Typical New Year's resolutions are also relevant to state government:
. Get fit: For a state emerging from recession, Indiana is in pretty good shape. Fitness, though, requires ongoing effort, and our next exercise should be to pass a balanced budget with no tax increases.
. Get a better job: During the election season, there was constant talk of the need for job creation. Now it's time to act. Government doesn't create jobs, but it can create an environment that attracts and retains jobs. Indiana has been a national leader in private-sector job creation, but we must do more. In the upcoming legislative session, we will have many opportunities to revitalize hard-hit communities, increase access to start-up capital and promote entrepreneurship and small business. We owe it to all Hoosiers - including the almost 10 percent who remain unemployed - to make the most of every opportunity.
. Pay off debt: Over the last two years, Indiana has borrowed almost $2 billion from the federal government to fund unemployment benefits. It can't go on. It's time for a serious, comprehensive solution that will point the state's unemployment trust fund back in the direction of solvency. It will take years to pay back what we owe and rebuild the fund, but 2011 should be the year we cut up the credit card.
. Get a better education: K-12 education reform will be a top priority this session. Key initiatives will focus on rewarding teachers for performance, directing a greater percentage of education spending to the classroom and expanding educational options for Hoosier families.
. Quit smoking: A statewide smoking ban seems inevitable. Indiana is among a dwindling number of states that do not have some type of statewide ban. Support for a ban appears to be growing. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has made a total ban on smoking in the workplace one of its 2011 legislative priorities, and earlier this month, Gov. Mitch Daniels said he would sign a ban. First, of course, the legislature would have to pass one, and the Senate has snuffed out recent attempts.
I have some resolutions related to my job as your state representative:
. I resolve to be more accessible. Over the last two years, I have worked hard to be accessible. Still, I know there are some folks who have had trouble connecting with me, and I resolve to find new ways to be even more accessible.
. I resolve to listen. The stakes are high for the upcoming legislative session, and legislators will be overwhelmed with information from countless sources. I want to hear from you. If you live in my district, you will soon receive a survey, which will also be available online, but if you have a question or concern, please don't hesitate to go ahead and get in touch.
. I resolve to do my homework and ask tough questions. As a member of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, I will be directly involved in crafting the state's next two-year budget, and I plan to do my part to make sure we produce the best budget possible.
. I resolve to get more folks from Southern Indiana to participate in the legislative process.
To that end, I would like to suggest some resolutions for you:
Resolve to pay attention to Indiana state government. Here in Southern Indiana, we're fortunate to be a part of the Louisville region. Because we get much of our news from Louisville media, however, we're likely to hear more about Kentucky state government than our own. It's good to keep an eye on what's going on in Frankfort, but it's what is happening in Indianapolis that affects us directly.
The legislative session starts Jan. 5 and is likely to continue through April. Resolve to visit the Statehouse. It's a beautiful, historic building, and you own it. Good days to visit are generally Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday is committee day, so the legislature is not typically in session, and the legislature usually adjourns for the week on Thursday. If you would like to arrange a visit, call my legislative assistant, Clinton Bohm, at 1-800-382-9841, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Students age 13 or older can serve as a page for a day. It's a memorable and educational experience that includes a tour of the Statehouse and the opportunity to observe the legislature from the House or Senate floor. I'll have more information about this opportunity in next week's column.
If you are unable to visit the Statehouse in person, then visit online at www.in.gov/legislative. The website includes a wealth of information and resources, and floor sessions and committee meetings are broadcast live and archived on the website.
Thanks to the Internet, you can also tune in to programming that isn't broadcast on TV or radio in this part of the state.
"Indiana Week in Review" airs weekly on Indianapolis public television and public radio. It's available online at www.wfyi.org/indianaweekinreview.asp. On the website, you can also sign up to receive weekly e-mail or text alerts of show topics.
While the legislature is in session, there is another weekly show, "Indiana Lawmakers," a roundtable that features elected officials, journalists and other political observers. Visit www.wfyi.org/indianalawmakers.asp.
The start of the legislative session is only a week away. In the meantime, have a safe and enjoyable holiday. Happy New Year!