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Weekly Statehouse Update: Slow Start To Second Half, Virtual Funding Nears Passage

Justin Hicks
IPB News

The second half of the General Assembly’s session got off to a slow start: Senate lawmakers debated the details of a program to help small businesses and a bill to guarantee schools their full funding is closer to passage. 

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Small Business Recovery Money

Indiana small businesses – particularly in the hospitality industry – are a step closer to getting help from the state to recover from the pandemic.

A Senate committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill, HB 1004, for a $30 million small business recovery grant program.

The legislation essentially puts into law a program created by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation last year, using federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

Virtual School Funding

State law says schools don’t receive full funding for students who only learn virtually. But during the pandemic, that was just about every student in the state at one time or another. And schools were worried they’d lose out on critical dollars. Senate Bill 2, which would temporarily change the law and guarantee schools their full funding, is nearing passage in the House.

School Choice Bill

Public school leaders and educators across Indiana are sending a message to lawmakers in protest of school choice legislation at the Statehouse, with several school boards passing formal resolutions in opposition to the measures.

House Bill 1005 would expand the state's school voucher program and create a new funding option for some families not enrolled in public schools. 

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

Highway Speed Cameras

Hoosiers likely won’t be getting speeding tickets from highway speed cameras anytime soon. That’s after House Bill 1465 to create a pilot program for such cameras is all but dead this session.

Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) has authored a bill to allow speed cameras in highway construction zones for two years now. He said its biggest obstacle has nothing to do with Indiana.

“It’s bad actors in other states that have used similar programs like this and there’s been corruption involved,” Pressel said.

Secretary Of Commerce Steps Down

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation, responsible for helping get companies to locate and add more jobs in the state, will soon have a new leader. 

Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger stepped down Wednesday, effective immediately.

In a letter to the IEDC Board of Directors, Schellinger said serving as Secretary of Commerce has been the “higher honor” of his life, but that it’s time for a “new day and a new leader” at the agency.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.