0:00:47:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: From the Milton Metz studio and IU's radio and television building, this is noon edition on W F IU. I'm Sarah Whitmire. My co-host Bob Salzberg is out this week but the host of Indiana news desk Joe Hren joins us today. This week we're reflecting on the 20 19 legislative session, and we're talking about the 20 20 session that starts on Monday. Our guests today include Mark Messmer. He's a state senator in District 48, Matt Pierce, State Representative District 61 and Brandon Smith, a voice you often hear on WFIU, the Indiana Public Broadcasting statehouse reporter. Thank you all for joining us today.
0:01:26:>>MATT PIERCE: You're welcome.
0:01:27:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: You can join the conversation today on Twitter at noon addition or join us on air by calling in at 8 1 2 8 5 5 0 8 1 1. You can also send questions for the show to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. I want to start by just talking about the Republican and Democratic priorities for the upcoming session. Those were laid out a few weeks ago. Matt, do you want to start and just talk about the Democrat priorities this session?
0:01:55:>>MATT PIERCE: Sure. The House Democratic Caucus - we want to see if we can revisit the school safety issue because that bill when it got to the end of the session removed language in that it would have gotten some funding for mental health counselors in school, and we really think it's important that we have people right there in the schools who have good mental health background that can really maybe head off at the pass kids that are heading toward some kind of violent act, and there's a lot of other mental health challenges that kids face in school. So we think that would be something important to do, and it fell out at the end. And we'd like to go back and look at that again. I think both sides of the aisle are interested in trying to do something about reducing health care costs. You got prescription drugs and, you know, just as transparency in billing. So we're definitely interested in that. Pre-K we really don't even rank on the lists anymore because technically it's available statewide, but the funding is so limited that it's really not getting rolled out. And so we really need to be serious about early childhood education. Of course, you've got the teacher pay issue. House Democrats think we should just get that done this session, at least make bigger, better progress on that. And then finally it's our last chance to do something about nonpartisan redistricting which will be coming up in the next session after this one.
0:03:10:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: I have so many follow ups from that, but I want to give Senator Messmer a chance to talk about Republicans priorities as well. Senator Messmer - it appears he is not live right now, but we'll get to him later in the show. Brandon, I want to get you involved in the conversation now because a number of the things here that Representative Pierce just mentioned about reducing health care cost, pre-K funding, teacher pay, I think dollar signs. And this isn't a budget year. So can you explain the difference and then when do we reopen the budget to talk about these?
0:03:45:>>BRANDON SMITH: Right. So the way Indiana state government works is that they write two year budgets, which we did in 2019, so that's supposed to last until the 2021 session. So it used to be if you go back years and years and years they sometimes didn't even meet in the between year. And then it became, well, we're going to meet for like emergency situations, like, really critical measures that we have to do that we can't wait until the next budget session. And then it became more, well, let's just meet every year and see what we can take care of. And now for the most part they treat these non-budget sessions almost like regular sessions. The big difference though is besides not writing a budget, there's a lot less time. So when they write a budget, the budget sessions in the odd numbered years last all the way through the end of April. This will only go to mid-March, and that's a statutory deadline. They don't move that. And that literally leaves lawmakers with a lot less time to pass legislation. And you see a lot more bills just fall by the wayside because they get complicated. There's those hiccups in the process. And unlike in a long session where you can kind of get through those speed bumps in a short session you really can't. There's literally - you run out of time on a lot more issues. So there are fewer bills written. There's fewer bills that are passed. As far as reopening the budget, that happens if and when Republicans or whoever is in the majority decides they want to do that. There have been cases in non budget sessions where they pass big spending bills. There have also been cases in non budget sessions where they resist any efforts to do that. So for example particularly as it relates to the teacher pay discussion, I think about a very recent example in road funding. So we had this road funding crisis a few year - in the middle of the last decade. It emerged sort of in 2015. And they had already passed the budget and they were like, OK, well, what are we going to do for a long term sustainable road funding plan? Well, they had a huge study committee and a whole task force assigned to figuring that out. And they did that in 2017, and in the budget, but in the interim in 2016, they passed one time short term road funding money to kind of bridge that gap to say, OK, we're starting to address the problem, but this isn't the long term solution. That'll come next year. That's what a lot of people want to see happen on teacher pay this time around. It's - there's some people who acknowledge yes the long term sustainable solution that Governor Holcombe's task force or commission on teacher pay is trying to craft or at least come up with proposals for. That won't be ready until the 2021 budget session, which makes sense when you're talking about building something into the state spending plan. But there are a lot of people who believe that there is some short term money that could be spent now in the 2020 session to sort of address that.
