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Indiana House faces pressure to finish work on time

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The Indiana House spent its first full day back since boycotting Democrats returned to their jobs doing something it couldn't do the last five weeks: working on bills.

Representatives debated points on prickly subjects such as abortion, private school vouchers and elections, took votes and maintained a cordial atmosphere. For the most part, it felt as if the walkout had never occurred, but the boycott puts lawmakers on a tighter calendar as they work to tackle big issues before the scheduled end of the legislative session April 29.

The House dove into two big proposals — the state budget and a plan to direct taxpayer money to private schools — Tuesday as they worked from the morning into the night. The brisk pace was expected to continue as the House deals with its own agenda, which was stalled by the walkout, and the Senate bills they would normally be handling at this point in the session.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the five week "vacation" by House Democrats means lawmakers may have to work on Fridays and Saturdays. He said representatives would go with little sleep and eat sandwiches and pizza while working at their desks if necessary to get work done.

"We are under tremendous time pressure here," Bosma said. "We have five weeks to complete 2-1/2 months' worth of work, but we will complete it."

Lawmakers — who had plenty of time to think up proposed amendments during the Democrats' boycott — filed nearly 350 on the budget alone that could have been called for votes Tuesday.

Among those actually discussed was one that would remove a provision that allows the governor to withhold allocations made in the budget. Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the budget becomes a mere suggestion if the governor can override lawmakers' intent.

"The budget just doesn't have any meaning any longer," Pelath said.

Republicans say that provision is needed to keep the state in the black during tough times. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has cut millions from state spending in the current budget cycle, for example.

Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said governors should have the power to make cuts when the Legislature isn't in session.

"They're elected to lead," Espich said. "There are times they must lead."

Republicans, who hold a strong majority in the House, defeated the proposal.

Lawmakers also took up a sweeping voucher program that would use taxpayer money to help parents send their children to private schools. The bill was one of the core reasons House Democrats fled to Illinois on Feb. 22, denying the House the quorum needed to conduct business. Democrats returned Monday after winning concession on that bill and others, and the changes to the voucher bill were formally adopted Tuesday.

Lawmakers limited the program to those meeting certain income levels based on family size. The bill as originally proposed would have allowed those from a family of four making more than $100,000 to use vouchers, but the amendment approved Tuesday reduced that level to about $60,000. The House also included limits on the number of students who could participate in the program during its first two years.

Republicans turned back several Democratic proposals, including one that would only allow vouchers for students in underperforming schools.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, called the voucher bill a "massive entitlement program" and said he wouldn't vote for it. But he said the changes made Tuesday do improve the legislation.

"We've made enormous progress," he said.

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  1. Hiking blocks to an office after fighting traffic is not logical. Having office buildings around the loop, 465 and in cities in surrounding counties is logical. In other words, counties around Indianapolis need office buildings like Keystone, Meridian, Michigan Road/College Park and then no need to go downtown. Financial, legal, professional businesses don't need the downtown when Carmel, Fishers, North Indy are building their own central office buildings close to the professionals. The more Hamilton, Boone county attract professionals, the less downtown is relevant. Highrises have no meaning if they don't have adequate parking for professionals and clients. Great for show, but not exactly downtown Chicago, no lakefront, no river to speak of, and no view from highrises of lake Michigan and the magnificent mile. Indianapolis has no view.

  2. "The car count, THE SERIES, THE RACING, THE RATINGS, THE ATTENDANCE< AND THE MANAGEMENT, EVERY season is sub-par." ______________ You're welcome!

  3. that it actually looked a lot like Sato v Franchitti @Houston. And judging from Dario's marble mouthed presentation providing "color", I'd say that he still suffers from his Dallara inflicted head injury._______Considering that the Formula E cars weren't going that quickly at that exact moment, that was impressive air time. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised, as Dallara is the only car builder that needs an FAA certification for their cars. But flying Dallaras aren't new. Just ask Dan Wheldon.

  4. Does anyone know how and where I can get involved and included?

  5. While the data supporting the success of educating our preschoolers is significant, the method of reaching this age group should be multi-faceted. Getting business involved in support of early childhood education is needed. But the ways for businesses to be involved are not just giving money to programs and services. Corporations and businesses educating their own workforce in the importance of sending a child to kindergarten prepared to learn is an alternative way that needs to be addressed. Helping parents prepare their children for school and be involved is a proven method for success. However, many parents are not sure how to help their children. The public is often led to think that preschool education happens only in schools, daycare, or learning centers but parents and other family members along with pediatricians, librarians, museums, etc. are valuable resources in educating our youngsters. When parents are informed through work lunch hour workshops in educating a young child, website exposure to exceptional teaching ideas that illustrate how to encourage learning for fun, media input, and directed community focus on early childhood that is when a difference will be seen. As a society we all need to look outside the normal paths of educating and reaching preschoolers. It is when methods of involving the most important adult in a child's life - a parent, that real success in educating our future workers will occur. The website www.ifnotyouwho.org is free and illustrates activities that are research-based, easy to follow and fun! Businesses should be encouraging their workers to tackle this issue and this website makes it easy for parents to be involved. The focus of preschool education should be to inspire all the adults in a preschooler's life to be aware of what they can do to prepare a child for their future life. Fortunately we now know best practices to prepare a child for a successful start to school. Is the business community ready to be involved in educating preschoolers when it becomes more than a donation but a challenge to their own workers?

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