INDIANAPOLIS — The scene on the Indiana Senate floor Thursday looked less like an official lawmaker discussion, and at times more like a game show.
Lawmakers discussed SB 132 Thursday morning, which would require high school students to pass a civics test before they graduate. Students would have to get a score higher than 60 percent to complete the requirement and could take it as many times as they need. The bill was proposed by Sen. Dennis Kruze, R-Auburn.
The test would contain questions “identical to the material tested on the one hundred (100) question United States Civics Tests administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to each applicant for United States citizenship.”
Before a floor vote in the Senate, lawmakers discussed the merits and problems with the bill. This led to a discussion between Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, and Kruze.
Taylor challenged Kruze on the bill, and on whether he knows the answers to some simple civics questions.
Taylor: “Do you know how many members of Congress we have right now?”
Kruze: “Four-hundred thirty-five House members and 100 U.S. Senators.”
Taylor: “What is the breakdown, Democrat or Republican?”
Kruze: “Democrats control the House of Representatives. [Republicans] control the U.S.
Taylor: “I’m saying what’s the number? Democrats vs. Republicans?”
Kruze: “There are 53 Republican Senators, 47 Democrat Senators. In the House of Representatives, I’d have to divide it up, but it’s 220-some Democrats and 180 or 190 Republicans.”
Taylor relented his questioning, saying, “Respectfully, you just answered some questions I couldn’t have answered. All I know is one holds the majority and one holds the minority.”
Before the vote, Taylor called it “ridiculous” and said he was offended by the test by the lack of black history.
“In the test, they don’t ask certain questions that I know that probably you don’t know about our history,” Taylor said. “For example, who is Nat Turner? Who is Sojourner Truth? Who is W. E. B. Du Bois? Those people are very critical to my success right here, today. But that question isn’t on the test. So, we know the test is biased.”
Sen. Victoria Spartz, R-Noblesville, who emigrated from Ukraine in 2000 and became a citizen in 2006, spoke in support of the bill.
“I don’t try to speak often, but this one I felt like I should speak,” she said. “There are a few skills, some foundational, fundamental skills that are extremely important for the survival of a free Republic.”
Spartz started getting emotional during her testimony of the bill.
“I remember the key fundamentals and it had retained for me when becoming a citizen of this country,” she said. “I think, and I get very sensitive about this issue, I think it’s important for the future of our country. For our kids to be able to understand those differences.”
Kruze said he believes anybody who grew up in the United States should be able to answer the same questions that somebody applying for citizenship must answer.
The Senate passed the bill, 31-17. It will move to the Indiana House of Representatives. If the proposal becomes law, the new requirement would begin with the 2020-2021 school year.
Watch video of the discussion below:
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