2015 Session

Opinion - Politics
12:00 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

As February Wraps Up, A Legislative Milestone Passes

Andrew Downs, Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.
Credit Courtesy / Andrew Downs

The week of February 23rd includes a legislative milestone for the current session of the Indiana General Assembly.  This was the week when bills had to move from one chamber to the other.  Theoretically, if a bill failed to be voted out of the chamber of origin, it is not possible for that bill to become law.  In other words, those bills are dead.  (Click here to see how a bill becomes a law in Indiana.) 

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Politics & Government
5:57 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Bosma Scuttles Alternative Energy Bill After Backlash

Citizens Action Coalition Executive Director Kerwin Olson spoke out against the net metering bill, and says the group will be vigilant for similar legislative language until the session ends.
Credit Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

House Speaker Brian Bosma Tuesday halted a bill opponents say significantly reduces incentives for Hoosiers to use alternative energy for their homes.

Proposed legislation made changes to the system by which utility companies purchase excess electricity from Hoosiers who produce energy through alternative means, such as solar panels.  Utilities would buy that energy at a lower price, and be able to charge alternative energy users fixed monthly fees for using the energy grid. 

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Politics & Government
4:59 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

House Kills Sunday Sales Bill, Both Sides Blame Each Other

The Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers has been fighting against lifting the ban on Sunday sales. A bill aimed at doing so died in the House on Tuesday.

Businesses on either side of legislation legalizing Sunday alcohol sales are blaming each other after the bill died in the House Tuesday.  The bill’s author pulled the measure after he said he couldn’t garner enough votes to pass it.

The battle lines in the Sunday sales debate had been unchanged for years: on one side, pushing for Sunday sales, were grocery and convenience stores, led by their lobbying arm, the Indiana Retail Council.  Opposing Sunday sales were the state’s package liquor stores, represented by the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers. 

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Politics & Government
4:37 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

House Passes 2015 Indiana Budget Bill

Indiana Rep. Tim Brown authored the House Republican budget bill.
Credit Courtesy / Indiana House Republicans

House Democrats say the state budget proposed by House Republicans will devastate many public schools throughout the state.  The budget passed overwhelmingly in a House vote Tuesday.

House Republicans named education their top focus this session, and the bulk of debate over the budget revolves around education funding. 

Specifically, it involves changes to the school funding formula that seek to help growing, wealthier suburban school districts.  But those changes would mean significantly less money for poor, inner city schools that are losing students. 

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Education
4:16 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Legislature Approves Measure Shortening ISTEP+

The Indiana General Asseembly passed SB 62 Monday, allowing the Indiana Department of Education to shorten the ISTEP standardized test.
Credit File

After outrage from parents and educators that this year’s ISTEP+ assessment would take students a total of twelve hours, the General Assembly took the reigns to shorten the length of the test. Both the House and Senate approved the legislation Monday.

By passing Senate Bill 62, the legislature gives the Department of Education permission to eliminate the Social Studies portion of the ISTEP exam for fifth and seventh graders this year.

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Politics & Government
3:38 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Freedom Indiana Comes Out Against Proposed Religious Freedom Amendment

The organization behind last year’s successful fight against Indiana’s proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage is back at the Statehouse this year.  The group’s target is a bill that allows people to use religious reasons to challenge state and local laws.

Some of the group that made up last year’s Freedom Indiana coalition, including manufacturer Cummins, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the ACLU, have already spoken out against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. 

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Politics & Government
4:41 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Pence Push for Sales Tax Exemption Falls Flat

Gov. Mike Pence says he's still hoping lawmakers will consider some of his sales tax exemptions, some of which are considered too drastic by legislators of both parties.
Credit File

Governor Mike Pence says he still hopes to alter a major sales tax exemption for Hoosier businesses after House lawmakers stripped out a change to the exemption from the governor’s tax legislation.

One of the biggest pieces of Governor Pence’s tax simplification bill was the elimination of what’s called the “double direct” test for determining business sales tax exemptions.  The double direct test is a very specific metric for determining what items are exempt from the sales tax. 

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Education
5:36 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

State Issues New Guidance on Shorter ISTEP+ Test

After news that this year’s ISTEP+ would take students twelve hours to complete, the Department of Education adopted a plan Thursday to shorten the test.

The DOE decided to split the open-ended portion of the test, which begins next week, into two forms. They say that will shave three hours off the original twelve-hour test.

Around 30 percent of the current test consists of pilot questions that don’t count toward a student’s score – those are the questions the DOE split between the two forms.

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Politics & Government
4:53 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Bill Barring Abortion for Fetal Gender, Disability Draws Fire

Indiana Sen. Liz Brown authored a bill barring women from having abortions due to issues with gender or genetic disabilities in the fetus.
Credit Courtesy / Liz Brown

Opponents of a bill barring women from having abortions because of the child’s gender or disability say it will restrict a woman’s right to choose.

The proposed legislation, authored by Fort Wayne Republican Senator Liz Brown, prohibits abortions done because of the child’s gender or if they have a genetic disability such as Down syndrome. 

Supporters say the measure helps women know they have options beyond abortion and that a child being diagnosed with a disability is not a death sentence. 

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Politics & Government
4:40 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Gaming Amendments Lower Casino Taxes, Change Local Agreements

Possible changes to gaming legislation in the General Assembly could mean financial losses for communities hosting Indiana casinos.
Credit Courtesy / Wikimedia Commons

Local communities with casinos could face significant financial losses under changes made Thursday in the House Ways and Means Committee to gaming industry legislation.

Communities where casinos are located currently get four pots of money because of those facilities: dollars from the admittance tax and the wagering tax, money from the state to supplement previous losses in the admittance tax, and money from what are called local development agreements, or LDAs -- essentially, side contracts with the casinos themselves. 

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