[r53] Cherry Chat: Session kicks off with a hitch (1/11/2012)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Start Date: 1/11/2012
End Date: 1/11/2012

This 2012 legislative session was scheduled to begin last week.

Unfortunately, the minority party did not give the House a quorum – 67 out of 100 members present – in the first week of session, which is a disappointment to everyone who came to debate and vote on tough issues on behalf of Hoosiers. The main purpose of this session, and all sessions, is to move our state forward so we can be competitive and viable in this economy. It may be a short session, but we have a full load of issues to address.

The most widely covered issue this legislative session – and the catalyst for the minority party’s political tactics – is the Right to Work (RTW) legislation. This is a pro-freedom bill giving Hoosiers the right to choose whether or not they want to join a union, regardless of their employer or profession. An employer would not be able to force an employee to join a union as a condition of employment.

This is a jobs bill because the idea behind it is that RTW states are more attractive to businesses looking to expand or relocate. Despite how well Indiana does in attracting new business, many companies automatically write-off non-RTW states as an option.

Like many controversial issues, there is a lot of misinformation on both sides. However, I have read more and more encouraging facts and reports that support RTW legislation. Oklahoma, the last state to enact this legislation, has the fastest growing income per capita in the country. The Indiana State Teachers Association is one of the most viable unions in the state, and they do not require teachers to pay into the union, pursuant to a RTW bill for teachers we passed in 1995.

Nonetheless, RTW is not the only answer to job creation, but it is a step. Blended with other state benefits and programs, we can be a top competitor in attracting businesses and adding jobs to our state.

Despite the attention surrounding RTW, it is not the only important issue on the calendar this session. Public mass transit, smoking regulation and military family relief fund legislation are all being heard in unofficial committee meetings, since a quorum has been denied in order to conduct official procedure.

Public mass transit legislation would allow a county or city/county council to adopt an ordinance to provide revenue for public transportation from the city or county’s distribution share. Marion and Hamilton Counties in particular are also looking to expand bus service and create rail service.

In addition, legislation concerning a smoking ban and the military family relief fund are also two bills currently making their way to the House floor. A final item that will be discussed this session is providing additional funding for education—more specifically, funding full day kindergarten—with the $320 million the state recovered in the fall.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything we will be addressing this session, but it is an overview of important issues. I am fully aware that enacting all this legislation is easier said than done, which is why we have an intense legislative session ahead of us—full of committee meetings, public testimony and floor discussions.

If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to fill out my 2012 legislative survey online at http://www.in.gov/h53. As your state representative, it is important for me to hear your views and concerns on issues facing our state.

This has already been an interesting session. Stay tuned.