Could extra Indiana revenue create room for teacher pay increase? Governor says 'stay tuned'

Politics
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After months of watching Indiana teachers demand changes from the state, lawmakers now have an opportunity to address those demands as they kick off the 2020 legislative session.

Education, public health and safety are on the agenda, but lawmakers need to act quickly to address all three.

The goal is to finish the session by March 10, before the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament comes to Indy that weekend.

Democrats call on Republicans to open the budget for educators in 2020.

With a recent forecast showing more money than expected in the state’s surplus, Governor Eric Holcomb told reporters Monday they'll need to "stay tuned" when it comes to specific plans for that extra money regarding teacher pay.

"You’ll hear more from me at the State of the State Address,” said Holcomb.

That address will take place on January 14 at 7 p.m.

Lawmakers on both sides are committed to holding schools and teachers harmless for ILEARN test scores for two years. Proposals to end a controversial externship have also gained bipartisan support.

Republicans are prioritizing the transparency of healthcare costs with bills to create an online pricing portal and a ban on surprise billing. State Senator Rodric Bray said this was the low hanging fruit to grab during a short session, not a fix-all.

“If you have some transparency, then people can begin to cost shop and cost and quality shop," said Bray. "And then, maybe they’ll be more cognizant of what those prices are, and we think that will help some.”

But Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane doesn’t think that’s good enough, saying, “Prioritizing the transparency of healthcare costs without also fighting to lower those costs does little to help sick Hoosiers who are fighting bankruptcy due to unaffordable medicine, whether they know the costs upfront or not.”

Lanane also argues the Republicans’ plan to raise the smoking and vaping age to 21 is pointless because it’s already been done on the federal level.

Holcomb argues it’s still necessary.

“Ours also includes some enforcement measures that the federal bill doesn’t contemplate,” he said.

The governor also prioritized a hands-free driving law that would ban holding electronics behind the wheel.

“The caucus is trying to get their hands around that, no pun intended," said Bray. "There’s certainly some value in that."

He said they’ll have a long talk about it but can’t say where they’ll land.

“I think it’s going to be a quick session, being short and all, but I think it’s also going to be productive,” said Bray.

Some of these bills have yet to be filed.

The deadline to file is on Thursday.

For a full list of bills that have been filed so far in 2020, click here. 

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