INDIANAPOLIS -- As we begin the 2009 session of the Indiana General Assembly, we face historic challenges caused by a struggling economy, the need for essential constituent services and the demands on local and state governments.
Even though the news of our finances has been grim, I am optimistic that we will be able to complete our work by the end of April. In particular, I believe we can deliver a budget that will have a positive impact on our state.
As a freshman lawmaker, it is truly amazing to face the many interests and concerns across the district and our state. Through these reports, I will strive to give you a personal perspective of my experience and view of the law-making progress.
Of the 150 members of the Indiana House and Senate, 24 are newcomers. I am intrigued by the broad base of representation among my colleagues.
Our members include people who work in construction, funeral homes, media, insurance, public safety and real estate. We have captains of industry and blue collar workers. There are people who farm and people who run banks. We have attorneys, small business owners and even a few who have retired, but chose to spend their days serving the people of Indiana.
The session began with Organization Day back in November. My official duties started immediately. I have attended numerous meetings and training seminars to learn about the many programs and services that fall under the control of state government.
In the past few weeks, all members have been working on legislation to address changes they feel are needed in state law to improve the delivery of government services. At these times, our greatest resource is the Legislative Services Agency (LSA), a non-partisan agency that provides us with language, research, statistics and a financial impact analysis of all proposed bills.
I come to my new position as your state representative dedicated to the proposal that less government is best. Too often, we micro-manage day-to-day issues that should be left up to the local communities.
It is my hope that in the weeks and months to come, we can focus on the real priorities of Indiana: Strengthening our economy, creating and protecting jobs and giving our children the best possible education.
All of this must be done at a time when there are many uncertainties how we will fund state programs and services. Schools, libraries and local governments are bracing themselves for the year of the unknown.
It is imperative that everyone must tighten their belts. Even state government will have a responsibility to do more with less. My job will be to balance the wishes of my constituents with the realities of a tight budget.
There is no question that we have other hot button issues to discuss. We must consider proposals to reform the operations of local government, the effectiveness of property tax caps, plans to improve our infrastructure and, as always, improve the quality of education provided our children.
There are many deadlines coming in the next several days. On Tuesday, Gov. Daniels will deliver his State of the State address to outline his vision and priorities for the next year.
From now until April 29, there will be a tremendous amount of negotiating between parties and individuals to produce effective, responsible legislation that can help all Hoosiers. It is an exciting time and I look forward to the challenges to come.
I also want to encourage all of you to come to the Statehouse and see your state government in action. If your child is interested in serving as a page, please let me know.
What's the best way to stay in touch? There are several.
First of all, you can look for news and information on my legislative website at www.in.gov.H44.
You can e-mail me at H44@in.gov. You can call on the toll-free Statehouse telephone number at 1-800-382-9842.
And you can write me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, 46204.
I'll be using these reports to keep you updated every week or so about the work we do in Indianapolis, but please don't hesitate to contact me if there's anything I can do to help you.