INDIANAPOLIS -- Hoosiers across Indiana should be pleased by the fact that this year's freshmen class of state representatives came into the Statehouse with a bipartisan spirit and a true reformist attitude.
On the national level, freshmen lawmakers are often shunted from the legislative process, unable to gain the support they need to see their ideas come to fruition.
That was not the case this year at the Statehouse. Freshmen legislators in the Indiana House carried important reforms in the mortgage lending, economic development, agriculture, victims' rights, local government and the enhancement of youth services. In fact, of the 184 bills passed this year, 22 were authored by freshmen representatives.
Of that number, I was successful in carrying four bills that have been signed by the governor and are set to become law July 1, 2009. Two of those bills are designed to spur economic development in struggling communities, lending Hoosier families a helping hand during this time of financial upheaval. House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1434 establishes a job recruitment grant program for counties that exceed the average state unemployment rate by at least 2 percent. The state jobless rate is currently at 10 percent and climbing.
Local economic development organizations in these counties will collaborate with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to find ways to attract new businesses to struggling areas. The grant money -- to be funded through federal stimulus dollars -- will be used to finance new ideas that come to mind.
At present, an astonishing 30 counties will be eligible for the new program.
A companion measure, HEA 1434, is meant to help small businesses manage their specific set of financial problems.
The legislation requires the IEDC to enhance its small business division, which will create a network of public, private and educational resources to assist businesses with less than 150 employees. The division will help small business owners access state and federal tax credits in addition to other programs that will assist their operations.
Small businesses are the heart and soul of Indiana. For Indiana to lose its small business investors during the recession would be a travesty to the Hoosier way of life.
The idea for another key piece of legislation that I was able to usher through the General Assembly was brought to me by two DePauw University students, senior Michael Lutz and sophomore Taylor Cantrill.
The measure creates a state loan program to help school corporations install geothermal heating and cooling systems. These units make use of the Earth's natural energy, cutting down on utility expenses and reducing reliance on more polluting forms of power.
Michael and Taylor were invaluable in helping me get this bill passed. They testified before a key House committee on the numerous ways geothermal systems can benefit our state.
Lastly, the General Assembly passed HEA 1671, which is aimed at addressing the shortage of qualified nurses working in the direct patient care. The legislation reforms the Indiana nursing scholarship program by requiring scholarship recipients to work in a direct patient care facility (like a hospital, nursing home or home care setting) for at least two years after earning their degree.
I am proud to have passed this legislation during my first year in the General Assembly. This is a wonderful opportunity to improve the government process and change lives.
I am currently working through the district to talk with people about issues of concern. My responsibility during the summer and fall months is to connect constituents with the State and to answer questions about our laws and services. Additionally, I will prepare myself on matters that will be addressed during the 2010 short session.
I look forward to hearing from you in the days ahead. You may contact my office by writing to the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, Ind., 46204, or by calling the toll free Statehouse number at 1-800-382-9842.
You may also post comments on my website at www.in.gov/H44. I look forward to hearing from you.