INDIANAPOLIS -- The end of January is quickly approaching and we have just concluded another week of activities and celebrations that I will remember forever.
The week began with the observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., followed by the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama. It is hard to put into words the impact of the many images that came into our living rooms from the nation's capital last Tuesday. It was one of the proudest days in this country's history.
This past week also had a personal impact for me in my first session as a state representative. I am pleased to report that the members of the House Commerce, Energy, Technology and Utilities Committee approved my first bill (House Bill 1669), which would create a Geothermal Conversion Revolving Loan Fund for Schools.
Explaining how a bill becomes a law is something I've had to do many times already, even though I just started in this job. But all the explanations in the world do not prepared you for the experience of getting up in front of a group of your peers and convincing them that the bill you've filed has to become the law of the land for the people of Indiana.
Fortunately, I had a tremendous amount of research and documentation provided to sell the merits of my bill. My chief support came from a group of DePauwUniversity students who worked last summer and fall on issues affecting the environment that could be turned into public policy.
Thanks to the hard work of DePauw senior Michael Lutz and sophomore Taylor Cantril, we crafted a measure that offers geothermal as an alternative form of energy for schools.
House Bill 1669 would establish a revolving fund for the purpose of making loans to school corporations that either install a geothermal heating and cooling system in a new facility or replace a conventional heating and cooling system with a geothermal system. The bill also seeks $2 million in state funding to get the program started through loans.
As I prepared for my testimony and presentation, I cannot begin to explain the anticipation I felt before this meeting. Over the years, I have watched legislators in action and come away with great admiration of their skills and confidence in presenting ideas before 149 other lawmakers. Never before had I thought about carrying public policy that would undergo the scrutiny of seasoned members, who knew how to ask the hard questions before voting on a bill that would become law.
In preparation for our testimony, we spent many hours discussing the points that needed to be covered and talked to those individuals who needed to speak on our behalf. It was my job to educate committee members on the merits of a bill in a meeting where our time is limited and the general knowledge of the issue can range from extensive to only slightly familiar.
There were many questions from committee members. We were asked to compare the costs of the system against the savings on utility costs. We had to explain how a geothermal system worked. We showed how the program would be funded, how the state would provide money to schools that might be interested in changing their systems, and how those funds would be repaid to the state. Finally, we talked about the long-term savings to Indiana taxpayers.
We provided a lot of information in a short period of time. I am grateful for the ideas and the hard work that came from the students. We also had great supporting testimony from energy groups, environmentalists, a geothermal manufacturer and even the Indiana Superintendents Association.
Thanks to them, the bill passed 10-0.
One hurdle has been cleared. The next step will be to take this matter before the full House. First, all members will have a chance to offer amendments as the bill goes through second reading. Once that step is cleared, House Bill 1669 will be ready for final approval in the House...which paves the way for the measure to go before the Indiana Senate, where the process starts all over again.
I hope you will take with opportunity to watch the progress of the many bills being introduced in the House and Senate. Should you have any feedback on the merits of the language being considered on any issue, I hope you will take the time to call or write my office. Your opinion and thoughts are important.
To reach me, you can call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-392-9842, write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204, or reach me through my web site at www.in.gov/H44