LAWMAKERS GIVE SCHOOLS MORE FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY
Prescription drug abuse, highway safety among other issues addressed in 2010 session
Lawmakers this session provided schools new tools to use for their funding challenges. Two separate bills offered districts more financial flexibility and local control. We also took steps to address social promotion of students not reading at grade level.
Under House Enrolled Act 1367, schools can claim up to 5 percent of funding normally dedicated to capital projects and use it for instructional purposes. Schools agreeing to pay freezes for staff, with exceptions for built-in raises based on experience and new degrees, can use up to 10 percent.
This measure will provide access to nearly $82 million statewide to help prevent teacher layoffs and preserve instructional programs. By allowing them to tap into these funds, HEA 1367 helps schools address budget cuts and avoid new taxes on Hoosiers.
This legislation also requires schools to develop a plan to protect instructional programs, including provisions for students who are deficient in reading. Input will be sought through public hearings.
To avoid additional costs and provide more local control, Senate Enrolled Act 309 gives schools the option to continue budgeting on a January 1 – December 31 calendar or change to the state’s fiscal July 1 – June 30 calendar. Without this new flexibility, many schools would have to pay for more training and equipment during already difficult financial times.
Here is some other legislation of interest approved by the 2010 Indiana General Assembly:
Rx Abuse: Lawmakers supported a bill aimed at combating prescription drug abuse in Indiana. Senate Enrolled Act 356 expands the data collected by Indiana’s prescription monitoring program (INSPECT) and allows INSPECT to release information on prescribers and patients to the state toxicologist, Medicaid fraud investigators and substance abuse assistance programs. This change should help better identify problem prescribers and ‘doctor shopper’ patients in an effort to reduce prescription drug abuse.
Drunken Driving: Legislation designed to stiffen penalties against drunken drivers also memorializes an innocent victim, an Indiana family’s unborn son. In 2007, Danielle Brookshire lost her unborn son in a car crash believed to be caused by a drunken driver. Lawmakers worked with Brookshire and local prosecutors on the bill’s language.
Motor Vehicle Offenses: Senate Enrolled Act 93 seeks to protect roadside workers by stiffening penalties for drivers who fail to slow down and move over when approaching a stationary utility vehicle on the side of the road. Senate Enrolled Act 170 increases penalties for drivers who kill a law enforcement officer or law enforcement animal, like a K-9 dog, while driving drunk or resisting arrest.
Voting Accessibility: House Enrolled Act 1109 makes voting easier for those with disabilities and military personnel serving our country overseas. The new law ensures disabled voters have the same access to private, independent methods when casting ballots early or absentee as they do when voting on Election Day. It also provides online and faxing options for military personnel to cast a vote when serving overseas.
Property Rights: Aimed at protecting Hoosier homeowners’ right to display political signs on their property, lawmakers approved a bill allowing homeowners associations to regulate but no longer ban the display of political signs during election seasons. Senate Enrolled Act 64 prohibits associations from adopting restrictive rules that outright prohibit the display of political signs 30 days before an election. Associations may still adopt and enforce rules restricting the size, number and location of signs.
Suicide, Violence Education: Senate Enrolled Act 226 establishes a study of teen suicide and prevention measures, including teacher training to recognize early signs of suicidal tendencies in youth. Senate Enrolled Act 316 requires the Department of Education to develop dating violence education materials, which can later be used to assist schools with preventive programming.
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne.
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