While the Indiana General Assembly won't start working on new laws until next January, the current legislative "off season" is an important time when many lawmakers serve on study committees that conduct in-depth research into issues facing Hoosiers.
Often their work results in solutions and legislation that might otherwise go unaccomplished during the fast pace of the winter and springtime legislative session.
The General Assembly's Legislative Council, which I serve on as Vice Chairman, recently met and assigned study topics for these committees. Here is a brief overview some of the most pressing topics lawmakers will review over the next five months:
The Select Commission on Education will review Department of Education policies for evaluating teacher performance and assigning A-F grades to Indiana schools. The overarching goal of this committee is to make sure that recent laws aimed at improving public education are being carried out in the ways that most benefit students.
The Department of Child Services Interim Study Committee will conduct an examination of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), including the progress and improvements made by the department since its creation in 2005, the effectiveness of the DCS statewide child abuse and neglect hotline and the long range needs of DCS.
The Interim Study Committee on Agriculture will look into any obstacles to local food production in Indiana and how to encourage more farmers and residents to produce, process and distribute locally grown food.
The Census Data Advisory Committee will focus on improving the security of absentee ballots mailed to and from voters.
In an effort to prevent future tragedies like the stage collapse at the 2011 Indiana State Fair, a specially created Outdoor Stage Equipment Safety Committee will review possible regulations to protect the safety of Hoosiers at outdoor performances.
More information about committee topics, schedules and agendas will be available online at www.in.gov/legislative/interim.