Session Approaches Midpoint

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Several high-profile bills continue to move forward as this year's legislative session essentially reaches its halfway point. The House has passed a bill that could pump at least $400 million into transportation infrastructure and legislation that would develop a high school career and technical education diploma. Members of the Indiana Senate passed a bill regarding production and cultivation of industrial hemp. The transportation proposal would allow the state Budget Agency to transfer any balance in the Major Moves 2020 Trust Fund to the State Highway Fund. That total is expected to be $400 million on July 1. You can view the full bill by clicking here.

The technical education bill would involve Indiana works councils, the Indiana Career Council and the State Board of Education. You can view the full bill by clicking here.

The legislation involving industrial hemp moves to the House. It would set up state licensing for the crop's use in fuel, textiles, plastics and other industrial uses. You can view the full bill by clicking here.

February 3, 2014

News Release

STATEHOUSE - Today, a priority bill to improve Indiana's transportation system passed out of the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and will now go to the Senate for further discussion. House Bill (HB) 1002, a joint effort between State Representatives Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) and Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), authorizes the Budget Agency to transfer funds, already approved in the biennial budget, to the State Highway Fund to address Indiana's current infrastructure needs.

"Improving Indiana's transportation system is an ongoing endeavor and takes a coordinated effort to sustain it," said Rep. Soliday. "After working with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and Chairman Brown, House Bill 1002 is a step towards addressing several of Indiana's immediate infrastructure needs as well as the needs that local governments have to improve their roads and bridges."

If enacted, HB 1002 would allow the Budget Agency to transfer any balance in the Major Moves 2020 Trust Fund, which will be at $400 million on July 1 of this year, to the State Highway Fund to address Indiana's current infrastructure needs. The Budget Agency has until July 1, 2015 to make the transfer.

Currently, INDOT has 12 high-value projects in mind which these additional dollars would help support. While the costs to repair Indiana’s roads vary, according to INDOT, preliminary cost estimates for the 12 projects average $9 million per centerline mile. Several key factors contribute to the cost of these projects like rehabilitation of existing pavement, interchange modifications and bridge replacement.

"The funding mechanisms were changed last year for the state’s biennial budget, allocating 1 percent of the state sales tax to go to road funding. We also set aside $400 million to be put into the Major Moves 2020 Fund, so that our state’s infrastructure could be prepared for future demands," said Rep. Brown. "We have made it a priority to construct the best roadways in the country, so businesses and every day motorists can traverse the state. These additional funds will do just that and help get current projects off the ground and running."

Additionally, Rep. Soliday authored an amendment to HB 1002, which would provide a one-time transfer of $25 million from the State Highway Fund to the Local Infrastructure Grant Fund. This transfer of dollars would support local municipalities working on projects that either repair roads or increase the capacity of local roads and bridges. The projects would require approval from INDOT, must be part of the local unit's transportation asset management plan and the local unit would need to provide at least 10 percent of the total project cost.

"This $25 million transfer is designed to help local governments address their infrastructure needs while retaining a large portion to support several projects that INDOT already has in motion," said Rep. Soliday.

Visit www.in.gov/legislative for more information about HB 1002.

Source: House Republican Caucus

February 4, 2014

News Release

STATEHOUSE - On Monday, the Senate approved Senate Bill (SB) 357, a proposal authored by State Senator Richard D. Young (D-Milltown) that would legalize the cultivation and production of industrial hemp in Indiana.

Sen. Young said that hemp is a multipurpose crop that will open a new sector of Indiana’s agricultural economy.

"Hemp can be used to create food, paper, fuel, textiles and plastics," said Sen. Young. "With all of its potential, legalizing the cultivation and production of industrial hemp will mean jobs, economic benefits and opportunity for Indiana."

Sen. Young noted that hemp is also very practical. Hemp can be harvested just 120 days after planting and it doesn't require any certain climate to grow. It is a very hardy plant and naturally resistant to pests, eliminating the need for pesticides and herbicides. Hemp and its products are also 100 percent biodegradable.

“Indiana was once a leader in the production of industrial hemp,” said Young. “This measure will reopen a sector of the Indiana agricultural economy that will greatly benefit the state.”

Southern Indiana produced industrial hemp rope as part of the war effort during World War II when the United States encouraged all farmers to grow hemp. However, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 erroneously lumped industrial hemp with marijuana and outlawed production of either, despite their differences.

SB 357 also sets additional provisions providing for appropriate oversight from the Office of the Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner at Purdue University, as well as the Indiana State Police. Individuals interested in growing hemp would be required to obtain a license and would be subject to periodic inspections. Any applicants for a license would be subject to a state and federal background check and would be ineligible if they were found to have a drug-related felony or misdemeanor in the last decade.

Ten states, including Kentucky and West Virginia, have recognized the many benefits of hemp and taken steps to legalize its cultivation with an appropriate amount of oversight. The Indiana Farm Bureau has also endorsed industrial hemp and has supported legislative efforts to legalize its production.

With unanimous support, senators from both sides of the aisle acknowledged the measure’s economic development opportunities. It now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Sen. Young represents Senate District 47 which encompasses portions of Crawford, Dubois, Harrison, Orange, Perry and Washington counties. For more information on Sen. Young, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business, call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/s47.

Source: Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus