VETERANS HEALTH CARE
Indiana Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly want the nation's Veterans Affairs chief to assess wait times at the state's VA facilities amid reports that some sites across the country manipulated wait times and left veterans to go months without care.
The senators first requested a review of Indiana wait times in a May 20th letter to then-Secretary Eric Shinseki. They didn't receive a response before Shinseki resigned and renewed their request in a letter to Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
A document released Tuesday by Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran showed that at least 108 veterans waited more than 90 days for appointments with a primary care doctor at nine hospitals and 51 clinics in parts of six states, including Indiana.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Indiana must establish a new ISTEP test a year earlier than planned if state officials want to maintain their waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz told members of the State Board of Education Wednesday that federal officials made the request in a call with state officials. The new test is required because of the state's formal exit from national Common Core standards.
If the state loses its waiver, it would lose control over millions in federal dollars.
The U.S. Department of Education alerted state officials last month their waiver was at risk because of problems monitoring low-performing schools. Their concerns were announced by federal officials shortly after Indiana became the first state to formally exit Common Core.
PRE SCHOOL PILOT PROGRAM
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has selected 12 urban and six rural counties as finalists for the five-county preschool pilot grant program created by the General Assembly this year.
The agency announced Wednesday the counties are in Southwest Indiana.. Vanderburgh, Vigo, and Lawrence. Others included; Allen, Bartholomew, Delaware, Elkhart, Grant, Howard, Jackson, Kosciusko, Lake, Madison, Marion, Noble, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, and Wayne.
The pilot program provides funding for pre-kindergarten for low-income 4-year-olds in five counties. Families earning up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level — a little less than $30,000 for a family of four — would qualify.
The agency says the finalists represent all geographic regions of the state and have about 17,000 eligible 4-year-olds who are not currently going to preschool.
PENCE TAX CONFERENCE
Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence is tapping prominent conservatives to headline an upcoming tax conference.
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and former Reagan economic adviser Arthur Laffer are scheduled speak during the June 24 event. Prominent Republican fundraiser and President George W. Bush economic adviser Al Hubbard is another speaker.
The conference at the Indiana Government Center will also involve tax experts from Indiana law firms and Purdue and Indiana universities.
Pence has made cutting taxes the centerpiece of his legislative agenda the past two years. But he has struggled to win approval from the GOP-dominated General Assembly.
The conference won't be open to the public. However, the Indiana Department of Revenue will stream the conference online and accept questions from the public before the conference.