abreast of the changes to this bill. Even many teachers agree it is a good idea, just difficult to accomplish in a fair and disciplined way.
The final survey question was, "Do you believe that our education system is doing an acceptable job preparing our students to enter the workforce?" The results were: 49 percent said no, 35 percent said yes, and 16 percent were undecided. We have good schools in our district. However, I think this demonstrates the very high bar constituents place on our education system. In the past we have answered by giving schools more money. The state doesn't have more money. The Charter School bill which passed the House last month and is now being considered in the Senate provides for the expansion of the charter public school option as thousands of children are on waiting lists across the state. House Bill 1003, the School Scholarship program, also called vouchers, is yet one more option being considered. That bill has passed out of the House Education Committee, but has not yet been debated on the floor of the House. Though many like this option for Hoosier children, allowing even low income students to use vouchers could create empty seats resulting in less funding to our public schools.
Finally, SB 575, collective bargaining, has passed out of the Senate and will come to the House for consideration. This bill would focus collective bargaining on primarily salary and benefits. District 74 teachers and administrators have done a great job of making their voices heard on these important education bills.
The greatness of our nation is the freedom of speech and thought that we have as Hoosiers and Americans. That same freedom of speech and thought is incredibly difficult for a legislator as, with every vote, I will please many, but disappoint some. Know that my colleagues and I spend much time refining bills through amendments before that final vote as we attempt to "thread the needle" in a way that serves most Hoosiers and ensures the future of Indiana for our children.
If you would like to see the legislative survey results for District 74 you can visit www.in.gov/H74. As always, please stay in touch. Your survey responses, e-mails, calls, letters, and visits do make a difference.
Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand)