Tuesday, April 12, 2016

DeLaney Reports Session Victories, Defeats, Disappointments

Rep. Ed DeLaney
State Rep. Ed DeLaney penned a wonderful summary of this year's General Assembly session, and I think it bears sharing.  The words below the line are DeLaney's, not mine.

DeLaney stands for reelection in 2016 and is one of the best in the business.
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2016 Session Report

By Rep. Ed DeLaney, House District 86

As I had feared, the Indiana General Assembly failed to accomplish what was needed in this year’s short session. First, let me deal with the three main items I had focused on.

Social Issues

We should have devoted much of our efforts to assuring civil rights to all citizens including members of the LGBT community. Sadly, the Senate debated the matter, but did not vote on it. The House refused to take up a broad bill and had only a limited discussion. Unless the legislature sees it differently next year, we have to rely on a patchwork of local ordinances to protect our people.

The Senate sent the House an horrendous measure on abortions. The bill, which the House passed with even some Republican opposition, and the Governor has signed, disrupts the ability of doctors to receive information from their patients and to give confidential advice. It transfers to the legislature decisions about family planning. It will lead to litigation and may well be overturned by the Courts. It’s yet another extreme measure by the far-right section of the Statehouse Republicans, led by our Governor.

Sadly, our inaction on civil rights and misguided action on abortion have one thing in common: both are designed as part of campaigns for re-election by the Governor and his allies in the legislature.

Education

The results on education are mixed. We continued to tinker with education policy and to undervalue the 94% of our teachers and kids in traditional public schools. We passed legislation designed to end ISTEP but gave little guidance about what will replace it. Unfortunately, we also denied the Democrats in the legislature any role in the commission set up to replace ISTEP. The bottom line is that we have yet to guarantee testing that costs a reasonable amount of time and money and allows for fair evaluations of our kids.

On a happier note, an effort to allow school management to increase pay for favored teachers failed. I can only hope that this idea and other attacks on teacher collegiality and respect will continue to fail.

Transportation

The House succeeded in doing something about roads, but nothing about transit. The Governor and the Senate refused to support anything except stopgap funding of our roads. The Governor’s team didn't chose any of the applicants for Regional Cities funds who wanted to enhance public transportation. So all in all, we will continue dodging potholes

We did allow local governments room to increase vehicle registration fees if they are willing to bear the responsibility for the increases. If they do raise these fees, they may get some matching funds from the state. In short, we did a patch job.

Victories

I was pleased to be able to play a role in crafting legislation designed to encourage police use of body cameras. The legislation sets guidelines for public access to the video that should help us all in assessing what happened in violent episodes.

We made modest increases to the caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. All parties concerned, including doctors and hospitals, worked together to get a decent result. It had been years since we raised the cap. Our limits are still reasonable but far from generous. I was happy to be part of these discussions.

I put a lot of time into a bill designed to allow electronic medical diagnosis also called “telemedicine.” The original bill was dangerously vague. I was able to get an amendment passed in the House that focused on the risks in assessing vision problems without seeing the patient. The Senate then worked to make sure we could be both efficient and safe in diagnosing and prescribing over the web.

Defeats

We worked hard at creating a new system for selecting Judges for Marion County. Our current system has been declared unconstitutional and must be replaced by next year... Unfortunately, the Senate allowed politics to interfere and nothing passed.

We allowed our restrictive election laws to stay in place. We have been a “leader” in restricting voter registration and ballot access. As a result we are at the bottom of national ratings on voter turnout. This is not just an embarrassment. It literally undercuts democracy.

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