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Melton Op-Ed: 2018 session, a “dust storm” for Indiana

This session I was excited to get to work on behalf of the citizens in my district and across the state. This was my second session in the legislature so I had learned all the ropes of how the process works last year and was ready to hit the ground running to make positive and impactful changes for Indiana.

While I was able to incite some positive change to our state, a lot of opportunities were left behind in this dust storm of a session.

The wind first began stirring when House Bill (HB) 1315, a proposal that would have further disenfranchised voters in my district and would have barred the Gary School Board from meeting more than once a quarter, seemed to slowy become a reality. The legislature had just passed Senate Enrolled Act 567 a few months ago where the effects of that bill were just finding their legs to financially re-stabilize the Gary Community School Corporation. Progress had already be seen, like the $4 million the emergency manager already shaved off the school corporation’s annual deficit, but certain members of the legislature were ready to intervene themselves once again in the workings of our district.

While, these facets of the session were frustrating, I couldn’t have been more proud to represent my constituents than when members of my community, including the NAACP and the Urban League of NWI, collectively organized and showed up in full force at the Statehouse before the bill had even made it out of its assigned Senate committee. The Gary community was not going to take HB 1315 lying down and when they voiced their concerns at the Statehouse and held up their signs, I knew that they were making a difference.

Just a month later, HB 1315 failed to get called down on the Senate floor in time for a final vote on the last day of the 2018 session, and the bill was dead. When the clock struck midnight, when the dust of this session had all settled, I knew that this proposal would be unable to further hurt my district. I knew that the voices of my community had been heard and a light rain of victory sprinkled down upon Indiana’s legislative drought.

I am also happy to report a few other accomplishments I was able to fight for this session. I was able to establish a joint study committee to look into the Department of Child Services this summer after allegations outlined in the former director’s resignation letter showed that children may be at-risk. I was also able to pass a resolution to study areas in which Gary has the potential for economic development. The City of Gary will be able to use the information provided by the summer study committee to create a comprehensive economic plan to address the issues the city has been facing with the ultimate goal of positive economic growth and a sustainable economic future.

While these were definitely successes to appreciate, this session also missed an outstanding opportunity to reform Indiana’s gun laws and enact school safety measures. In the wake of multiple school shootings across our nation, Indiana could have moved ahead of the dark ages and put in place some legitimate steps to decreasing gun violence in our state. But, rather than doing what was in the best interest of Hoosiers, the legislature voted instead to increase access to guns and not put in place school safety practices that I argued on the Senate floor.

Imagine you’re standing in the middle of a dust storm, wiping your eyes, trying to see what lies in front of you but the wind keeps blowing the dirt back in your face. That was how this session felt. And because the Republican supermajority didn’t get everything they wanted passed this session, the governor has declared that the legislature will meet for a special session this May. Hopefully that session won’t be a second wind of what we just experienced. Hopefully by then the rain will come and the dust will be cleared away and maybe we can focus on what is important to Hoosiers, rather than special interests. And maybe next year, the legislature will do more to protect our citizens, to educate our students, to honor our veterans. Maybe next year the drought will finally end and prosperity will rain down on Indiana.

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