Statehouse candidates debate issues at college forum

Candidates for local legislative seats tackled subjects including education and hate crimes during a community forum last night at the Columbus Learning Center.

More than 100 people turned out to the event .

Ross Thomas, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Senator Greg Walker for Indiana Senate District 41, says that all teachers in Indiana should be licensed, including those teaching in charter schools. He also called for increased spending for public education, saying that spending has not kept up with the rate of inflation.

Sen. Walker says that everyone wants quality education in Indiana. He noted that most of the state budget is spent on education. Walker also called for accountability in schools.

The candidates for House District 59 discussed the need for hate-crimes legislation. Democrat Dale Nowlin says he is in favor of such legislation. He says that too many segments of our society have concerns for their safety and well-being. Nowlin adds that such legislation would also make good economic sense for the state. He argues that, without a hate-crimes law, Indiana is keeping segments of the population at arms-length, meaning that the state is missing out on high-quality employees.

Republican Ryan Lauer says that he expects an Indiana hate-crime statute to become a reality sooner rather than later. He added that he wants everyone to feel welcome and secure. Lauer also noted that judges already have discretion when it comes to sentencing. That means that judges can, and should, lengthen sentences if hate or racial discrimination is a factor.