Waynedale Political Commentaries


SENATOR DAVID LONGSenate Focuses First Half on Jobs,
Education, Government Reforms
Senators ready to tackle budget, redistricting next
Jobs, education and government reforms were the focus of the Indiana Senate during the first half of the 2011 legislative session.
Senators are now prepared to weigh in on the state budget and tackle redistricting and other matters important to Hoosier taxpayers.
Here is a sampling of key bills passed so far by the 2011 Indiana Senate:
· Tax Rate Attractiveness, Competitiveness – Senate Bill 589 would make Indiana even more attractive for business expansion and relocation by lowering corporate income taxes.  Currently, Indiana is ranked 10th among pro-growth states, because of our low cost of doing business, dedicated workforce, excellent universities and comparatively low property and individual income taxes. However, Indiana’s corporate income taxes are among the highest in the nation and when combined with federal taxes, Indiana has a higher rate than China, Germany and Japan. SB 589 would implement several recommendations of last summer’s Economic Development Study Committee – a bipartisan panel of lawmakers and Hoosier employers – and would lower the tax rate from 8.5 to 6.5 percent, making Indiana more competitive and attractive for private-sector job growth.
· Clean, Safe, Dependable Energy – Senate Bill 251 encourages federally mandated environmental updates of generating facilities, creates incentives for producing clean energy and more affordable pay-as-you-go cost recovery to develop and produce safe nuclear energy. In 2009, utility forecasters estimated Indiana will need 17 percent more generation capacity by 2020 and 30 percent more by 2025 in order to meet demand of businesses and household customers. Utility costs are major considerations for employers looking to expand or relocate. SB 251 represents Indiana’s first-ever comprehensive statewide energy plan for safe, affordable, dependable power determining the cost-of-living and quality-of-life for generations of Hoosier workers and retirees to come.
· Fiscal Constraint – In hopes of passing a fourth consecutive balanced budget, Senate bills have been thoroughly reviewed to avoid any additional costs to state government and taxpayers. In many cases, legislation has been amended or placed aside to avoid further burdening hardworking Hoosiers and employers with any general tax increases, especially during this prolonged national recession. Indiana’s recovery is too fragile to jeopardize private-sector job growth by growing government and raising general taxes.

·  Effective Teachers – Senate Bill 1 would help school corporations locally develop and administer rigorous, annual teacher evaluations in hopes of identifying and rewarding highly effective educators. Evaluations would also help identify underperforming teachers and provide valuable feedback leading to remedial assistance. Money previously allocated simply toward teacher seniority and degrees earned would in the future reward student success, classroom performance, school leadership assignments or incentives to teach high-priority subject areas or grade levels. Special education teachers and others without growth data would also be evaluated – on multiple factors to be determined locally.
· Collective Bargaining – Senate Bill 575 would return negotiable topics of teacher contracts to their original purposes – salaries and wage-related benefits. SB 575 specifically mentions several items lawmakers see as important discussible topics that may be detailed in other written school policies: curriculum development and revision; hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer, assignment and retention of certified employees; textbook selections; student discipline; student/teacher ratios; student and staff safety in the workplace; and teaching methods. Current contracts delve into management decisions citizens might recognize as duties of local principals and superintendents. Nothing in this education bill calls for the elimination of due process for teachers. Instead, the proposal aims to streamline and align it with the current due process granted to principals. SB 575 would not eliminate collective bargaining by educators. The reforms would merely re-focus contacts and help clear bureaucratic underbrush. Reducing salaries of existing teachers is not the goal of SB 575. Rather, it is intended to enable rewarding teachers for driving student growth and performing as high-quality professionals. Under SB 575 as amended, current contracts will continue at the discretion of the corporation if new agreements cannot be reached. If an impasse occurs, an arbitrator may be called in to settle the matter.
· Unused Schools – Senate Bill 446 allows public charter schools to use vacant buildings of a local school corporation for classroom instruction. As public schools, charters are funded with state dollars like traditional K-12 schools. However, charters are at a disadvantage, because they do not receive local property taxes for buildings, grounds and facilities. As a result, public charter schools often have a difficult time finding suitable, safe classroom space. SB 446 would allow charters to negotiate leases or purchases of unused public schools for $1, providing declining enrollment corporations with cost savings and maximizingtaxpayer-funded resources.

David Long - IN Dist. 16 Senator

David is a former Republican member of the Indiana State Senate representing the 16th district which encompasses Waynedale. He served as the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate. David writes the "Straight From The Senate" column for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer