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general assembly

House Democrats map out goals

Key issues: Middle class, schools

– The diminutive House Democratic caucus had three major recommendations for the new legislative session Monday – help the middle class, focus on traditional public schools and avoid social issues.

“Above all we must make sure that the power of government does not shift far from the center,” said Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, who delivered the traditional speech from the minority perspective.

Republicans control the chamber 69-31.

Pelath said the theme of the session should be “it’s the middle class’s turn,” noting previous tax cuts have helped businesses and the rich.

“Cutting rates on folks earning less than $50,000 or $100,000 is less neglectful of revenue. So if tax cuts are in order, focus them on the workers who create the profits in our state,” he said.

Pelath’s next recommendation focused on reinforcing traditional public schools, including restoring funding cuts and bolstering early childhood learning.

And then he proposed a two-year moratorium on social issues to allow a greater focus on jobs.

“You know what they are. They involve the deeply sensitive matters of who loves who, of human reproduction and women’s health,” he said. “Our state and nation are deeply divided on such issues and too often this body has served to enflame those divisions.”

Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, responded for the majority caucus by focusing on cooperation and not ruling as a tyranny.

“We have to create a situation and an environment where jobs can be created and jobs can be retained,” he said.

After the House adjourned Monday, House Speaker Brian Bosma said restoration of funding for K-12 schools and higher education institutions is a key priority for his caucus though no decisions have been made on how much new money might be directed there.

And he supports a review of some recent education reforms that might not have been drafted perfectly.

As for social issues, Bosma said that is not the focus on the GOP agenda but such items will likely come up and will be dealt with.