General Assembly has reached the half-way point of its long session,
and some bills have crossed over into the opposite chamber. Intense and
extensive debates have occurred on the floor of both chambers, covering
a wide variety of issues. Among the most hotly debated legislation on
this year's agenda are immigration reform, education reform,
right-to-work and the smoking ban.
During the last eleven business
days, the activities of the General Assembly have slowed, due in large
part to a walk out by the House Democratic caucus that started on
February 22. On March 3, the remaining House members passed a
resolution to compel the missing Democrat members to return or
else face fines of $250 a day begining
on March 7. The House took further action by pushing back second and
third reading deadlines for the second time. The original deadline was
February 25, but has now been reset for a second time to March
16. The result of the walkout means that many important bills are
stalled, including the biennium budget proposal, HB 1001.
Senate Bill 590 mandates various changes concerning
enforcement of federal immigration laws, including checking the
citizenship or immigration status of individuals by local law
enforcement agents. SB 590 passed the Senate and is pending in the
Many different components comprise Governor Daniels'
Education Reform package. Included in Senate Bill 1 are four
major segments of education reform addressing: advisory boards,
charter schools, license revocation, and performance evaluation. SB
1 passed out of the Senate and has been referred to the House.
SB 1 eliminates the advisory board
of the Division of Professional Standards of the Department of
SB 1 provides that at least 50
percent of the teachers in a charter school are required to
be licensed as teachers, or be in the process of obtaining a
license (unless the State Board of Education waives the limitation).
SB 1 requires the Department of
Education to revoke the license of a school employee if the
employee is convicted in another state or under federal statute of an
offense that is comparable to the felonies for which the employee's
license would be revoked if committed in Indiana.
SB 1 establishes an annual staff
performance evaluation that categorizes teachers as highly
effective, effective, improvement necessary, or ineffective. It
specifies that a teacher rated ineffective or improvement necessary may
not receive a raise or increment for the following year.
The last element of education
reform is House Bill 1002, which focuses on the expansion of charter
schools and allows charters to opt into the state health insurance
plans as can their traditional public school counterparts. It requires
uniform and consistent transfer of credits for students who transfer
from a charter school to another public school. HB
1002 allows charter schools to lease or purchase unused school buildings
owned by school corporations.
Scholarship Program and School
Another component of education
reform is House Bill 1003. This bill will increase the school
scholarship tax credit that may be awarded for donations to a
scholarship granting organization. It allows scholarship granting
organizations to grant scholarships, more commonly known as vouchers,
to families with income not more than 250 percent of the amount
required for the individual to qualify for the federal free or reduced
price lunch program. It also prohibits a scholarship granting
organization from limiting the availability of scholarships to students
of only one participating school. HB 1003
passed the House by a vote of 58-35.