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[r29] Column: Legislative update: Nearing the halfway point
Start Date: 2/16/2013Start Time: 12:00 PM
End Date: 2/16/2013End Time: 1:59 PM
Entry Description
Legislative update: Nearing the halfway point

It is hard to believe that the General Assembly is only a week and a half away from bills changing houses, signaling the halfway point of session. The legislative debates and discussions over bills this year have pleasantly provided a platform of agreement as many bills have passed with unanimous support. A positive change over the last few years which had been overshadowed by partisan headlines and walkouts; it is so refreshing to be a part of a session where the issues are hashed out in constructive ways that benefit Hoosier families.
 
So far, the bills already passed out of the House will be sent to the Senate in the coming weeks, likewise for the House. I want to cover a few of those bills that passed out of the House so everyone can stay engaged in the issues moving forward. House Bill (HB) 1002, an agenda bill for the House which focuses on bridging the skills and opportunity gaps, passed out of the House with unprecedented bipartisan support. Lead authors on the bill are Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City). The bill will be sponsored in the Senate by both Republican and Democrat leaders as well.
 
HB 1002 brings together the key players involved in Indiana’s job training efforts establishing the Indiana Career Council (ICC). The ICC will be tasked with uniting Indiana’s fragmented education, job skills development and career training system, share data and coordinate all elements of the state’s workforce development efforts. There are multiple agencies that address all of these issues, but greater collaboration is needed to break down the silos of state and local government.
 
The ICC will be chaired by the governor and lieutenant governor with representatives from the public and private sectors including individuals with expertise in career and technical education and military/veterans organizations.  The ICC will develop a strategic plan to improve Indiana’s career and job training system and submit its recommendation to the General Assembly.
 
Indiana has one of the largest National Guards in the country, and the Legislature wants to recognize their efforts. The BMV will be required, in HB 1279, to create a National Guard license plate, in addition to establishing the Special Group Recognition License Plate Committee. The bipartisan committee will make recommendations to the BMV regarding special group recognition license plates adhering to certain criteria. The BMV will also issue a Vietnam Veterans Trust license plate and establish the Operation Homefront Trust Fund, to be funded by veteran’s license plate sales. Our state’s servicemen and women have selflessly served to protect our most coveted freedoms, and the Legislature will continue to support measures that raise awareness and help Hoosier veterans.
 
Another bill to garner bipartisan support is HB 1034, which removes a health care regulation and saves taxpayers money in doctor’s visits. This bill allows a physical therapist to evaluate and treat a patient without a referral by their general physician or chiropractor for 30 days or less.  If the patient requires physical therapy for more than 30 days, a referral will be needed from a general physician or chiropractor.
 
Indiana is the last state to give patients some form of direct access to a physical therapist, a barrier that would be removed upon this bill’s passage into law. This legislation favors patients by eliminating unnecessary referrals, lowering costs and allowing patients to recover more quickly. Hoosiers could be able to make a decision and have affordable access to healthcare options that better suit their specific needs without favoring one provider over another.
 
The last bill that I would like to highlight is HB 1093, which imposes stricter penalties on individuals convicted of hurting a law enforcement animal. The bill requires a court to order a person convicted of injuring or mistreating a law enforcement animal or interfering with the actions of a law enforcement animal while the animal is engaged in assisting a law enforcement officer to pay for the animal if it is disabled or killed. Law enforcement animals cost between $8000-$10,000. Animal cruelty is inexcusable, especially when it comes to members of our state’s law enforcement teams.
 
When it comes to the 2013 session, the major ticket item is the state’s biennial budget. It is the only piece of legislation that legislators are required to pass and must be balanced. More details will be presented in the coming days, but it will focus on protecting Hoosier taxpayers, prioritizing education funding, preserving and enhancing vital services and maintaining the stable fiscal environment necessary to grow the Hoosier economy. All of this will be accomplished while holding firm to our unwavering and proven commitment to fiscal integrity.

This week will be a busy one as we head toward the second and third reading deadlines, Feb. 21 and 25 respectively. On Tuesday, I look forward to hosting my 21st annual "Adult Page Day”. It is a great opportunity to showcase the action at the Statehouse with an insider view.

Next week look for updates on the 2014-15 budget as well as other legislation as it passes the house of origin.
 
-30-
 
State Representative Kathy Kreag Richardson (R-Noblesville)
Contact Information:
Name: Nicholas Goodwin
Phone: 3172329831
Email: ngoodwin@iga.in.gov
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