INDIANAPOLIS -- During the past week, representatives concluded a review of the bills that started in the Indiana House.
While our days were long, we needed the time to deal with a number of key issues. From air and water quality to job creation to nutrition information in restaurants, we handled practically every type of subject under the sun.
I have talked before about our efforts to create jobs through a statewide stimulus package and to handle the difficult challenge of funding needed state services during an economic downturn by passing a one-year state budget. This week, I want to focus on some of the other proposals that have passed in the House.
Our plans to create jobs go beyond the state stimulus package. HB 1561 will establish a statewide office to help small businesses obtain state and federal tax incentives, while HB 1636 is designed to make it easier for small businesses to obtain loans to start operations. HB 1561 requires the state to hasten development of rural broadband and high speed Internet services across the state.
As we focus on starting and growing businesses, we also want to hold them accountable to their promises. Should an employer fail to deliver on job creation or leave Indiana prior to meeting their obligations, HB 1338 will enable the state to recover tax incentives offered to the company. We also believe employees should have a fair and reasonable notice prior to a mass layoff. HB 1166 requires more employers to give earlier notice when they plan to lay off workers to allow people to adjust and prepare the change.
In an effort to reduce risks on the road, HB 1020 enables a court to issue a probationary license to persons convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, but only if that person uses a vehicle equipped with a functioning certified ignition interlock device. HB 1242 prohibits people under 18 from using a cell phone while driving.
As we looked at the value of health care and other services, HB 1448 would allow people to create an account to pay for eligible long-term care expenses. This would function similarly to health savings accounts.
It should be noted that a number of substantial reforms are being advanced in other areas, particularly to protect those families at risk of losing their homes.
HB 1633 gives a lender and borrower the chance to rework terms of a loan before any foreclosure begins and sets up a mediation process to allow parties to avoid foreclosure. HB 1081 will require landlords to notify tenants if a rental property is being foreclosed and make it easier for homeowners to sign up for homestead and mortgage deductions when they purchase a new home.
House members also approved proposals that will continue to make it easier for people to vote. HB 1099 will make it easier for disabled Hoosiers to vote early and make sure that anyone still in line waiting to vote when a polling place closes will be allowed to cast a ballot. In addition, any student ID issued by a state-accredited university or college will be authorized for use as a valid voter ID.
HB 1235 will expand voting hours on Election Day from 6-8 p.m., to give more people a chance to get to the polls. Under HB 1266, voters casting provisional ballots will receive instructions on the steps they must take to have their vote counted. HB 1346 will guarantee that firefighters, police officers and paramedics still will be able to vote if they are called away from the polls to respond to an emergency.
Additional consumer protections were passed through HB 1121, establishing a unit to investigate identity theft cases, and HB 1512 creating the Silver Alert program to inform the public about missing endangered adults.
With the first phase of the 2009 session complete, we will be taking a short break before moving on to our next assignment. I would like to encourage you to visit the State House before April 29. There are a number of issues facing our state. It is only with your voice that we are able to represent your concerns.
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.