As I walked into the Statehouse for the new legislative session without my winter coat, it reminded me of a year ago when the temperatures were well below zero and my big wool coat was barely enough to keep me warm. It also reminded me of how quickly a year passes. The 2015 session is the long session and, as many of you may remember from your middle school Indiana government class, the long session is when we fashion a new two-year budget.
After the fall elections, the Republicans have a 71-29 majority in the House. As in the past, I am confident that we will continue to work with our Democrat friends to build a better Indiana. I am fortunate to again Chair the House Insurance Committee and serve as a member of the Public Policy and Courts and Criminal Code committees, as well as again having the honor of serving as Deputy Speaker Pro Tempore.
The House Republicans have put together an agenda that I feel best fits Indiana’s priorities. We will focus on passing an honestly balanced budget, strengthening education, increasing transparency and ensuring the safety of all Hoosiers. The budget will consume the majority of the conversation and is already being created with input from multiple constituencies. Indiana continues to pay our bills and balance our budget without gimmicks and without raising taxes on hardworking Hoosiers.
Over sixty percent of the state’s budget is spent on education from Kindergarten through college. In the past, we have looked at multiple ways to continue to provide our children with a world-class education, and this year will be no different. The focus will be on creating the fairest method of funding K-12 education. One of our goals is to make sure that the per-pupil spending is more equitable and does not penalize prospering schools. This could be a tough onion to peel, but we are working diligently to ensure all Hoosier children have the opportunity to receive an excellent education.
The Indiana General Assembly is a part-time Legislature, meaning all of us have our full-time professions. This year, we will pass an ethics reform bill that will create more transparency, more accountability and still maintain a part-time Legislature. The issue of ethics is of critical importance and addressing this issue is imperative to safeguarding the public trust. The only way to ensure zero conflict is to move Indiana to a full-time, elected legislature, which I strongly oppose. At the end of the day, we will make sure that your elected officials are held accountable for their actions and transparent in their dealings.
In the area of public safety there are a few items that immediately draw attention. Indiana is unfortunately a leader in methamphetamine production and arrests. The drug culture continues to invade our society. Another drug, heroine, is making a surprising comeback. It is showing up in many small town communities like ours. It is imperative that we equip law enforcement departments with the proper tools and funding to keep our streets safe.
Personally, I will be working on several technical issues, including the insurance code and a bill to revamp how the State Board of Accounts audits municipalities and other public entities. As these and other issues continue to move through the House, I will make every effort to keep you posted via my column. I highly encourage our young people to participate in the House Page Program. Any student ages 13 to 18 is eligible to participate, and the program offers students the chance to visit the Statehouse and see a full day of legislative activity. More information can be found on our website, www.indianahouserepublicans.com, where you can also follow all track legislation, watch session online and access constituent resources.
It is a privilege to serve as your State Representative. I am always ready to listen to any input that you have on issues. Feel free to contact me at 317-234-9499 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter (@mjlehman23) and Facebook. Though we may not always agree, we can mutually agree to respect each other’s opinions and build a common ground through dialogue that will benefit our community and our state. God bless you!
Keeping things In Lehman’s Terms,
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.