INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly has discussed several proposals to start the 2015 legislative session. State Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) has authored a number of initiatives, focusing on issues related to education, gaming and veterans.

Judicial retirement age

Currently, justices and Court of Appeals judges must retire at 75 years old. Sen. Rogers’ SB 12 would extend that retirement age to 80 years old to ensure qualified and experienced judges remain on the bench for a longer period of time. The bill has been engrossed on second reading.

Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy

SB 193 would designate the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (NILEA) as a criminal justice agency, and specifies that it is a board-certified training center. The proposal would define the powers and duties of its board of directors. NILEA was created in response to a legislative mandate that all police officers in Indiana have a minimum of sixteen hours on in-service training to maintain their certification as law enforcement officers. The proposal was passed in the senate, 48 yeas, 1 nay. The bill will now move to be heard in the House.

School bus monitors

School bus drivers are required to have a certain visual acuity to discriminate detail. School bus monitors would not have the same requirement under SB 339. School bus monitors assist drivers by ensuring that all students are safe on the bus, seat belts and other necessary supports are secured, discipline is maintained and can seek emergency medical help when needed.

State payments for school textbook costs

Parents are currently paying anywhere from $50 to $200 on their student’s textbooks each year. SB 340 would require public schools to provide textbooks and other curricular materials to students at no cost to the student. As to not place an extra cost on schools’ budgets, the proposal would establish the Curricular Materials Fund and would provide that the Department of Education adjust current funding.

Lost personal property submitted to police

In an effort to help a constituent define “cash” Sen. Rogers drafted SB 341 to establish a method for an individual who comes into possession of tangible personal property, except firearms or cash that the individual does not own and submits to a law enforcement agency; to become the rightful owner of the tangible personal property or cash. It would prohibit a law enforcement agency from turning over possession of tangible personal property or cash submitted to the law enforcement agency to any person if either is needed as evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation, dangerous or unusable.

Examination for driver’s licenses

The testing and demonstration of ability to operate a motor vehicle at the Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) is currently in English only. SB 342 would require the BMV to offer testing in certain foreign languages.

Motorcycle equipment

A constituent-raised issue to provide safer transportation for Hoosiers led to the drafting of SB 343 which would allow a motorcycle to be equipped with a steering wheel. Current law only allows motorcycles to be equipped with handlebars for the purpose of steering and control.

Prekindergarten pilot program

For every one public dollar invested, early education returned nearly $13 in benefits and participants earned nearly $160,000 more than they would have otherwise. SB 344 seeks to expand the Pre-kindergarten Pilot Program to include 13 counties that were selected as finalist counties by the Office of the Secretary of Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) but were not selected as one of the five initial pilot counties. The proposal states that the program will be funded from the State Lottery Administrative Trust Fund. After 25 years, the pre-k ROI would exceed program cost by $31 billion according to a report to the Legislative Interim Study Committee on Early Childhood Education.

Resident tuition

To provide more affordable tuition to college students, SB 345 would affect the resident tuition rate at certain colleges and universities. If a student has attended an Indiana high school for at least three years, registers as an entering student at or is currently enrolled in a state educational institution not earlier than the fall semester of the 2015-2016 academic year and graduated from a Indiana high school or received an equivalent Indiana high school diploma, the student would receive the resident tuition rate.

School corporation financial management

SB 448 would establish the Distressed School Fund and the Financially Distressed School Corporation Appeals Board to evaluate and authorize emergency relief to school corporations that the board determines are unable to carry out their public education responsibilities. The proposal would allow a loan or advance from the Counter-cyclical Revenue and Economic Stabilization Fund, the Distressed School Fund, or the Common School Fund to a distressed school corporation.

Gaming matters

SB 449 would authorize riverboats to move inland to adjacent properties to reduce maintenance costs and give gaming facilities a competitive edge with neighboring states.

Women veterans’ issues

Women are the fastest growing group of veterans in Indiana and in 2014 the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to allow the Director of the Indiana Department of Veteran’s Affairs (IDVA) to appoint a coordinator for the Hoosiers Women Veterans Program. SB 424 would make the appointment of a coordinator a requirement.

Sen. Rogers represents Indiana Senate District 3 which encompasses portions of Lake County. District 3 communities include Gary, Lake Station, New Chicago, Hobart, Ainsworth, Merrillville and Crown Point. For more information on Sen. Rogers, her legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/s3.

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