0:06:46:>>MATT PIERCE: The other thing is while it's true that the legislature didn't even meet in the off year until after 1971, it was pretty routine in the later 80s and into the 90s to do supplemental budgets in the short sessions. And they would just kind of look at it and if you had extra revenue coming in above forecast, they might go ahead and allocate that to some new things. So there have been points in history where there are these supplemental budgets, and essentially the governor is asking to reopen the budget because he said we've got this extra 300 million that came in that we had not expected in the last budget year. And he would like to use that to just pay cash for a bunch of building projects. And what the House Democrats I think will likely be pushing - at least I'll be pushing - is let's invest in human capital. You know, we can go ahead and bond those projects and deal with those and keep those on schedule while at the same time we could use some of that 300 million toward teacher pay, pre-K or other things that really are investing in people, not just in buildings.
0:07:42:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK, I guess I already thought those were a done deal, that he could -
0:07:45:>>BRANDON SMITH: So know that that extra money has to be appropriated by the legislature or at least approved by the State Budget Committee. But it actually - it's going to go through the legislature. And so in lieu of Senator Messmer not being on the line at the moment, I'll give you the Republican line on that, which is yes, you're sort of technically reopening the budget, but at the same time you're also not because the legislature already approved all of the projects on this list. Every one of the things that the governor wants to spend this money on this this extra money they didn't expect to have was already approved by the state legislature. But what they proved was bonding which is how the government funds a lot of its projects, its big capital projects. What the governor is proposing is well instead of doing bonds for the next 20, 30 years and paying interest on those bonds over the next 20 and 30 years, let's use this one time cash and just pay for it all upfront which saves you interest, I mean, literally over a hundred million dollars in interest payments over the next couple of decades. But then there's the view on the other side, which is well if these buildings are going to be used for the next several decades, why don't we pay for it for the next several decades and spend some things on what we need to spend them on right now?
0:08:58:>>JOE HREN: Well, and over that period of time, I assume you can anticipate how much time some of these issues will take over the course of any session, too. Is that correct? And so some of this has to kind of wait and go through study committees and so forth as well?
0:09:15:>>MATT PIERCE: Well, it all depends. I mean, some issues have a life of their own and they kind of pop up, things you don't expect. But the majority party has a lot of parliamentary tools that really allow them to control the agenda, and that's what we saw last year with the hate crimes bill where it was bottled up in committee. Democrats were waiting for an opportunity to offer amendments because we felt the proposals had been discussed were not expansive enough, not inclusive enough. And we came in one day after the filing deadline to learn that an amendment was been filed that was basically stripping a bill out, dropping in the Republicans' preferred language which totally block the Democrats from offering any different approaches to that bill and Republicans could avoid voting on that in the house. And so the majority party has a lot of tools at their disposal to really control the agenda. So if they want to keep issues off the floor, they can usually manage to do that. If there are things that are their priority, the leadership has a way of kind of telling the committee chairs and people we need to move this along and make it happen.
0:10:15:>>BRANDON SMITH: It's important that he points out the majority - the language he used was the majority party. In Indiana, right now it happens to be Republicans. In the past, it has been Democrats and they used the same sort of tools to control the agenda. That's what the majority gets to do.
0:10:29:>>: So Senator Messmer, I want to ask you just in light of what Representative Pierce and Brandon just said, is there much appetite among Republicans to do something about not just teacher pay, but there were number issues that teachers were rallying for during the red Fred.
0:10:46:>>MARK MESSMER: OK. Well I guess I'll have to apologize. While we were on hold for the news my line disconnected and they just got me dialed back so I really just heard about the last 10 seconds. So I mean I guess you have to.
0:11:02:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: Yeah. So we were talking a little bit about teacher pay and then the debate about whether the budget should be opened up to do something about teacher pay now, and I guess I'm just wondering aside from just the pay issue, you know, teachers were advocating they want more equitable school funding fewer tests. Then there's the issue about the licensing requirements. Are we going to see movement on any of these other issues that don't really require any money?
0:11:31:>>MARK MESSMER: I mean, I think education issues outside of the budgetary element of it, I really do not anticipate, you know, anything moving through that would that would require reopening the budget to deal with teacher pay. I mean, I know there was some excess, you know, funds above anticipated levels that came in toward the end of last year. But I mean other than projects that were capital projects that had bonding approved for that they'll end up paying cash for, I don't really anticipate, you know, pay being addressed. But there are a variety of issues that I think there's some openness, at least on our side of the building. I mean, we've passed twice bills that would greatly reduce the time spent on standardized testing. We can't seem to get things passed the house education chairman, you know, dealing with, you know, things that would have replaced Istep, gone back to standardized testing formats that are, you know, much less time intensive, definite support that. I think there's a high degree of openness to relook at the - you know, some of the what they call it, you know, externships, whatever, you know, to renew teacher licensing, to reevaluate the value of that and reduce some of the mandates for teachers on that. Anything that we can do that reduces the amount of regulations that not only teachers but administrators and counselors and, I mean, there's a lot of time spent that, you know, that, you know, that takes a lot of staff time and teacher time and principal time, you know, that at the end of the day, you know, don't really move the needle on improving education outcomes for kids. I think there's, you know, openness there. So yeah, I mean, I would say any anything outside the budget window, you know, has some agreement at least on the Senate side of the building. And I think even to high degree there's some, you know, there's some interest on the House leadership to re-evaluate and reexamine some of the things that we're required teachers to do.
0:13:51:>>BRANDON SMITH: A great example of that, and Representative Pierce alluded to it a little earlier - Senator Messmer just did too which is that pretty much everybody agrees - so the state transitioned to a new statewide standardized test this year for future students. And as was expected, anytime you move to a new test, scores drop. That's true in Indiana and across the country. And they dropped a lot. The problem..
0:14:13:>>MARK MESSMER: Yeah. You have to stop - I mean, you can't require - I mean, put those tests onto teacher grades, onto school grades, I mean, you just can't because when you change the format you change the testing system. You've got to have a year to recalibrate. And so, I mean, that will be one of the first bills that I can guarantee will move through the House and Senate, you know, as fast as humanly possible. That'll be done and signed into law, top priority. You know, when we get when we get to Indianapolis next week.
0:14:48:>>BRANDON SMITH: And we've already seen both the House and Senate education committees have meetings Monday and Tuesday. Monday in the Senate, Tuesday in the House, and those are the bills at least in the Senate side - that's the one bill on the calendar. In the house, that's one of two bills on the calendar, so Senator Messmer's point - that's going to go fast.
0:15:06:>>MARK MESSMER: Yeah I think there's a high degree. You know, I know Senate leadership does and I'm pretty sure House leadership does as well, you know, even the process of decoupling teacher pay to test scores, I mean, I think there's a high degree of willingness to address that. You know, that will probably come from the House side of the building. But, you know, should there get some traction and be agreement to move that? I think there is a high degree of interest from House and Senate leadership to you know to address that issue as well.
0:15:43:>>MATT PIERCE: Yeah. I think that they'll be probably unanimous support for the hold harmless provision to basically say we're not going to count that first test toward a normal thing. So I think that will be - go pretty smoothly. What's interesting to me is, and Brandon can check me on this, when Speaker Bylsma made his remarks on organization day, it seemed to me like he was actually signaling a willingness to step back from some pretty strong ideological philosophies of the Republicans on education policy, and that being that there should be a link between teacher pay and the results of their students on the exam. It seemed like he was saying that. He kind of talked about maybe reestablishing the teachers more as a profession and not just as like people in widget factories which I know Democrats have complained about a bit over time, that we're not really treating teachers as professionals. And so I think that there may be, for the first time, a shift away from some of the policies that have been implemented over the last decade that maybe people are finally recognizing or not really getting the results that we want or just can't be implemented in a really fair way.
