Indiana News

Legislators to Hold Hearings on Land Banks, ISTEP Disruptions

5/23/2013

Legislators will hold hearings on the Indianapolis Land Bank scandal and the snafu surrounding this spring's ISTEP exam, as part of their summer study committee schedule.

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Legislators had passed a law requiring a study of the costs and benefits of land banks even before this week's bribery indictment of Indianapolis Land Bank head Reggie Walton and an employee. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the investigation means new questions about the practice of transferring ownership of abandoned properties to get them back on the tax rolls. He says a provision allowing nonprofit groups to take possession without having to bid is likely to face particular scrutiny.

Four legislators had proposed a bill allowing more cities to establish land banks. A House committee quickly gutted the proposal in favor of a summer study panel.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says there will be an all-day hearing next month on the computer crash which disrupted the ISTEP exam. He says test vendor McGraw-Hill will be called to testify about why it happened and whether the scores are still usable.

Long says legislators need explanations of why the problem wasn't anticipated and prevented, and assurances the difficulties won't recur.

Representative Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) and Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) will co-chair the ISTEP inquiry as heads of the House and Senate Education Committees. Long says he expects Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Chairman Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) will chair the land bank hearings.

18 study committees will meet over the summer to review a total of 66 topics. The list includes three newly formed committees focusing on the Common Core curriculum standards, central Indiana mass transit, and school safety. Long says he hasn't decided who will chair those panels.

Long and Bosma say this year's legislature ordered an unusual number of mandatory studies, crowding out dozens of study topics that were requested but not passed into law. Bosma says he may act to restrict legislators' ability to require study committees next year.

Other summer topics include Indiana's private-school voucher program and the new federally-run health-insurance exchange.

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