Senate superintendent bill voted down, House bill passes but in jeopardy

By Dustin Beach
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS — Two versions of legislation eliminating the election of the state’s superintendent of public instruction saw mixed results Monday.

Senate Bill 179, authored by Sen. James Buck, R-Kokomo, would have allowed the governor to appoint a superintendent, beginning in the year 2021. The bill failed to pass out of the Senate by a vote of 23-26.

The defeat came as a surprise to even those who were adamantly against the bill. Moments before the vote, Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, stood before the chamber and incorrectly predicted the bill’s passage.

Opponents of the bill had worries that this move would strip the power away from voters, who they argue are a cornerstone of democracy.

“I did my research. It’s clear that the state superintendent’s role is probably the only single-issue position that statewide voters can have an election on,” said Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville. “I think this misses an opportunity for them to weigh in.”

Proponents argued that the bill would ensure less discord between the governor and the education chief, a problem recently seen between former Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.

A similar bill has been making its way through the House in recent weeks. That bill, authored by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, would also make the education chief an appointed position, but goes as far as eliminating the current position and replacing it with a secretary of education. The bill passed the House 68-22 Monday.

However, Senate rules bar any legislation with similar language to a bill that has been voted down with a majority to be heard again in the same session. That puts the House version of the bill in jeopardy.

“It should be considered dead,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

There is discrepancy, however, about how the rule is interpreted.

“I assume that if it’s a House bill, it could probably go through the process,” said Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg.

Senate Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne said he is looking into whether the issue can be brought up again this session. 

Bosma said it is still to be determined whether his House verison of the bill will move on, but remains hopeful saying, “somehow, someway.”

Dustin Beach is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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