[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: Summertime is study time (8/30/2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

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

The Indiana General Assembly isn't scheduled to meet again until Organization Day in November, and the next regular session won't start until January. In the meantime, many topics that are likely to be the subject of legislation next year will be studied over the next two or three months, and you will have a chance to weigh in both in Indianapolis and here at home.

Interim study committees - also called summer study committees - will consider topics ranging from the sexy (literally) to the very dull but very important. All of the meetings are open to the public, and meeting announcements, agendas and minutes are available on the Internet at www.in.gov/legislative. Under the heading "Interim Study Committees" you will find links to a list of committees and a meeting calendar.

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, including a complete list of study committees and topics. In addition, I will be scheduling a series of public meetings to discuss various topics and invite your input and ideas. If there is a topic you would like to discuss at a local forum, call or e-mail my office. I'm open to discussing any topic that involves a state issue. My e-mail address is h72@in.gov.

If you call, ask for my legislative assistant, Clinton Bohm, but don't be surprised if he's not there. He and his wife, Anne, are expecting their first child any day. If Clinton is out, ask for Morgan Perrill, who is our House Republican caucus staff director. She will be helping me while Clinton takes time off to be with Anne and their baby.

Meanwhile, study committees will be giving birth to potential legislation.

The first meeting of the Health Finance Commission is 9:30 a.m. Thursday. It will be broadcast live over the Internet. The agenda includes a presentation on federal health care legislation and discussion of the Indiana Check-Up Plan, a health insurance program for low-income Hoosiers.

The commission is charged with studying a number of other topics, including:

- Whether pharmacists should be required to inform a prescribing physician of a change in brand of a prescription to treat certain long-term health conditions;

- Methods to increase the availability of affordable health care coverage for all Indiana residents;

- Long-term care savings plans;

- The prevalence of brain injury, the scope of brain injury services and financing for those services in Indiana; and

- The impact of a statewide smoking ban.

There are many important issues in K-12 education, but the Interim Study Committee on Education will study only one: the problem of K-12 absenteeism.

Two controversial topics that received a lot of study last year were gambling and alcohol. The Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Issues produced a 35-page report, and several of its recommendations became law earlier this month. There is no alcohol committee this year, and the Interim Study Committee on Gaming, which considered a wide range of issues last year, will instead focus narrowly on issues related to horse racing, breeding and purse distribution.

"Sexting" - sending nude photos by cell phone - is sure to be a hot topic in the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee. In addition to sexting, the committee is charged with studying more than a dozen general topics, including alternative sentencing, community corrections, home detention programs, criminal registries and victims' rights. The committee also will study various issues concerning the criminal justice and correction systems, including long-range needs and ways to improve their effectiveness. Other topics include credit time for parolees and issues relating to methamphetamine.

Mention of the Census Data Advisory Committee doesn't tend to excite people as much as talk of sexting, but the work it does could set the stage for eliminating obscenely drawn legislative districts in Indiana. Every 10 years, after the census, the legislature redraws the boundaries of all state legislative districts and congressional districts, and next year is the year.

The Interim Study Committee on Economic Development will consider:

- Best practices in state and local economic development policies and activities;

- The use and effectiveness of tax credits and deductions;

- Whether there are any specific sectors of the economy for which Indiana might have comparative advantages over other states;

- The extent to which Indiana's tax laws encourage business investment, and any improvements that might be made;

- The extent to which Indiana's education systems support economic development; and

- The benefits of existing community revitalization enhancement districts and possible new community revitalization enhancement districts as an economic development tool.

The Select Joint Commission on Medicaid Oversight will study the administration of public assistance in Indiana. This will provide an important and timely update on the progress of a major reform initiative.

The Commission on Mental Health will study youth suicide and the flow of medical information between local units of government and the Department of Correction.

The Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy will take up several topics, including state and local road funding, fire protection districts and territories and a possible change in the way the potential fiscal impact of proposed legislation is analyzed. The current practice of static fiscal scoring considers only direct costs and savings. Dynamic fiscal scoring also would take into account indirect costs and savings. It may not seem very exciting, but it could have a dramatic effect on how future legislation is understood and considered.

As summer wanes, attention will turn to the fall election. There's no reason study committees shouldn't be productive in the meantime. And again, please call or e-mail me to suggest topics you would like to discuss in a local forum.