Indiana lawmakers to review ISTEP test troubles

May 23, 2013

Indiana lawmakers said Thursday they will spend the coming months reviewing computer troubles with a statewide standardized test, the use of land banks to sell vacant property and other problems uncovered around the state.

Legislative leaders say they would like more answers from McGraw-Hill and the Department of Education about troubles schools faced this month while administering the online ISTEP+ test.

"It's worthy of a strong look to get straight answers, to make sure we get to the bottom of it," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

Other committees will review how land is sold following the federal indictment of a top Indianapolis official and four other local leaders on allegations they were flipping vacant homes for personal profit. A tax study committee will also review how casino money for Indiana localities is spent, after an investigation by The Indianapolis Star found that money used in the failed Carbon Motors project could not be accounted for.

The Indiana Legislative Council met Thursday to detail which issues will be studied in the coming months. Some issues, including a review of the national Common Core education standards, have already been announced.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, also announced lawmakers would return on June 12 to consider Gov. Mike Pence's veto of a local tax measure. The measure would allow Jackson and Pulaski counties to collect local option income taxes going back three years, correcting a mistake at the local level dating to 2006, Long said.

"We have heard from the locals and they very much want us to override the veto," Long said.

Pence, in vetoing the tax measure, said it would "approve, after the fact, the collection of taxes that were not owed." Lawmakers only need a simple majority to override the governor in Indiana — 51 votes in the House and 26 in the Senate — making vetoes rare and veto overrides even rarer.

Other panels plan to review Indiana's adoption of the national Common Core education standards, the state's A-F school grading system, criminal sentencing guidelines, a plan to expand mass transit in central Indiana and the state's implementation of the federal health care law.

Lawmakers typically spend the months between legislative sessions meeting periodically to review issues selected by legislative leaders. The recommendations that come out of the study committees often find their way into law in the succeeding legislative session.

The General Assembly hosted a series of contentious hearings on the right-to-work ban on mandatory union fees through the summer of 2011, before approving the measure on party-line votes during the 2012 session. Last summer saw a more bipartisan effort to address problems at the Department of Child Services, following a series of media reports about child deaths throughout the state.


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