INDIANAPOLIS | With just 44 Democrats serving in the House and Senate this year, the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus is poised to be the idea factory driving the Democratic legislative agenda.
Led by state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, the IBLC announced Tuesday its 11 members, all Democrats, will sponsor legislation focused on improving education, boosting economic development, ensuring access to health care, promoting equality in criminal justice and protecting Hoosier children.
Several Northwest Indiana lawmakers have been tapped to direct those efforts, including Randolph, state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, on education; state Reps. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, and Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, on economic development; state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, on health care; and Randolph on criminal justice.
Rogers said on education that Indiana urgently needs early childhood education programs and must rethink some of the reforms enacted over the past two years, including giving local officials a say in charter school approval and clarifying how school takeovers should work.
On economic development, Harris said he's eager to work with banks to boost home ownership and prevent foreclosures from decimating neighborhoods.
Brown believes the Republican legislative supermajorities are wrong to write off the chance to expand Medicaid eligibility to thousands of Hoosiers under the Affordable Care Act and wants to find a way to guarantee all have access to health care.
"Health care is a right and not a privilege," Brown said. "We need to make sure that Hoosiers are protected."
On criminal justice, Randolph said he wants to reduce the excessive punishments doled out for some crimes. He also said the IBLC stands ready to work with national and local leaders, such as Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, on gun control issues.
The group also called for improvements to the Department of Child Services abuse hotline.