[r63] Off to a productive start at the Statehouse

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, January 17, 2014

The first full week of session has now come to a close, and I am very optimistic for the remainder of session. There are some exciting things happening in our state capitol, and I want you to know about them.

As you may have heard, Governor Pence gave the annual State of the State address on Tuesday in front of a joint session of the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate. In his speech, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to making job creation Indiana’s number one priority. Job creation and economic development are key factors to Indiana’s future success, and it gives me great confidence that the executive and legislative branches are in agreement on this issue. 

The following day, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson gave the annual State of the Judiciary address. Rather than speaking about court cases, precedents and other legal issues, he addressed the core purpose of the judicial branch: to deliver justice. I thought this was clever; a simplistic remark, but at the end of the day, an accurate one. 

He told the story of a young basketball player who was playing overseas and was nearly evicted from his apartment and not given half of his salary. He sued the team for the breach of contract and won the lawsuit, but he never received the money. Chief Justice Dickson pointed out that while there is always room for improvement, thankfully our system is stronger than that. This served as a reminder that any act of government, in any branch, should always be made in the best interest of the people.

While the Legislature has only had one full week of session, there are already some important bills that have begun moving through the process. One is House Bill (HB) 1020, which was heard in the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday; the committee on which I serve as chairman. This bill deals with tax incentives. Every year, Indiana gives millions of dollars in state and local tax incentives in an effort to promote job creation. However, we do not currently have a system to measure whether or not these incentives are working. 

HB 1020 would require the Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy to do just that. If, through the evaluation process, it is found that some of these tax incentives are not working, it would be in our interest to get rid of them and find a more efficient, industrious way to spend Hoosier tax dollars. On the other hand, when we find tax incentives that are working, it will enable us to use those examples to enact future tax incentives that we can be confident will result in more jobs, a stronger economy and a better Indiana.

Another important bill that was discussed this week was HB 1004. On Thursday, it passed the House on 3rd reading and will now be sent over to the Senate. This bill would expand high quality preschool options for low-income families. As a small business owner, I know the importance of making investments. While you may not be able to see immediate results, the investments you make in your company’s future will be some of the most important decisions you make. The same is true when it comes to our children. 

Studies have shown that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate, attend college and get a higher-paying job. Indiana is one of just 10 states that do not offer state-funded pre-K programs. If we want to create the building blocks for a better future, it is imperative that we develop academic readiness. Making this substantial investment in preschool education is a great first step to accomplishing that goal. 

The 2014 legislative session will only last for 10 weeks, and in the blink of an eye, it will be over. We will be working very quickly to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Each week during session, I look forward to giving you this weekly update, but until next time, you can keep up with the happenings at the Statehouse by visiting http://iga.in.gov.