The four state
lawmakers representing Duneland are all taking leadership positions in the
Indiana General Assembly for 2017.
State Rep. Scott
Pelath, D-Michigan City, was selected again by the Democratic Caucus to be
the House Minority Leader. Pelath represents part of Pine and eastern
of Liberty and Jackson townships in Duneland, State Rep. Ed Soliday,
R-Valparaiso, will work as assistant majority floor leader as well as
chairing the House’s Roads and Transportation Committee.
State Rep. Chuck
Moseley, D-Portage will be the assistant floor leader for the House
Democrats. He represents portions of Westchester and Liberty townships.
State Senator Karen
Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, will be serving as the Minority Caucus Chair for the
Senate Democrats. Her district encompasses all the four Duneland townships.
Tallian and Moseley
talked with the Chesterton Tribune about what they are preparing and
hoping to see in the assembly, which will run from this Wednesday, Jan. 4
through April 29. They said their leadership roles will require much of
their time so they will not be presenting as many bills as they have in past
Assembly will be one with budget sessions as lawmakers will determine the
State Budget for the next two years. The most updated revenue forecast
projects 2017’s general fund at $1.5 billion with more tax revenue while
some other revenues show a decrease, including declines in the cigarette
tax, riverboat or casino revenues and motor vehicle excise tax. Increases
are however projected over 2018 and 2019.
Tallian, who is the
ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee which works on the
budget, said the numbers aren’t as strong as fiscal experts predicted and
revenues are generally “flat” rather than growing.
Governor Eric Holcomb has said he has ambitions to grow the state economy
and improve infrastructure with a 20-year plan. Tallian said the Republican
majority and the Indiana Roads Task Force has only come out with general
details for its roads funding plan. “We don’t have those specific numbers,”
There might be a
push by lawmakers to raise the excise tax on gasoline and fuel to help pay
for roads, she said.
One thing Tallian
hopes will be talked about this year is the issue of gerrymandering, or
setting boundaries geared favorably for one party in the state districts.
The districts are drawn each time there is a census, and even though the
next one isn’t until 2020, Democrats like Tallian wish to educate the public
about the issues and present maps to the legislature.
“If it’s not
addressed, (the Assembly) will be lopsided for the next decade,” she said.
Currently the Republicans outnumber the Democrats 41 to 9 in the Senate and
70 to 30 in the House.
Tallian said that
recently a federal judge ruled that the gerrymandered maps in Wisconsin
drawn by Republicans are in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling,
if approved by the U.S. Supreme Court, could have a big impact on how
district maps are drawn in every state.
Tallian said she
will file a few of her older bills from years past, hoping they will
eventually get a hearing, like her bills to raise the minimum wage,
implement a program for families to receive medical leave support, set up a
program for medical marijuana and to mitigate punishment for marijuana
She is still
interested in legislation that would increase voting in the state. Last
year, she proposed a bill to extend voting hours, open more early voting
locations, make mail-in ballots easier for voters to use and permit
registration on Election Day.
The longer lines
seen for early voting in this November’s general election reinforces the
need for more early voting sites, she said.
legislation has been a contentious issue in the House, Moseley said, but he
would propose a bill to allow exploration of the use of cannabis oil to
treat epilepsy in children and improve their quality of life.
States in the last
few years have looked into the health benefits of cannabis and so far a
total of 16 states have passed legislation to allow the extraction of oil
from cannabis for medicinal purposes. Moseley said he heard about the
legislation being discussed in Texas where it was passed in 2015.
research shows children having 50 to 60 seizures per day saw that frequency
greatly reduced to just a few times a day when given cannabis oil treatment.
The THC component, which can produce side effects on the brain, is taken out
of the oil or used only very minimally at less than one percent, Moseley
“I think it’s worth
having a discussion,” Moseley said. He said he hopes both sides of the aisle
can have a broad enough view to understand the benefits it could have for
children suffering from a debilitating epileptic condition. The legislation
would, after all, require bipartisan support, Moseley said.
Other bills and
Moseley said he
plans to refile his Hoosier Heritage Innovative Industry bill to promote the
production of wind turbines using steel from manufacturing plants in Indiana
Moseley will file again this year would make it a felony charge for persons
who attack a utility worker while they are on duty.
Moseley is the
ranking minority member on the House’s Employment, Labor and Pensions
Committee and a minority member on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety
Committee and the Elections and Apportionment Committee.
is serving on are Environmental Affairs, Local Government, Pensions and
Labor, Rules and Legislative Procedure and Tax and Fiscal Policy.
Both Tallian and
Moseley said they have heard a few of their colleagues speak about education
topics such as standardized testing reform. Not many details have surfaced
on that yet, Tallian said, due to the induction of the new Superintendent of
Public Instruction, Republican Jennifer McCormick.
Moseley said he
looks forward to learning what Gov. Holcomb’s plans are during the State of
the State Address, scheduled for Monday, Jan. 9, and hearing his vision for
the state. He said the Democrats want to be collaborative with the
Republicans and offer ideas to better shape their legislation for the
citizens of Indiana.
not interested in being obstructionists,” Moseley said. “I have a lot
confidence we can all work together.”
he will be filing a few bills this year. One that could impact County
Government is a bill that would remove the rule for appointments to a County
Park Board to be made by a local circuit court judge and instead have the
appointments be decided by the County Board of Commissioners.
committees include Utility, Energies and Telecommunications, Veterans
Affairs and Public Safety, Elections and Apportionment, Rules and
Legislative Procedures and Counter Terrorism and Security Council.
A list of state
legislators and proposed bills are available for the public to view at
www.iga.in.gov. The site will have live
feeds of committee meetings and hearings throughout the General Assembly.