Vaping, iLearn, broadband on Houchin’s agenda

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

State Sen. Erin Houchin is planning to submit state bills concerning vaping, students’ education and rural areas’ access to broadband.

Houchin

One bill will ban certain dangerous additives to be in vaping products in Indiana.

“We’ve seen a sizeable increase in teen vaping,” Houchin said. “There are certain additives that are causing lung damage. My bill will outlaw those additives that are known to cause lung damage for products sold in Indiana.”

The bill also requires documentation of where products that are being sold come from. “This is to make sure that it has not been adulterated or modified in process,” she said.

On the subject of vaping, Houchin expects both the Senate and the House of Representatives to discuss raising the age for smoking and vaping to 21. But that proposal is not in this particular bill.

Houchin is submitting two bills involving the state’s iLearn test.

One will require using a computer program to track multiple datasets on a child over time to track their educational growth.

“We still have to have a statewide standardized test because of federal law. What I’m trying to do is take the pressure off the one test by utilizing a system that can track multiple data points over time,” she said. “Adding multiple datasets over time takes the high stakes pressure of the iLearn out of accountability, in favor of growth, in fairness to our students and our educators who are working hard.”

Houchin submitted this bill last session, but it stalled in the House.

The second education bill will allow students who need it to use text to speech for the reading portion of the iLearn. Currently, text to speech is allowed on individualized education plans, but not for use during iLearn.

“If a student has dyslexia, they were not allowed to have text to speech as an accommodation,” Houchin said. “It was denied even for blind students. If they could not see it, they could not access that part of the test.

“If you are requiring them to test their comprehension and not providing the accommodation to assist [them],” she said, “then you’re only highlighting their disability, rather than allowing them to show their ability.”

Houchin will propose legislation that requires companies that have challenges to another company’s application for state broadband funding to express those challenges upfront.

“We have seen some applications denied based on challenges to the process,” she said, “particularly in some areas where a challenger to the applicant really has no intention of investing further in broadband expansion. But they don’t want to allow anyone else to expand in those areas either.”

The idea is to have challenges be made at the beginning of the application process. “We can have all those conversations about who is going to make the investment and where the investment is located. This will happen before the application goes in, and will help streamline the process so that we get those dollars to the areas they’re needed most first.”

Houchin represents District 47, which covers Columbia, Ferdinand, Hall, Harbison, Jackson, Jefferson and Marion townships in Dubois County and all of Crawford, Orange, Perry, Harrison and Washington counties.

She has a survey she is requesting her constituents to complete. The survey can be found online on her webpage, www.in.gov/s47.




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