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June 10, 2011

6/10/11 Even though the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly ended just over a month ago, planning already has started on the 2012 session.

            Our work during the next several months won’t generate as much public attention as it does when the Indiana House and Senate are in session, but this time is critical in determining what issues will define legislative agendas next year.

            That work will be done by interim study committees, which are groups of lawmakers charged with examining a variety of topics under different subject matters. For example, there is one committee that focuses on educational issues, another on economic development, and still another works on utility matters.

            Over the summer and fall, committee members conduct hearings, listen to public testimony and have the time to examine issues in depth.

            Some of the issues that come up for study in the interim were raised during the session earlier this year, when there wasn’t enough time to look into the long-term implications of changes in policy. Other issues reflect concerns brought to the attention of legislators by constituents.

            Then there are topics that are studied over the course of several years, a process that enables legislators to see the progress in implementation of programs and suggest changes that reflect new concerns.

            One subject that falls into this category is determining the ongoing impact of the federal health care reform program on Indiana. Another is gauging the effectiveness of the hybrid system for handling welfare services that replaced the governor’s disastrous plan for privatizing applications and eligibility review for Medicaid and food stamps.

            Many times, the work done in study committees results in legislation that then comes before the General Assembly in January. There also are occasions when the study ends up going nowhere, but this interim affords us the chance to look at ideas without the time crunch of a session.

            This year, legislative leaders chose more than 100 topics for interim study. Here’s a look at a few of those issues:

            The Interim Study Committee on Economic Development will examine the use and effectiveness of tax credits and deductions offered by the state, and the types of improvements that could be made to encourage business investment. I would hope any such study would include determining how state and local governments can get back incentives provided to companies that do not live up to promises of job creation.

            The Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy will consider the implications of phasing out Indiana’s inheritance tax, taxing sales of items purchased on the Internet, and the possibility of establishing a “holiday” during which Indiana residents would not pay a sales tax on their purchases.

            The Interim Study Committee on Redistricting will explore the validity of taking the responsibility for drawing legislative and congressional maps out of the hands of officials elected by the people of Indiana and placing it under the control of an appointed commission.

            The Criminal Law Sentencing and Policy Study Committee will continue its ongoing examination of the need to upgrade Indiana’s criminal justice system. The Criminal Code Evaluation Commission will spend much of its time on a series of proposals designed to protect children.

            As this work gets under way, I will keep you posted on the progress on some of these key issues.

            Throughout the interim, here are the best ways to reach me:

            Call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842;

            Write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204; or

            E-mail me at