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(INDIANAPOLIS) – A boost in teacher pay may not come this legislative session, but Republicans say they’ll tackle other items on teachers’ wish list.

House Republicans are joining Governor Holcomb in backing repeal of a six-month-old requirement that teachers do a 15-hour externship with a local business to learn about students’ career options. And Speaker Brian Bosma says the House will try to get rid of the law basing teacher pay partly on ILEARN scores.

Bosma says even if there weren’t federal requirements, there would need to be a student achievement test that measures what kids are learning. He says schools can’t improve their performance if there’s no way to measure it. But he says House Republican leaders are persuaded that those scores aren’t a good way to measure teachers’ performance.

Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray says Republicans there are still weighing the issue. Other bills have been introduced which would reduce the weight of test scores without eliminating them from the pay calculation entirely.

But there’s bipartisan agreement on taking ILEARN out of the equation this year and next, until the test is more established. A Senate committee has already passed a “hold harmless” bill, which would also prevent the first two years of ILEARN from jeopardizing a school’s grade under Indiana’s accountability law.

And House and Senate Republicans will both pursue two initiatives to reduce medical costs. One bill would establish a statewide database of what different medical procedures cost with different providers, to allow patients to comparison-shop. A second would prevent so-called “surprise billing” where you go to a hospital that’s on your health plan but get treated by a doctor who isn’t, and get hit with a giant bill.

Bosma and Bray both say those steps are just the start of an effort to control health costs. Bray says the “low-hanging fruit” is the place to start before diving into more complex aspects of the issue.

And Bosma and Bray are both joining Holcomb in making it a priority to raise the legal smoking and vaping age to 21. That’s already the case under a new federal law, but Bosma says it’s important for Indiana law to be consistent. And Holcomb says the state version will include additional tools for enforcement.

Legislators began the 2020 session in earnest Monday, two months after the one-day ceremonial start to the session. They’re required to adjourn by March 14, but plan to finish up three or four days early, to be out of town before the Big Ten basketball tournament starts soaking up available hotel rooms.

(L to R) House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)