The General Assembly completed its work at 1:45 a.m. the morning of Saturday, March 10. At midnight the Speaker shared that we had four bills left and asked if we wanted to break until sunrise or return on Monday. It was like the last day of school. Legislators chanted “Stay, stay!” And we did. I had a 8:00 a.m. CST Saturday morning Legislative Breakfast in Tell City for which I showed up a bit “fuzzy brained” after three hours of sleep south of Indianapolis before driving down.
This short session felt anything but short. The first half was marked by the passage of the Human Trafficking and Right to Work (RTW) bills prior to the Super Bowl. RTW has already been a factor in at least 30 additional companies looking at Indiana for their future home, over 4000 potential jobs, and $700 million in potential investment. The governor recognized this week that we may have underestimated the impact RTW will have on job creation in Indiana. This was shared while recognizing that Indiana has finally returned to pre-recession employment levels though our unemployment rate remains stubbornly above the national average.
Dubois County’s unemployment rate remains the lowest in the state at 6 percent. Perry and Spencer County hover around the national average. Crawford and Orange are stubbornly higher. It is a mixed bag and not good enough for SW Indiana where our goal is to ensure all who are willing to work have the opportunity to earn and keep a good paying job.
In the last week of session we passed important legislation to our district, including the phase out of Inheritance Taxes which particularly hurt farmers and small business owners. This “death tax” also causes many older Hoosiers to relocate themselves and their assets to other states where they are not taxed on their life’s savings. Important to schools and families was passage of an additional $80-$100 million in funding for full-day kindergarten, as well as keeping our commitment to fund public employee pensions, and a taxpayer refund estimated to average a little under $100 per family based on the fact that our state’s combined balances for the fiscal year are above a certain percentage of next year’s expected appropriations.
As two of my bills were signed into law by the governor this week, my bills that didn’t pass included the rural entrepreneurship development area (RETIF), chemical abortion safety (RU-486), and severing of parental right for rapists. Each of these needs further work to ensure passage next year. Further, I will be working this summer with local units of government, educators and businesses to ensure we have the tools and resources to strengthen our regional economy and retain our talented young people as we must focus on reversing our rural brain drain.
Please don’t hesitate to call or contact me over issues important to you. I can be reached by phone a 1-800-382-9841 or by email at H78@in.gov. Enjoy this early spring and blessings on your week!