03/19/12 Indiana State Representative Bill Friend recently summed up this year’s legislative session for his constituents.  He said, “The 2012 legislative session ended early on Saturday, March 10 at about 2:00 a.m.  It was an extraordinary session because it dealt with many difficult issues affecting Hoosiers.”  Friend then discussed a couple of those issues.  First and foremost, the focus of the first half of session was the Right to Work bill.  He said, “Discussion of the legislation was at times heated and polarized but in the end I think that positive results will come from this legislation.”  What the Right to Work law simply says is that it is now no longer necessary to be a union member or pay union fees or dues as a condition of employment.  The thrust of this legislation is to help attract more jobs for our citizens and the General Assembly has agreed that this is a reasonable policy to grow employment in Indiana.  Bill said, “The Governor stated new agreements with three companies are already in the works.  There are 31 companies as of Friday on our negotiation list who have identified Right to Work as a major, if not, the major factor in their interest in Indiana.   I supported this legislation and believe it will provide more jobs for Hoosiers.”

Another issues legislators accomplished were in House Bill 1376 which contained several issues that are important to Hoosiers.  The bill provides another $6 million dollars for a total of $11 million to the victims of the State Fair stage collapse. The legislation also added to the amount that the more seriously injured can receive.  The bill also increases by $80-$100 million dollars the amount furnished to fund full-day kindergarten.  Schools taking advantage of this additional kindergarten funding will no longer be able to charge parents tuition.  Finally, the bill provides a taxpayer refund because the state revenues have exceeded 110 percent of the budget requirements for the state.  This refund will amount to approximately $50 per taxpayer and will be in the form of a reduction on a taxpayer’s state income tax return.

Another bill that received significant attention was the statewide smoking ban.   Many newspapers and broadcast media have all emerged as advocates for the ban.  Citing employee health concerns, the media took a hard line on the legislation.  As House Bill 1149 moved through the process, it received many modifications.  The end result was a ban on not much.  Representative Bill Friend said, “I am critical of the legislation and voted no on the bill because I believe in the market place and the freedom to operate.  My trust is in the logic of the business owner and that the owner will be responsive to the public and their attendance or lack thereof.”

He also said, “A bill that I introduced, House Bill 1090, will assist taxpayers who find themselves delinquent on their property taxes and facing a tax sale.”  The bill picked up several Senate amendments that provide incentives to get properties off the “unusable” list because of taxes, fees, penalties, etc. that are greater than the total value of the property.  Friend continued, “The bill was improved and expanded upon and I agreed with the changes. I’m happy to report that it has now been signed into law by the governor.”

Representative Friend closed by saying, “I am pleased the session is over and all legislators can return to their homes and jobs to receive your comments and thoughts about the session.  It is my intention to do just that and I will listen and try to explain the process that produced the laws. Please feel free to  contact me with any questions at H23@in.gov or by phone at 1-800-382-9841.”