[r22] Taking the lead to support Hoosiers' needs

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Thursday, January 12, 2012

The considerable amount of feedback I have gathered from constituents throughout the interim has been critical to drafting legislation for the 2012 session. Your ideas to resolve pressing issues in our community has been the focus of legislation I am authoring this session. My top priorities for the session are to get Hoosiers back to work, secure our neighborhoods by preventing methamphetamine distribution and use, give additional aid to reduce higher education costs and support our troops upon returning home from deployment. 

I will once again author legislation to address the meth epidemic in our state which has had a devastating effect on the safety and livelihood of Hoosier communities. While the legislature had the best of intentions to address this issue last session by reducing the amount of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine (PSE) available for purchase and to catalog consumers via a real-time electronic tracking system, it is not enough to effectively prevent the spread of clandestine meth labs and meth usage in our state. We need to attack this issue at the source. We must do more to restore and strengthen our communities from the damaging effects of this drug, which is why I am proposing that products containing ephedrine and PSE require a prescription. 

A prescription for this drug would significantly reduce wrongdoing as has been the case for the state of Oregon, the first state to adopt such a measure. Since 2006 when Oregon enacted legislation to require a prescription for ephedrine and PSE, it saw a 96 percent reduction in meth lab incidents. Indiana has seen clandestine meth lab incidents and injuries continue to rise since 2006; a trend that I intend to reverse. I am also a co-author on legislation permitting local government units to adopt an ordinance regulating the sale of ephedrine and PSE to be more stringent than state law. This ordinance will provide greater flexibility and control in addressing and resolving this issue on the local level. 

In addition to public safety, the affordability of higher education has also been a major concern for all Hoosiers including our men and women in the armed forces. It is for this reason that I am authoring a bill to make our veterans eligible for a resident tuition rate for undergraduate courses upon enrolling at a state educational institution no later than 12 months after their separation from the military. We need to support our country’s heroes as they return from deployment. As another means to reduce the costs of higher education, I will also be authoring legislation for a sales tax holiday on textbooks. Both of these measures will aid in supplying some relief to make higher education a more affordable endeavor.

As a means to be hired for employment, I am authoring legislation permitting employers to consider tobacco use by job applicants. This bill would no longer permit prospective employees from bringing a civil action against employers who refuse to hire them because they are smokers. This bill could reduce expenditures by the state as an employer to defend against civil actions. Employers would be protected from frivolous lawsuits as pertains to their tobacco-free hiring practices in an effort to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Lastly, I filed a House Resolution urging Congress to pass legislation to include personal hygiene items under the coverage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) umbrella. SNAP is a federally funded nutrition program previously known as the federal Food Stamp Program. Low-income Hoosiers on this program do not have the means to purchase necessary personal hygiene items to take care of their family, whether it is purchasing basic necessities such as diapers or soap. SNAP does not currently cover these items. Individuals in need of these services require more than just basic food items if they are to become self-supporting citizens once again. They need personal hygiene items in order to apply for and obtain full-time or part-time employment and to assist in the maintenance of their general health. Without employment, these individuals will be unable to return to mainstream society.

This is just a glimpse of some of the legislative work I will be taking on this session as I will also be co-authoring and sponsoring many other bills as they make their way through the legislative process. As always, I encourage you to contact me via e-mail at h22@in.gov or by phone at (317) 232-9674 if you have any questions or concerns.