House and Senate Democrats' 2021 legislative agendas are focused on issues that they say the pandemic showed to be incredibly urgent.
For Senate Dems, that includes raising the minimum wage, police reform and expanding vote-by-mail.
Indiana hasn’t raised its minimum wage since 2009. Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), said that’s despite a 20 percent increase in the cost of living.
“Our society relies on minimum wage workers," Taylor said. "And yet our state refused to pay all Hoosiers a living wage.”
Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) said 2020 also further revealed an urgent need for police reform. House and Senate Democrats are backing a broad agenda unveiled last year by the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, including bans on no-knock warrants and chokeholds by police.
Republican lawmakers might unveil a proposal on the issue – but Melton said Gov. Eric Holcomb needs to get involved.
“We want to be proactive in the state of Indiana to address these issues,” Melton said.
While Holcomb said last year he’ll look to revise training at the state police academy, further police reform is not part of his legislative agenda.
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House Democrats’ agenda this session includes reducing health care costs, raising teacher pay and supporting small businesses.
House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said both parties working together to help Hoosiers can restore their faith in government.
“Can we blame our constituents for their lack of confidence in government when the state’s response to this health crisis has run hot and cold, often without explanation?" GiaQuinta said.
GiaQuinta said the pandemic revealed underlying problems that have gone untreated for too long – notably, in health care.
“We know that our citizens are unhealthier than our neighbors," GiaQuinta said. "We are ranked low in obesity, smoking and other key public health metrics."
House Democrats – like they have for years – are also urging Republicans to use an independent redistricting commission to draw the state’s new legislative district lines.