First Bills Passed Out of the House
Bills are now being discussed, amended and voted "up" or "down" as they are moving through their House Committees and on to third reading and a House chamber vote. A number of bills of high interest are being considered. Three pieces of legislation were passed out of the House on Thursday and will go to the Senate for consideration. One of these bills, House Bill 1082, designates off-vehicle registration funds to further develop off-road trails and facilities such as Lynnville's Interlake Property, while exempting government vehicles from the registration fees.
Budget hearings are in full swing since the release of the governor's proposed budget. One item left out of the governor's budget is the Lincoln Amphitheatre. This $5 million state investment promotes Lincoln's boyhood years in Indiana, something which is often glossed over nationally. Further, the amphitheatre is a key tourism attraction for Spencer County and the region.
That said this year's budget must shave hundreds of millions of dollars from the bottom line. The amphitheatre board is working diligently to reduce their needs and move toward self-sufficiency. With the support of other Southwest Indiana legislators, we are working to return funding to the budget. Likewise, the governor's budget proposes a 3% cut to higher education and a 15% cut to line items such as Purdue Extension and Historic New Harmony. There will be tough choices that will have to be made to achieve the structurally balanced budget without raising taxes. I believe we'll get there, but we must continue to look for every possible way to live within our means as our economy slowly returns to prosperity. The final budget passage will be likely occur very close to the April 29 deadline as latest revenue forecasts will be reviewed in mid-April.
Our Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee heard HB 1007 which would enhance increases for venture capital investment tax credits helping fund more business growth. Rep. Messmer (R-Jasper) introduced HB 1007 which provides counties and communities with additional economic development tools such as more aggressive tax abatement schedules, exempting personal property, and using local option income taxes to pay hiring incentives to employers.
I am pleased that my Young Entrepreneur Program bill, HB 1251, will be heard in committee next week. I am hopeful it will provide the state a first ever mechanism for linking graduating entrepreneurship majors and minors from our state universities with communities that wish to help them launch their business plans. These bills, and more to come, will provide communities large and small with new methods for job creation and new business growth..a strong commitment of House Republicans.
Other bills of interest being heard in committee include HB 1002 a Charter School bill. District 74 has no charter schools. However, some charter schools such as Signature School and Joshua Academy in Evansville have proven to be effective educational learning environments. Currently in the State of Indiana we have thousands of Hoosier students who are waitlisted for charter schools. This bill seeks to make it easier for local school corporations to open charter schools, should they wish to pursue it.
HB 1018, a statewide smoking ban, was passed out of committee this week. As you can imagine, this drew a large crowd to the Statehouse with both strong supporters and strong opponents. An amendment to exempt casinos and race tracks has been introduced.
Let me leave this week's Edition with an important bill that will be heard next week, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Indiana owes the federal government almost $2 billion as we have been taking more money out of the fund for the last several years than it has taken in.not surprising during this deep recession. Last year's legislature delayed implementation of a UI bill that would have saddled employers with large increases in premiums.and surely would have hurt job growth in the state. HB 1450 attempts to balance three components in the legislation: premiums, benefits and eligibility while repaying back the federal government by 2020. This is a complex issue which, I suspect, will take our committee several weeks of study and refinement before sending it on to the House for second reading.
As we enter the peak of winter, I want to wish you and your family safe travels and warm wishes over the coming week. It remains my privilege to serve you. I appreciate your e-mails, calls and contacts as we move through over 600 House bills filed and, soon we will begin hearing, the bills which have passed the Senate for House consideration. Your experience, knowledge and wisdom are key to educating me and helping shape legislation that benefits our state and, particularly, Southwest Indiana.
Sue Ellspermann, PhD
State Representative District 74
Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand)