Little time remains for tax caps, unemployment fix and the budget
After spending weeks spinning our wheels in session - following the excruciatingly slow pace set by House Speaker Pat Bauer - we are nearing the end of session. And there's still so much work to do to make sure your tax dollars are spent wisely and saved wherever possible.
This week marks the second and third reading deadlines in the Indiana House of Representatives. Tuesday is the last day to make any changes, called amendments, to Senate Bills. Wednesday is the last day to pass bills - altogether.
That leaves very little chance of passing Senate Joint Resolution 1, the resolution that would let you vote to keep your property tax caps permanently. Although 27 Democratic representatives voted to pass the resolution last year and even though permanent caps are supported overwhelmingly by Hoosiers across the state, Speaker Pat Bauer is going to let the resolution sit this year. That's your hard-earned money he's messing with!
But SJR 1 is just one of the bills we're stalling to pass this session. Out of the 1,313 bills filed this session, only 10 have been enrolled and signed by the governor. (If you want to see which bills have made their way to the governor's desk, visit http://www.in.gov/gov/billwatch.htm.)
Some of those bills address big issues facing Hoosiers - such as how to fix the dead-broke unemployment insurance trust fund and how the state will budget its money for the next two years.
On Thursday, the conference committee process begins in full swing. Here, one legislative person from each caucus (four total) will meet to hammer out the final version of any bill that the House and Senate can't seem to agree upon. These folks have an incredible responsibility - especially those who have been charged with coming up with a compromise solution for the budget and the unemployment insurance trust fund.
Any piece of legislation that has managed to pass either the House or the Senate is up for grabs in conference committee. That means all of those bills we thought were dead may soon be resurrected. It also means that a lot of bad ideas might creep their way back into bills.
The last two weeks of session will move like greased lightning. It can be pretty tough to keep up. We have to be on our toes to block bad legal language from becoming law.
In the past, my House colleagues and I have received the budget bill a mere 24 hours - or less - before we are asked to vote on it. In 2007, the budget was 253 pages of tiny, tiny legalese. And a lot of things were hidden in it, such as uneven education spending that favored certain schools while shortchanging others.
To make a long story short, these last days of the 2009 session will be chaotic and filled with pressure.
My personal legislative goals from now until April 29 are:
· Give Hoosiers a chance to vote for permanent property tax caps.
· Pass a balanced state budget that doesn't use federal money to fill the holes. Using federal stimulus money as a baseline for the state budget will create huge problems in the future.
· Pass a fair, compromised plan for fixing our unemployment insurance trust fund.
· Save taxpayer money wherever possible.
· Always: Stay firmly grounded in my principles.
Now, more than ever, I urge you to contact me with your comments, questions and concerns by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone toll free at 1-800-382-9841.
I will keep you posted as we wrap up this very important legislative session.