INDIANAPOLIS — The differing needs of Hoosier communities were on stark display Monday at the Statehouse as House Republicans and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus outlined their priorities for the four-month lawmaking session.
For the Republicans, who have controlled the House since 2011, it's a steady-as-you-go agenda, with constitutional mandates, such as enacting a balanced budget, and familiar items, including improving workforce development programs and reducing infant mortality, taking center stage.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the House GOP also will promote school safety initiatives, seek to reduce taxes on Hoosier veterans and encourage local school districts to cut administrative costs in order to fund teacher pay raises.
"We join Governor Holcomb and Senate Republicans in sharing many of the same priorities for this legislative session, and I'm confident we will continue to work closely together to take them across the finish line," Bosma said.
Increasing teacher pay also is a top black caucus priority. But state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, a black caucus member, believes the Legislature has an obligation to provide additional funds to schools so teachers see their paychecks grow 5 percent by 2021.
"I think our local school corporations have done all that they can to ensure that teachers receive adequate pay," Melton said. "It's incumbent upon the General Assembly to find the dollars to support them in that effort."
The black caucus also said it will aggressively push to enact a bias crime statute, with additional prison time for crimes motivated by hate toward particular groups; to study violent crime as a public health issue; and to create an amnesty program for Hoosiers barred from driving due to unpaid traffic fines.
"These issues not only reflect the will of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, but they have been brought up time and again when our members have traveled to all corners of the state for our town halls," said state Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, black caucus chairwoman.
"In many instances, it has taken far too long to get these issues before the General Assembly, and we do not intend to wait any longer to get them in place."