When we gather in Indianapolis each year for the General Assembly, our purpose is to make Indiana a better place - better for Hoosier families, businesses and communities. We address an array of issues from foreclosures and taxes to education to agriculture. We hope that only the best bills move forward.
This year, the House of Representatives passed 246 bills and sent them to the Senate; 731 bills had been filed. The Senate is sending us 194 bills; 582 bills were filed.
While my respected leaders were working on assigning bills to committees, my colleagues and I took the opportunity to honor certain individuals from our districts. Among the people we have honored recently are Joe Tiller on his retirement as Purdue University's head football coach after 12 years and members of the Ball State University football team on their great 2008 season.
The House also honored Miss America, Katie Stam from Bedford. Katie is the first Hoosier to be honored as Miss America since the title was created in 1921.
This week, we will start hearing Senate bills in House committees in order to get the process moving along.
Bills have an excellent chance of changing - or even dying - as they are considered by the second chamber. For example, House Bill 1001, the budget bill passed by the House on a party-line vote, will drastically change. This does not come as a surprise because the budget was so publically criticized for possibly doing more harm than good.
House Bill 1722, however, will most likely pass out of the Senate with only a few additions and/or changes. Reps. Scott Reske (D-Pendleton), Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) and I authored HB 1722 to create a timeline for the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home to increase its attendance, thereby decreasing cost per student in order to remain open. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure.
Other bills of mine have already been assigned to Senate committees:
# House Bill 1058 requires the department of state revenue to include a place on the income tax return form for a taxpayer to identify the city or town they reside and has been referred to Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy.
# House Bill 1123 ensures speed limit signs are properly displayed in school zones and has been referred to Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation and Veterans Affairs.
I have also co-sponsored two Senate bills:
# Senate Bill 16, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), makes changes to learner's permits and graduated licenses. The bill has been referred to the House committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures.
# Senate Bill 349, authored by Sen. Connie Lawson (R-Danville), requires the Health Finance Commission to study the need for appropriate and uniform training for Indiana State Department of Health employees who inspect health facilities. The bill has also been referred to the House committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures.
The House and Senate have until April 15 to make changes and pass bills that have come from the other chamber. After that, the house of origin has until April 29 to adopt the changes made to any bill. If the house of origin does not adopt the changes, the bill is sent to a conference committee for further consideration. All business has to be done by midnight on April 29.
The House and Senate have a lot of work to do. Two of the most important jobs are passing a fiscally responsible budget and shoring up the unemployment insurance trust fund.
I know Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) is currently working on a bill to help the unemployment insurance fund. Right now, we have three basic options - increase taxes on employers, increase taxes on employees or reduce or change the benefits. We need legislation that will do no harm to the business or its employees.
The Republican-controlled Senate has been working diligently to establish a more balanced budget than what was passed in the House. I hope both parties from both chambers will come to an agreement on a fiscally responsible budget.
As always, please contact me with questions or comments. Send letters to me at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Room 401, Indianapolis, IN 46204; e-mail me at H53@in.gov; or call me toll-free at 1-800-382-9841.