Each year, the Legislative Council meets to assign topics to study during the summer months and establishes new interim committees, which are charged with examining specific issues facing Indiana. Because we have a part-time Legislature, the General Assembly has the rare opportunity to spend our summers delving deeper into issues that did not receive as much attention while the House was in session.
These study committees are particularly crucial to the legislative process because it allows representatives to meet with experts of various fields while conducting an in-depth study of the topics assigned. Many times, the issues discussed and studied can inspire representatives to author legislation.
Interim study committee meetings are similar to those during session. If a member of the public would like to testify, they are welcome and encouraged to do so. Should you be interested in testifying, call ahead to notify the committee chairperson, so a timeslot for your testimony can be included in the schedule. I encourage you to attend these meetings, even if you do not wish to speak, and for more information, please visit iga.in.gov/.
I will be serving as a member of the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavior Health and Human Services Committee. As a result of the HIV outbreak in our region, we will be focusing on a continued, comprehensive response to reducing disease transmission due to intravenous drug use.
A needle exchange program was implemented as soon as a public health emergency was declared at the four months ago. The Public Health Committee will prioritize studying the effectiveness of this program in an effort to determine what the best solution is in addressing the HIV epidemic.
Another issue that will affect citizens of our region is an alternative means of assessing agricultural land for tax purposes. During the 2015 legislative session, the General Assembly addressed the potential of an increase in taxes on farm land by freezing the base rate for taxes payable in 2016 at the 2015 amount, which is $2050. The base rate can be adjusted for productivity, land use type and other factors and it is also the foundation for determining the true tax value of agricultural property. The Committee on Fiscal Policy will be reviewing and studying an alternative means of agricultural assessment to ensure the fairest calculation for Hoosier farmers.
Additionally, the Interim Study Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources will be charged with studying the potential agricultural, economic and medical benefits of hemp oil. In 2014, the Indiana Seed Commissioner applied for the legalization of hemp production in 2014 to develop Indiana’s hemp industry. Industrial hemp is used in things like rope, fuel and clothing and does not have the illegal drug drawbacks of marijuana.
There are many issues assigned to these study committees that I believe will have a positive impact on our area once enacted into law, and I hope this gives you a better understanding of what goes on during the summer months and ways in which you can get involved. I look forward to addressing significant topics this summer, taking the time to examine issues thoroughly and give anyone who wishes to voice their opinions, the opportunity to do so.