Four state officials representing Decatur County in the Indiana General Assembly stopped by the Tree City Saturday morning to be part of a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored legislative update.
Veteran State Senator Johnny Nugent (R-Senate District 43) was joined by fellow Senator Jean Leising (R-Senate District 42) and State Representatives Randy Frye (R-House District 67) and Cindy Ziemke (R-House District 55) for a short look at some of the items on the itinerary in the Statehouse and Senate in the present legislative session.
They were joined by an audience of city government officials, educators and many others from the general public at Decatur County REMC for a rare look inside the General Assembly that, although brief, raised awareness of several issues now being discussed in Indianapolis.
Senator Nugent, who came to represent a large portion of Decatur County via redistricting in 2011, led off the program by discussing the potential impact of Senate Bill 528 (SB 528), a gaming-centric piece of legislation containing a provision that could have a negative impact on the Riverboat fund in some communities.
Nugent stated one’s feelings on the morality of gaming are “irrelevant” in the case of this bill, and he encouraged the community to contact their legislators “early and often” in order to be certain these elected officials are aware such a provision exists.
Senator Leising followed Nugent and discussed some of the potential pratfalls associated with the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare.” Namely, Leising mentioned the Affordable Care Act will likely see many more individuals signing up for Medicaid.
Senator Leising briefly mentioned Senate Bill 319, which she has supported in the hopes it would prevent a $57 million tax increase on Hoosier farmers. The bill passed the House of Representatives Monday and is likely to be signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence in the coming days.
Leising also touted the need for those who live in her district to keep her as well as her fellow legislators informed of their concerns.
“If you’ve got an issue, call us,” said Leising. “Call all of us.”
Rep. Randy Frye, who toured several areas of his district alongside Senator Nugent Saturday morning, briefly discussed House Bill 1324, a compressed natural gas bill on which Frye has been working for the better part of two years. This bill recently passed the Roads and Transportation Committee and was then referred to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill, which Frye has been pushing heavily for some time, will provide an income tax credit for large natural gas powered vehicles weighing at least 33,000 pounds, in addition to increasing weight limitations on certain natural gas-powered vehicles.
Frye also made mention of House Blll 1325, which will allow the Department of Homeland Security to reimburse agencies deploying emergency responders to areas outside of their community, in the event of a disaster. It also gives local fire departments the ability to add backup members to replace those who may be temporarily mobilized away from their department.
Cindy Ziemke, a newcomer to the Statehouse having taken office in January, called her new position her “greatest honor” and stated her hopes she could take the values of those of her district with her to the General Assembly. Ziemke, like Senator Leising, plans to make child safety a major issue of her tenure.
“I’m very passionate about this,” she said. “I want to make sure our children are safe.”
After each legislator had his or her opportunity on the floor, the group fielded questioned that ran the gamut from concerns about Medicaid to a perceived source of contention in the state’s budget plans between the Governor and the Statehouse.
Frye was quick to note that the governor and members of the General Assembly are not at odds and that details of a budget compromise are likely to be hammered out in the future, though it may take some time for an agreement to be reached. Frye used an analogy in which he compared bills passing through the Statehouse to vegetable soup, with different legislators adding different “ingredients” and making changes to each bill. “We’re basically at Day 3 of a 100-day process,” Frye said. “It’s gonna take a while to work its way through.”
Despite minor differences of opinion, the Republican Caucus appears united on several fronts.
This legislative session is aimed at focusing on improving career and technical education in high schools in order to close the so-called “skills gap” manufacturing companies say are causing a dearth of qualified workers.
The G.O.P. Super Majority also intends to take measures to address a shortage of science and math teachers while promoting early childhood education. Fiscal responsibility continues to be a priority as well, with legislators aiming to “make strategic investments and restorations” that will benefit the Hoosier State.
The legislative update was an event sponsored by the Greensburg/Decatur County Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Executive Director Jeff Emsweller introduced the program’s guests and expressed his gratitude for all four presenters being able to attend.
More information on each and every bill presently in process at the Statehouse can be found by logging on to the Indiana General Assembly’s website at www.in.gov/legislative/.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056