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ISTEP may stick around longer than hoped

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Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, discusses what needs to be done to take Indiana to the next level. - ALEXA FREEMAN, THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • Alexa Freeman, TheStatehouseFile.com
  • Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, discusses what needs to be done to take Indiana to the next level.

Road funding and education, including extending the life of ISTEP, are some of the priorities the Senate Republicans’ listed Tuesday.

They expect ISTEP, which was originally slated to be replaced next school year, to stick around for a year or two. They’re concerned rushing a new version of the test could lead to more problems.

“We need to do the process properly. Takes a couple of years to really do an excellent job of preparing the test, a new test,” Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said. “So in the meantime we just have to put up with what we have now because other alternatives aren’t any better.”

Senate Republicans are looking for a test that returns results faster. Their ideal turnaround time is one month. They also want to have students take the test in May rather than March. They believe this will create less interruption for the teachers.

“I think you’ll see this session that we’ll probably work towards shortening the test as much as possible and it still being a valid test,” Kruse said. “We’ll also work on improving the technology. I think technology glitches that we had is as big of a frustration almost as the length of the test.”

Long said the Senate’s focus also will be K-12 education funding and getting more money into teachers’ pockets. They’re considering expanding the OnMyWay Pre-K pilot program.

Additionally, Republicans are weighing options for a long-term solution for funding the maintenance and building infrastructure. While Senate Republicans want to keep all funding options on the table right now, Crider emphasized that Indiana must do something not just for roads but also rails, ports and all the ways Hoosiers move.

“We have a situation where we need to do something or get left behind,” Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield.

When asked if tolling roads is one of those options, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he sees tolling as an option for new roads.

“For existing roads, it’s a pretty hard sell. And I would say I’m not practically enamored with that idea, but for new lanes or brand new highways all together, which all of which are possible, those are certainly an option,” Long said.

Another issue the Senate Republicans want to get right this session is reforming the state’s vaping law. The statute passed in 2015 and amended in 2016 created rules that only one firm, Lafayette-based Maulhaupt’s could meet. Maulhaupt’s then had to certify e-liquid manufactures in order for those manufactures to be licensed by the state — essentially creating a monopoly.

Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said they want to scale back the security requirements and get rid of a provision that barred new manufacturers from entering the industry.

Two other issues the Senate Republicans will be dealing with this session is the state’s opioid drug addiction and to create a balanced budget amendment in the state’s constitution.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he is pleased with the Senate GOP’s priorities.

“The agenda unveiled today by Senate President Long keeps our fiscal house in order while advancing key priorities, like long-term funding for roads and bridges, preparing a 21st century workforce and attacking the drug epidemic,” Holcomb said in a statement.

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