Halftime review at the Statehouse
With eight weeks down and eight weeks to go, it’s halftime for the 2013 session at the Indiana Statehouse.
The next couple weeks will be exciting as the House receives bills that passed through the Senate and vice versa. The House will hand down the Senate bills, placing them into the appropriate committees to be heard on first reading. The committees are truly the workhorses of the institution as they get into the weeds on various issues and hear testimony from different groups and organizations.
I am particularly excited and eager to follow the progression of House Bill (HB) 1006, a much needed update to Indiana’s criminal code, HB 1004, a Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Pilot Program for low-income Hoosiers, and HB 1001, the state’s budget, as they are heard in the Senate.
HB 1006 will benefit Indiana’s communities and courts, drastically improving Indiana’s outdated criminal code. Currently, there are four classes of felonies (Classes A-D). The bill will expand the four classes by dividing Class A and Class B into two parts each, with murder being its own separate classification. Separating into six classes will allow the sentencing to be more specific, keeping violent and sexual offenders behind bars longer, while also decreasing the severity of the sentencing for non-violent crimes.
I am eager for the Senate to hear HB 1004, regarding a pilot program for Hoosiers to attend preschool. Early education programs are critical to ensuring students get the best start possible for their academic and future careers. This bill has the potential to provide impoverished children in Indiana with an early start to their education in an effort to positively affect their lives.
With education being one of our top priorities this session, it was an essential part of the House state budget proposal. In the House’s budget, it allocated for an increase in school operating funds by $354 million. It is important for us to continue investing in education because our students deserve the best opportunity for a great future.
At the heart of all these policy initiatives is fiscal integrity. It is vital for Indiana’s financial house to remain in order and continue to be recognized with a triple-A credit rating from all three major agencies. The House’s budget supports many of our top legislative priorities, while also reducing the tax burden on Hoosiers.
We must continue to build on our state’s economic prospects, a business climate that has been recognized as one of the most conducive in the country for job growth. This conservative budget is designed to grow the private sector, invest in critical services and strengthen our state’s infrastructure. These are the priorities of Hoosiers; priorities that will make Indiana a better place to live, work and raise a family.