INDIANAPOLIS — The Republican-controlled General Assembly doesn't just act on major legislation, such as the "hold harmless" ISTEP testing "hold harmless" protections for A-F school grades and teacher performance pay that were enacted into law last week.
Representatives and senators also vote on dozens of other measures early in the 10-week legislative session that ultimately may or may not become state law.
Here's a look at some of the proposals that won approval last week by either the House or Senate (vote in parentheses). Each still must pass the opposite chamber to go to Republican Gov. Mike Pence for his signature or veto.
Cursive writing (30-18) — For the fifth year in a row, the Senate approved a mandate that public and private elementary schools teach cursive writing. Cursive writing instruction was made optional in 2011 by the Indiana Department of Education in favor of teaching keyboarding skills.
Similar measures repeatedly have failed to advance in the House because state Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, the chairman of the Education Committee, does not believe a cursive mandate is needed because school corporations still can teach cursive if they choose. Senate Bill 73 includes state Sens. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, among its co-sponsors.
Spay or neuter (96-0) — House Bill 1201, sponsored by state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, requires cats and dogs at public and private animal care facilities be spayed or neutered prior to being made available for adoption, starting in 2021. The measure also directs the Board of Animal Health to compile a registry of every animal control center, shelter and similar companion animal adoption facility in the state.
Lawson said Indiana's lack of a spay or neuter requirement leads to thousands of abandoned animals each year and significant animal care expense for local governments. "I truly believe that this legislation will have a positive effect on both Indiana and the cat and dog population, while lifting a tremendous burden off the shoulders of animal care facilities," she said.
BMV regulations (96-0) — After Indiana was forced to refund millions of dollars in Bureau of Motor Vehicles overcharges, state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, agreed to take on the largely thankless task of simplifying and clarifying the thousands of rules, regulations and fees implemented by the state's vehicle registration and driver licensing agency.
The result, House Bill 1087, is a 431-page monster that eliminates 163 different fees, reduces the 191 ways to register a vehicle to 23 and simplifies processes that motorists must deal with at least once a year. "We worked in a bipartisan manner to produce clear and comprehensive legislation that will positively impact Hoosiers and help the BMV become more user-friendly," said Soliday, chairman of the House Roads and Transportation Committee.
Unclaimed veterans (50-0) — Senate Bill 145 permits veteran service organizations to take possession and bury the remains of a military veteran who is unclaimed by family or friends one year after death. State Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Randolph were among 13 Senate co-sponsors.
Disability ID (93-0) — House Bill 1012, co-sponsored by state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, requires the State Department of Public Health issue an identification card, upon request, to Hoosiers who have been medically diagnosed with a developmental disability.
Fresh food initiative (37-11) — Senate Bill 15, co-sponsored by Randolph, establishes, but does not fund, a state grant and loan program to support grocers and other retailers of fresh, unprocessed foods that choose to operate in a "food desert" — generally a low-income area where fresh foods are scarce.
Foreclosure mischief (48-0) — Senate Bill 183, co-sponsored by state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, makes it a misdemeanor crime to intentionally damage the structure or fixtures of a home in foreclosure. The crime is a felony if the damage is more than $50,000.