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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Baird seeing another side of government

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jim Baird
INDIANAPOLIS -- For freshmen members of the Indiana House of Representatives, it's been an odd first session.

The five-week walkout by House Democrats has made for a surreal few months for all house members on both sides of the aisle.

For the newbies, like Greencastle's Jim Baird, there still isn't a concept of what a "normal" session is like.

On the other hand, the former Putnam County Commissioner went to Indianapolis with the goal of learning as much as he could about the process of state government. On that front, he has succeeded in spite of the strangeness of the session.

"One of the goals I had was I wanted to know where the money came from and where it was going," Baird said.

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he has had this opportunity.

A big concern for county commissioners throughout the state is transportation funding. As urban, suburban and rural counties all try to divide up the pie, each county can feel it's getting the short straw.

As an example, counties receive funding for roads based on registered passenger cars, but not for pickups or SUVs. Since District 44 is largely rural, Baird has an interest in seeing this change.

"That's concerning to some of us in rural areas," Baird said.

The other side of the arguments, though, is that city roads are wider and more heavily traveled than some country roads.

In discussions with other representatives, Baird now understands the urban counties have a different set of arguments.

"They said, 'If you want to start counting pickups, we want to start counting lane miles instead of road miles,'" Baird said.

With the nature of state allocations being as complicated as it is, the issues aren't always cut and dried.

More broadly, Baird has found the process of a bill becoming a law -- from drafting, to committee, to one chamber, to the other chamber and to the governor's desk -- is an arduous process.

"What you see being discussed at the very beginning is not always what you see going to the governor," Baird said. "All that discussion in between is important."

The unprecedented delay to the session has made this an especially busy April at the Statehouse. Although there are only three weeks left to the session, the process is only at the "halfway point," when bills flip from the House to the Senate and from the Senate to the House.

"We have less than four weeks now to complete two months worth of work," House Speaker Brian Bosma said.

"But we are very committed to making it happen."

As such, Baird has been dividing his nights between Indianapolis and his rural Greencastle home, making the hour-long commute about half the time and staying in the capital city the rest of the time.

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