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February 4, 2011

02/07/11 Here is how unemployment insurance “reform” is currently defined by those in control of the Indiana General Assembly:

            If you have lost your job and are trying to support your family while you’re looking for work, your weekly unemployment benefits will be cut by 25 percent.

            If you own a small business, you will see the taxes you are charged to help finance the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund go up substantially.

            If you run a large corporation, you’ll get to wait before you pay your share of the freight to pay for the fund, which owes more than $2 billion to the federal government. In some cases, you’ll even see your taxes go down.

            These unemployment insurance “reforms” authored by the House majority are contained in House Bill 1450, which passed out of the chamber this week. They are expected to move quickly through the Indiana Senate, so there is a good chance these changes will be law before too much longer.

            I opposed House Bill 1450 because these “reforms” will be a disaster for families with members who are out of work. The average weekly benefit for workers will be cut from $283 to $212, a drop of about 25 percent.

            That is the money these families rely upon to pay for food, utilities, rent and other necessities while parents are trying to find jobs.

            The cuts are described by advocates of “reform” as the sacrifice that unemployed Hoosiers must make to solve the problems facing the benefit system, but I believe the true impact will be forcing many of these folks to turn to other government assistance programs for help at a time when the funding for those programs also is being cut.

            This “reform” also will hurt small businesses across Indiana, which will see the taxes they pay for financing the benefit system go up in the years to come. Compare their burden with that faced by the larger businesses and corporations in our state, many of which actually will see cuts in the unemployment taxes they pay.

            But it is the people who are supposed to be helped by this system that will be hurt the most. These folks are not freeloaders. They lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and they are trying to find work so they can take care of their families. Now they are told that they will have to do more with less, while some employers won’t have to make any sacrifices at all. You tell me if that is right.

            Let me make one final point. The best way to fix Indiana’s bankrupt unemployment system is to get Hoosiers back to work. We have been in session for one month, and those in charge of the Legislature and the governor’s office have yet to make one new proposal to create jobs in Indiana.

            There has been action on other issues at the Statehouse. Here are some measures the House has passed in recent days.

            House Bill 1018 calls for a smoking ban in most public places across Indiana. There are a number of exceptions to this ban: casinos, racinos, riverboats, bars and taverns, and designated smoking areas in nursing homes and private service clubs like the VFW, American Legion and Elks.

            House Bill 1129 prohibits a person from sending an e-mail or text message while driving a motor vehicle. The penalty for violation would be a fine of up to $500.

            House Bill 1102 would ban the possession and sale of synthetic marijuana, which is more commonly known by names like spice or K2. Many counties across the state have acted to prohibit this substance, which has caused adverse reactions like heart and breathing problems and been blamed for contributing to some deaths.

            If you want to talk to me about any of the issues being debated in this session – or if your child would be interested in serving as a page in the House and you would like to get more information about the program – here are a few ways to stay in touch.

            You can 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 send a message to my web site at While visiting my web site, you also can sign up to receive regular e-mail updates from the Legislature.