An inside view of the Statehouse

Posted by: Kim Heffner  | Monday, March 23, 2015

As the weather turned warmer this past week, I hearkened back to one of my favorite episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, where the town choir sings “Good Ole 14A” or “Welcome Sweet Springtime,” and much to director John Masters’ chagrin, Barney sings way off key. While we welcome the spring-like temperatures, over the past couple of weeks, I have heard from a few people who think the General Assembly is singing off key. Because of this, I wanted to share about what has been happening in the House from my perspective as a legislator.

When I think about what we have accomplished in session so far, a list of bills come to mind. The list includes such things as doubling the amount we spend on domestic violence prevention, instituting the Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) grant program to address Indiana’s high infant mortality rate and the Dual Language Immersion Pilot Program to help young students learn a second language effectively. All those bills and many others have two things in common: one is that most people have never heard of these bills and the other is that they all passed the House unanimously.

I could go on and on about the bills we passed that help Hoosiers and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. What is my point in all this? I recently had a gentleman whom I respect very much tell me that we (the General Assembly) are messing up everything. I pressed him for specifics, and he shared the top items that have been in the headlines every day: education, conflicts of interest and partisan bickering. I began to ponder how we have gotten to the point where all we focus on is 30-second sound bites about the issues that divide us. I will gladly talk about education or any issue that makes the headlines, but I want you to know that your Indiana General Assembly does much more than that what is printed in the headlines. As a member of that body, I must admit that I am getting weary of sound bites and misinformation. I know I will hear from those who say it comes from both sides, and I agree, but we have to get past these things and really dig into the issues. The good things that will never make headlines also deserve our attention.

I have people ask me why I spend all my time trying to “mess up education.” I suggest taking a look at the numbers. We probably had only 3 or 4 education bills that were not overwhelming supported. Of the 174 bills we passed out of the House, that is just under two percent. Two percent of the bills passed generate about 80 percent of my emails and calls. I can honestly say, and the numbers support, that I do not spend all of my time “messing up education.”

For example, I personally authored a bill that will provide greater protection for people who use the service of a ride sharing company. I have another bill that will protect people from extraordinarily high interest rates when they borrow from lawsuit lenders. I also have a bill that streamlines state auditing of public entities. This is what I spend most of my time working on, and my fellow legislators spend their time the same way. We all try to work on issues that we are well-versed in so that we can serve Hoosiers to the best of our abilities. At the end of the day, most of these issues will not make the headlines, and that is perfectly fine with me.

If you want to see what happens at the Statehouse without all of the extra media hype, you can visit iga.in.gov; where you can search for legislation by subject or legislator. The site also allows you to watch session and committee meetings via a live stream so that you see what is happening in real time.

As always, feel free to contact me by email at h79@iga.in.gov or by phone at 317-234-9499. I want to address the issues that concern you. Strike up the choir, Mr. Masters, it is time to welcome the spring time with song!

Keeping things in Lehman’s terms,

Matt Lehman

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Rep. Lehman represents all of Adams County and portions of Allen and Wells counties. He serves as the Deputy Speaker Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Insurance Committee. He also serves on the Courts and Criminal Code and Public Policy committees.