The 2016 legislative session is officially underway at the Statehouse. Although we have much to accomplish during the next nine weeks, lawmakers will be hard at work to address many of the critical issues facing Indiana.
Recently, House Speaker Brian Bosma announced our legislative agenda for the weeks ahead. This session, we are tasked with addressing Indiana’s transportation infrastructure needs, finding ways to attract and retain great teachers in our classrooms, and working to break the cycle of substance abuse in our state. House Republicans will also advance legislation that ensures teacher bonuses and evaluations are not negatively impacted by spring 2015 ISTEP scores.
Despite being a national leader in infrastructure investment over the past decade, Indiana has witnessed a 10 percent decline in the gas tax due to inflation and greater fuel efficiency. As a result, we find ourselves needing approximately $1.5 billion in additional funding per year to maintain and improve our roads and bridges. It is important we develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to maintain state roads and assist local governments with their transportation funding needs. Since the state is not in a budget year, our challenge will be to examine all funding options available to us and determine the best course of action for Indiana.
To ensure that Hoosier students are receiving the highest quality education, one of my top priorities is to find ways to recruit the best and brightest to the teaching profession. Speaker Bosma stated that he will be authoring legislation that would provide high school students who graduate at the top of their class with a college scholarship to go into teaching. The scholarship would be contingent upon their agreement to teach in Indiana for a minimum of five years after completion. I look forward to reviewing this legislation when it comes across my desk in the House, and making sure Hoosier children continue to receive the best possible education.
Unfortunately, many communities across the state have witnessed an uptick in drug-related incidents, particularly from heroin and meth. Specifically in Southeast Indiana, the meth epidemic has affected many of our families, friends and youth. This session, it is important that we take serious action to curb the production and distribution of illegal drugs. Moreover, I believe we need to improve the way Hoosiers access treatment, as well as continue to spread the word about the services and facilities that are available to them. A critical part of our health system is to connect individuals who suffer from substance abuse or other mental illnesses with the help they need.
As your state representative, knowing your thoughts and opinions will help me better serve you and our community throughout session. I hope you will fill out my legislative survey online at www.in.gov/h55.
If you have any questions about the survey or issues mentioned above, I encourage you to contact my office by calling 317-232-9815 or emailing email@example.com.
State Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.