Kosciusko County Farm Bureau hosted an opportunity to meet and talk with state legislators and a county councilman Saturday morning. The meeting room at the Biomet Drive, Warsaw, location was standing room only.
Topics focused around education and proposed legislation, misconceptions on who makes the rules for the State Department of Education, bills affecting annexation, township governments and the county wheel tax.
Jack Hyden, Kosciusko County Farm Bureau State Political Director, oversaw the 90 minute gathering.
Senators Ryan Mishler and Randy Hand, Representatives Dave Wolkins and Curtis Nisly along with Kosciusko County Councilman Jim Moyer were present for the event.
Mishler presented some budget figures, noting the state’s budget is $89 million below the forecast and $241 million behind what was figured for that budget. “The bright spot is we’re $230 million over year to date than last year, we’re bringing in more money than last year. The growth isn’t as much as we thought.”
He explained SB 566, an education bill regarding testing to streamline testings yet provide requirements mandated by the federal government along with providing data needed by schools. “We’re (through the bill) taking three tests into one. Fewer tests and less hours,” Mishler stated.
Senate Bill 1 was also noted, proposing to realign the state board of education and leadership. He explained there is a misconception that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the board make the policy. “The policy making body for education is still the legislature. The superintendent implement’s the policy and the board gives her the authority to enact the policy,” said Mishler. School funding was also noted.
Head noted SB 330 relating to annexation, changing the procedures in which 51 percent of the landowners in a proposed area have to be in favor before a municipality begins plans for annexation. “This may result in smaller, more carefully drawn annexation plans,” said Head, “giving people a lot more power.”
As chairman of the local government, Head stressed there will always be township governments. “That’s the bottom line,” he promised, noting any bill eliminating township government has gone no further than him. He briefly explained a bill to improve how farmland is taxed.
Nisly stated for him the first session has gone quickly, he has been learning a lot, but the more he learns the more he is finding there is to learn. He noted a few bills: cameras in work zones, and Sunday alcohol sales. Mention was also made on a deer preserves bill regulating the preserves.
Nisly explained those bills which are not adopted by Wednesday will die and then the following week the process starts all over with bills passed on by the Senate to the House.
Wolkins briefly went over bills relating to medical malpractice, the camera in work zones, e-liquids, gaming bill, sales tax on bullion, and a bill regarding nepotism for small communities. Work on government reduction will go into a summer study committee. He also spoke on HB 1609 in which the state board of education selects its own chairman. Mention of the common construction wage bill was also made.
County Wheel Tax
Moyer focused on the county wheel tax, stating the county as 55,000 cars registered, 19,000 pick up trucks, 3,000 motorcycles and 16,000 other vehicles. The wheel tax will allow for funds to repair county roads. For the past two years the county has dipped into its savings to provide funds for the county highway to maintain roads. Those funds are nearly depleted.
During the question and answer period many requested more information, explanation regarding testing and education bills, including reiterating the misconception of the role of the state board of education and state school superintendent. The “sore looser” misconception was also noted in regards to attempts to reform the state school board and remove Ritz and chairman of that board.
Most of the questions were directed to Mishler, Head and Wolkins, with a few questions geared towards Moyer.
Indiana State Police Trooper Luke Weikel, on behalf of the Indiana State Police Alliance, Kosciusko County Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine and Kosciusko County Senior Judge Duane Huffer questioned legislators regarding the new criminal code as it relates to credit for time served, putting the burden on local sheriff’s department without funding, and no pay increase for state troopers since 2008. Encouragement to continue the fight against meth was also made.