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Republican lawmakers say reading proficiency will be a focus during 2024 legislative session

Tuesday was organization day at the Indiana Statehouse. The day represents the ceremonial start of the legislative session
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Posted at 7:58 PM, Nov 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-21 19:58:21-05

INDIANA — Tuesday was organization day at the Indiana Statehouse. The day represents the ceremonial start of the legislative session and when many lawmakers lay out their priorities for the next legislative session. Along with that, advocacy groups and some Hoosiers came to discuss what they would like to see lawmakers tackle.

One group that was there on Tuesday was HIV Modernization Movement. Last legislative session the organization advocated for House Bill 1198. Passed in the House last session but failed in the Senate. It is something that advocates hope will become law following the legislative session in 2024.

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"We know from science that saliva does not transmit HIV but then again it's on our books that if a person living with HIV spits on a police officer there is a sentence enhancement because of their status, " Filomeno Fiel an Indianapolis Resident said.

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Fiel moved to Indiana from San Francisco. He has HIV but is undetectable which means he can’t pass it on to others. He says he was shocked by Indiana’s HIV laws.

"I still got a knock on the door from a local health department telling me about HIV laws in Indiana,” Fiel said. “How does that make me feel? I feel unwelcome in this state. "

Educators with the American Federation of Teachers were also advocating at the statehouse. Teacher Daniel Brugioni says there are three major issues for him.

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"Pay, respect and discipline issues are probably the big three,” Daniel Brugioni a Teacher in Northwest Indiana said.

He also wants to see a bigger investment in public schools rather than vouchers.

"90 percent of Hoosier students are in public schools,” Brugioni said. Public schools are fighting over peanuts while private schools are being incredibly well funded. I'd like to see that inequality addressed. "

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Democrats in the House didn't release their priorities but one major one for Republicans in both the House and Senate is addressing reading proficiency. According to the state, one in five Hoosier third graders struggle to read.

"Lets make a commitment today that Indiana will be the number 1 state in the nation for third grade reading proficiency by 2027,” Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said.

Speaker Huston says that the state needs to reexamine how they are choosing to pass or fail kids in elementary school. Questions were raised about what it could mean for the state budget if more kids were held back. He said that what is most important is that kids can read.

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"If it is going to cost us more money, we should pay more money,” Speaker Huston said. “We have got to stop asking who this is going to impact because who it is impacting with the longest term with the most drastic impact is the individual students. "

The Indiana House says it has a limited list of priority bills with the goal of keeping the session short. This year is not a budget year at the statehouse. Lawmakers will have a limited number of bills that they can file.