[r54] Working to Achieve Specific Goals in the 2009 Session (4/24/2009)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Start Date: 4/24/2009 All Day
End Date: 4/24/2009
I began this legislative with a short list of personal goals I wanted to achieve.  This is not to say my personal legislative goals overshadow any of the big statewide issues we also face in the Statehouse, such as creating a good budget in the middle of a recession and fixing our dead broke unemployment insurance trust fund.

No, I just think it's good to head into the long session with some local, constituent-inspired ideas for legislation.  That way, no matter the number of ridiculous proposals that come before us, I stay well-grounded in my community and focused on representing our interests.

This year, I had four big goals:

  1. Stop the Indiana Department of Health from closing the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home in Knightstown.
  2. Find a way to get those railroad cars out of New Castle.
  3. Illuminate the intersection of U.S. 40 and State Road 3 in Henry County, and get a crossing light at U.S. 40 for Earlham College in Wayne County.
  4. Pass a bill that will allow cities and towns without established courts or ordinance violation bureaus to enter into interlocal agreements with larger cities and towns with those resources. 

Unfortunately, I can't say with any certainty that I've successfully achieved any of these goals.  I'd like to say all four have been met, because there is the potential that all could pass by April 29.  However, I've learned not to be too sure about anything in the last days of session.

Here's where they all stand right now:

Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home: Last week, I explained the details of the three bills that still contain language about the home.  Only two, the budget bill (House Bill 1001) and Senate Bill 191 contain language strong enough to keep the home open past the end of this school year. 

I continue to push for this language to remain in both of these bills so that we can be sure this fine facility stays open to help even more children for generations to come.

Moving the Idle Railroad Cars: Joined by my friend and colleague, Rep. Phil Pflum, we were able to pass language that has the potential to move the train cars that have been sitting in the heart of New Castle for more than 18 months.   Senate Bill 249 includes language that requires railroad companies to pay $500 a day per car to store cars within city limits after 90 days. 

This is harsh language, and there have been legitimate questions as to whether this would violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  All I can tell you is that my goal was to get the rail cars out of New Castle, and that's what we're trying to do with this language.  I'd gladly withdraw the proposal if the rail company decided to move the cars before the end of session.

As I am writing this column, the Senate has yet to confer or dissent with the railroad car addition.  SB 249 could make its way to conference committee very soon.

U.S. 40/S.R. 3 Intersection and Earlham College: Everyone from Henry County is familiar with this dangerous intersection.  I've been working these past 16 weeks to include language in a bill that would illuminate the dangerous intersection and reduce the number of traffic accidents. 

Right now, there is language in House Bill 1123 that would require the Indiana Department of Transportation to fully fund and illuminate this intersection.  However, the bill is now in conference committee, and there is a chance this provision could be removed.  I'm working with the members of the committee to leave it in for the safety of drivers in Henry County.

Sen. Allen Paul and I brought forth language to create a crossing light at US 40 for Earlham College.  Due mostly in part to the great efforts of Sen. Paul, INDOT has agreed to fund and build this crosswalk light, and legislation is no longer necessary.

Interlocal Agreements: I authored House Bill 1703 to allow cities and towns without established courts or ordinance violation bureaus to enter into interlocal agreements with cities or towns that have these resources.  The bill stalled in Senate committee but its language has been included in House Bill 1491 in the conference committee process. 

These interlocal agreements will allow New Castle and Knightstown to partner with Lewisville and Spiceland to hear nuisance-type violations, such as those covering stray dogs and parking tickets.  This makes sure small, minor cases aren't clogging the circuits of in our superior courts.  Smaller towns cannot afford to enforce these violations due to the cost of filing complaints.

To reiterate, none of this is set in stone.  What looks like a sure thing right now could be dead in a single day.  I promise to let you know how it all works out. 

Most of all, thank you all for all your input and support over these last 16 weeks.