Indiana House textbook bill passes first test

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (U-WIRE) — A House bill that could eliminate taxes on college textbooks passed through the state’s Committee on Education with a unanimous vote of 12-0, said Indiana University Student Association Vice President Andrew Lauck.

The IUSA-supported bill also saw a change that added graduate textbooks to the tax exemption. The bill now moves on to the Ways and Means Committee, which will decide if the bill receives funding.

State Rep. Joe Micon, D-West Lafayette, wrote House Bill 1311, which would eliminate Indiana’s sales tax on any textbook that is required for an undergraduate course at an accredited college or university in the state.

Students from IU, Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University gave testimony at the hearing along with the president of the Indiana Retail Council, Grant Monahan.

Lauck said he talked to the committee about the rise in textbook costs and how the growing number of editions make it harder for students to buy used books. He testified that 15 other states have already implemented similar bills, that five others are looking into adopting such a bill, and that students would benefit from the exemption. IUSA Chief of External Affairs Emma Cullen and former Chief of External Affairs Garret Scharton, who are both seniors, also attended the hearing.

Lauck said the costs of going to college are increasing at a faster rate than inflation, and the average student spends more than $1,000 per year on textbooks, so the savings would be about $60 annually.

Purdue student Jimmy Cox echoed the same sentiment, while Ivy Tech student Amanda Little gave a more personal testimony about the types of students attending Ivy Tech, Lauck said. Little reminded the committee that some Ivy Tech students are single mothers who put themselves through school or traditional students right out of high school whose parents can’t afford the tuition at other schools. Lauck said Little told the committee while $30 might not be a lot to some people, it makes a big difference for her classmates.

“I think it’s important for (legislators and committees) to see us at every hearing,” Lauck said. “It shows that it’s important to us.”

Lauck said IUSA is sending letters to every state representative this week to thank them for hearing and supporting the bill. Indiana students, parents or citizens can help the cause by calling or writing a letter to their state representatives to tell them the bill is important them, he said.

The House bill is identical to Senate Bill 16 penned by Republican Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford. Lauck said two bills are circulating in an attempt to bypass any difficulty caused by the House and the Senate being controlled by different parties. Also, about six legislators have taken interest in the bill, and each of them has an opportunity to write his or her own version of the bill, he said.

The campaign hopes the Senate will want to give more attention to the bill as it becomes more popular and gets to the House, he said.