The Indiana Citizen

The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

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TERRI AUSTIN

Democratic Birth Date: 05/17/55

House District 36 is mostly the city of Anderson, and there are few more poignant examples of what deindustrialization has taken from the Midwest. Population – from 70,000 in 1970 to 55,000 today – only begins to tell the story. General Motors virtually disappeared from Anderson during that time, leaving empty two plants that at their peak employed nearly 25,000 at salaries that ranked the city solidly in Indiana’s middle class. Simon opened Indiana’s first enclosed shopping mall near one of the plants in 1965; it closed in 2018. Today, the median household income in Anderson is just under $35,000, more than $20,000 below Indiana as a whole, and per-capita food stamp distribution is three times the state average. Anderson used incentives to lure a Nestle processing plant; employment there, though still under 1,000, continues to grow through city-backed expansion, and salaries are above average. Hoosier Park, which opened with pari-mutuel racing in 1994 and later added a casino, employs about 800 and remains a mainstay as well.

Another mainstay is Terri Jo Austin, a former schoolteacher seeking her 10th term representing District 36 in the House. One of the more senior Democrats, she can look back more than a decade to a time when Democrats held the House majority and enjoyed some balance of power with a Republican-dominated Senate and governor’s office. For two terms, Austin chaired the powerful Roads and Transportation Committee. For most of the past decade, her caucus has been outnumbered 2-to-1, leaving one of the General Assembly’s most passionate defenders of Democratic causes with little leverage. Session after session, bills expanding voucher programs, charter schools and the conservative social agenda sail to passage over her objections.

In 2017, Austin seemed to score a win of sorts after her argument against a bill to curb drug-induced abortions caused 17 Republicans to break ranks to oppose it as well; the bill passed the House but never made it out of committee in the Senate. In committee and on the floor, Austin has seen success in shielding Hoosier Park from ill effects in gaming legislation. Consensus seems to be slowly emerging on once-divisive issues of public education, another of her priorities. Early in the 2020 session, the General Assembly passed a bill to exempt teachers from consequences of the state’s new ILEARN test, on which students scored unexpectedly low.  After an estimated 15,000 rallied outside the Statehouse on Organization Day, Republican leaders indicated they were open to including teacher pay raises, though not until 2021 – a prospect since complicated by the coronavirus-triggered downturn in state revenues.

Despite her tenure, election days are seldom a slam-dunk for Austin. Anderson remains a two-party town; Donald Trump won most of the city precincts in 2016. Despite her tenure, Austin has never run unopposed, and she had a primary challenge in 2018. Her winning margin in the 2020 general election was about 1,500 votes. – Kevin Morgan

CONTACT INFORMATION

(800) 382-9842
200 West Washington Street Indianapolis, IN 46204
http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/legislators/legislator_terri_jo_austin_700

EDUCATION

  • Graduated, Elementary Administration and Supervision, Butler University, 1996
  • MAE, Elementary Education, Ball State University, 1981
  • MAE, Special Education, Ball State University, 1981
  • BS, Elementary Education, Ball State University, 1977

COMMITTEES

Public Policy, Insurance, Rules and Legislative Procedure, Statutory Committee on Ethics.

KEY VOTES

SB 198-2019 (Sentencing, bias crimes). Allowed longer sentences in crimes based on personal characteristics, stripped of references to sexual orientation, gender identity and race. No

SB 516-2019 (Regulation of hemp). Allowed cultivation and regulation of hemp products in Indiana, did not change marijuana laws. Yes

HB 1001-2019 (State budget). Set funding for state agencies and services, including 2.5% annual increases for education, though not directly for teacher salaries. No

HB 1004-2019 (School safety). Increased access  to funding for security systems and resource officers, was stripped of provisions for mental health screening. Yes

HB 1015-2019 (Various gaming matters). Allowed sports betting statewide and table games in more casinos, relocated a casino in Gary and authorizing a new one in Terre Haute. Yes

SB 1-2020 (Tobacco and vaping). Raised from 18 to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco or vaping products in Indiana. Yes

SB 148-2020 (Zoning and housing matters). Was amended to overrule local tenant protection measures like those in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville. Vetoed by governor. No

HB 1004-2020 (Health matters). Controlled surprise billing for out-of-network and other costs. No

HB 1070-2020 (Distracted driving). Made it an infraction to handle a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Yes

HB 1414-2020 (Electric generation). Prohibited utilities from closing coal-fired generating plants without permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Excused

TOP CONTRIBUTORS

Trucking Industry,  $3,000

NiSource Inc,  $2,500

Indiana Multi Family Housing,  $2,500

Indiana Association of Realtors,  $2,000

Wind & Spirits Distributors of Indiana,  $1,570.91

RATINGS

Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 75
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 61
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions (4 Year Average) 64
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions 64
LEAP Forward Positions (Indianna) 46
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Positions 92
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Lifetime Positions 81
National Rifle Association Candidate Positions on Gun Rights 73
Indiana AFL-CIO Positions 100
Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 62

PROFESSIONAL CAREER

Administrator and teacher, Anderson Community Schools. Adjunct professor, Anderson University.

DISTRICT

Population: 65,038

Race/Ethnic Origin: 81.3% white, 13.3% black, 0.4% Asian, 2.6% other, 2.4 % two or more; 79.6% white non-Hispanic, 4.3% Hispanic.