Indiana schools, drug epidemic, Sunday alcohol sales on agenda for Republican senators

Legislative agenda 2018 (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Less than a week into the 2018 session, State Senate Republicans have rolled out their legislative agenda.

State Senate President Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, outlined that agenda Monday.

“This session, we will continue to fight the opioid epidemic, look for ways to improve our workforce development efforts and support our schools. We will also be working to improve civil forfeiture laws and will work to allow the carry-out sale of alcohol on Sundays. There is a lot of work to be done in the coming months on all of these issues, but our caucus is ready to take on those challenges. We look forward to the session ahead,” Long explained.

State Sen. Erin Houchin, a Republican from Salem, said more than 40 percent of doctors who prescribe opiates are registered with the state, but that number could be better.

“Senate Bill 221 requires all practitioners who wish to prescribe opiates to register with INSPECT, our prescription drug monitoring program, and will phase in over a three-year period mandatory searches of the INSPECT report,” Houchin explained.

The goal, she said, is to make sure doctors aren’t over-prescribing opioids.

Lawmakers also want to make sure students are prepared for the future, with new requirements in the classroom.

“Require high schools to offer a computer programming course. It will not, it’s not mandated that students take it. It would be an elective. It begins in 2021. The second part of this bill is it creates a fund to skill up the teachers across the state to be able to teach the class,” said State Sen. Jeff Raatz, a Republican from Centerville.

Senate Bill 189 would roll out in those same classrooms. State Sen. Ryan Mishler, a Republican from Bremen, said his bill would put money back into public schools that could lose money. Recently, the Indiana Department of Education described a shortfall of $9.3 million in per-student funding because the legislature underestimated the number of public school students by about 6,000 when it approved the 2017-2018 school year budget.

State Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican from Auburn, said he wants to change Indiana’s high school diploma offerings from four down to one. Dr. Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of schools, announced on Monday that she backed Kruse’s bill.

“We are pleased Sen. Kruse is addressing the issues surrounding the future of Indiana’s high school diploma. If passed, Senate Bill 177 will result in a fair and accurate reflection of school and student performance. While recent diploma concerns were created as a result of federal action, the senator’s bill will keep the general diploma intact. Sen. Kruse has the department’s full support,” McCormick said.

“This will create the Indiana diploma. The Indiana diploma will be the basic general diploma. Then we will add things to the diploma if you get Core 40, if you get academic honors or if you get the career honors,” Kruse explained.

Far from the classroom, the topic of Sunday alcohol sales is on the agenda as well. State Sen. Ron Alting, a Republican from Lafayette, said his bill would allow alcohol to be sold in convenience, grocery, liquor and drug stores from noon to 8 p.m.

“Without question, the summer study commission was a valuable tool in getting testimony from all entities of people from around the state. It was unanimous that it is simply the time to do a Sunday sales bill,” Alting said.

Workforce development and civic forfeiture round out the Senate Republicans’ 2018 plans. State Sen. Rodric Bray, a Republican from Martinsville, said his bill would find a better balance between what police need and your constitutional rights.