05/09/11 We begin our review of the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly with an overview of what has taken place these past four months.
Here are the results of our work, purely by the numbers:
Over 1,200 bills were filed in the Indiana House and Senate this year, with more than 230 bills and two joint resolutions making it through the process and going to the governor’s desk for final approval.
Throughout this session, I have talked quite a bit about the damage that is going to be done through a majority agenda that I believe can be fairly termed radical in its intent. In the weeks to come, I intend to go into greater detail about some of the proposals that are about to become law in Indiana and give you an idea what’s coming.
For this week’s Report, I want to highlight a few bills that I haven’t talked about as much, but may have just as great an impact for you.
Last year, the Legislature passed a law that asks everyone who is buying carry-out alcohol to prove that they were at least 21 years of age. While the idea might have been to help curb underage drinking, this law created all sorts of headaches for people who were obviously older than 21. I’m not sure the cause of justice was helped by asking World War II veterans to show their IDs when they bought beer at their local grocery stores.
This year, we changed the age limit. Now store clerks will be asked to card only those customers who appear to be younger than 40 years of age.
It will soon be illegal for all drivers to send or read text messages when they are behind the wheel, extending a ban currently in effect for drivers under 18 years of age.
We took additional steps to make it easier for law enforcement officials to track the use of those materials used to make the drug methamphetamine. We also chose to ban the possession and sale of a synthetic marijuana commonly known under names like spice. Many counties already had taken steps to prohibit this drug, which has caused adverse reactions and possibly contributed to some deaths.
Counties have gained the ability to establish vote centers, which provide polls at several centralized locations instead of each precinct. These centers have gained attention as a possible means to conduct elections that could be less expensive and possibly more accessible for voters. Those points have yet to be proven, and I wish our state would spend more time exploring other options like early voting by mail.
Concerns over the potential risks caused by concussions on the football field led us to pass legislation that would prohibit a high school student athlete suspected of suffering some type of head injury from returning to play until he or she receives clearance from a licensed health care provider.
You also may know that we did take the first step in placing a ban on gay marriage into our Indiana constitution. The Legislature will be required to approve this proposal a second time in either the 2013 or 2014 session before it goes on the ballot before Hoosier voters in 2014. There already is a ban against gay marriage in Indiana law (Indiana Code 31-11-1-1) that has survived court challenges.
You may not know that voters might get a chance in 2014 to vote on a second addition to the state constitution: the right to hunt and fish.
It’s also fair to mention some of the legislation that didn’t pass this year.
We did not pass a statewide smoking ban in Indiana. Attempts were made, but many lawmakers found there were too many exceptions to the ban to make it effective.
The governor continues to push plans to reduce the size of local government, without much success. He still has a problem convincing people that this reduction in size will not cause a loss of critical services.
And it must be mentioned that the majorities failed to advance proposals that would have harmed your ability to earn a decent wage and other benefits like health insurance that would enable you to better care for your families. In light of what did pass this year, I think this failure was a success.
This is only a taste of what took place in 2011. More is coming in the weeks ahead.
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 H17@in.gov.