I was elected as state representative for the important task of representing your interests at the Statehouse. As a public servant, I need continual input from the people of District 16 as I seek to make the best decisions for the district and the state as a whole.
One important source of input has been a survey I sent out before the legislative session convened in January. I sincerely thank everyone who took the time to respond.
Several questions showed hearty support or disapproval of certain questions, as high as 97 percent agreement.
Here are the highlights.
Property Tax Caps
Seventy percent of responders supported a constitutional amendment that would make permanent caps on property taxes. The caps would limit taxes to 1 percent of a home's assessed value. For agricultural land, the cap is 2 percent and for commercial property, property taxes would not pass 3 percent.
Indiana currently has these caps, but they expire in 2010. I - and many people around Indiana - want to make sure these tax caps will not be taken away. It's time to make them a reality, not merely a good idea that could be taken away at a moment's notice by a simple majority vote.
Protecting Taxpayer Dollars
District 16 was also worried about the effect illegal immigrants have on taxpayers. Ninety-seven percent of survey responses indicated support for a state law requiring all state agencies to verify legal residency before issuing public benefits. This would ensure only Hoosiers receive services and goods paid for by Hoosier tax dollars.
Ninety-six percent also wanted to protect in-state tuition rates by prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition at Indiana's public universities. Because many of our universities are funded by the state, it's important we do not abuse the purposes for which tax money was appropriated. I will continue to take this watchdog stance on issues even beyond those mentioned in my survey.
Since the Kernan-Shepard report on government reform was released, measures to reform local government such as consolidation have been a hot topic in the state legislature. Although changes need to be made, I recognize that Indiana must not rashly swing to the extreme when addressing these issues. The people of District 16 also indicated that they do not want immediate changes with unknown consequences.
Seventy-four percent said they did not want three-member boards of county commissioners replaced with a single person elected as the county's chief executive. Eighty-nine percent did not support eliminating the township form of government and passing its duties on to municipal-, county- and state-level offices.
While I believe Indiana's government could be streamlined, I also agree with the people of District 16 that eliminating necessary positions will only pass the work on to others. Money can be saved, and local government can function more effectively, but the Indiana General Assembly must make smart choices to leave intact the vital portions of our government.
Another popular topic that has generated interest in both the House and Senate is safety for teenage drivers. Those who responded to the survey agreed that dangerous distractions exist for new, young drivers. Seventy-seven percent said "Yes" when asked if restrictions should be increased for teenage drivers.
In the Senate, a bill has been introduced that prohibits drivers under 18 from driving while using a telecommunications device such as a cell phone. I think most of us agree that talking and texting are distracting, especially for drivers who are still getting used to the road. I support moves that decrease the hazards inexperienced drivers pose for themselves and other drivers.
I am continually aware I am here because you want me in this position. Please feel free to contact me with your concerns or questions, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling the Statehouse toll-free at 1-800-382-9841, or by writing me at the Statehouse at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.