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Monday, May 2, 2016

Representatives address concerns

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CORY---- At Saturday's Cracker Barrel at the Cory Firehouse, several residents got to ask questions of the representatives present including State Representatives Bob Heaton (House District 46), Jim Baird (House District 44), Alan Morrison (House District 42), Senator Tim Skinner (District 38) and Senator John Waterman (District 39).

The first question centered on the gas tax. A concerned citizen asked why the fuel tax has increased because of the popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles. He argued the fuel tax should not increase just because there are those who are able to purchase cars that use little fuel. He was also concerned about the $25 increase on license plates, saying that he owns 12 vehicles for his farm and the cost of his license plates is increasing dramatically.

Skinner was the first to address his question, saying because people are using less fuel, the gas tax collection is going down. Skinner defended his proposed legislation, saying it would not increase taxes but would take the previously existing fuel tax and put it toward local communities.

Baird spoke up, suggesting funds be pulled out of the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and put back into civil taxes.

Another citizen spoke up to say most people in Clay County drive pickup trucks, and that the county doesn't see any benefit of the fuel tax increase.

Baird said an analysis of the number of non-rural pickups and rural pickups is being worked on to address the issue.

The second question asked concerned Interstate-70 and when construction on I-70 in Clay County would be finished.

"We have made some progress on I-70," Skinner said, "but it's taken us a long, long time to get there. At some point in time I'm hoping that we have a three-lane I-70, but when that will be done with the state of our taxes, I couldn't tell you."

One person spoke up to say Indiana is the only state to build a new highway (Interstate-69), and all other states are improving on existing highways.

The next question concerned the recent flooding on state roads. A citizen asked if there was any way the state could provide barriers or some kind of signage that would stop citizens from driving into dangerous water conditions.

Waterman responded by saying the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) should handle the issue but the state highway department should have also assisted.

Next, a concerned citizen addressed safety in schools, arguing there should be bulletproof glass in school offices and visitors should have to show their IDs upon entering the office.

"We need to put our kids first and not put them in harms way," he said. "Legislators and all others need to work together to get this done."

Heaton spoke up saying, "That's a good comment especially concerning what's happened lately. The situation in Newtown really opened everyone's eyes."

Heaton said he has heard of different bills that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools.

Several other citizens addressed the issue, suggesting bulletproof glass, guards in schools and locking classroom doors.

Skinner, a former educator, said safety measures often come down to money.

"After Columbine, things changed," Skinner said. "Newtown taught us that Columbine wasn't a fluke, and that it could happen again. Unfortunately, it will come down to how much these things will cost and how safe these measures will really make the kids."

One citizen mentioned the fact that citizens pay tax dollars to put police at the state house to protect government leaders. He argued that, in the same way, we should use tax dollars to protect children.

Morrison spoke up by saying those in the statehouse are allowed to carry concealed weapons, and it is "complete hypocrisy for us to tell teachers or staff members in a school that they can't carry guns. Why are our lives more important than the lives of children?"

Several people spoke up saying that allowing teachers to carry guns would only promote more violence.

Finally, the topic of conversation moved to statewide testing and public education.

"Testing focuses on math, science and English and less on vocational skills," Skinner said. "We're hoping to talk more about this at the government level as there has been a renewed interest in technical and vocational skills in schools."

One citizen spoke up to say teachers are pressured by the ISTEP+ tests to teach toward the tests, and teachers who teach well but who have students who are falling behind are being penalized for their students' test scores.

Morrison said there has to be some way of measuring the success of the schools.

"We have to test so we know that the taxpayer money is going somewhere," Morrison said.

Skinner said the ISTEP+ test will be phased out eventually, and Waterman said Governor Mike Pence and State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz are working on getting rid of it.

Skinner also said much is being done to change education in the state of Indiana.

"Reform movements are happening all over the United States concerning testing," Skinner said. "I have always voted against (former State Superintendent of Education) Tony Bennett. It seemed that bills were handed to him and not a lot of thought was put into them. He never talked to teachers. I believe Glenda Ritz will fine tune education in our state."

Skinner said there is too much negativity when it comes to education in Indiana.

"We need to stop beating up on teachers and administrators," Skinner said. "Never once have I blamed a teacher for what I did not learn. We have not given education a chance to see what it can do."

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