[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: Session's over, but work goes on (8/30/2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Start Date: 8/30/2010 All Day
End Date: 8/30/2010

School's almost out, but the legislature is just now getting ready to start its next round of studies. In the meantime, the weeks have been flying by - filled with nonstop activity. Last week was as good as Mom and apple pie - literally.

The week started with Mother's Day and ended with apple pie at a church chicken dinner. What more could I want?

The Indiana General Assembly meets every year starting in January and adjourns by March or April, depending on the year. After that, unless the governor calls a special session, the legislature doesn't meet again until Organization Day in November.

Even though the legislature is out of session, there's plenty going on. Right now, we're forming summer study committees.

There are four legislative caucuses: House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans. The four caucus leaders are scheduled to meet tomorrow to plan the committees.

Later this month or early next, the Legislative Council, which includes leaders from each caucus, will meet to finalize the committees. Then, after members are assigned, the committees will start meeting - probably in July.

If you want to see what was studied in past years, go to www.in.gov/legislative. Under "Archives," click on "Interim." You can view committee minutes and reports, which include findings and recommendations, and a wealth of other information.

For example, the Gaming Study Committee met four times last year. In addition to its report to the legislature, there are several other documents that will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about gaming policy and revenue. There's a study that analyzes the potential impact of gaming competition from Kentucky and Ohio and the relocation of existing casino licenses within Indiana.

The study estimates gaming at Kentucky horse tracks, including Churchill Downs - if it were to be authorized - could reduce admissions at the Horseshoe Casino in Harrison County by 31 percent to 39 percent annually. That would translate into a loss of up to $44 million in annual tax revenue.

The study was conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which drafts legislation and provides fiscal and policy analysis for the General Assembly.

Another interesting document in the online archives from last year's Gaming Study Committee is a presentation on gaming tax revenue, including its 20-year history, where it comes from and where it goes.

As always, if you do not have Internet access, feel free to call my office at 1-800-382-9841 to request a copy of any document.

You will have an opportunity to hear from a policy rock star this week. Dr. Larry DeBoer is a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, a part-time consultant to LSA and a highly regarded expert on state and local government issues.

His presentation, titled "Life after Recession: Local Government Finance Update," is 2-4:30 p.m. Thursday. Watch it live on the Internet at https://gomeet.itap.purdue.edu/r20107228/, or watch a broadcast at the Floyd County Purdue Extension Office, which is in the Purdue Technology Center on Charlestown Road in New Albany.

The free presentation will offer a snapshot of state and local government finances, including an update on the state budget and information about the effects of property tax caps.

To register to attend the broadcast at the extension office, call 948-5470, or e-mail tsprings@purdue.edu. No registration is necessary if you choose to view it on your own computer, but I would suggest visiting the site in advance to make sure you have the right address and necessary software and connection speed.

I will be viewing the presentation online from my desk at the Statehouse. I wish I could watch it at the extension office, but I have a CHOICE Board meeting. CHOICE stands for Community and Home Options to Institutionalized Care for the Elderly and Disabled. CHOICE is an innovative state program that helps keep seniors and people with disabilities at home. Like every other area of state government, it's facing additional budget cuts, and I need to be at the meeting.

It will be my first trip to Indianapolis this month. I've enjoyed being at home, although I haven't spent much time at my house. Last week was packed - and typical.

I had a Habitat for Humanity board meeting on Monday night. Tuesday started with a Girl Scout fundraising breakfast, and in the afternoon I attended a meeting of the Floyd County Community Corrections Advisory Board.

Every day I find time for my work as a real estate broker, which is still my primary income. Wednesday included a lunch meeting at the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and a stop at a Salvation Army carnival - thanks to an invitation from a player on a youth soccer team I coach.

I attended several other meetings and events during the week, including a visit with the new executive vice president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Two highlights of the week came Thursday. I attended my 8-year-old daughter's Girl Scout bridging ceremony and then went to Northside Christian Church for the annual Retired Senior Volunteer Program Volunteer Recognition Dinner.

I had fun visiting with hundreds of seniors and listening to former WHAS-TV meteorologist Ken Schulz, who was master of ceremonies. I miss seeing him on television, and it was good to see him in person.

Something else I miss is the Jacob's Chapel United Methodist Church chicken dinner booth at the Harvest Homecoming Festival. Now Jacob's Chapel serves its famous dinner twice a year at the church. That's how I came to end the week with apple pie - a satisfying end to a great chicken dinner and a great week.