INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence called for lawmakers to pass legislation decreasing Indiana’s reliance on 2015 ISTEP standardized test scores but made no mention of adding LGBT civil rights protections into state law when he released his agenda for the coming legislative session.
Instead, the Republican prioritized a boost in local roads funding, called for tens of millions in extra money for his Regional Cities initiative and said he wants to increase sentences for convicted drug dealers, in addition to calling changes to the ISTEP, which otherwise would penalize teachers and schools for low student test scores.
The “agenda prioritizes funding for state and local roads, ensures that schools and teacher salaries are not negatively impacted by the transition to a new test, and combats drug abuse and addiction through tougher enforcement,” Pence said in a statement released on the eve of the session’s Tuesday start.
That prompted the Indiana Democratic Party to accuse Pence of choosing to “ignore” the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights, which has been a priority for the state’s business establishment since Indiana’s religious objections law drew national criticism after it was passed last year. The law was later changed to address widespread worries that it could sanction discrimination, but business leaders have pushed lawmakers to go further ever since.
Pence, an avowed social conservative, has refused to indicate where he stands, saying he is still studying the issue.
“Mike Pence’s ‘study’ session last year should receive an ‘F’ grade after he chose to ignore LGBT rights and play the card of an ideologue – not the one of a governor,” Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson said in a statement.
Pence has already indicated his support for many of the ideas he outlined Monday. On dealing with the ISTEP results, he called in October for teachers’ pay to not be penalized, but said Monday for the first time that school A-F grades also should not be affected. The policy shift aligns him with Democratic state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz.