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General assembly

Senate again OKs cursive-writing bill

– Cursive writing would be required in elementary school under a bill passed 39-9 in the Indiana Senate Thursday.

Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has offered the bill for several years. It has passed the Senate but died in the House.

The Indiana Department of Education removed cursive writing as a requirement in 2011. Most schools still teach it, but Leising wants to ensure it isn’t phased out.

“When I first started dealing with this issue I thought it was all about making sure people could read cursive,” she said. “But child psychologists statewide and nationally say it has a lot to deal with cognitive brain development in children – learning to connect letters from left to right.”

She added, “Hopefully this year it will survive the House.”

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, voted against Senate Bill 113. Other northeast Indiana senators were in support.

Moratorium passes

The Indiana Senate voted 33-14 Thursday to place a 5-year moratorium on new nursing home construction in Indiana.

Indiana’s nursing home occupancy rate is currently just 74 percent – well below the national average – with 13,000 empty beds.

More than 80 percent of those in nursing homes are paid for by government programs – either Medicaid for the poor or Medicare for the elderly. The rest are private pay patients.

“Building new facilities will add more unneeded beds at a time when the utilization of nursing homes is decreasing,” said Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, author of Senate Bill 173.

The only area senator to vote against the measure was Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

It now moves to the House for consideration.

Expungement tweak

The Indiana House approved minor changes to Indiana’s new expungement law Thursday.

House Bill 1155 passed 80-15 and now moves to the Senate.

Lawmakers approved the expungement law last year allowing Hoosiers with criminal records to eliminate old convictions after a number of years has passed and no new crimes have been committed.

Logistical or technical issues arose in the first year of implementation. Some of the changes include:

•Specifying that petitions for expungement should be filed in the county where the conviction occurred.

•Allowing the filing fee for the petition to be waived or reduced for indigent Hoosiers.

•Grants defense attorneys and the probation department access to expunged records with a court order.

•Does not allow a person to waive the right to a future expungement in a plea agreement.

Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, was the only area lawmaker to vote against the bill.