As the legislature rushes headlong towards April 29, the week past seemed to be more like a normal session. Committees were trying to finish up their work, and the full House was voting on long and contentious calendars of bills.
One of the most controversial bills was Senate Bill 575. This bill would limit teacher collective bargaining to salary, wages and benefits. Items such as calendar, hours and extra-curricular activities would be classified as discussable. That means that “officially” these things are part of the considerations, but do not belong in the final discussion of the collective bargaining talks.
This bill generated calls to me and my office from school superintendents who urged me to vote ‘yes’. It also generated calls from teachers who were apprehensive about the affects of the bill and feared that it might allow administrators to go too far. I thought the bill made sense and supported it with my yes vote.
Another bill that drew lots of attention was Senate Bill 473. It would allow the governor of Indiana to make a highway a toll road and use a public-private agreement to finance the project. Amendments to the bill limited the governor’s power by making it impossible to make an existing highway a toll road. So, U.S. 31, U.S. 24, U.S. 30 and any other major highways cannot be tolled by the administration. The bill is a tool for the governor to use, should a company present itself to finance a major highway improvement project.
SB 473 has a ten-year sunset provision, so if nothing is proposed in that ten-year window, this legislation would be re-examined for its necessity and approval by a future legislature. Bottom line is the bill allows the governor to designate a new project a toll road, but does not allow any existing highway to be converted to a toll road. The bill lasts ten years. I voted yes.
The big news of this week didn’t occur until late. The budget projections came in, and they are very positive. According to the estimators, Indiana will bring in approximately $700 million more than the last estimate of state revenue. That can only be described as wonderful news for the budget drafters and all legislators. More available dollars eases the pressure to be restrictive.
Governor Daniels announced that $150 million of new revenue would be dedicated to K-12 education and would complete the funding matrix for full-day kindergarten. This action represents a major support of K-12 education and should please the education community. I am very pleased that the governor and our financial leaders were in agreement on this issue.
This past weekend was a tough one for me and our community. My neighbor and friend, Glen Piotter, passed away Saturday morning. Glen and I had gone to school together, farmed together and had fun together. Both of us understood the importance of agriculture. We just took some divergent courses to accomplish our goals. He leaves behind a loving, hardworking family and successful farming operation. Every community has characters it can’t forget— Glen was one of those. He never required recognition for the many good things that he did. My sympathy and best wishes go out to Helen and the family.
Please continue to communicate your thoughts on legislation and other issues.