Last year during the 2011 legislative session, we were charged with fulfilling two constitutional mandates. They issued that we craft a biennial budget for the fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and that we draw new Indiana House and Senate and Congressional maps. Why we have no constitutional mandates this year, we still have numerous pieces of legislation that need to pass to help Hoosiers across the state.
The most pressing bill on our calendar is to update our human trafficking laws before the Super Bowl. State Attorneys from across the US, who have hosted the Super Bowl, have reported that they saw a rise in human trafficking. Legislation will be presented that will close loopholes and further define Indiana’s trafficking statute. We must ensure that we can protect our most vulnerable and prosecute the offenders of this horrific crime.
We also must pass legislation that would help those Hoosiers that were victims of the State Fair stage collapse. Legislation would double the amount of compensation available those victims from $5 M to $10 M. This terrible tragedy brought out the generosity and kindness of Hoosiers and we should continue to help those families by any means available to us.
One proposed piece of legislation provides aid to military families. Many of our soldiers return from duty and need help to get back on their feet. To provide relief, a Military Relief Family Fund was created in 2007, which is primarily self-funded through the sale of “Support Our Troops” license plates.
Qualified service families are eligible to apply for the grants that can be used to pay essential family expenses. This year’s bill would extend from one year to three years the time that a military service family may be eligible to receive assistance from this fund.
This year, we also need to strengthen Indiana’s refund system by prioritizing refunds and ensuring that they are distributed fairly. We need to do this because current projections indicate that $4 M Hoosiers could receive a refund of at least $50 when they file their 2012 tax returns next spring.
These are just a few of the many bills that still need to be discussed this session. I firmly believe that this will be a productive session for Hoosiers and I remain committed to being our district’s voice and standing up for issues that will improve our community.