0:16:47:>>MARK MESSMER: And I guess - yeah. And I agree with that. I'm assuming that was Representative Pierce, trying to - you know, I took speaker Byalsma's comments, you know, the same. And the difficulty gets - when you try to link student test scores to teacher pay, and now with the elimination of of I-STEP, you know, mandate from, you know, from high school teachers, I mean, you know, how do you implement, you know, a regulation or a law when there is depending on the student, depending on the age, you know, there may or may not be a standardized - there may not be a test format that even works? And so I think the practicality, although, you know, it might have sounded good on paper, you know, the practicality of how do you implement it and how do you - how do you - if you're a teacher that teaches a subject that doesn't have a standardized test, what's your point of measure? And so, you know, I think the reality of, you know, making that decoupling happen is - has a high degree of support, I believe, on both sides of the building.
0:17:59:>>BRANDON SMITH: And it's important to note - so there are sort of two issues here. The one that that's going to move really, really fast was the the hold harmless for one year of test scores. So basically looking at the last year of test scores, which dropped understandably a lot saying, OK, for this one year, nobody's going to - schools and teachers and everybody else who's affected by these test scores, you're not going to see any drops because of that. We're just going to say it doesn't count this year. The other issue, the decoupling teacher evaluations from test scores, would not be a one year thing. That would be a new permanent - exactly, a new permanent situation that has really gained a lot of traction in the last few months among Republicans and Democrats.
0:18:45:>>MARK MESSMER: Yes, I agree.
0:18:46:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: So before we move on past some of these teacher issues, Brandon I want to ask you about this the governor's teacher pay commission. So when are they supposed to come up with recommendations? And then if we can even look ahead to 2021, do we see that then becoming a big issue in the budget year 2021?
0:19:02:>>BRANDON SMITH: Yes to the latter. Those recommendations are expected to come out of the governor's commission in the middle of 2020. So after the legislative session - they were never intended - it was always a two year commission. It was never intended to be for the 2020 session. So this was always the plan for Governor Holcomb in that commission, which was really they spent a lot of last year doing listening sessions around the state, having people come in and testify about all of the myriad, like, how all of this works and that sort of thing. And then their work over the last several months and then this year will be more focused on, OK, so now we understand all of the data and all of the metrics and they're getting more information, more data about teacher salaries from schools right now. That's already currently happening as schools report that information to the state. And then this year - the first part of this year, they're going to kind of come up with - and I don't know. It might be a single proposal. My guess is it'll be more of, like, a menu of options. Like, here's a few things you could do to sustainably raise teacher pay over the next - you know, and again, this is not a one budget year proposal. It's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be this is how we can, for the foreseeable future, make sure the teachers are getting the salary increases they deserve. And that'll be, again, focused on the 2021 session when the state writes a new budget.
0:20:26:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: You're listening to noon edition and today we are talking about the 2020 session which is starting on Monday. You can join the conversation at 8 1 2 8 5 5 0 8 1 1 or tweet us at noon edition. I want to shift gears a bit and talk about health care costs, something you mentioned, Representative Pierce. What can the state really do? When I think of health care costs, I usually think federal government.
0:20:51:>>MATT PIERCE: Well it is true that I think it's a lot more difficult for states to do things than some of my constituents think just because health care is kind of a national thing. We also have, you know, people who live in Indiana near Louisville or Cincinnati or up near Chicago - they're getting their health care out of state. So it does add some complications to it, but it doesn't mean there aren't things that we can do. And there is a study committee that kind of studied these issues, and I think that, you know, one area for sure that we could get at is just the transparency on the billing, which is a national problem is this ridiculous situation where people get these huge bills and if they're lucky the insurance company will cover most of it. Sometimes they don't. And they're kind of stuck. And then we've got this kind of ongoing dispute between the hospitals and some economists and other people about whether or not they're making too much money or acting more like for profit than not for profit. So I think that issue will probably get aired, but I don't know if much real dramatic effects will come of that because usually the legislature is not that bold in these areas. So I don't know. Senator Messmer might have a better idea what the Senate has got in mind on that front.
0:21:57:>>MARK MESSMER: I think you know Senator Charbonneau chaired that interim study committee and we've talked about it while those committee hearings were going on. We've talked about it at the culmination of those hearings, and you're correct.
