INDIANAPOLIS – State Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) proposed a number of bills during the legislative session that were approved by the General Assembly and are expected to be signed into law by the governor. Most new laws become effective July 1, 2015. Sen. Rogers’ legislation focused on efforts to provide additional funds and oversight for the revitalization of Gary schools, provide funding for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the South Shore Line, create a student bi-literacy program and make improvements to the state’s gaming industry.

Gary Community Schools

To set Gary Community Schools on a path towards success and economic recovery, r House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1001 will create a plan of action where local officials, school board members, a financial advisor of the board’s choosing and the state’s Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) to work together to create a recovery plan. The loss of property tax collections from major corporations like U.S. Steel, a halt in revenues from property tax caps, and declining residential and student populations have all played a part in destabilizing a once-thriving community. In order to take immediate action, the board will have the authority to delay or suspend any payments of principal or interest from the Gary Community School Corporation on loans from the common school fund. The board will also have the ability to submit a proposal to the State Board of Finance for an interest free loan which may be granted for up to 6 years.

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority & South Shore Line

The state budget also includes $12 million over the next two years for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. The funding, which Sen. Rogers has advocated for nearly a decade, will provide the necessary capital to extend the South Shore Line to Dyer.

Bi-literacy programs

Another initiative authored by Sen. Rogers will recognize students who study more than one language. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 267 will create the State Bi-literacy Program to be administered by the Department of Education. Participating students who show proficiency in both English and one other language will receive a Certificate of Bi-literacy that will appear on their high school transcripts.

Various gaming matters

In a move to cut maintenance costs, open harbor space and encourage interstate competition with neighboring states, Sen. Rogers worked to improve Indiana’s gaming industry by allowing riverboat casinos to move inland. HEA 1540 will permit riverboat casinos to convert to land-based operations and opens the door to allow live dealers to replace electronic table games at the state’s two racinos in the future, a move that when enacted, could generate hundreds of jobs. The law also urges study of the revenue and taxes generated from gaming to determine how gaming revenue is shared with local municipalities.

Student teaching

Sen. Rogers sponsored HEA 1188 to strengthen student teaching requirements and ensure prospective teachers are getting the best training possible. The act will require a student teacher to be supervised by a certified employee that has been rated as either highly effective or effective on the certificated employee’s latest annual performance evaluation.

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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