Pharos-Tribune

March 9, 2014

FRIEND: Hashing out our difference


Pharos-Tribune

---- — March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It appears that 2014 has the ability to live up to the old adage!

The Legislature has completed the second half and is in the midst of conference committees. The final two weeks of session are devoted to conference committees, or the time that differences are worked out on bills which the authors have dissented. If a House bill is amended in the Senate and the author agrees with the change, he/she can file a concurrence motion. The bill is then handed down by consent and goes to the governor for his signature. If the House bill is amended by the Senate and the author disagrees, he/she files a dissent motion. A conference committee is appointed to try to work out a compromise.

Four members, one Republican and one Democrat from each chamber, are appointed to the committee. All four signatures are required before a vote from each chamber. If passed by both chambers, it goes to the governor. If it does not pass, it is not dead. The conference committee report can be amended again and brought back for a vote. The danger in this process is that if the clock runs out on the effort – the Legislature must Sine Die (Latin for the last day of session) by March 14 – the legislation fails.

In conversation with the chairman of the Miami County commissioners, Josh Francis, he told me that expenses on overtime for highway workers has maxed out, and the county needs to do an additional appropriation due to this harsh winter. Surely, most counties are experiencing similar circumstances.

The General Assembly continues to consider more funding for highway construction and maintenance. Highway dollars are good for our economy because they put our workers to work right away. We proposed in our agenda, which was unveiled in January, that $400 million be allocated for highway construction with $25 million dedicated to local government. This is still under discussion, but a final proposal will be reached. My wish is that the additional highway funding can stay intact. It would be good for our district and the rest of the state.

I continue to press for language to assist Peru and Logansport community schools with their transportation funds. There is a bill that would allow the schools to co-mingle the protected funds and pay the bills for school buses and their maintenance. Hopefully, I can hold the language in place.

Senate Bill 4 now has language to send to a summer study committee the requirement to produce direction for a statewide trail policy and funding formula for trail maintenance. This is something that is necessary for proper relationships between trail advocates and adjacent land owners.

My neighbor, who has the LP gas business, told me that her price to customers is “down” to $2.99/gal. She remains cautiously optimistic about an improvement in price. Supply has improved and restrictions have been removed. This situation – winter and all – has to improve!

Miami County recently lost a good man, Jim Stephenson; many people considered him an institution. He had been a soldier, farmer, teacher and county government official for many years. Jim taught at North Miami, and everyone remembers his government class. Newspapers and World War II were his hallmarks. On the county council his stern, conservative viewpoint was constant. Jim was a guiding light for many, and he will be missed!

Thanks for your communications. The legislature is near the end for this year.

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