INDIANAPOLIS — As the clock ticked closer to midnight Thursday, lawmakers at the Statehouse were working to wrap up this year’s General Assembly.
Since January, lawmakers have worked to send bill after bill to the governor’s desk. Issues dominating this year’s session included a road funding strategy for Indiana’s crumbling infrastructure, drug intervention and sentencing, Indiana’s standardized testing system for elementary students and governing of police video.
Here’s a look at how the top issues shook out:
On Thursday, lawmakers reached an agreement on two road funding bills that were vastly different. The final version of the bill, which has been sent to the governor’s desk for his signature, was a compromise of both bills, tapping into the state’s $2 billion of cash reserves to provide more than $230 million of road funding for the state’s highways.It also releases $585 million of local option income tax reserves to counties to support local road projects.Drug interventionAlso on Thursday, lawmakers approved a bill that makes Naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose, available over the counter.Many law enforcement agencies and paramedics, including those in Hancock County, already carry the drug and credit it to saving lives, but it’s not currently available without a prescription.
The bill, which was sent to the governor for his approval, also requires pharmacies to record the number of doses it administers for the year.
Lawmakers also spent time this session finding solutions for Indiana’s standardized testing system for students, which has been plagued by controversy.At the beginning of the session, lawmakers rushed to pass a bill that protected teachers and schools from being negatively impacted by 2015 scores, which dropped when new, tougher standards were enacted. They have now also passed a bill that abolishes ISTEP after 2017. In recent years, the test has been rife with problems that have caused uproar from teachers, lawmakers and parents.The bill creates a summer study committee that will study alternatives to the test and a submit a report to lawmakers before the end of the year.
Because of a contract with Pearson, the testing company that administered this year’s test, the state won’t be able to switch until after 2017’s test.
The bill also requires this year’s results to be reported by July. Test results from 2015 were returned to schools months late because of scoring issues.
Police body cameras
Indiana law enforcement agencies will soon be able to withhold police video from the public and media under a bill that’s been sent to the governor’s office.Law enforcement agencies will be able to decide whether footage should be released to someone who requests it. If they deny a request, the individual will be able to appeal the department’s decision to a judge.The police department then will have to prove within 30 days that releasing the video would harm someone or hinder an investigation.