The 2012 legislative session is officially underway. Despite the brevity of this session, we have a full list of proposed bills to hear throughout the next eight weeks. As I am sure you are aware, some bills are receiving quite a few more headlines than others, so I would like to take some time to share with you details about three other bills that are on the forefront this session.
In light of the recent tragedy where four young Indiana National Guardsmen were killed in Afghanistan, I think that the first bill proposing an expansion of the Military Family Relief Fund is extremely timely and appropriate. House Bill (HB) 1059 would extend the time – from one to three years –that an active duty service member may receive funds. This will assist families struggling to pay for essentials due to active duty deployment of a family member.
The Military Family Relief Fund has a healthy balance of funding, most of which coming from the sale of specialty license plates. As such, it is a bi-partisan effort to help support our Hoosier military personnel and their families during difficult times.
The next bill deals with higher education in our state. HB 1220 would require the Commission for Higher Education to evaluate the credit hours required for varying higher education degrees. The reason for the evaluation is that certain degrees have excessive credit hour requirements for graduation. As a result, students are unable to finish school in an appropriate amount of time – if at all – causing them to incur additional expenses in pursuing their degrees.
It will limit the “credit creep” that increases both time and expense imposed on students in order to graduate from our state’s universities. This bill aims at bringing more clarity and control to tuition costs, which, in turn, should improve graduation rates among state universities.
Both of these bills are aimed at helping Hoosiers, and, as such, are mostly non-controversial. If these two pieces of legislation stay as is, I expect them to pass through the House with little opposition from either side.
The final bill has more controversy and debate surrounding it than the first two. A statewide smoking ban is familiar to everyone as we have discussed this issue for the past few years. In fact, Henry County is ahead of the state in having our own smoking ban in place for some time now. Nonetheless, I want to share this with you to see how you would feel if it were passed on a state level.
HB 1149 would prohibit smoking in public places and enclosed areas. However, some exceptions included in this bill are certain casinos, fraternal organizations, bars and taverns. This bill is gaining traction this year, so it will be interesting to see if the state follows the lead of many counties who already have similar legislation in place.
As your elected representative, I am always interested in your questions and concerns. If you would like to share anything, please contact my office at 1-800-382-9841 or email H54@in.gov. You can also visit my website at www.in.gov/h54 where I will be updating you on news from the Statehouse in between weekly columns.