Monumental Legislative Session?

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April 25, 2017 2:59 PM

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Monumental Legislative Session?

The Indiana General Assembly adjourned early Saturday morning more than one week ahead of the statutory deadline and today the Dow Jones is up by nearly 400 points. While the legislature might like to claim credit they can be proud of numerous major achievements.

This session began with a focus on improving Indiana’s roads and bridges and they did enact a sustainable long-term funding bill to improve our infrastructure. Indiana can’t be the Crossroads of America without providing good roads.  Transportation is vital to our economic growth and the legislature has provided the financial resources to maintain our advantage.

When fully implemented this bill will provide $1.2 billion per year in new funding, $850 million for state highways and $350 million for local roads. The Mayors and County Commissioners will no longer be able to blame the State for their poor roads.

The funding for the program is based on a user fee philosophy with an increase of 10 cents/gallon in gas tax and a $15 increase in BMV registration fees. Eventually all of the taxes paid at the gas pump, including sales tax, will be dedicated to road funding.

Indiana’s new two year $32 billion state budget played second fiddle to the infrastructure legislation. The budget increased K-12 education funding by $345 million, it increased Indiana State Police pay to make them competitive with other states and it increased funding for Indiana’s Pre-K pilot program so it can be expanded from 5 counties to 20 counties.

A number of other crucial issues were addressed by the General Assembly. The outdated ISTEP K-12 test will be replaced by ILEARN which will be less disruptive to classroom learning, will provide faster results and will provide high school students different pathways for high school diplomas.

Legislation to more effectively address the opioid-abuse epidemic will focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement. Additionally, legislation attempting to align career and technical educational programs with current and future employer requirement was enacted.  To help Hoosier workers earn certifications in high-wage jobs, new Workforce Training Grants were created.

As usual, the legislature had a tendency to wander off script and entertain less important and less supported legislative concepts. However, Speaker Brian Bosma, President Pro Tem David Long and Governor Holcomb did an admirable job of keeping all 150 legislators focused on the truly important items and 2017 was one of the most productive sessions in decades.

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