0:22:08:>>: I mean, these are issues - I mean, some of them are - you know, some of the cost drivers are really really controlled by federal legislation that we can't do much about. But the transparency of hospital costs, you know, is probably one area that you know that - and we looked at a program called the all payer claims database system that I think some other states have implemented, just to give patients the opportunity, where practical, you know, to compare the cost for a procedure, you know, at one hospital versus another and making that process, making that data transparent and easily accessible by consumers, you know, could help, should help drive, you know, drive cost and competition into the process. Another big area that I've I've had constituents contact me on over the years, and it's really more health insurance company, you know, driver on it that negatively impacts consumers is the process called surprise billing where you can go into a hospital that's in your insurance network and then end up with specialists that work at the hospital that are out of network, and then you as the consumer, you know, after the procedure is ran through and your insurance company covers, you know, some items, you know, at in-network reimbursement or, you know, in-network out-of-pocket versus out-of-network. And so the consumer ends up with a surprise bill because of a - you know, because the providers that work you know in an in-work provider that are an out-of-network specialist. And then really - you know, really driving that. That - there's different ways - different - you know, that other states have addressed that. But, you know, at the end of the day, when you go to an in-network provider, you, as a consumer, you know, should expect - and I mean, how we, you know, either incentivize insurance companies or mandate insurance companies - I guess, you know, the path - how we get there, you know, might vary a little bit, but at the end of the day, for the consumer who, you know, ends up with bills sometimes in the thousands of dollars because of an out-of-network specialist that, you know, ended up being, you know, the - being born by not the insurance company but being born by the patient. You know, that needs to be dealt with. And last year we also started researching the issue with pharmacy benefit managers. And those, conceptually, are designed to drive prescription costs down for consumers. But, you know - but as we - we didn't really move that bill forward last year, but I think there's going to be some re-evaluation of that process and making sure the pharmacy savings that pharmacy benefit managers negotiate with manufacturers make their way, you know, to either the insurance - you know, the large employer group plan or the - you know, make sure the consumer is the one, you know, that reaps the benefit of that negotiated cost savings with - you know, with the pharmaceutical company and not being captured in an unintended profit center for the pharmacy benefit manager. I mean, I think we estimated last year during some of our senate committee hearings that folks in the industry - evaluated there's about $300 million of pharmacy benefit manager savings, you know, to Hoosier - you know, health patients that - you know, that cost savings was not getting driven down to the insurance plans and to the individuals - that it was being being captured and kept by the pharmacy benefit manager.
0:26:03:>>MATT PIERCE: Yeah, I think the pharmacy benefit...
0:26:04:>>MARK MESSMER: That's really - that's an issue that's going to need some attention whether we come up with a solution this year or not. But, I mean, really - I mean, from a state level, you are really limited on what you can drive out to try to tackle those. we we looked at those three areas as being some potential wins.
0:26:21:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK.
0:26:21:>>MATT PIERCE: I was just quickly going to say - the pharmacy benefit people call those rebates, I just call them kickbacks. That's really what they are. They're kickbacks. They're getting a piece of the action to recommend certain drugs, and that really needs right stopped.
0:26:31:>>MARK MESSMER: Right, yep.
0:26:32:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: So some of these things that you both have been talking about - is their value in just bringing them up - discussing them at the legislature, even if you don't see - you don't expect something to happen?
0:26:41:>>MARK MESSMER: I'll say yes to that. And one example - there's - one of the big companies in my district, the - I want to talk to him over the summer, just talking about, you know, issues in general and he said - you know, he said, we've got a large employer - self-insured, you know, pool basically that we operate. He said, surprisingly, this year, we got the first $12 million rebate, I mean - or, you know, those cost savings of the - from the PBM to our insurance - you know, to our insurance pool - we got the first rebate back from them that they had negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies. And these programs have been around since about 2013, and they said we had never gotten that some of those discounted savings back to our plan before, but this year we did. And I said, well, that's really surprising because just discussing that issue, I believe, in the last session shed some light onto some of the - you know, some of the practices that were happening. And, you know, they were probably doing that just to try to - you know? I mean, and a lot of times just discussing the item in session - you know, we wouldn't have to regulate, you know, these PBMs, but they're really greatly an unregulated product, you know, that's crept up in the industry and we do need something. We need to put boundaries around what they do - and I'll go back to the, you know, term - some transparency onto - into what they're - you know, what cost savings are they negotiating? You know, what's getting passed on to the consumer? And really another unsavory area of this PBM market - you know, CVS has one of the largest pharmaceutical benefit manager programs out there, and they use the - you know, the reimbursement process, you know, for the independent pharmacies as a way to really set unfair reimbursement rates and prescription costs for people outside of the big pharmaceutical - big pharmacy companies out there. So when the pharmacy company themselves create a PBM company and then really control, you know, the reimbursement rate process to the small independent pharmacies out there, it's created a very unlevel playing field and some unfair competition and they could really drive their - you know, their competition out of business.
