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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are laying out their priorities for the 2022 legislative session.

Legislators gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday for Organization Day, the ceremonial kickoff for the new session.

In an address to the Indiana House of Representatives, House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said he feels “optimistic” about Indiana’s future, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, and called on Democrats to work with him and the Republican supermajority this session.

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said he believes both parties can work together on some priorities.

Speaker Huston said education is one issue at the top of his agenda, urging lawmakers to take action to improve test scores and make sure parents have say over what is taught in schools.

“A parent’s voice must be heard and respected,” Huston said. “And we’ll ensure that’s the case.”

“We’re going to expand on what we’ve done in the past, which is give parental choice more and more,” said House Majority Leader Matt Lehman (R-Berne). “And that’s going to filter into their input in school decisions.”

Minority Leader GiaQuinta said he believes parents should have a voice in schools but cautions against any push to make school board races partisan.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we decided not to elect a superintendent of public instruction because Republicans wanted to take politics out of the classroom, so to speak,” GiaQuinta said.

Combating rising health care costs is an item leaders on both sides say needs to be a priority, with lawmakers looking at ways to reduce prices across the system.

And House leadership wants to find other ways to give money back to Hoosier taxpayers as well, aside from the automatic $545 million tax refund going out early next year.

“Whether it’s from as we look at some of our spending issues, where we invest our money, etc., I think we have to keep a sharp eye on where inflation is going,” Lehman said.

GiaQuinta said he and his Democratic colleagues are not opposed to tax cuts – as long as they don’t take a toll on certain entities like local governments.

“If there’s other things that we can do with targeted tax cuts just to help benefit Hoosiers, then I certainly will take a look at those,” GiaQuinta said.

Among other items on his agenda, Speaker Huston called on lawmakers to develop energy policy to bring down prices.

Speaker Huston also said he and his Republican colleagues are watching various abortion cases in the nation’s courts very closely and said lawmakers are ready to take action, depending on what the courts decide.

But Leader GiaQuinta said if Republicans take up abortion restrictions, it could hamper the ability of both parties to work together overall at the Statehouse.