The Republican Party caucus in the state assembly has released its legislative agenda for the upcoming 2015 session. The statement lists what the GOP describes as four major issue categories that it wants to address: budget, education, ethics, and public safety. With regard to the budget, the party aims for a balanced budget with no increase in taxes or borrowing. However, recently, revenues have fallen below earlier expectations.
Rep. Mayfield explains how her colleagues plan to deal with this potential shortfall.
“We want to maintain the surplus and reserve because those revenues could come in shy of expectations,” Mayfield says. “And that has happened before, especially during the recession.”
For education, the caucus promises to increase funding and fix the funding formula.
Rep. Mayfield said that specific expenditure requests would have to await final state income receipt figures. Under Indiana’s public school funding formula, lower income districts receive more than higher income districts in order to pay for special services such as subsidized meals and supplemental teaching.
“There’s a huge disparity in the formula,” Mayfield says. “Carmel receives the lowest funding while East Chicago receives the highest. Prior to last year the disparity was even greater and they’re closing the gap. I think what we need to look at is the foundation of that forumula.”
The most recent ethics scandal was around Republican Representative Eric Turner’s behind-the-scenes-effort to kill a bill which may have negatively affected his family’s private business interests. He was exonerated of any wrongdoing by his colleagues.
Since then, numerous other examples of Republican legislators with obvious conflicts of interest not recusing themselves from debates have come light.
“This week we will be meeting with national ethics experts on best practices,” Mayfield says. “I think this will be good in continuing the public confidence in our elected leaders. It also helps elected officials understand a more clearer definition of the line you cannot cross.”
The focus of the Republican’s public safety agenda is domestic violence. No mention is made of changes in the law around this issue, rather the GOP promises to invest funds in and work with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“I think by focusing efforts on current programs and not trying to put new, state-level programs in place we can help more people,” Mayfield says.
The republican caucus agenda did not directly address Indiana’s economic issues such growing income polarization, wage stagnation among workers, and rising youth poverty levels.
The environmental protection agency has tasked states with reducing their reliance on coal burning, citing it’s direct impact on global warming. Indiana’s primary electricity source is coal, and jobs related to coal use are the main industry in certain parts of the state.
“80 percent of our electricity comes from coal and that’s not an insignificant figure,” Mayfield says.
A major issue during the 2014 legislative session was marriage equality in Indiana. This fall the Supreme Court declined to reexamine the issue, letting stand lower court rulings in several states, including Indiana, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage.
Shortly after taking office in 2013, Representative Mayfield stated that she would remain open on the issue of same-sex marriage until either voters or the court made a final decision. Representative Mayfield won her seat two years ago, switching the long time district seat from democrat to republican after redistricting in 2011. Her democratic challenger for the November 4th election is Daymon Brodhacker.