0:29:09:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: I feel like we could do a whole show on that, but let's go to the phones real quick. We have Mike on the line, and I think Mike has a comment about school funding. Go ahead, Mike.
0:29:20:>>MIKE GAVIN: Thank you. My name is Mike Gavin and I just have a comment concerning school funding in Indiana. I arrived here as a high school student in Indiana with my family, and my dad was transferred from Illinois to take care of the northern half of the state with educational supplies with a major supplier who carried these things. And about two years later, he basically had to move back to Illinois, broke. And I heard him say more than once, this state doesn't fund its schools. And I have lived here for 45 years since and I've witnessed the same thing year by year, where as - people are always going, well, you don't have enough for schools. We're not going to fund them this year. Yada, yada, yada. And it just seems that this is the way that Indiana goes when it, you know, funds it schools and teachers. And that's my comment, and I'll just get off the phone and listen.
0:30:31:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK. Thank you. Senator Messmer, would you like to respond?
0:30:37:>>MARK MESSMER: Sure. I mean, I - the school funding in Indiana has, you know, two very separate silos that money, you know, comes into the system - actually, three if you include federal funding. But, you know, the property taxes in your local school district - you know, school corporation fund the capital expenses and some - you know, some of the operational expenses that are connected to the physical facilities. Operational expenses for staff pay - teacher pay primarily comes from from the state - you know, the state funding formula for schools. There's federal money that comes in for - you know, for special ed and Title I and - but also. And prior to 2000 - I don't know, it was before I was in the general assembly when the state took over the operational part of it with the increase in the sales tax. I don't know exactly what year that was. Representative Pierce probably would since he was in the house at the time. But, you know, even post-state operational takeover - since I've been in, we've given schools the ability through property taxes locally to pass referendums to pay additional operational expenses out of property taxes. And prior to, you know, the state shifting that funding mix from capital money to operational money, schools could, you know, locally, you know, just automatically get operational money out of the property tax base. And now that - when that local operational component is done, it's done by referendum. So, I mean, theoretically, if schools aren't getting enough - and I've seen it in my area quite often. You know, if the taxpayers agree that the school corporation needs some additional operating levy, you know, off property taxes, the - you know, the voters now - you know, now approve it and have a say where, you know, prior to the 2005 - 2006 timeframe when that switch was done, it was just done automatically as part of, you know, the school funding process.
0:32:47:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK.
0:32:48:>>MARK MESSMER: But, I mean, we did take a very large step. I mean, an additional $763 million into the K-12 space this year with - so with that, about 539 million of that going into the funding formula. I mean, you know, I think we all recognized there were some ground to make up. We've done, you know, 300 to $400 million increases the - you know, the past couple budget sessions, but I think everybody identified that we needed to get more money to schools, and this year made some pretty big progress in that. And, I guess, long term, that's part of what the governor's, you know, study on teacher pay long term sustainability - we'll make some recommendations this coming year, but...
0:33:40:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK.
0:33:40:>>MATT PIERCE: Well, I think that's where there's a - this is probably a big difference between the Republicans and Democrats in legislatures is just our kind of sense of how we're doing on school funding. I know the Republicans like to point to the numbers and the increase and correctly say we're spending more money now than we ever have - it's almost half the budget. But when you step back and look at some of the objective data - so the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities - back in March of 2019, they crunched some numbers using some census data and data from the National Center for Education Statistics and what they found is that, between 2008 and 2016, per student funding in Indiana increased 11/100 of a percent. And that's pretty limited. And then if you look at, you know, more recent - from a June 2019 Governing magazine, they looked at 2014 to 2017. And that - the first set of data was adjusted for real dollars, I don't think this second one is, but it has Indiana about 42 in increasing funding at 5.2 percent. If you look at Ohio, in that same period, it went up 11.4. Michigan, 7.2. Illinois, 17.3. And Kentucky, 8.7 So what's been happening in Indiana is we've been barely keeping pace with inflation, I think. And that's after we took about 300 million out of the base back during the big recession. The Democrats have always argued we've never really made up that base. And so this, to me, is a real fault line between the two parties - is how we feel we're doing on education funding.
