[r63] Messmer Report: Halftime in the legislature

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, February 3, 2012

It’s half-time in the state legislature and we’ve been able to pass 108 bills out of the House that will hopefully make Indiana a better place to both live and work.

On the survey I sent out to all of District 63 before the start of session, I asked if you would support prohibiting local government officials from hiring his or her family member. I, and many of my colleagues, received a very positive response; up to 75 and 80 percent of those asked responded yes. This session I co-authored House Bill 1005 which would do just that: prohibit local government officials from hiring a relative. It would also prevent a person from serving on the executive board that approves their own salary and benefits.

A second bill I co-authored this session would phase out what is commonly known as the ‘death tax’. Most states have eliminated this tax which taxes the money an individual receives after a loved one has passed away. It is unfair to Hoosiers to have to pay taxes again on money that has already been taxed. In fact, many seniors leave Indiana for just this reason. The inheritance tax will now be reduced by 9 percent each year over the next 10 years.

Another bill of interest that passed this session includes a bill that would allow those who receive state-funded assistance, or welfare, to be randomly drug tested by FSSA. An amendment to this bill also requires legislators to consent to random drug testing. If an individual who is receiving state-funded assistance fails a drug test or refuses to consent to a drug test under reasonable suspicion, then they would lose their assistance for 6 months. We want to ensure that the money they are receiving is going towards food and clothing for their families and not illegal substances. If this bill passes, it will start off as a pilot program in three counties, hopefully this bill will help in that endeavor.

A statewide smoking ban also passed the House this week. It would prohibit smoking in public places and in enclosed areas of employment. Smoking would still be allowed in casinos, cigar and hookah bars, and fraternal and social clubs that only allow people in over the age of 18. Businesses will have up to 18 months to comply with the new law if this bill is passed in the Senate, too.

Finally, a bill was passed in the House this week that would create a Health Care Compact which, upon approval of the U.S. Congress, would allow states to be primarily responsible for the regulation of health care in their state. It would allow all member states of the compact to suspend all federal laws, regulations and orders concerning health care that are inconsistent with the laws and regulations adopted by the member state under the compact. Other states that have passed the health care compact are Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. The aim is to help combat the expensive overhaul of our healthcare system when ‘Obamacare’ goes into effect.

All of these bills have passed the House and now move on to the Senate for further consideration.

Also, congratulations to Schnitzelbank Restaurant for winning the Super 46 Sandwich competition. Their bratwurst has been voted the best sandwich in the state. They have been serving delicious German food for many years in our community and I’m so glad to see them receive this honor.

I appreciate your continued feedback on issues facing our state and community. I hope you have a safe and happy Super Bowl weekend.