[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: Stay updated and connected (8/30/2011)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Start Date: 8/30/2011 All Day
End Date: 8/30/2011

Stay updated and connected

In my last column, I mentioned the Aug. 13 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Since then, two more victims have died, bringing the death toll to seven. In addition, dozens were injured, and several remain hospitalized.

Numerous investigations and lawsuits will go on for some time, and it's all but certain the tragedy will lead to legislation. In the meantime, there's a way you can help.

The Central Indiana Community Foundation has established a fund to help the victims of the collapse and their families. If you wish to contribute, you may donate online at www.cicf.org, or mail a check to:

Central Indiana Community Foundation
Attn: Indiana State Fair Remembrance Fund
615 N. Alabama St., Ste. 119
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Checks should be made payable to the foundation, or "CICF" for short, and include "Indiana State Fair Remembrance Fund" in the memo line.

CICF is a parallel organization to our own Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, which was established 20 years ago and serves the needs of people in Clark and Floyd counties. Last year, CFSI managed assets of more than $21 million, disbursed more than $1 million in grants and received nearly $750,000 in gifts. Beyond charitable giving, CFSI is active in other community initiatives, including scholarships and its annual Gold Leaf Volunteer Luncheon. For more information, visit www.cfsouthernindiana.com or call 948-4662. 

Sherman Minton Bridge traffic delays

I've heard from a number of constituents who have been frustrated by traffic delays on the Sherman Minton Bridge. I've been in contact with the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the project is not what it seems. Commuters have observed that there appears to be relatively little work going on and have questioned why it can't be done at night.

INDOT has explained that much of the work is taking place under the bridge, where engineers are inspecting structural components, a process that requires natural light. INDOT has assured me the work will be completed by mid-October. I'm glad INDOT is working to ensure the future safety and reliability of the bridge, but it's still a tremendous inconvenience for commuters - even for six more weeks - and I will continue to work with INDOT to make sure the project wraps up as soon as possible and takes advantage of any opportunity to shift work to off-peak hours.

Town hall topics

I'm finalizing details for a series of town hall meetings in October and November. There will be several general sessions and several devoted to specific issues. If you have a topic you would like to discuss, please contact my legislative assistant, Clinton Bohm, at 1-800-382-9841 or cbohm@iga.in.gov.

Summer study committees

I included detailed information about summer study committees in my last two columns. Additional meetings continue to be scheduled, and there is a full calendar all the way through October. Go to www.in.gov/legislative and look under "Interim Study Committees" in the menu on the left side of the page. The meetings are open to the public, and most are broadcast on the Internet. If you do not have Internet access and would like to receive information, call my legislative assistant. Many of the topics addressed by the study committees will be the subject of legislation, and now is an important time to make sure your voice is heard.

Statehouse visits and page program

The legislative session won't begin until January, but it's not too early to start planning a trip. By law, the session has to end by March 14, so it would be best to plan to visit sometime between mid-January and the end of February.

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, contact my legislative assistant.

Students ages 13 to 18 may serve as a legislative page for a day. It's a hands-on, behind-the-scenes chance to learn about state government, and every student should take advantage of it at least once. Unfortunately, not enough students from Southern Indiana do. Please share this column with students and their parents to help me encourage more young people from our area to participate.

It's a full day, starting with an early-morning drive to Indianapolis. Pages receive a tour of the Statehouse, including the governor's office, the lieutenant governor's office, the Supreme Court and the House and Senate chambers. Pages get to sit on the House or Senate floor during session, and they may be asked to deliver messages to members or perform other helpful tasks. Mostly, however, they are there to observe and learn.

Pages receive an excused absence from school. They are responsible for their own transportation and lunch. Parents or chaperones also receive a tour, and I always try to make time to meet with both the students and the adults who are with them.

Some days of the week and times during the session are better than others for serving as a page. To start planning, contact my legislative assistant, Clinton Bohm. Make sure you communicate directly with him. There is a separate page office, but I prefer to be more personally involved with scheduling. The page office does a great job but can't keep track of the details of every legislator's schedule. I want every one of my pages to have the best possible experience when visiting the Statehouse and choosing a good day is important.

Another way to keep up

Thanks to the Internet, there are lots of ways to keep up with what's happening in state politics and government.

One of them is "Indiana Week in Review." The half-hour program, which airs weekly on Indianapolis public television and public radio, offers informed, civil discussion of hot issues and is available online at www.wfyi.org/indianaweekinreview.asp. On the website, you can also sign up to receive weekly e-mail or text alerts about upcoming show topics.