[R75] The BLT: Halftime in the General Assembly (2/3/2012)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Start Date: 2/3/2012
End Date: 2/3/2012

With the Super Bowl almost here along with Indiana’s day in the national spotlight for the Super Bowl, the House of Representatives worked overtime this week to complete our business.  We passed several significant bills to encourage smarter, more efficient government and to improve the lives of Indiana residents.

One of the most noteworthy bills to pass the House this week, House Bill (HB) 1376 would double the amount of compensation available to the victims and families of the State Fair tragedy from $5 million to $10 million.  While their lives will never be the same, those affected by the catastrophe deserve something to ease their suffering.  The bill would also help reach our long-term goal of funding full-day kindergarten by an additional $80 million.  The last provisions in the bill give Indiana residents an automatic refund of around $50 once state reserves top $20 million.  I’m encouraged by these efforts to help the State Fair victims, provide a strong educational foundation for our children, and allow taxpayers to spend their own money as they see fit.

An overwhelmingly popular bill involving nepotism and conflict of interest in local government passed the House this week as well.  HB 1005, which I helped co-author, would prohibit county, city, and township officials from hiring their relatives.  In addition, local government employees would be required to resign once they are elected to an executive or legislative body that controls their budget.  We should always strive for transparency in government to allow greater accountability to our constituents, and this legislation is a major step in the right direction.

I co-authored another measure, HB 1199, that passed the House to phase out the inheritance tax, or ‘death tax,’ over a period of ten years. Hoosiers shouldn’t have to pay taxes again on assets that have already been taxed.  Indiana is one of the last states to still have a ‘death tax’, so many of our seniors avoid it by leaving the state.  Our mandate is to attract citizens to our state, not encourage them to leave with an unfair tax.

Although the federal government’s Affordable Care Act greatly expands the size and scope of government control over healthcare, I co-authored legislation that will offer states an alternative.  With the approval of the United States Congress, HB 1269 would create a Health Care Compact, or an agreement among states to be responsible for the regulation and administration of their own healthcare systems.  Because the last thing we need is more spending and control in Washington, Indiana should be able to institute a healthcare system that meets the unique needs of all our citizens.

Drug testing for welfare beneficiaries has also been a big issue.  I co-authored HB 1007 to institute a pilot program in three counties that would drug tests recipients of government benefits.  Furthermore, legislators would be held to the same standard of drug testing.  It’s important to make sure taxpayer dollars aren’t funding a drug habit for people receiving government assistance, and the same should apply to lawmakers.

These bills, along with all the others passed by the House, will now go to the Senate for their consideration.  In turn, we’ll begin our deliberations on legislation passed by the Senate when the House reconvenes next week.  As always, if you’d like to share your thoughts on any issues in the Legislative Session I can be reached by phone at 317-232-9671 or by email at h75@in.gov.  Have a safe weekend and enjoy what’s sure to be a great Super Bowl!

-30-

The BLT, Halftime in the General Assembly.docx