Legislators will focus on the biennial budget at the next session of the Indiana Legislature in Indianapolis.
A two-year spending plan is the only significant law that must be approved by the state legislature. Also, this year’s budget is expected to be so complicated that Congress, which starts on January 9th, could be extended until his May.
Nonetheless, most lawmakers either introduce bills that they create, or formally support or reject bills created by other lawmakers. This includes her three state representatives most associated with Bartholomew County. Rep. Ryan Lauer, Republican Columbus, Rep. Jim Lucas, and Republican Seymour.
Each MP provided the Republic with a preview of what was planned for this month’s General Assembly.
- Senator Greg Walker (Represents Senate District 41, which includes parts of Bartholomew and Johnson counties.)
After the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission proposed in September to expand the network of treatment opportunities statewide, Walker and several other state legislators expected related legislation to be introduced. The proposal was followed by a commission analysis showing that untreated mental disorders cost Indiana nearly $4.2 million annually.
Mental health issues have become “an epidemic of public health concerns,” Walker said, and he hopes that several different approaches will be discussed to address these concerns.
One possible solution, already being discussed, is to issue “ready grants” to counties in Indiana.
This kind of grant could mean county health departments telling the state what they want to achieve and legislators finding some way to help fund it, Walker said.
Another recommendation is to formalize the process for the 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline. This includes providing a safe place to go and receive treatment after the operator answers the call.
A third proposal is expected to make it easier for counselors professionally licensed in other states to practice in Indiana, Walker said.
But there has been some hesitation among local governments in the municipality about accepting state funding for mental health purposes, Walker said.
“There’s always a concern that there will be strings attached when the state becomes broadly involved in public health at the county level,” Walker said. “So how deeply do we want to be involved in knowing where state-controlled public money goes? There will need to be some form of reporting and accountability.”
Walker says he created a bill to evaluate inmates in pretrial conditions. Senators need to make sure people have a sound mind to stand trial and use resources to understand what the legal system means for them, senators said. rice field.
In addition, Walker called the systems of several of Indiana’s 92 counties “flawed and inhumane” and advocated exploring alternatives to in-prison mental health counseling. said that
Legislators are expected to focus not only on education, but also on ways to attract more quality industries to Indiana.
“I don’t know how it will turn out, but there has been talk of reinventing public education in Indiana,” Walker said. We are cautious about reinventing because we keep moving the needle about what to do.We lose continuity and track record and it becomes difficult to contrast and compare what we have done in the past.”
Walker said he will also introduce legislation dealing with Community Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE). It is essentially a financing mechanism used by local governments that allows commercial, industrial and multifamily owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements through property tax payments. will do so.
“It’s a way of lowering the cost of financing,” says Walker. “This is a federal model that has been adopted by 41 states.”
But Walker agrees that the biennial budget will be a top priority. He urged caution when it comes to creating a state spending plan for the next two years.
“The United States and Indiana will be dragged under the pressures of a recession that are becoming more evident globally,” Walker said. “What do you see around the world that will affect Indiana goods and services? I think gas prices are already going down. is a clear sign of
Other signs of concern for Walker include a rise in new strains of COVID-19 in China that could disrupt supplies and supply chains, and a slowdown in the housing market.
All of these concerns should be considered in the biennial budget, Walker said.
- Congressman Ryan Lauer (Represents number 59, which includes most of Bartholomew County, including Columbus.)
Last March, the Indiana legislature passed tax cuts. Republicans say it will be the lowest flat income tax rate in the country after being phased in over seven years.
However, most of the tax cuts could take seven years or more to take effect, and there is no guarantee that significant tax cuts will even occur. Another concern is that after the first tax cut goes into effect in 2023, future tax cuts will only occur if state revenue growth hits 2% the previous year.
But Lauer said the tax cuts are just one of many positive developments across Indiana, including higher wages, lower business taxes and debt, and six straight years of economic growth.
According to state statistics, in 2022, 218 companies have pledged to enter or expand in Indiana, investing more than $22.2 billion in business (up 250% from 2021) and hiring 24,059 new employees. It created jobs and the average wage was $34.71 an hour.
“We will continue to be financially responsible and refrain from unnecessary spending,” Lauer said. “I think we should also work towards stopping the rise in property taxes.”
Lawmakers have expressed concern about rising health care costs, which Lauer has described as “unsustainable” in Indiana.
“When you look at Hoosier’s average price for getting health care, and the associated needs and services, we need to do better,” he said. We need to look at how we can give and allow providers to be transparent about their pricing.”
Among other issues, Lauer said he will also vote to keep the budget balanced and support taxpayer education, public safety and health.
Lauer’s new commission assignment is vice chairman of the House Roads and Transportation Committee, but he also continues his previous work on two House committees: Veterans Affairs and Families, Children and Human Affairs.
Lauer said he will follow his top priority by introducing legislation to protect children.
“Our focus will be on reducing the amount of time abused and neglected children suffer in our system,” he said. , is the time it takes to be placed in a stable and permanent home.”
Finally, Lauer says he wants to expand the child fatality reporting bill he created last winter.
“This year, we aim to be transparent and open by releasing more detailed information about all child deaths or near-death situations,” Lauer said. “People deserve to know the circumstances leading to the tragic deaths of children, their history of abuse and neglect, and the names of their perpetrators.”
- Congressman Jim Lucas (Representing House District 69 – Bartholomew, Jackson, Scott, Washington County Section)
In addition to biennial budgets, Lucas predicts that health care costs and education will be top concerns for state legislators over the next few months.
“Indiana lags behind most of the nation when it comes to keeping health care costs down,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the insurance industry, or the hospital, or what. But we need to look deeper into the cause.”
However, Republican Seymour has said he has no plans to introduce legislation on that particular topic. We are checking to see if it will benefit his district.”
“There may be a bit of a horse trade going on in terms of co-authoring and co-sponsoring,” the lawmaker said.
However, Dist. 69 representatives said they would introduce either a separate bill or an amendment that would effectively create a new type of education savings account for parents.
The program, called CollegeChoice 529, has been in existence since 1997, serving as Indiana’s tax-advantaged savings plan designed to help people get into college easily and affordably. Responsible for children’s education.
“We are still talking about tax cuts,” Lucas said. “I know the Senate will dig deeper into the possibility of eliminating state income taxes.”
However, due to inflation and a volatile economy, Lucas said the General Assembly must be cautious in formulating the biennial budget. Legislators must also remain concerned about high levels of federal spending, which, according to Lucas, “puts us in a reactionary position.”
Lucas expects Hoosiers to make progress in legalizing medical cannabis this year. He listed 38 states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, adding that residents of every neighborhood in Indiana have experienced a shift in views on the controversial topic. .
Illinois and Michigan now allow cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, and Ohio now allows medical cannabis, Lucas said. He also said Kentucky has new laws that decriminalize the possession of eight ounces or less of cannabis.
“So if we don’t do anything, Indiana will soon become a crazy island on this issue,” Lucas said.