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April 27, 2011
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04/28/11 Every year is different, every spring is different. 2011 has certainly been an example of how the weather can prove to be so fickle and unpredictable. The rain and storms have farmers and landowners beginning to exhibit some nervousness. One of my old landlords had a saying, “A wet year will scare you to death, but a dry year will starve you to death!”

Farmers always have had to overcome some fears about the crop year ahead. The vast majority will, “hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.” We need to accept the obvious; this is going to be a late spring.

The General Assembly moves towards the April 29 statutory deadline in a deliberate fashion. New maps were approved in the House and sent to the Senate for consideration. Under the proposed bill, House District 23 (which I currently represent) will change dramatically. Instead of going from Grissom Air Force Base to Elkhart, the “new” District 23 will be more compact and include all of Miami County, except Jackson Township. It will cover northeastern Cass County (including most of Logansport) and Jackson Township (Galveston) in Cass County. One township in Fulton County (Liberty) will also be within the 23rd district.

The proposed congressional maps take District 23 in two directions. Cass County will be in the 4th congressional district, and Miami and Fulton Counties will be in the 2nd congressional district. The major population center for the 4th district will be Lafayette and for the 2nd district it will be South Bend/Elkhart. Thinking, planning and acting may have to change as these are directional alterations for these counties. I will try to write more in the future about the maps and new districts.

Debate over the two-year budget will be in conference committee this week. Some of the discussion will focus on additional funding for education. Another point is a taxpayer repayment plan proposed by the governor. He wants all funds exceeding 10 percent of the operating funds to be given back to taxpayers. The Senate wants to dedicate everything above 12 percent of operating funds to the unfunded teachers’ pension fund liability. This may seem simple to solve, just a little compromise. It may be more complicated than that.

The Senate budget also includes an anti-bolting measure aimed at keeping legislators in their seats to fulfill their constitutional duty and voting on bills. The amendment would levy a $1,000 per day fine if a walkout is initiated by either caucus. Neither party would be immune from this action. The controversy of this amendment should not be lost on anyone. After a five-week hiatus, the whole institution is very sensitive.

As a point of information, I was excused on Thursday, April 21, to attend the funeral of my neighbor and friend, Glen Piotter. Perhaps some of you knew him as well. Even elected legislators have to stop and bury the dead. We have friends and family and care about them, just as you care for your loved ones. Glen was a close friend of mine and I knew him for years. He will be missed by many of us in the community.

Our session is scheduled to end this week—and it should, but we’ll have to wait and see. If there are complications, my next column will explain the issues. I do appreciate your communications, and I try to respond to them all. Please stay in touch. It is your government.

More later,

Bill Friend

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