With the 2012 session rapidly approaching, I feel it is time to discuss some potential issues that will come before the Indiana General Assembly. In addition, I want to share information with you about how you can follow the legislative process and share your thoughts throughout the session.
The first day of session will be January 4 and according to state statute it must end by March 14. Even with a limited amount of time, I am confident we will be able to pass strong public policy that helps Hoosiers across the state.
Among the topics that will receive attention and discussion this session include the differences in how we treat traditional brick and mortar stores vs. online retailers. Indiana is missing out on what could be a significant revenue source, which has been estimated to be between $100M and $200M. Not taxing online retailers is also hurting our local businesses by giving online retailers an unfair advantage when it comes to the collection of sales tax.
A retail business in Indiana must collect sales tax but if you order from an online retailer that does not have a presence in Indiana then they may not collect sales tax on your purchase. Many purchasers of goods from online retailers are unaware that they are actually required to pay the sales tax at the end of the year, yet this is something that few actually do.
We are hopeful that this issue is taken care of by the Federal Government. Yet, since they are not dealing with this issue we feel the need to get it resolved at the state level.
This session we hope to address government efficiency by cleaning up outdated and unnecessary laws and making it easier to do business in Indiana. Other significant issues that will be up for discussion are drug testing for state-funded welfare benefits as well as whether there should be a statewide smoking ban.
The drug testing for welfare benefits bill would require recipients of state assistance to take a drug test. It is important to ensure that your tax dollars are distributed to those who are truly in need and to make sure that those dollars are not being used to purchase illegal substances.
The smoking ban issue has been before the Indiana General Assembly for several years now. The main sticking point has been what, if any, public places should be exempt from the ban. I am sure as session unfolds these issues will be heavily debated and I look forward to keeping you posted on what is happening.
Once the legislative process gets underway you may wish to get more involved. One way to do this is through committee hearings. They are important because this is a time when the public can testify. Public testimony allows the committee to hear from Hoosiers and learn how a particular piece of legislation will affect them. This is the perfect opportunity for you to participate and get involved in the legislative process.
If you are not able to make a trip to the Statehouse, you can track the committee process as well as view session by visiting: http://www.in.gov/legislative/index.htm and on the right hand side you will see a box containing the daily schedule of Senate and House committees and a link to watch session.
As you can see several important topics will be discussed in the months ahead. It is important to be knowledgeable and informed on what is being talked about in our state. The decisions made at the Statehouse affect all of us and it is for that reason I hope you choose to pay close attention to all that is happening and utilize the different ways to stay informed and involved.
If you have questions about the upcoming session please feel free to call my office and speak to my legislative assistant, Tom Havens, at 317-234-2993 or call toll-free at 1-800-382-9841.