Along with our President and members of Congress, the lawmakers in Indiana are working hard to deliver a financial package that will create jobs, provide funding for infrastructure projects and provide support for public schools.
During this past week, the House agreed to approve a transportation bill that would provide $1 billion for local units of government.
House Bill 1656, which passed by an 88-11 margin, will provide $500 million for counties and $500 million for cities and towns across Indiana.
If approved in the Senate, counties, cities and towns will have the ability to move immediate "shovel ready" projects within the next two years. The plan will require local units to act quickly, but the reality will be more money for elected officials to build and renovate roads, streets and bridges.
Language included in HB 1656 also preserves major construction projects already on the list under the Major Moves program. It contains a goal for "Indiana Worker Preference" and institutes a "Buy Indiana" clause.
The worker preference language will ensure that contractors and subcontractors working on government projects place a priority on using Indiana workings. In regard to Buy Indiana, any state or local agency procuring goods or materials must require those goods to be made in our state, unless the price is found to be unreasonable.
Lastly, the bill protects hundreds of state-funded road and bridge improvements across Indiana scheduled to be completed over the next several years, and reaffirms the state's commitment to large scale projects, such as the I-69 extension in southern Indiana.
Under this bill, Parke County would receive $2.8 million, Putnam County $3.9 million, Clay County $3.2 million and Vigo County $7.6 million. Remember those figures don't even include the amounts that incorporated communities in this area would receive.
Another success this week was passage of an education proposal (House Bill 1723) that will provide a 2 percent increase in state support for schools and ensure that no school corporation will receive less than the current funding levels. This is a one-year funding proposal. I believe that this strategy will allow us more time to see the true effects of the stimulus package on our economy.
Schools are an important aspect of our government. We have a constitutional responsibility to provide an education to our younger generation. The investment we make in education is critical.
Both of these measures now move to the Indiana Senate, where they will receive full hearings. I'm sure both will be changed, with negotiators sitting down near the end of the session to reach final compromises. It certainly is good to see the Legislature take positive steps on two such important issues.
Other bills under debate call for the establishment of a unit to investigate cases of identity theft (HB 1121), expand criminal history background checks for people seeking to obtain or renew a teaching license (HB 1462), create a Silver Alert program to inform the public about missing endangered adults (HB 1512), provide a senior citizen jury exemption (HB 1686), reimburse health care services for certain county prisoners (HB 1182) and extend the hours that a polling place is open on Election Day from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (HB 1235).
If you need to reach me during the 2009 session, you can call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number at 1-800-382-9842, write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, 46204, or submit your comments to my website at www.in.gov/H44.
While visiting my website, you also can sign up to receive regular e-mail updates from the legislature.