When the Indiana General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session began in January, the members of the Senate Republican Caucus unveiled a legislative agenda aimed at moving Indiana forward.
We set out goals to improve our road infrastructure, spur regional economic development, establish stronger penalties for illegal drug dealers and support our schools, veterans and farmers.
The legislative session has now concluded and I’m pleased to say that we have delivered on each of our agenda items.
It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of the work done in the General Assembly this year was accomplished in bipartisan fashion. While Americans have grown used to partisan gridlock in Washington D.C., that is not the norm at the Indiana Statehouse. Of the 281 bills the General Assembly passed this session, 97 percent received bipartisan support in the Senate, and 62 percent passed unanimously.
In fact, each of our agenda items passed with bipartisan support. They include:
Funding Our Local Roads: Senate Enrolled Act 67 provides $430 million to local governments for improvements to local roads and bridges. This is part of a larger road funding plan approved by the General Assembly that provides $1 billion for state and local roads over two years with no state tax increases and no new state debt.
Supporting Economic Development: House Enrolled Act 1001, which is primarily a road funding bill, also fully funds a third Regional Cities project using revenues from the 2015 tax amnesty program. With the bill, Northeast Indiana, North Central Indiana and Southwest Indiana will each receive $42 million for long-term, high-impact economic development projects.
Fairness in School Accountability, Teacher Pay: Senate Enrolled Act 200 prevented 2015 school A-F grades from dropping in response to ISTEP problems. House Enrolled Act 1003 removed ISTEP scores and A-F grades from teacher evaluations for one year.
Stopping Drug Dealers: Senate Enrolled Act 290 allows courts to convict people as drug dealers based solely on their possession of a large amount of drugs. Under current law, these people can only be convicted for the lesser crime of possession, not dealing. House Enrolled Act 1235 establishes a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for the worst drug dealers: Level 2 felony heroin and meth dealers with a prior dealing conviction.
Supporting Hoosier Veterans: Senate Enrolled Act 295 allows veterans who served on active duty during any armed conflict to be eligible for one-time financial assistance from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF). The fund is currently only open to post-9/11 veterans. It also provides for a check-off box to be added to Indiana tax return forms, allowing Hoosiers to voluntarily donate a portion of their state tax refund to the MFRF.
Property Tax Relief for Farmers: Senate Enrolled Act 308 would modernize the farmland assessment formula to reduce farmers’ property-tax bills by $16.5 million next year and $49 million in 2018.
Medical Malpractice Reform: Senate Enrolled Act 28 protects both patients and doctors and safeguards the constitutionality of Indiana’s strong medical-malpractice system by increasing the amount an individual can receive for an act of medical malpractice. At the same time, Indiana remains one of the most doctor-friendly states in the nation. This allows Indiana to continue to attract the best doctors to practice in our state.
Even though the Senate is adjourned, we will continue to work on important state and local issues over the summer and fall months as we prepare for the 2017 legislative session.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas to better our state. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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