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STATEHOUSE REPORT FROM REP. NANCY DEMBOWSKI

February 13, 2012
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02/ 14/12 With the 2012 legislative session at its midway point, let’s talk about what the Indiana House has done on bills that didn’t get as much attention as “right to work for less.”

Of the 400-plus measures filed in the House this session, 108 bills received final approval in our chamber and were sent to the Indiana Senate for consideration.

Here are a few highlights.

House Bill 1149 would outlaw smoking in most public establishments or workplaces. Bars would be given 18 months to transition into the smoking ban if it becomes law, while exemptions could be granted to fraternal organizations and veterans’ clubs, as well as casinos.

Among the election reforms passed in the House was correction of a mistake made last year that kept unopposed candidates off the ballot and created confusion among voters (HB 1004). I pushed to expand these reforms to include more transparency giving the public more information about who makes contributions to candidates. The House majority rejected this proposal.

HB 1005 reduces the risks of abuses in local government operations caused by nepotism. However, this legislation also contains changes that I feel unfairly prevent volunteer firefighters from running for some elected offices at the county and township levels.

Additional measures were approved under the guise of reducing government bureaucracy. HB 1002 gets rid of more than 20 state boards and commissions, and consolidates the functions of a number of other panels.

I am all for reducing the size of government, but I wonder sometimes whether this movement actually takes the time to consider the long-range effects of such moves. An effort to deregulate professions like barbers, beauticians, dieticians, and hearing aid dealers (HB 1006) lost steam when the people most affected by it began to point out how it would hurt their businesses. The author eventually pulled the bill.

I’m also concerned about legislation (HB 1220) that would give the state’s Higher Education Commission the power to tell our public colleges and universities how many credits are needed to complete work on a degree. In effect, this commission would have the ability to overrule decisions made by trustees at our public universities. Should these decisions be made in Indianapolis?

It also bothers me that those in charge of this Legislature seem unwilling to consider taking strong steps forward in the areas that concern most Hoosiers: finding good-paying jobs and getting some kind of tax relief.

Consider that we passed several bills affecting the construction of facilities built with your tax dollars, but the majority rejected any efforts to make it a priority for Hoosier workers and Hoosier companies to get these jobs. The majority even turned back attempts to use U.S.-built products on these projects.

What did we pass instead?

Measures that ban novelty lighters (HB 1056), allow people to ride golf carts in unincorporated areas of the state (HB 1013), and require some mopeds to be titled and registered with the state (HB 1197). However, we did not act on a proposal to study establishments that allow you to roll your own cigarettes (HB 1031).

I know these issues are important, too, but spending so much time on them makes me wonder about our priorities.

Put it this way. Shouldn’t we have devoted more energy to passing a Hoosier Job Creation Tax Credit to encourage small businesses to hire the unemployed? Or giving all families with children a break from our textbook tax? Or giving those families a sales tax holiday to help pay for the stuff their kids need to go back to school? How about just cutting taxes for families, like we’ve done for corporations the past few years?

Getting Hoosiers back to work and cutting taxes for families remain my primary goals in the weeks to come, as we turn our attention to legislation coming to the House from the state Senate.

Here’s how you can stay in touch with me through the rest of the 2012 legislative session:

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.

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