INDIANAPOLIS -- Lawmakers have returned from a long weekend to begin round two of the legislative process.
The highlight of the week was a visit from the new Miss America, Katie Stam, from Brownstown in southern Indiana.
We proudly acknowledged her success with many congratulatory remarks and a resolution honoring her year of service. Over the next year, she will travel our nation to promote healthy lifestyles, education, child issues and a variety of causes that are important for our welfare.
Despite the reduced number of eligible bills, this is the busiest time of the year for legislators in both the House and Senate. For the next month or so, we will repeat the process of committee hearings and debates on the floor.
I would describe the past week's activities as the calm before the storm. Bills are being assigned to committees and members are studying the merits of the 196 measures passed by the Senate.
To date, I have partnered with Senator Lawson on Senate Bills 245 and 246. Representatives serve as the sponsors for the Senate bills. It will be my duty to guide these bills through House committees and speak on their behalf before the entire House.
This is a moment in the process that we will juggle the work in two chambers. It can get very interesting, particularly when we have to speak on multiple measures at the same time in different locations around the Statehouse.
The focus for the Senate during the next few weeks will be the one-year budget, 245 other bills, and a joint resolution passed out of the House. I will be monitoring their work and keep you posted on changes they make.
I believe that it is important for us to continue working on initiatives that help create jobs and provide better management of state services at a lower cost to taxpayers. I am hopeful that the Senate can protect or improve our plan to provide additional support for schools and health related matters.
The House members will now focus on a number of reform matters. Property tax caps, local government reform and government spending have been the hottest issues from my district. The Senate has adopted language that speaks to the Kernan-Shepard Report to streamline local government services.
Initially, the report recommended everything from school and library consolidation to making most county officers appointed rather than elected, including sheriffs, clerks, auditors and treasurers. The recommendation also advocated replacing county commissioners with an elected county executive.
Many of these proposals did not survive the Senate. What is left is contained in a series of bills that call for, among other things, reforms in how elections are run and greater oversight of the operations of township government.
SB 506 enables 90 of 92 state counties to replace commissioners with a single elected chief executive or a board of county supervisors, but only if the commissioners choose to make the change themselves or leave it up to county residents in a public referendum. SB 512 deals with the elimination of township government. I will have more information about these proposals in the weeks to come.
I have received a number of completed surveys. I am reminded daily of my responsibilities to pass good legislation but to also help with constituent questions and services. I thank you for taking time to respond to the questionnaire. Your feedback and written comments help me better understand your position on these important issues and priorities for our state.
I hope that you will weigh in on the issues before us. I invite you to attend the cracker barrel sessions scheduled for March 14 in Vigo County and March 21 in Putnam and Clay counties. It is important to voice your concerns early. During the legislative updates, you can share your thoughts with other representatives and residents in the district.
If you need to reach me during the 2009 sessions, you can call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842, write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, Ind., 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.