February 9, 2014

FRIEND: Halftime for the Legislature


---- — Groundhog Day! Who really cares? This winter seems to go on and on and on! School administrators and teachers are contem-plating just what to do to make up all the days. It is really difficult for the superintendents to make the call early every morning when the weather is bad. There will be some difficult decisions made about make-up days. Except for the first day, the bad weather hasn’t kept us from having session in Indianapolis.

In Logansport, the “Gotta Go” initiative at Columbia Elementary is finally back on track after not having funding for the last few years. The program takes students to an Indiana college to teach them the basics of college and encourage them to pursue higher education. It was in the paper recently that they went to Indiana University Kokomo and got to experience science experiments, a nursing simulation center and an observatory. It is a great program that opens young people’s eyes to higher education and what is possible for them. I hope the program continues for many years to come.

Employers have been vocal about the lack of adequately skilled and trained candidates for a growing number of job vacancies. In response, the House Republicans put forth HB1003, which encourages a stronger partnership between businesses and schools. Students in high school and college would have the opportunity to get valuable work experience in addition to their studies, and employers would be given a tax incentive to hire these students once they graduate; a win-win situation. This will help better align local schools and local employers, so students have the opportunity to join the workforce upon graduation.

All of these projects equate to more jobs and continued economic activity in the state. Job creation is our No. 1 priority and is the focus of another agenda bill, HB1002, that also passed out of the House.

HB1002 garnered overwhelming bipartisan support to free up $400 million for INDOT to immediately fund several road construction projects. This money was already set aside last year in the Major Moves 2020 Fund for future road construction projects. INDOT has outlined 12 major, capacity expansion projects for I-65, I-70 and I-69 that could be started with the extra money. In addition to this transfer, local governments would see an increase of $25 million for local roadway improvements.

The propane shortage is quickly becoming a crisis as the arctic weather and snow continues to cover our region of the state. Last week, Gov. Mike Pence announced a set of actions that the state is taking in response to this issue we are facing. He declared an energy emergency and is allowing propane transporters to drive longer distances and carry more propane. An additional $5 million was made available to help low-income families afford the rising prices due to the low supply. Please do what you can to conserve your propane usage. If you have excess propane, consider selling some of it back to help your neighbors in need. This brutal winter has created a dire situation for us. We need to stick together and help each other out until warmer weather arrives.

We are at the halfway point with this year’s session. The bills that have passed the Senate will now be discussed in the House and vice versa. As always, I’ll keep you in the loop as bills progress through the legislative process. It’s your government, stay involved.

Bill Friend, is a Republican representing District 23 in the Indiana House of Representatives. You can reach him at 317-232-9831.