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General Assembly

Senate votes for Common Core to end in Indiana

– Common Core academic standards for the state’s schoolchildren would be voided under a bill passed 36-12 by the Indiana Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 91 requires the State Board of Education to write new educational standards using a process that is already underway. The new standards would go into effect July 1 at the latest.

But the legislation does not prohibit the state panel from readopting Common Core, or at least large portions of it.

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, author of the bill, said he has heard concerns from parents that the new standards will simply be Common Core under a different name.

“At some point, we have to trust this process,” he said. “If concepts of Common Core are adopted and find its way into the backpacks of students, (parents) will be aware of that. They are watching.”

Indiana’s State Board of Education adopted Common Core in 2010 with the backing of former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. Only a few grades have started using them because of a long-term phase-in.

Common Core was created by a group of the nation’s governors and schools chiefs as a way to accurately gauge national education progress.

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said full implementation of Common Core was expected in the 2014-15 school year. They are already in place in a few lower grades.

She noted the standards were created by state officials – not the federal government – and that Indiana and local schools have spent money to prepare for them.

She said it will cost the state $24 million to switch mid-stream.

“For me, Common Core makes common sense,” Rogers said. “For us to do this at this time I think is certainly not good for students in Indiana.”

The bill now moves to the House. Only Democrats voted against the bill.

Abortion regulation passes Senate

The Indiana Senate voted 34-14 Tuesday to require making public the identity of doctors who serve as emergency backups to doctors performing abortions.

Current state law already requires any doctor performing abortions in Indiana to have admitting privileges at a local hospital or to be associated with a backup doctor who has admitting privileges.

The backup doctor does not perform abortions.

But Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, said current law doesn’t require a state agency to track those backup doctors. Senate Bill 292 would make those doctors’ names public record.

He said transparency is good public policy and ensures compliance.

Opponents proposed allowing the Indiana State Department of Health to verify the information at an annual inspection but not make the names public.

That is because they believe the doctor will be subject to harassment.

All area senators supported the legislation, which now moves to the House.

Judge retirement change fails in tie

A bill that would have eliminated a mandatory retiring age for appellate and supreme court judges ended in a tie in the Indiana Senate on Tuesday.

Currently, justices must retire at age 75, but Senate Bill 109 would allow them to continue serving without any age limit.

With two senators absent, the vote was 24-24.

Usually Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann – who presides over the Senate – would break the tie, but she was attending another meeting.

Technically the bill could be called again for a revote because it did not receive a constitutional majority of 26 votes to either be passed or defeated.

But Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the bill would die because it was third-reading deadline and the chamber was not scheduled for a meeting today.

The legal deadline is today, but the Senate accelerated its calendar because of an impending winter storm.

Even with a revote, the bill could not reach a constitutional majority of 26 because of two members were out sick.

Senate moves zone bill to aid Coliseum

The Indiana Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Allen County to extend the life of a sports and convention zone to aid the Memorial Coliseum.

Senate Bill 308 would allow the life of a Professional Sports and Convention Development Area in Allen County to be extended, expiring before Jan. 1, 2028, or up to 25 years after debt is issued to finance a facility within the zone. The bill also requires the State Budget Agency to approve such financing.

The extension would allow Allen County to continue to develop the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, where a $12.4 million expansion of its Exposition Center is under consideration.

Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, said in order for the Coliseum to finance the project with a bond issue, the PSDA expiration date must be extended. Wyss said this legislation is essential to bringing more economic development to Fort Wayne and Allen County.

“Memorial Coliseum brings more than $100 million to the Fort Wayne area annually,” Wyss said. “Since its foundation in 1952, we have welcomed thousands of notable speakers, artists and sports teams to our community, as well as the tens of thousands of people who visit the Coliseum each year.”

Wyss said the bill “is the next step to ensuring Fort Wayne upholds its status as a go-to venue for these events.”

The bill now moves to the House.