Chesterton Tribune


State Senator Tallian preparing major education bill; worker compensation a priority

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Her lips are sealed for now but Indiana State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, told the Chesterton Tribune she is authoring a “major” bill dealing with education that she will reveal next week as the Indiana General Assembly gets underway starting Monday afternoon.

Tallian, who represents all of Duneland, said she will hold a press conference to introduce the bill. All state legislators have until Jan. 11 to introduce legislation they have authored or co-authored.

On the topic of education, Tallian said she expects the current A to F grading system on schools implemented by former State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Bennett is going to be “thrown out.” That is one of the goals of newly elected Democrat Glenda Ritz, who beat Bennett in last November’s election.

Bennett’s system grades schools on an academic growth factor, encouraging schools to make better test scores. But many top-performing schools saw their grades fall this year, including Chesterton Middle School which went from an A in 2011 to a D in 2012, simply because of a lack of increase in the growth factor.

Tallian said she concurs with Ritz’s stance that the system is “too complicated” and many schools are not able to make sense of the grades they received.

“The bottom line is it makes no sense,” Tallian said, adding that even some of her colleagues on the Republican side would agree.

Meanwhile, while endorsing a plan by the Indiana Skills2Complete Coalition to provide more financial aid for adults wanting to go back to school, Tallian helped bring to light that approximately a third of individuals who are getting into adult education programs are 19 years of age or younger.

“These are young people, usually high school students who have quit school or were suspended or expelled,” she said.

Tallian said that while the state gives “in the area of $6,500” per student enrolled in regular school, those in adult education classes only get $900.

She said she would like to see that demographic going back to school or restarting school “be taken care of” by increasing the amount over $900.

Worker’s Comp

The ranking minority member of the Senate’s Pensions and Labor committee, Tallian said she will push for a bill she has introduced over a number of years that would boost worker’s compensation benefits for injury and disablement on a job.

She said Indiana for a number of years now has been in last place for worker’s comp and she thinks even the Republicans are “embarrassed” by that statistic.

“It’s been years that we have not seen a raise in benefits and it is time,” she said.

Marijuana law

One measure in particular that has brought Tallian some extra attention is her legislative proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Since 2011, Tallian has authored a bill that would make possession of less than three ounces of marijuana a Class C infraction, roughly the same as a speeding violation, instead of a Class A misdemeanor.

Tallian makes the argument that mitigating marijuana laws would reduce prison crowding statewide and would do less damage to the records of offenders. Less state money would be spent on marijuana-related arrests involving legal costs and processing, she said.

A study was done in the summer of 2011 of the cost-savings potential. Tallian introduced the bill again in 2012 but said it was not put to a vote due to it being a contentious election year.

She has more confidence this year the bill will get consideration as fellow legislators have a more supportive attitude on both sides of the aisle and states like Colorado and Washington have lifted bans on the drug. Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, is planning to introduce a similar bill.

Voice in the wilderness

Tallian said this year she will stand up on the issues and laws she feels are wrong. Although she is not optimistic she’ll get very far in a Republican-dominated Senate, Tallian said she will file a bill to repeal restrictive immigration laws and another to repeal the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

“I don’t know if I will get a hearing on those but those issues will go before us and I want to keep people aware that this is still a problem. I’m going to be the voice in the wilderness,” she said.

But there is a glimmer of hope for her efforts, she said, because federal court officials have ruled against measures to defund Planned Parenthood and immigration laws were countered by rulings in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tallian is one of the Senate members of the state’s budget appropriation committee which will be active this year. She is also ranking minority member of the Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee, and serves on the Economic Development Committee.


Posted 1/4/2013