INDIANAPOLIS -- State legislators are back in their districts talking to constituents about issues and answering questions they have about state government.
Remember that we're only in Indianapolis from January through March or April. After that, it's time to head back home to be with our families, and return to our full-time/part-time jobs.
The most enjoyable part of the summer is trying to find a happy balance in our schedules. Most of our days are spent attending meetings, visiting fairs, festivals and parades that dot the calendar through June, July and August.
As the summer rolls into full swing, we begin to prepare for the fall elections and look at the issues that will come up in the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly.
Passing a new budget will be our main focus in 2011. Added to that will be the responsibility for drawing new legislative and congressional districts. We also will consider policy matters in a number of areas.
Most of this work is done by interim study committees that meet through the summer and into the fall.
There are two types of study committees.
One, created through state statute, meets every summer to look at assigned topics under a general heading. For instance, the Regulatory Flexibility Committee looks at utility issues. The Health Finance Commission spends each summer looking at the cost of health care in Indiana.
The second type of study committee is created for one year to look at several subjects under a general heading. This summer, for example, we will have interim study committees on education, gaming and economic development.
The economic development committee is a direct result of the bipartisan job creation package that passed during the 2010 legislative session. The group will look at the effectiveness of the tax credits and other incentives offered by state and local government to entice new businesses. It also will examine what kinds of improvements can be made to spur additional development across the state.
Several study committees -- the Health Finance Commission, the Select Joint Commission on Medicaid Oversight and the State Budget Committee -- will be looking at the impact that the new federal health care reforms will have for Indiana.
The Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy will look at the way we pay for road improvements at the state and local levels. I have heard from many of you that this issue must be a focus for our state. It is not the first time that such a subject has been the focal point of legislative study. The biggest challenge for the committee will be to determine how we pay for these improvements.
To date, the gas tax is the primary revenue source for city and county highway departments. While the price of gas has fluctuated over the past three years, only 18 cents of each gallon is directed to road funding. It is my hope that we can agree on ways to redirect existing funds to ensure that locals get an adequate amount of revenue to fix our deteriorating road system.
Another group I want to mention is the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee, which has a lengthy list of assignments. They will study the continued impact that the production and use of the drug meth has had on our communities, and a look at alternative sentencing policies.
It is important to remember that the idea behind these committees is to conduct a full-blown study of the topics they are assigned. There are instances where a committee's work results in legislation for the General Assembly to consider in its next session, but there also are times when our studies reveal that no legislative action is needed.
I am pleased that we can determine the need for legislation prior to our session days. It is much easier to research the needed statistics and information now, rather than in the middle of a session.
I look forward to visiting with you in the days ahead, especially as I walk through area neighborhoods. If you need to contact me during the interim, please call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842, write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204, or send a message to my web site at www.in.gov/H44.
Have a great summer!