Mahan: Legislation to help Hoosiers

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, February 5, 2016 9:14 am

Legislation to help Hoosiers

We are half way through the 2016 Legislative Session, and bills have reached the crossover point. This means the House of Representatives will now be hearing Senate bills, while the Senate will consider our bills. We have passed 116 bills out of the House, and 151 bills passed out of the Senate. The legislative process strives to ensure the best public policies are vetted and voted through. Already, three of my bills have progressed to the Senate. In addition to my legislation, the House has been busy hearing a variety of bills this week, which could impact Hoosiers at the local level if passed. 

In my six years at the Statehouse and as a leader in our community, I have observed the many hardships that our veterans have faced concerning their healthcare and employment. Indiana is home to approximately 550,000 veterans. House Republicans are supporting a plan to help better address the needs of those who have bravely served and are currently serving our country. Currently, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs is not accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, forcing it to forego approximately $853 million in federal veterans’ benefits. This leaves many counties underserved and veterans’ needs unmet. This bill would add additional support for county veteran’s service officer (CVSO) that lack resources to properly serve the local community and would create the position of district officers to inform county and city boards of the importance of having CVSOs. By requiring the commission to create six new districts across the state, each with an appointed district service officer, these veterans issues can be addressed more quickly and efficiently at the local level. 

Another House Republican measure to support Hoosier military families is HB 1271. This proposal would require the Department of Child Service (DCS) to notify the U.S. Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program if a child of an active military member is the subject of an investigation of abuse or neglect. DCS could also seek further assistance from the program for the entire family.

Additionally, House members supported legislation that would assist local governments with their funding of roads. Understanding they face unique challenges in funding essential services, House Republicans proposed and passed HB1110, granting local governments access to their local income tax revenue held in reserve by the state. This would immediately infuse local government budgets with $440 million, and over the next four years there would be an additional estimated $110 million. Because these revenues were raised by local units, House Republicans believe local leaders are best suited to decide how to allocate these funds and will have the discretion to meet their needs. If enacted, Blackford County would receive $410,000; Delaware County would receive $1,195,000; Grant County would receive $3,734,000; and Wells County would receive $2,444,000.

Another measure that will directly assist local governments is HB 1001, House Republicans’ top agenda item this session: road and bridge funding. Our proposal provides a long-term, data-driven solution to sustain both Indiana’s state and local transportation infrastructure. The state’s stationary per gallon gas tax is losing ground to inflation and generating less due to improved fuel efficiency. This means diminished revenue for transportation infrastructure because every cent of gas tax revenue goes toward Indiana’s roads and bridges. HB 1001 calls for the gas tax, which has not been increased in more than 10 years, to be indexed to reflect the change in buying power between 2002 and today. Overall, this legislation would increase funding for state and local bridges by about $1 billion for 2017 and nearly $450 million in sustainable funding for 2018 and beyond. Local governments would also be equipped with new tools to fund their road and bridge maintenance projects, including local revenue options and matching grants. Currently, Indiana law only allows counties to adopt an excise surtax or wheel tax. HB 1001 would expand this option to smaller units of government, including cities with over 20,000 in population. 

These are just some of the bills that I have supported thus far this session. There are many pieces of legislation being considered, and I encourage you to visit www.iga.in.gov to learn more. If you have any concerns with any legislation supported by the House, please don’t hesitate to call me at 317-232-9509 or email me at H31@iga.in.gov.

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Rep. Mahan represents portions of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Wells counties.