[r63] Approaching the halfway point

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, January 31, 2014

While I’m in session during the week until mid-March, I want to make sure to stay connected to my constituents and keep everyone informed of the legislative proceedings. It would be impossible to share with you every bill that we have discussed, but I would like to pick a couple that I think not only apply to our district but are also interesting. 

One of those bills is House Bill (HB) 1052, a bill which I authored concerning the development around military bases. This is particularly important in our district because we are home to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. HB 1052 passed the House on 2nd reading on Thursday with no amendments and will be up for a final vote on Monday.

This bill expands the definition of "military base" to include the Glendora Lake Test Facility in Sullivan County. Crane uses this facility for missile tests and other important functions. By adding the lake to the definition of “military base,” this means that before a local government unit can take action concerning planning or zoning within three miles of the perimeter of the lake, they must first notify the base’s commander. 

This provides Crane an opportunity to preempt any actions by a local government which would impede their ability to operate the base. Crane provides our state with many jobs and contributes more than $2 million to the Hoosier economy every day. This expansion would allow Indiana to grow its defense industry and add more defense jobs. 

Another bill that I would like to share with you is HB 1351, which passed out of the House on Tuesday and will now be discussed further in the Senate. HB 1351 is a multi-pronged approach to addressing entitlement reform in Indiana. 

The first thing this bill would do is require a county office to administer a written or electronic substance abuse exam, known as the Substance Abuse Subtle Screen Inventory (SASSI) test, to all Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. If the county office considers an individual to have reasonable suspicion of illegally using a controlled substance, they would then be placed into a separate group for further testing. Fifty percent of that group is then randomly selected to take a drug examination. 

If they test positive for illegal substances, they can continue to receive benefits only if they enroll in a substance abuse treatment program. However, if they do not test clean while in treatment, their benefits will be removed for a total of three months. It is still important that we look out for children in these situations and that they are being raised in safe environments. If benefits are removed from a household with children, those benefits can be transferred to a different legal guardian. 

The second thing this bill would do is place new restrictions on what foods and drinks can be purchased using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Individuals will only be able to purchase items of sufficient nutritional value such as fruits and vegetables. Because SNAP is a federal program, these changes must first be approved by the federal government via a waiver. 

The final thing that this bill would do is require the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to study topics related to long-term unemployment issues. The DWD would then submit a report to the Legislative Council and the Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee with their findings.  

HB 1351 is a win-win because it will put more Hoosiers back into the workforce, thus boosting our economy, and should ultimately lead to less Hoosiers depending on entitlement benefits. 

I will continue to provide updates throughout session. Please do not hesitate to call me at 317-232-9620 or email me via h63@iga.in.gov if you have any questions on these bills or other pertinent matters.