[r63] COLUMN: First session off to a great start

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, February 6, 2015

First session off to a great start

With a full month of session behind us, the energy at the Statehouse continues to grow. While each day presents new challenges, I have enjoyed working with legislators, industry professionals and Hoosiers, from all across the state, to address many of the issues facing our community and state. It has been an exciting month, and I am honored to continue my work, making sure your voices are being heard in Indianapolis.

I am serving on two committees this session, which are Ways and Means and Roads and Transportation. As the only freshman legislator on Ways and Means, one of my major priorities this year is to craft an honestly balanced budget and using my experience as a business owner to promote strong budget principles for our state. It has also been a pleasure working with members of the Roads and Transportation Committee to build up, maintain and improve our state’s infrastructure.

In addition to serving on these committees, I have also been focusing on my own bills. Recently, I presented my first bill, House Bill (HB) 1240, to the Natural Resources Committee, which addresses an issue with the maintenance and repair of levees. This bill addresses a local issue and was brought to my attention as a result of a levee in Daviess County that suffered major damage a few years ago.

Under current law, if there is a breach in a levee, a county is required to pay the cost of maintenance and repairs and is reimbursed later through assessment of the land that benefited from those repairs.

In 2008, the Bennington Levee, which protects farmland from the east fork of the White River in Daviess County, was cited for violations by the Army Corps of Engineers. Due to high costs, the levee association chose not to move forward with repairing the levee, and in 2011, the levee was breached and subsequently flooded the farmland. The price tag to fix this issue was over $1 million, which Daviess County was forced to pay in full. In this situation, the association’s failure to make the necessary fixes lead to a hefty expense for the county.

HB 1240 provides that a county “may” be responsible for paying the costs of maintenance and repairs of a levee instead of “shall.” This small word change would encourage a levee association to make the repairs before a breach occurs while also allowing for discussion between the association and the county. Counties would not automatically have to pay for the costs and would have the opportunity to work together, in the best interest of both parties, to find an acceptable payment solution. The bill passed out of committee, showing bipartisan support, with a vote of 12-0. 

I look forward to addressing many different issues this session and encourage you to continue contacting me. Many of the bills that are presented in committee, including HB 1240, and eventually on the House floor would have a direct impact on our community. As your voice at the Statehouse, knowing your thoughts and opinions on these issues will help me serve you more effectively. You can reach me by calling 317-234-9447 or emailing h63@iga.in.gov.

 -30-

 Rep. Braun (R-Jasper) represents portions of Daviess, Dubois, Pike and Martin Counties. He serves on the Roads and Transportation Committee and Ways and Means Committee.