[R53] Where does our legislation stand? (4/22/2013)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Start Date: 4/22/2013 Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 4/22/2013 End Time: 11:59 PM

It is hard to believe that Sine Die, the final day of the 2013 legislative session, is less than one week away. This was a long session because we were tasked with crafting the state budget. I have spoken a great deal about the House proposed budget as well as the Senate proposed budget, and I look forward to seeing the end product. However, this week, I would like to talk about where the bills that I have authored currently stand. 

Right now, we are hard at work conducting conference committees. These committees are necessary when the House and Senate pass two differing versions of the same bill. If the bill is amended in the second house, it must return to the house of origin for concurrence or dissent. If the author of the bill decides to concur, then the bill is sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. If they dissent, then the bill goes to a conference committee where a compromise is reached or the bills dies. If a compromise is reached, the bill is then sent back to both chambers to be voted on again. 

Currently, I have four authored bills eligible for action: House Bills (HB) 1067, 1068 and 1069 as well as Senate Bill (SB) 343. Luckily, both chambers were able to reconcile their differences without sending the bills to conference committee. HB 1067 was returned to the House after being amended in the Senate. The House concurred unanimously on the Senate’s amendments, and the bill now awaits the governor’s signature. 

HB 1067 establishes a Federal Fund Exchange Program which will allow a county or municipality that receives funds from the Federal Surface Transportation Program to exchange the federal funds for an equal amount of state funds. This will be very significant, particularly in rural areas. When local units receive federal funding for transportation, there are often many strings attached. By changing current law and creating a federal exchange program, local units will be able to fund more road and bridge projects with less money. 

HB 1068, which was passed unanimously in both the House and Senate without any amendments, has been signed by both the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. The next and final step is the signature of the governor. This bill, regarding agricultural transportation, is supported by the Indiana Department of Transportation and will be very important to the agricultural sector of the state. It is intended to comply with the federal government’s request that states take immediate action to put policies and procedures in place to comply with the exemptions to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act which were granted by Congress last year. These exemptions apply to the operation of commercial motor vehicles relating to agriculture.

Amendments made to HB 1069 in the Senate were also unanimously concurred on in the House.  HB 1069 keeps temporary rules in place regarding the requirements to use outdoor event equipment until Jan. 1, 2016. This will allow the Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission more time to adopt permanent rules. The temporary rules put in place were as a result of the very tragic circumstances surrounding the Indiana State Fair stage rigging collapse in 2011. An amendment in the Senate to HB 1069 also applies outdoor event equipment regulations to locations for which an amusement and entertainment permit is required. This is a major step towards ensuring such a tragedy never happens again. 

I also served as the House cosponsor on SB 343. The Senate has concurred on amendments made in the House, and the bill now awaits action by the governor. This bill outlines new regulations on local government reorganization. It eliminates the need for a reorganization committee and adds requirements to the reorganization plan. By outlining these new regulations, SB 343 effectively clarifies and streamlines local government.

While these bills are still eligible for action, Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 319, which I cosponsored, has already been signed into law by the governor. With the combination of large property tax increases on farmland and the effects of the recent drought, it was imperative that we provide tax relief to Hoosier farmers. SEA 319 prevents an estimated tax increase of $57 million for farmland across the state.

Looking back on this legislative session, what are your thoughts? I appreciate hearing your feedback. We couldn’t do our jobs without your continued involvement in the process. Feel free to contact me by phone at 317-232-9619 or via email at h53@in.gov.