INDIANAPOLIS -- This has seemed like the longest short session of the Indiana General Assembly but I am happy to report that our work is done for 2010.
During the final push of completing our legislative session, we were able to pass a number of substantial proposals to benefit the people of our state.
I will be covering many of our accomplishments in the weeks ahead, but I would like to highlight some of the legislation that has been approved in the past few months:
* Passage of job creation proposals that can bring hope for more than 300,000 Hoosiers who are out of work.
* Greater accountability from employers who receive taxpayer incentives and better protections for their workers.
* Funding flexibility to help schools reeling from the loss of $500 million in state support.
* Ethics reform to restore public trust in state government; and
* Allowing Hoosier voters the opportunity to decide if the 1-2-3 property tax caps should go into the Indiana Constitution.
I will talk about all of these achievements in more detail in my next Report. This week, I want to focus on the work we did in our final hours on the House floor.
First, I am pleased that we were able to pass legislation that addresses our priority of creating jobs. Almost every provision of the Hoosiers First plan that received bipartisan support in the Indiana House earlier this session was approved and will be going to the governor for his signature.
Our efforts emphasizes the assistance needed for Indiana's small businesses, which often get neglected in our state's economic development programs, even though they employ 1.3 million Hoosiers.
Small businesses will have access to EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) credits for the first time. An ombudsman will be brought on line to help small businesses work more efficiently with state government.
Two new programs will emphasize job creation. A new employer tax credit will be offered to encourage companies to come to Indiana and the new HIRE (Helping Indiana Restart Employment) program will go after $100 million in federal stimulus dollars to reimburse companies that hire new workers.
We elected to provide a one-year delay in the implementation of the unemployment premium increase that was approved by the Legislature in 2009. Over the past two months, we have heard from business and industry about the financial hardship this would create in our current economic environment. While it is still our obligation to pay our debt to the federal government, it was decided that holding off during these tough economic times would prove to be beneficial to those providing jobs.
As we provide incentives for employers to invest in Indiana, we are also asking them to be more accountable. A new "clawback" program will enable state government to reclaim taxpayer-financed benefits from companies that do not live up to promises of creating new jobs.
We also set up a system to take action against employers who wrongly fail to provide health insurance, Social Security, pensions, workers compensation and other benefits for their employees. This became a topic of discussion as we worked through concerns of employee misclassification.
Additionally, we dealt with funding flexibility for schools. House Bill 1367 will help our schools as they try to cope with the cuts in state support. This added financial flexibility will not keep our schools from cutting programs, laying off teachers and/or increasing class sizes, but it will give local school boards more tools to use to reduce the impact of the funding cuts for the rest of 2010 and the 2010-2011 school year.
Last but not least, we approved a program that will focus on the reading skills of Hoosier schoolchildren in first through third grades.
All of these accomplishments are substantial, and it is good to note that they all passed with bipartisan support in both the Indiana House and Senate. Next week, I will take a longer look at other achievements in 2010.
I want to thank you for your surveys, emails and phone calls. Your input was very helpful as I approached each bill. Although the session is over, please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or concerns.
You may call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of (800) 382-9842, write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.