INDIANAPOLIS—Today, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) released the following statement commenting on the end of the 2021 legislative session:
“Before the start of the 2021 legislative session, I was very cognizant that we were entering one of our most important sessions yet. In my new capacity as Assistant Democratic Leader, it was my goal to work on behalf of the people like never before. Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on residents in our state and coming out of 2020 where we saw global calls for racial justice—there was a lot of work to be done.
“So, I was very happy with the collaboration and bipartisanship I saw this session when it came to addressing issues that mattered the most to Hoosiers. Early on, we were able to ensure schools that operated virtually were not stripped of funding. We also passed House Bill 1006 to address law enforcement accountability. That historic proposal was approved unanimously and bans chokeholds, requires de-escalation training and makes it all around easier for police officers who engage in misconduct to be disciplined.
“I was also extremely pleased with the investments we were able to make into K-12 education in the final budget that passed out of the General Assembly. Because of the funding Indiana received from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we had an additional $3B in federal funds to put into the budget and it made a monumental difference. Also, because of the aid we’ve received from the federal government, our state is in good economic standing with a forecasted general fund revenue of $2B for FYs 2022-2023. I’m pleased that this good news led to additional investment of $1B into the school funding formula, which will finally give schools more resources to provide teachers with the raises they deserve.
“We were also able to increase funding for food banks for the first time in a decade, which was a priority for me, the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and Senate Democrats. We saw raises for our direct support professionals, funding restored to mental health and addiction services and new funding to assist with continued economic development projects in Gary along the Buffington Harbor.
“All of these were items that my caucus and I directly fought to see included in the budget. In committee and at the second reading deadline, we offered around 40 amendments to the budget to include language that worked in the best interest of Hoosiers. I’m happy that, with the money from the American Rescue Plan, many of the Senate Democratic ideas were adopted into the budget.
“This was one of the most successful and bipartisan sessions I’ve seen in my time as an Indiana senator. Still, I was disappointed with the expansion of voucher programs at the expense of public schools in our budget. Educational funding should always be equitable and fair—traditional public schools educate 93% percent of students and they should receive 93% of new dollars. The funding that each school type receives each year should match their share of the state’s average daily membership count.”
“It was also disappointing that we failed to pass any legislation requiring common-sense standards, or even transparency, to be included in our upcoming congressional map drawing process. I will be fighting, along with my caucus, to make the process as fair and transparent as possible when we resume session later this year.”