Beau Baird reflects on his first couple weeks at Statehouse

Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Freshman legislator Beau Baird (R-Greencastle) listens to comments from constituent John Hennette (right), a Greencastle pediatric dentist, Saturday morning following District 44 State Rep. Baird’s initial Legislative update experience.
Banner Graphic/Eric Bernsee

After listening and observing what his father Jim experienced over eight years in office, representing Indiana House District 44, freshman Rep. Beau Baird shouldn’t be too surprised by anything the state legislature throws at him.

But two things “kind of shocked me,” Baird said Saturday during opening comments at the first of three 2019 Legislative Update programs sponsored by the Putnam County Farm Bureau.

Perhaps most surprising has been the unexpected spirit of cooperation he’s encountered in the Statehouse thus far.

“I’ve really been thrilled to see how much bipartisan work is going on,” Baird said, noting that five bills had already cleared the House by Friday, all of them with nearly unanimous support.

Baird said it’s easy to “sit home and see the news and think everything is so partisan,” what with the contentious nature of some current issues and how they are reported.

“It’s refreshing for me, as a freshman, to see otherwise,” Baird told the audience of 15, kept down by dire winter weather predictions.

Another thing that has shocked the rookie legislator, a Greencastle Republican, was the short amount of time he had between being elected and filing draft bills for the 2019 session. Legislators had 60 days -- a period compounded by three holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s -- to draft bills for presentation.

Still, he’s managed to file several, although Baird admits they mostly have come off the campaign trail.

Baird-sponsored bills House Bill 1491, the Clean water Indiana program; House Bill 1942, on noxious weed control; and House Bill 1570, for prescription price control, have all been introduced in the House.

House Bill 1491, Clean water Indiana program. Revises the statement of the purpose of the clean water Indiana program. Provides that the purpose of the program is to provide financial assistance to implement conservation practices in accordance with the natural resources priorities of the soil conservation board.

House Bill 1492, Noxious weed control. Adds Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) and marestail (Conyza canadensis, also known as horseweed) to the list of detrimental plants required to be destroyed by certain persons under state law.

House Bill 1570, Prescription price control. Requires a retail pharmacy, before dispensing a prescription, to inform an insured patient of the cost of the drug or device without insurance or an applicable discount, if the cost of the drug or device is less than the co-payment cost to the patient using the insurance or an applicable discount.

Baird said HB 1570 puts the responsibility on the pharmacy instead of the consumer to know when there’s a discounted price on drugs or devices.

The Greencastle Republican has also drafted a video table gaming bill, although it’s not been assigned a number yet. The bill restricts the scope of video gaming tables to private clubs like the American Legion and VFW, and allows those entities to reinvest some of the resulting money earned into facilities upgrades, like roof repairs.

Rep. Baird also pointed out the 2019 Legislative priorities of the House Republicans, passing out information listing the top five as:

-- Enacting a responsible, balanced state budget by maintaining healthy reserves and AAA credit rating.

-- Increasing protections for our youth by funding and reforming the Department of Child Services, promoting school safety and reducing the infant mortality rate.

-- Strengthening our commitment to students and teachers by providing more dollars to teachers and attracting and retaining Hoosier teachers.

-- Aligning and promoting workforce initiatives by achieving shared goals with education and encouraging work-based learning between schools and employers.

-- Supporting Hoosier veterans by exempting military pensions from state income tax and increasing property tax deductions for veterans.

Meanwhile, District 37 State Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) shared some information about his new role in this session of the Indiana General Assembly, serving as president pro tem of the Senate. He detailed his new duties during his time Saturday morning.

“I’ve been spending the last couple months learning a new job,” Bray told the Legislative Update gathering.

“I don’t really file any bills, where I’m used to usually filing 10 to 12 (per session),” he added. “The reason is because of the other responsibilities I have.

“I don’t sit on committees where they debate and vet those bills either,” the state senator said.

“I do kind of miss the opportunity to get my hands in there.”