[r31] A snow day doesn't mean a day off (2/11/2011)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Start Date: 2/11/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/11/2011
When I wrote to you in my first column, I explained how the first day of session in the House is similar to the first day of school. I still think that's true, and this week we even had a few snow days just like most of our area schools.

The Statehouse was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the ice storm. Just because we didn't have session doesn't mean we won't be making up our work though.

We had a full calendar when we got back to business on Thursday, with seven bills slated for amendments and nine bills for final passage.

One of those bills that passed out of the House was House Bill 1215, which now heads to the Senate. This bill would help protect those who are under the age of 14 or have a mental disability that are victims of sex crimes, battery, kidnapping and human trafficking.

Victims of these horrendous crimes are often mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted while being questioned by authorities. To protect the safety and well-being of those victims, HB1215 would allow victims to make videotaped statements or attend a hearing through closed-circuit television.

I voted in favor of this bill because I believe these victims have been through enough - we should do all that we can to protect them from additional trauma.

Alongside protecting victims, this week we also addressed ways to protect business owners.

In most small towns, stores have customers who have been shopping there for years. A store owner could easily forget to card someone they know is over the age of 21. However, the current Indiana law requires anyone selling alcohol to ask for identification from the buyer. If the store owner does not comply, they could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for not asking - something I see as a bit extreme.

House Bill 1325 would revise current Indiana law requiring anyone selling alcohol to ask for identification, if the buyer appears to be younger than 40 years old. This would let store owners make decisions depending on their customer base, and also make it easier for long-time customers to get in and out quickly.

Along with family-owned businesses that reflect our heritage and Hoosier values, we are fortunate enough to have manufacturing and agriculture industries in our region. Our cities and towns were founded as a result of one, if not both of those factors.

Now, a century or more later, we can't forget about taking care of the natural resources that make our region so great. This includes letting the most qualified people be in charge of overseeing the protection and conservation of our water and soil.

Under current law, you must own a 10-acre tract of land to be elected as a supervisor within the governing body of the soil and water conservation district. HB1348 would give more people the opportunity to run for a supervisor position in their local district, not just those who own a 10-acre tract of land. 

In addition, this bill would allow money in the Clean Water Indiana Fund to qualify for federal matching funds, meaning the quality of water and soil would be protected and improved in our region and all across Indiana.

It is our job to take care of our natural resources so our children and grandchildren can enjoy them.

As you can see, we are focused on doing what we can to protect many of our state's greatest resources - our children, our businesses and our water and soil, just to name a few.

I encourage you to contact me with any questions, concerns or ideas at H31@IN.gov, or 1-(800) 382-9841.