Gideon John Tucker, a lawyer, politician and newspaper editor, offered his assessment of state legislatures in a New York legal proceeding more than 150 years ago.

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe,” he wrote, “while the Legislature is in session.”

There’s some truth to that, and we should likely keep it in mind as the Indiana General Assembly begins its annual session Jan. 6.

Still, while some of the bills our elected representatives will consider might be perceived as a threat to the common good, there are a few areas where lawmakers might actually be able to make some progress.

Take public education. Parents, teachers and administrators have made clear they’re looking for some meaningful action to address the issues facing public education in this state, and those issues go beyond funding. It’s critical that lawmakers find a better way to evaluate Indiana’s students, its teachers and its schools.

And what about public health? Indiana historically dwells in the bottom half of national health rankings, a result of lawmakers’ failure to pass meaningful health measures. This trend must stop.

The health and well-being of Hoosiers should be paramount in the minds of legislators as the annual session gets underway.

And then there’s the economy. Indiana’s economic vitality is largely driven by private sector manufacturing, entrepreneurship, innovation and commerce, but government can, and does, play a role in making sure the business climate encourages investment and is fair to everyone – from the CEO to the plant manager to the front-line worker.

Indiana’s leaders have a duty to serve all constituencies, and they should keep that in mind in making laws to promote economic development, including those that enhance small business growth and entrepreneurship.

At the same time, the General Assembly should give careful consideration to bills that would protect our lands, waters and air quality while halting legislation that would threaten those natural attributes. Likewise, legislators should push through bills that would encourage the use of alternate energy sources, such as residential solar panels.

Our elected leaders should make fellow Hoosiers proud by working to assure that Indiana does its part to fight climate change. They would not only be keeping a promise to future generations, they would be making Indiana more attractive to visitors and potential new residents.

Finally, there is government reform. It’s long past time that Indiana joined the list of states that have taken politics out of the once-a-decade redistricting process. Lawmakers also should enact meaningful reform of township government, and they must take a hard look at the still troubled Indiana Department of Child Services.

We’ll be keeping an eye on all of these areas as lawmakers move through their annual session, set to end no later than March 14. Here’s hoping we don’t find ourselves too often reminded of the words of Gideon John Tucker.
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