Recap of 2021 Legislative Preview with Mayor Emily Styron Senator J.D. Ford and Representative Donna Schaibley
Below is a summary. Watch the full presentation in the link above.
Rep. Donna Schaibley: It’s going to be very different at the Statehouse this year. We’re not even going to be meeting on the floor of the House. We’re going to be meeting in the Government Center South building. This alters the dynamic but they’re committed still to transparency and everything will be televised and open to the public.
Senator J.D. Ford: I spent a lot of time serving on the Continuity Committee this summer. Most of our work was centered around COVID-19. I was very passionate about making sure all of us wear a mask at the Statehouse. There are some members not wearing a mask and I’m concerned about that. I am also concerned about access to us, making sure our friends in the hall, members of the press and visitors to the Statehouse have access to us. I do agree Zoom helps.
It’s going to be an important year for us. We are dealing with COVID-19 relief, we still have money left from the federal government to decide where that goes, we have the budget to get done and it’s a redistricting year.
I’m happy to report our healthcare workers are receiving vaccinations and I teared up when I saw this. That is the light at the end of the tunnel. The state has received about 50,000 vaccines. What I would say to all Hoosiers and Zionsville residents is pay attention to the Indiana State Department of Health website. We will shout it from the rooftops when it’s your turn to be vaccinated. Some folks are asking – is it safe, should I get it? There is information about this on the Indiana State Department of Health website. I plan to get the vaccine when it’s my time.
DS: I tip my hat off to all the teachers who are not only teaching in the classroom but teaching virtually.
JDF: Thank you to all our educators. It’s been very challenging. With the commission report released earlier this week, we need to read that, digest it and act on it. In my opinion, we haven’t taken teacher pay seriously. The report says teachers should have an average pay of $60,000. I had a blast serving as an e-learning facilitator for IPS students. It showed me what educators are doing in the classroom but also what parents are doing. There’s now a new Secretary of Education.
We love testing in our state and I agree to that to some degree. With the recent reports about how difficult it is for children to learn during this pandemic I am going to very watchful about what kind of testing we’re doing on our kids and making sure it’s not too much.
DS: We do need to pay attention to the commission report because it had 37 recommendations on how we can get more money into teacher’s pockets and I absolutely agree we should be doing that. It’s all of us working together to make that happen.
DS: I have two, possibly three, of the fastest growing communities in the state and in my district, the boundaries will have to shrink by a fair amount. I’m hoping that it will be a transparent process. I have been supportive of redistricting reform.
JDF: A lot of what we do at the Statehouse is unanimous and bipartisan. I am happy to report this is an effort Representative Schaibley and I agree on. The process should be fair, open and transparent. The public should have input. They should have the ability to draw their own maps. I’ve been appointed as the Senate Democratic Minority Appointee for the redistricting committee so I will have a front seat. I want folks to know that we’ll be stuck with these maps until 2030 so it’s important to stay engaged. I firmly believe politicians should not be picking the districts. There is a group, Common Cause, that is doing an independent redistricting committee and they are looking for folks to serve on that committee. If you have an interest, reach out to them. My fear is that the maps will be drawn in a closed room with no public input. I hope that’s not the case. I hope that we can all agree this is a process we should take seriously and should allow the public to be involved.
DS: I was there when the net metering bill went through. I was opposed to that bill and I have co-authored bills trying to roll back the language in that bill. I’m a big proponent of solar and I think we need to do what we can to support it. There may be a bill – there has been in the past – about HOAs putting restrictions on solar panels on roofs. I imagine that might come back. I would not be surprised if there was another rooftop solar bill.
JDF: We have received a 10-bill limit and traditionally during a budget year we get an unlimited filing of bills. When I was campaigning and went door to door, I heard a lot of Zionsville residents excited about rooftop solar. We should be celebrating solar and celebrating all renewables. We’re leaving jobs and money on the table by not opening the door for renewables. For rooftop solar, we should be doing everything we can for our residents to enjoy it.
On Broadband initiatives
DS: There are places with no broadband and places without sufficient broadband. I’ve heard stories of people taking their children to buy a Starbucks or to a school parking lot so they can do homework. We have to do something about that. It’s not just school, it’s telemedicine. COVID-10 has brought to the forefront how important telemedicine is, especially for people in rural areas. Broadband is a top issue.
JDF: I’ll say ditto. Like Representative Schaibley, I’ve heard stories of kids going to Starbucks or McDonalds to get WIFI. Unfortunately, suicide rates have increased and telehealth is crucial and having a counselor to talk to. I am excited to look at the proposal that will hopefully come through General Assembly this year.
DS: I’m very passionate about healthcare costs and keeping them down. It’s imperative that people be able to find out how much medical procedures cost prior to having them done and being able to compare prices. I’m going to put forth legislation about setting up an all care claims database. An all care claims database is a database where claims data from insurance companies, from pharmacies to physician costs, goes into this database. From that, there is a forward-facing portal for consumers. My vision is you’ll be able to go to this portal, if you have insurance – put in your insurance card, put in the procedure you are having and you will be able to shop for providers based on price and quality metrics.
JDF: I commend you for taking that on. I hear from constituents regularly who have gotten a surprise bill. Something like that would be powerful.
JDF: The Governor mentioned very clearly who our essential works are and we need to honor them and fight for them. Voting reforms are important. There are things we can improve upon. We saw the no excuse absentee ballot in the May primary and we didn’t extend that to the General Election. The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus will put some proposals forward for reform in regard to policing and we should take those seriously. We can’t put our foot off the gas on this issue.
Personally, I have some bills I’m excited to share with you. I plan to file a bill to ban conversion therapy and get that practice out of our state. That would be huge win for LGBTQ folks. I would like to file a bill about the Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer for each of our school districts. Even in our rural parts it’s important for our children to see someone who looks different and we should celebrate that. I also have a bill tackling food deserts. COVID-19 has shined a huge spotlight on these issues. The last one that is a hot button issue: doing something on 5G. I’ve been hearing all across the district that they feel powerless with these small cell towers and they wish they had extra notice.
How to contact Senator J.D. Ford and Representative Donna Schaibley: