The 2010 session has gotten off to a quick start. Committees are meeting, debates are happening and the top issues have been decided: property tax caps, job creation, ethics reform and redistricting. We have our work cut out for us and only ten (now nine) weeks to get pass these major reforms. The next three months will go by quickly so hold on to your seats.
Last week, the House wasted no time in taking immediate action on constitutional property tax caps. House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR1), which would cap homeowner's property taxes at one percent, rental and agricultural property at two percent and business property at three percent, became eligible for second reading on Tuesday.
The resolution passed, in spite of the House majority filing three amendments in an attempt to delay the caps even further. Fortunately, none of their amendments passed and the resolution became eligible for third reading this week.
In order for a new provision to be added to the state constitution, the same language must be passed by two separately elected General Assemblies as well as the public before it can be amended to the constitution. During the 2008 legislative session, the General Assembly started the process to amend the caps into Indiana's Constitution. In 2008, the caps passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
On Monday, we overcame our biggest hurdle. The House passed the resolution and now, it is in the hands of the Indiana Senate.
If the constitutional amendment to permanently cap property taxes passes both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly this session, Hoosiers will have the opportunity to vote on the caps in the November 2010 election and ultimately decide the fate of permanent property tax caps, and ease their uncertainty of out of control property taxes. For too long have I have heard the cry of Hoosier taxpayers and their plight of soaring property tax bills and the lack of uncertainty.
With HJR1 now eligible and ready for final passage in the Senate, we can start focusing on job creation and other legislative issues.
It is critical that Indiana have a thriving economy where Hoosier innovation and entrepreneurship can succeed, especially in this economy. So we are proposing two initiatives to protect and grow jobs. One, support the delay of the unemployment insurance tax increase-the bill that I didn't support because it will punish employers with one of the largest tax increases in state history. And two, review all available job incentives so that Indiana can hire and retain Hoosier jobs.
We have successfully gained or retained more than 4,000 jobs by remaining competitive and focusing our efforts on attracting companies that are interested in consolidating their operations. However, we must continue to support policies that put Indiana in the best position possible to attract high-paying jobs to come out on top through these trying economic times. Retaining as many jobs as possible in Indiana is an imperative step to ensuring a speedy recover though this tough economic time.
Two other pressing issues are ethics reform and redistricting. This session, we are working toward legislative ethics reform that includes requiring lobbyists to report all gifts or expenditures for legislators that costs more than $50 (currently, the law is $100.) We are also asking legislators to disclose all lobbyist contributions on their statement of economic interest, along with allowing a one year "cooling off" period before legislators can register as lobbyists.
The concept of redistricting is not a new concept to the Indiana General Assembly. This session, however, we have taken the initiative to get a head start on the planning. Our goal is to set specific standards to ensure all Hoosiers are represented in the redistricting process.
We also want to create an independent commission to submit a map to the General Assembly for final approval. Our commission would be made up of 5 members with the Speaker, House Minority Leader, President Pro Tempore, Senate Minority Leader and Chief Justice. The four members would appoint a fifth member to be the chair. And, finally, we want to ensure there is at least one public hearing in the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Indiana so the public can become involved in the process.
As always, please contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns throughout the 2010 session. I always enjoy speaking with constituents to get a better understanding of any concerns you may have. I would also like to encourage you to fill out my legislative survey, which will give me a better idea of how to effectively serve you.
You can find my survey online at http://www.in.gov/h53/ under 2010 Survey.
I would also like to invite area students to apply for the Statehouse Page Program. The program allows students from across the state to experience the lawmaking process firsthand. Participating Hoosier students are able to observe and join Statehouse activity as a legislative page for a day. If you are interested, please send me your name, age, address, phone number and school. You will also need to include two days you are available to come to the Statehouse between Jan. 11- March 11. There are no pages on Fridays.
If you would like more information you can send letters to state Rep. Bob Cherry, 200 W. Washington St., Room 401, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or you may contact me through e-mail: H53@in.gov or by calling toll-free 1-800-382-9841. I look forward to hearing from you.