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Variety of proposals win House, Senate approval
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2015 Indiana General Assembly

Variety of proposals win House, Senate approval

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INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican-controlled House and Senate acted on dozens of legislative proposals this week prior to Wednesday's deadline for measures to pass their originating chamber or die for the year.

Next week, the House will begin considering Senate-approved legislation, and the Senate will take up House-endorsed proposals.

Here's a look at some of the measures lawmakers will be debating:

School takeovers (approved 66-31) -- House Bill 1368 authorizes the State Board of Education to intervene in or take over a failing school after just four years of low ratings, instead of six years. The measure also permits state takeover of entire school corporations and creates a process for cancelling teacher contracts and selling school assets following a takeover.

Student testing (46-3) -- Senate Bill 566, co-sponsored by state Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, replaces in 2016 the $65 million a year ISTEP-Plus standardized test with a new, off-the-shelf, presumably lower-cost national test aligned with Indiana academic standards to be known as BEST (Benchmarking Excellence Student Testing).

Business property tax (49-1) -- Senate Bill 436, sponsored by state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, exempts companies with less than $20,000 in taxable business equipment from having to pay business personal property tax or file a return. The change would cost local governments $8.5 million and shift an additional $10.6 million onto other taxpayers, mostly homeowners.

Selective abortion (35-15) -- Senate Bill 334 prohibits a doctor from performing an abortion if he or she knows the pregnant woman is seeking an abortion due to a diagnosis of fetal disability or potential disability, or the abortion is based on gender bias. Doctors would be required to ask if an abortion is being sought due to fetal disability, but patients could not be punished for lying.

Microbreweries (87-7)(43-7) -- House Bill 1311 and Senate Bill 297 triple to 90,000 barrels the amount of beer microbreweries, like Munster's Three Floyds, can manufacture for distribution in Indiana. However, both proposals limit self-distribution to the current production limit of 30,000 barrels.

Local income tax (96-0) -- House Bill 1485 provides for a transition from three separately assessed local income taxes and their varying distribution requirements to a single local income tax with increased spending flexibility. The transition would take effect in 2017 following in-depth study of the effects of the change on taxpayers and local governments.

Death penalty (45-5) -- Senate Bill 385, sponsored by Hershman, makes any murder committed at a school when students are present or a building used for religious purposes when worshipers are present automatically eligible for the death penalty or a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Strippers (48-1) -- Senate Bill 296, sponsored by state Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, requires strip clubs to verify stripper identities and citizenship, photograph each stripper and provide them information about human trafficking.

Cursive (39-11) -- Senate Bill 130, co-sponsored by Randolph, requires every public and private elementary school provide instruction in cursive handwriting.

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