When the Indiana General Assembly convened in January for the start of the 2016 legislative session, the Senate Republican Caucus laid out an agenda aimed at moving our state forward in several key areas of public policy.
We are now beyond the halfway point of the session, and I’m pleased to report that all but one of our agenda items have passed the Senate and are moving forward in the legislative process.
The Senate has passed legislation that supports our educators, farmers and veterans. We’ve created a plan that funds much-needed improvement to our state infrastructure, expanded our support for regional economic development, and advanced a variety of approaches to fight the scourge of illegal drugs in our communities.
Senate Bill 200 and House Bill 1003, which were fast tracked through the legislature and have been signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, will prevent the problem-plagued 2015 ISTEP test from negatively affecting schools’ A-F performance grades and teacher pay. This positive move for our schools was the result of bipartisan cooperation among the General Assembly, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.
Senate Bill 308 is aimed at preventing spikes in farmers’ property tax bills by changing the formula for farmland property-tax assessment and permanently halting an increase in soil productivity factors.
The Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) is strengthened by Senate Bills 295 and 233, which allow veterans who have served on active duty during any armed conflict to receive MFRF financial assistance, and give Hoosiers an opportunity to donate a portion of their tax returns to the MFRF.
Senate Bill 67, which received nearly unanimous support in the Senate, provides local governments across the state with $430 million in funding for local road and bridge improvements.
Under Senate Bill 302, a third “Regional Cities” economic development project is being fully funded using revenues from the state’s 2015 tax amnesty program. Northeast Indiana, North Central Indiana, and Southwest Indiana will each receive $42 million for long-term, high-impact economic development projects.
Finally, Senate Bill 290 would give additional tools to our law enforcement community by allowing courts to convict people caught with large amounts of drugs as dealers, not just users.
Having passed the Senate, all of these important issues are now being considered by the House of Representatives as the legislative session moves toward its conclusion in mid-March.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas concerning these and other topics. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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