The Indiana General Assembly convened May 14 for a one-day special session called by the governor. During this time, my colleagues and I passed four time-sensitive bills that could not wait until the 2019 session. This legislation will add additional funding for school safety, update our tax code and support the turnaround efforts of at-risk schools.
The U.S. continues to see violent episodes leading to injury and death in schools, including the tragic shooting that occurred in Florida in February. While Indiana has strong laws and policies in place to keep our students safe, the General Assembly found it necessary to pass additional legislation to bolster school security in our state. House Enrolled Act 1230 allows up to $5 million in extra funding for Indiana schools that applied for grants through the Secured School Safety Grant Program this year. This legislation also requires the Indiana Department of Education to conduct an audit of every school corporation’s safety plan to make sure they are as effective as possible.
Lawmakers also passed House Enrolled Act 1242 and House Enrolled Act 1316 to ensure Indiana’s tax code is up to date. For example, federal law now requires that any individual with access to federal taxpayer information undergo a criminal history background check, and HEA 1242 aligns Indiana with this policy. Additionally, before the passage of HEA 1316, Indiana businesses would have had to keep two sets of accounting books – one for federal taxes and another for state taxes. With this law now in place, businesses will be able to combine these records and avoid up to $100 million in compliance costs.
To help improve our schools’ financial health, we passed House Enrolled Act 1315. Under HEA 1315, the financial health of each school district will be reviewed annually, and if a school shows signs of trouble, they will be offered confidential assistance from the state to turn around their situation. This will help prevent dramatic intervention from the state like what we are seeing in the Muncie and Gary communities, where the school districts’ finances have been so severely mismanaged that intervention became imperative.
I believe the process we set forth for this special session was the most transparent and efficient for a special session to date, and while we were unable to complete all of our work in March, I believe we set an example for the future. Now it is time to turn our attention to the topics assigned to summer study committees, so the General Assembly will be well prepared for the 2019 session.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or other topics, contact my office by phone at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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