Long list of accomplishments for short session
With a flurry of activity in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, March 10, the 117th Indiana General Assembly came to a close. As I began to read the pundits and editorial writers, I saw terms like “weak”, “silly” or “painful” to describe the session. While the right-to-work issue did draw the most attention, I personally feel that the session was a success.
The state inheritance tax will be phased out over the next 9 years beginning in 2013 which will help all persons who have worked hard to build a business, invested in an idea or bought a farm to be able to pass the fruits of that success on to family members. This money has been taxed once and in some cases twice. It was time to end this double taxation.
Indiana has made great strides to reduce the size and scope of government while still operating with effectiveness and efficiency. As a product of efforts taken by the Select Committee on Government Reduction during the interim of 2011, a detailed look was taken reviewing hundreds of state boards, commissions and committees to determine what is duplicative, unnecessary, outdated or inefficient. The Legislature eliminated more than 20 boards and commissions that were deemed ineffective, in addition to the elimination of 200 gubernatorial or legislative appointed positions. It was time to reduce government.
In addition to limiting government, we passed legislation to prohibit nepotism and conflicts of interest. You can run for public office or serve on a board, but you cannot serve in a position that directly supervises over your regularly employed position. We did build in protections for some constitutional positions and small townships that pay their family members less than $5,000 annually. It was time to protect the taxpayers from the few that abuse the system.
We passed laws to protect our youth. More specifically, we closed loopholes in Indiana’s synthetic drug laws by banning these substances and holding the retailers responsible for selling them. These dangerous drugs were sold under names like “spice”, “K2” and “bath salts”. Bath salts were what my grandma used in the tub. Now that term is used to get kids high. It was time to hold the sellers of this drug responsible.
We passed a smoking ban; well, sort of. The ban excludes casinos, bars and taverns, private clubs and smoke related shops. I did not support the bill. I am not a smoker, and I do not like to eat at restaurants that allow smoking. The issue that I had is that I do not feel that the government has the right to tell a private business who it can and cannot cater too. Eighty percent of Hoosiers do not smoke. If every non-smoker would choose to not patronize a restaurant that allows smoking, the owner would have to make a decision. Do they want to derive their income off of the 20 percent that smoke or the 80 percent that do not? The consumer should decide the winners and losers on this issue not the government.
Indiana’s fiscal responsibility has put us on solid financial ground, so the General Assembly approved an additional $80-100M for full day kindergarten and an additional $6M to the state fair victims. I will continue to be a good steward of your hard-earned tax dollars as we invest in the future of our state.
The Legislature also added protections for Hoosiers from out-of-state contractors that prey on storm victims, limited the “credit creep” on college degrees to keep higher education more affordable and provided aid for veterans with education credits. The list goes on and on.
While this was just a quick overview of some of the important issues from session, I think a lot was accomplished for a non-budgetary session.
As I conclude my last column for this session, I want to thank all those who have contacted me with questions or comments. If there is ever an issue that I did not write about or you have specific questions about please contact me. While we may not agree on every issue, I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate the privilege to serve District 79, and I always welcome your input. Feel free to contact me by phone at (317) 234-9499 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Until the next time, keeping things in Lehman’s terms,