Cook: Wrapping up the 2016 legislative session

Posted by: Devan Strebing  | Monday, March 14, 2016 11:00 am

The 2016 legislative session came to a close last week, and legislators made significant progress on important issues facing Indiana. 

I am very pleased to report a bill I authored, House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1209 establishing a workplace Spanish curriculum for Hoosier students, passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate and can now be signed into law by the governor. Another bill I co-authored with the Speaker of the House, House Enrolled Act 1002 creating the “Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarship,” can also be signed into law. This enrolled act works to encourage our best and brightest students, who also commit to teaching in Hoosier schools for at least five years, with up to $7,500 per year to cover tuition. The Commission for Higher Education will be responsible for implementing and promoting the program, and $10 million has been appropriated for the scholarship. This is important because educational research consistently demonstrates that the most significant factor to ensure student success in the classroom is to provide students with highly effective teachers.

I also was pleased to sponsor two Senate bills that I ushered through the House, Senate Bill 3 and SB 9. Only 218 bills passed both Houses, after 841 were filed.

This session, House Republicans set out with a legislative priority focused on funding Indiana’s infrastructure needs. As the session concluded, lawmakers agreed upon a compromise that will address our immediate road funding needs, while ensuring legislators come back next year to discuss a more comprehensive long-term plan. HEA 1001 directs $186 million up front to a local road and bridge matching grant account. The bill also redirects 1.5 cents of the 7 cent sales tax on gasoline to the matching account as a source of ongoing funding and codifies the current equivalent of one cent already being dedicated to road funding. About $328 million will go toward state road and bridge preservation and maintenance over the next two years. In addition, about $505 million in local option income tax reserves currently held by the state will be returned to local units, with $330 million dedicated to roads.

The bill also creates a task force which will conduct an in-depth study this summer into state and local road funding needs and options for the future. This bill now moves to the governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.

Unfortunately, as the number one meth-producing state in the nation, Indiana needed to act to restrict the ingredients used to manufacture the dangerous and highly addictive drug. Pseudoephedrine (PSE) is a key ingredient used in meth and is often found in cold, flu, and allergy medications. Senate Enrolled Act 80 maintains Hoosiers’ legitimate access to PSE without a prescription, but if a purchaser does not have a relationship with the pharmacy, pharmacists have the option to sell them an extraction-resistant product or a smaller package of PSE. If the purchaser refuses the alternative options, they would be required to obtain a prescription.

SEA 187 would allow Narcan, or naloxone, to be sold over-the-counter. Narcan can be administered to individuals who have overdosed on heroin. This bill would ease access to the life-saving medicine by making it available over-the-counter and issuing a statewide standing order for all pharmacies to carry the medicine. This proposal could aid someone by giving them a second chance at life after overdosing. First responders will be able to have this drug at their disposal for life-saving use, and will not be held liable for its application during an emergency to save the victim's life.

It has been an honor to serve House District 32 during the 2016 legislative session. If you would like more information, please visit iga.in.gov. If you have any questions or input, contact me at h32@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9678.

 

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Rep. Cook (R-Cicero) represents Tipton, Hamilton, Grant, Madison, Delaware, and Howard counties.