Debate not always encouraged by lawmakers


The Tribune

Any time a bill moves through the Indiana General Assembly, lawmakers should encourage discussion between both themselves and the public.

Unfortunately, despite major statewide opposition, legislators recently decided they no longer feel the need to debate one of the most controversial bills of the 2021 session.

House Bill 1005, which is co-authored by State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, passed the House 61-38 in mid-February, and was then assigned to the Senate’s Education and Career Development Committee. The bill aims to expand school voucher eligibility and would create a new education fund for families not enrolled in public schools.

Despite a hotly contested debate in the House, Jeff Raatz, R-Centerville, said there was no need for his committee to hear the bill since ideas in related bills have already received public hearings.

On top of the Senate never voting on the standalone bill, the proposal has been written into the state’s $36 billion biennial budget, so the only way the bill will reach public testimony now is if it’s addressed as a part of the massive package.

Given the size of the state’s budget, it’s unlikely that the provisions of HB 1005 will be debated any further despite it impacting Indiana’s entire educational system.

The decisions by lawmakers to limit any debate comes as a growing number of Hoosiers voice their displeasure with the bill.

More than 170 public school districts, including the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., have created resolutions opposing the legislation. Around 94% of students in the state attend public schools.

There are reasons both for and against HB 1005, but lawmakers should be voting on and debating the bill instead of writing it into the budget as just another item.

By rolling the bill over into the state budget, legislators are signaling they’ve had enough of the public’s opinion, which is not what they were elected to do.

In a time where access is more limited than ever, there should be as many opportunities as possible for public debate in favor or against controversial bills. It’s disappointing that lawmakers are denying that.

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