Monday, January 5, 2015

The 2015 Legislative Session: Contrasting Priorities

The 2015 General Assembly session starts tomorrow, another session dominated by a Republican supermajority. In a recent column Indy Star political analyst Matthew Tully calls these sessions an "annual exercise in frustration" because of "distractions and small-ball initiatives, and priorities so misplaced that you have to wonder if some of our lawmakers realize what an honor it is to serve in the Statehouse." To illustrate he cites Republican initiatives such as Sen. Scott Schneider's "religious freedom bill" that would allow business owners and others to deny service to people with whom they disagree, such as same sex couples who want wedding-related services or to adopt a child. Also, he cites Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse's proposed legislation requiring public high school students to pass a civics test similar to the one taken by immigrants seeking citizenship.

By contrast, the Democratic legislative agenda laid out today by House Minority Leader Scott Pelath seems to reflect the real concerns of Hoosiers. On education, Democratic priorities include expanding the state's pre-kindergarten pilot program, making kindergarten attendance mandatory and capping public college tuition at the rate students pay their first year. After years of tax breaks for businesses, Democrats call for an increase in the minimum wage, as have been enacted in many states already. To improve our political system Democrats will propose nonpartisan redistricting, improved government transparency standards, and stricter legislative ethics requirements. Read more about Democrats' legislative priorities here.