The highly criticized ISTEP test would be replaced, local communities would get more funding for roadwork, and police would have specific rules to follow if they want to use body cameras.
Those are just some of the issues lawmakers plan to discuss in the upcoming 2016 legislative session.
Legislators will begin meeting next week, with a long list of items to accomplish. At the top of the list statewide: more money for roadwork and making sure this year’s ISTEP scores, which are expected to be lower, will not negatively impact teachers, schools or students.
But lawmakers who represent portions of Johnson County also have their own proposals, including some prompted by local issues.
Whether they will move forward is unclear, with all the other issues legislators will be considering this year, said State Rep. John Price, who represents portions of Johnson County. He estimates only about 20 percent of proposed bills will be approved this session.
Price worked on a summer study committee that looked at rules for police body cameras, which would specify how long information captured on those cameras would need to be stored and to whom it could be released. That has been a concern for local police departments, including the sheriff’s office, which has equipped some deputies with body cameras, and the Greenwood Police Department, which plans to give body cameras to all road officers.
The cameras are another tool that would help officers and the people they are interacting with, but the committee had to address questions about what videos could be released and when they needed to be redacted, such as if they contain personal or medical information, he said.
State Rep. Woody Burton, who represents Johnson County, also has proposed legislation inspired by discussions in Greenwood and Noblesville to charge nonprofits a fee that would be equal to their property taxes if they move into a tax-increment financing district. Greenwood considered that fee this year but eventually voted down the proposal due to concerns raised by local organizations, especially churches.
Burton said he wants to ban the fees and is proposing legislation that would prohibit communities from charging them. One of his main concerns is private schools that might want to move into those areas, since demand for those schools continues to grow as shown by the increased use of the state’s voucher program.
“You have to draw the line somewhere on this issue,” Burton said.
But the key issues this year will be ISTEP and road funding.
Local communities have repeatedly asked for more options on how to pay for road repairs and maintenance, and that is an issue that has to be addressed this year, Burton said.
How that work will be paid for is not yet decided.
The state has been living off money from the lease of the toll road in northern Indiana, but that money is gone now, so both the state and local communities need another option, Burton said. He said a user tax, such as on gasoline, is a likely option.
Price has a proposal that would allow local communities to collect a food and beverage tax and put that money toward roadwork.
“This is another avenue to help with road funding, which is a big issue we are hearing from everyone,” said Price, who formerly served in Johnson County as planning director, highway director, county council member and commissioner.
The other key issue lawmakers will be focusing on is ISTEP.
Burton has been working on a bill that would suspend the process that partially bases teacher evaluations and school A-F grades on ISTEP scores.
Some lawmakers want to go further and get rid of the ISTEP.
State Sen. Greg Walker, who represents parts of Johnson County, wants to look at ways other tests schools already use for standardized testing, such as using the SAT or ACT as a graduation test. And with the elimination of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the state has more flexibility with standardized testing, he said.
The goal will be to replace the ISTEP with something that is less time consuming, less expensive and more effective, said State Rep. Eric Koch, who represents parts of Johnson County.
“Really, I am just over the ISTEP,” Walker said. “There has to be a better way to put the accountability on superintendents and principals to let them manage their buildings.”
Here is a look at some of the proposals local lawmakers are planning for this year’s legislative session:
State Rep. Woody Burton
- Ban fees on nonprofits located in tax-increment financing districts
- Cap the amount homeowners association management companies can charge to transfer documents
State Rep. David Frizzell
- Create a reporting system of the substances purchased for making meth to help better track who is buying what
- Allow church groups to be foster parents and avoiding some of the costs and legal issues
State Rep. Eric Koch
- Have the state department of health issue a card to people with autism, which they can present to someone to help them better understand their behavior, such as when interacting with police
- Allow police to more easily access location information from a person’s cellphone when they are missing or in danger
State Rep. John Price
- Allow money collected in a local food and beverage tax to be spent on road maintenance and repair
- Require details on contracts or purchases totaling 25 percent or more of a local government’s tax levy to be posted on the state transparency website
- Set the process for how people can acquire blighted and abandoned properties
- Add emergency room staff to the current law that allows people to be charged with a felony for attacking police officers
- Allow local governments to exchange federal transportation dollars for state dollars, which would allow them to follow state standards for road projects, potentially saving time and money
State Sen. Rod Bray
- Establish rules for police body cameras, such as how long information must be stored and how to release information, while also addressing privacy issues
- Eliminate obsolete statutes in the Indiana Code, such as who has jurisdiction over Military Park in Indianapolis.
State Sen. Greg Walker
- Promote more compliance and collection and better catch tax evasion for wholesalers who prepay for diesel fuel
- Create higher penalties for employers who try to pay their employees under the table to avoid paying taxes
State Sen. Brent Waltz
- Allow family members easier access to online information, such as social media accounts, when a relative dies