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General assembly

Pence’s request for road money cut in half

– Gov. Mike Pence’s plan to spend $400 million on major highway projects took a blow Thursday.

Last year, legislators set aside that money for future projects. Pence is asking lawmakers this year to release the money to the Indiana Department of Transportation for immediate use.

The Senate Appropriations Committee decided to release only $200 million. The other $200 million will remain in the general fund for lawmakers to decide what to do with next year when crafting a new budget. The unreleased money also provides a cushion for Indiana’s current budget, because revenue has not been meeting projections.

If lawmakers don’t act, the State Budget Agency can release the additional money to INDOT in 2015.

The panel also rejected a proposal to authorize about $25 million for local road projects.

House Bill 1002 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Common Core end closer

The House Education Committee voted 10-2 Thursday to advance a bill that ends the state’s use of the controversial Common Core academic standards.

Senate Bill 91 requires the State Board of Education to write new educational standards that would go into effect July 1 at the latest.

The board issued draft standards Wednesday, and public comment will be taken in the next three weeks.

The State Board of Education – with several different members at that time – adopted Common Core in 2010 with the backing of former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. The standards have been phased in for only a few school grades so far.

Common Core was created by a group of the nation’s governors and schools chiefs as a way to accurately gauge national education progress. But many Hoosiers have bristled at using national standards and criticized the standards themselves.

The legislation now goes to the full House.

Coliseum bill passes

A bill to aid expansion of Memorial Coliseum passed the House Ways and Means Committee 18-2 on Thursday.

But the committee added a provision on Indianapolis that could prove problematic.

Senate Bill 308 would allow the life of a Professional Sports and Convention Development Area in Allen County to be extended, to expire before Jan. 1, 2028, or up to 25 years after debt is incurred to build 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 Memorial Coliseum, where a $12.4 million expansion of its Exposition Center is under consideration.

An amendment would expand a similar zone in Indianapolis and raise the debt ceiling of the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board so that a soccer stadium can be built.

The bill now goes to the full House.

nkelly@jg.net

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