Lawmakers pass budget, needle exchange bills

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INDIANAPOLIS (April 29, 2015) – State lawmakers passed a controversial measure Wednesday allowing the state board of education to elect its own chair.

Just before their midnight deadline, lawmakers also passed a new $31 billion state budget and a bill dealing with needle exchange programs in the wake of the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana.

Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement Wednesday night, announcing his intention to sign the needle exchange bill into law.

“While our administration took swift executive action to intervene in the HIV outbreak in Scott County, our healthcare and law enforcement communities will benefit from the legal framework in Senate Enrolled Act 461, which allows limited and accountable syringe exchange programs where public health emergencies warrant such action. Such measures will save lives," said Pence.

“This legislation permits local officials to request approval from the Indiana State Department of Health for a limited and accountable syringe exchange program in the event of a public health emergency, provides resources to our law enforcement community, and I look forward to signing it into law. Our administration worked closely with legislators in crafting this timely and important public health initiative, which I believe will enable our state’s healthcare and law enforcement communities to address this and future health crises.”

Late last night Republican lawmakers released their $31 billion state budget compromise, which includes an increase in K-12 spending, although certain districts like IPS will see a reduction and districts like Hamilton Southeastern will see an increase based on how tax dollars are distributed.

An updated version was posted online Wednesday evening.

Within the first draft of the compromise were provisions that shift education control, of parts of the state’s voucher program, from the Department of Education to State Board of Education.

“I do support that,” Pence said. “I believe that a range of the consolidation we have here represents a significant improvement in the operation of the oversight of education policy in our state.”

The move would essentially shift oversight from State Superintendent Glenda Ritz to Pence.

“The Department of Education has done this work since the creation of the program and we know this program better than anyone else,” Dan Altman said, spokesperson for Ritz and the Department of Education.  “For the Governor to try this power grab without any input from the public is another example of his disdain for the public’s voice and a transparent and open government."

But late Wednesday a spokesperson for State Senate Pro Tem David Long confirmed to FOX 59 that provision has been taken out of the budget. Long told reporters the Senate didn't know it was there.

Late Wednesday afternoon FOX59 also learned the proposal to renovate IUPUI's Carroll Stadium for the Indy Eleven soccer team would not be voted before the session ended.

"It was the fact we couldn’t get all the details finalized," State Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said. "It was important for us to pass a good bill and not just a bill, and there were a lot of moving parts in this proposal and we frankly ran out of time."

The House and Senate also approved a gaming bill that would allow riverboat casinos to move to dry land, and allow race track casinos to add live dealers, but not until 2021.

This story will be updated. 

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