[R75] The BLT: A productive session for Hoosiers in need (3/16/2012)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Start Date: 3/16/2012
End Date: 3/16/2012

The 2012 Legislative Session felt like a roller coaster ride much of the time with a variety of high profile issues competing for attention, but in review the General Assembly passed many important measures to help Hoosiers.  At the beginning of the session I was eager to begin work on the issues facing Indiana, and looking back on the last few months I’m pleased with the progress that’s been made.

Our military men and women make tremendous sacrifices for all of us, so I was more than willing to lend my support to House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1059, greater assistance for military members and their families.  Currently, members of the armed services can apply for one year of assistance from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) upon completion of active duty.  HEA 1059 increases the eligibility period to three years, giving our soldiers more time to readjust to civilian life.

From the creation of the fund to August 2011, many military families have received a total of $751,000.  Families will be eligible to receive up to $5,000 per year for the purchase of everyday necessities giving Hoosier servicemen and women the opportunity they need to get back on their feet.

Other legislation I’m happy to see passed gives relief to the thousands of Hoosiers with overdue property taxes.  HEA 1090 allows taxpayers who fell behind on their property taxes due to the recession to enter into an agreement for a payment plan with the county treasurer.  If the payment plan is followed, the property will be removed from the tax sale. This bill will allow many people who have been struggling financially to hopefully keep their homes and businesses.

Furthermore, HEA 1090 establishes an amnesty period for penalties and fees on property taxes due prior to 2012.  If overdue property taxes are paid by July 1, 2013, all penalties and fees will be forgiven.  The legislation also allows a county to sell a property in a tax sale if the minimum bid reaches 75 percent of the property’s assessed value.  This helps counties reduce the maintenance costs for properties that owe more property taxes than they’re worth.

To help low income Hoosier families with rising energy costs, the General Assembly passed HEA 1141 with widespread bipartisan support.  This legislation restores the tax exemption for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for Fiscal Year 2012.  LIHEAP helps disadvantaged households pay their heating bills in the winter months and distributes electric fans during summer heat waves.  Although we had a relatively mild winter this year, we all know that temperatures in Indiana can dip below zero.  In these situations, having the money to pay the utility bill can mean the difference between life and death.

This program exempts families in need from having to pay the state sales tax on energy consumption.  While Indiana’s tax exemption for LIHEAP expired in 2009, HEA 1141 will reestablish the credit for an additional year.  Federal appropriations also fund the program, which helped nearly 200,000 Hoosiers in 2010.  A family of four must have an annual household income of $33,075 or less to qualify and the benefit applies only to energy costs related to the heating or cooling of residences.  No Hoosier should be in danger because they can’t afford to pay their energy bill. 

The Indiana House of Representatives faced some difficult decisions  this year, but ultimately we came together to pass legislation to benefit all Hoosiers.  A stronger Indiana will be to the advantage of every Hoosier.  In the interim, I’m looking forward to researching a variety of issues facing the district and state as a whole.  I encourage you to share your thoughts with me by phone at 317-232-9671 or by email h75@in.gov.  Thank you for your continued support.

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The BLT, A productive session for Hoosiers in need.docx