0:35:11:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: Yeah. So we are going to have to take a short break and then we have a lot more ground to cover. I want to talk about the house speaker stepping away, marijuana, redistricting - a lot to get to the second part of our show. You are listening to NOON EDITION. We'll be right back.
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0:36:24:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: Welcome back to NOON EDITION. Today, we're talking about the 2020 session, which starts on Monday. You can share your questions or comments by tweeting @noonedition, or you can give us a call at 8128550811. We have three great guests today - Mark Messmer - state senator from District 48, Matt Pearce - state rep from District 61, and Brandon Smith - our state house reporter. So we've been talking a lot about education. I won't talk about redistricting because this is something we have heard - I mean, I think every year during the last 10 years I've been here, and there was even a commission that had some recommendations. So is anything going to happen this year? I know you mentioned at the top of the show.
0:37:05:>>MATT PIERCE: Well, as a member of the minority party, we always hope that we'll have nonpartisan redistricting. We're going to continue to push for it. The clock is kind of ticking on getting something in place to do that. And I think it's a national problem. The courts have basically bailed out of having anything to say about it. So it's going to be up to the legislature to decide whether it wants to have nonpartisan, more fairly drawn maps or whether we just want to continue with the majority party doing it. And I'll admit freely that, when the Democrats are in the majority, they do the exact same thing. So it's just - you know, the shoe's on the other foot, and I freely admit that the fervor for nonpartisan redistricting changes depending upon whether you're in the majority or minority. But I think that, if the people truly understood how technology and all the data that's collected about us now - we're in this whole new cyber world, and so partisan redistricting has gone from a guy with a slide rule looking at some precinct returns and kind of making some educated guesses about how people might vote in certain areas of the state to outsourcing this thing to D.C. to huge marketers and demographers and people with huge mainframe computers who have 1,500 data points about every voter in the state of Indiana. That's used every day to market to us, and now it can be applied to redistricting. And so you end up with these lopsided maps which, in turn, push everybody to the edges. So, you know, in my district here in Bloomington, you know, I have not really had a Republican opponent because they kind of look at the map and they say, why would I bother? There's a lot of other districts where it's the opposite. What that means is as, a legislator, I really just have to worry about what my base of support - what my party people think. And not only party people, but the most fervent activists who I know will vote in the primary. That tends to push people to the edges of the political spectrum - makes it much harder to compromise and get to more common sense solutions in the middle. And so that's why I think that, really, our whole basis of our democracy is kind of teetering as this ability to use data to redistrict just gets more and more powerful.
0:39:10:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: But time really is of the essence. I mean, Brandon, what do you think? How likely are we to see any real action here on these?
0:39:16:>>BRANDON SMITH: I would put the chances at roughly zero, to answer it as directly as I can. There's been a push to really overhaul the way Indiana redraws its districts for, as you said, close to a decade now. Probably more than that, but certainly the decade that I've been here. It's just not going to happen. It's - there are enough lawmakers in the statehouse who do not believe that a change needs to be made.
0:39:39:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: But it is - it does have bipartisan support? That...
0:39:41:>>BRANDON SMITH: It does, yeah. I mean, including the speaker of the house - the current speaker of the house, Brian Bosma has pushed for this for a long time. Not to put it all on senator Messmer's caucus, but for a long time senator Messmer's caucus and the senate Republicans were really the loudest voice saying, the system is fine, our maps are good, they have never been challenged in court - which is absolutely an objective fact. We'll see if that changes. But as senator - or as representative Pierce pointed out, the court - the federal court system has largely decided to take a pass on this issue of partisan gerrymandering, so I see no willingness to change.
0:40:19:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: All right.
0:40:19:>>MARK MESSMER: Well, I mean, to factually state that what we have is political gerrymandering - I mean, I don't know that you have a factual basis to back that up with. If you look at the legislative maps in - that we operate under currently compared to what they were, you know, in - at least when I was a house member, those maps were, you know, clearly much more politically gerrymandered than - the current maps are, in general, very concise - fall within federal guidelines on minority percentages within districts, represent of people in Indiana hope is that, you look to our neighbors and you have legal marijuana in Michigan, you have legal marijuana in Illinois, Ohio's moving in that direction - Kentucky isn't. But if I said the chance of major redistricting was zero, I think any sort of step toward legalized marijuana in any form is less than that somehow. So, no. There is definitely a shift going on in Indiana. The fact that, a couple of sessions ago, there was a resolution voted on in the house - on the house floor where a majority of folks there decided to study medical marijuana - that - I mean, it was mostly a symbolic vote, but it was a big message about how far that issue has shifted even in the last five years. There is definitely going to - and then, of course, there was the big CBD oil push that became legal in this state over the course of a couple of sessions the last few years. Those are not the same thing. But, again, it signals that this issue is shifting. And a lot of legislative leaders have started to talk about how - yeah, things aren't going to stay the same forever, but Indiana's not ready to take that step, in part - at least when you talk to, like, Governor Holcomb - they want to see things change at the federal level. Marijuana is still a scheduled drug by the feds, which means it's largely - it's illegal according to the federal government, despite how many states have legalized it. And I think they want to see more movement on the federal level before they are ready for Indiana to plunge forward.
0:48:20:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK.
0:48:20:>>MATT PIERCE: Yeah. I think the people are way ahead of the legislators on this issue. I think a lot of my particularly my Republican colleagues see it as pretty controversial and they'd rather not deal with it. And I think the governor kind of helped them out by saying, well, gee, as long as the Federal Government says it's a schedule one drug, we can't do anything or shouldn't do anything. So that kind of freezes the issue, and that's why I don't think that, you know, we'll see very much at all happening on that. Although the - you know, house Democrats - we tried to offer an amendment on medical marijuana and it was ruled out of order on procedural grounds. So I think that there'll be some efforts to maybe try to bring that issue up. And Senator Lucas and some people on the Republican side want to do it, but I would agree that just the odds of that happening right now are very slim.
0:49:01:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: OK. We only have a couple minutes left in the program, and there are so many issues we didn't get to. So I want to get each of you just an opportunity to talk about - if - say, we're sitting here at the end of the session, what are we going to talk about? What are the major highlights that we did make some action on during the session? Senator Messmer, do you want to go first?
0:49:19:>>MARK MESSMER: Well, one area that I think there's going to be some pretty quick consensus on - and you may have talked about it while I was waiting to get patched back in - you know, raising the smoking and vaping age to 21. I know there was some movement at the federal side to restrict sales, you know, to the 21 and over. But, I mean, I think we'll probably tackle that. And, you know, not only - you know, not only the smoking age but, you know, possession of the - you know, of the smoking products and vaping products - do what we can to make sure that, you know, Hoosier children - especially, you know, kids that get connected and addicted to, you know, marijuana and nicotine-based products, you know, at younger ages - we need to - I think there'll be some movement on that. I think there's even some pretty - you know, pretty broad consensus - and really was last session on moving that issue ahead. So that's one area that we'll probably tackle - that we see as a priority on the Senate side going into session.
0:50:21:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: All right. Matt Pierce, do you want to go?
0:50:24:>>MATT PIERCE: Yeah. I think that the big debate will really just be around this $300 million and how it gets spent and whether to use it on those projects. I suspect that will be the big thing that will kind of dominate the session. But, you know, we're hoping that, one, we don't have another payday lending bill. Seems like the last three or four sessions, we always get this bill to kind of expand this high-interest lending, subprime lending, whatever you want to call it, and that's very controversial. I'm hoping we won't have to deal with that. And so we'll have to see. The session goes fast. And it's true that, you know, the majority party knows that the minority party has a platform when the legislature's in session, so usually they don't like to extend that platform longer than they need to in an election year, and so there's usually an emphasis on that. And plus, we all begin seeing, in a week or so, who's filing against us in primary elections, if they are. So then people will suddenly be focused on - oh, gee, I got a primary coming up in May, I need to get home and start campaigning. And so that all pushes people to get out of town.
0:51:24:>>SARAH WITTMEYER: We are going to have to wrap there. A lot of stuff we didn't get to, but we can count on Brandon Smith, who's going to start updating us beginning on Monday. So thank you to our guests for joining us today. And thank you to our engineer Mike Paskash, producer Bente Bouthier and co-host Joe Hren. Thank you. This has been NOON EDITION. Have a great weekend.
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