Chesterton Tribune



Local lawmakers tell legislative priorities

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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 Westchester townships.

Representing parts 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 years.


This year’s 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.

Incoming Indiana 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,” she said.

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’s bills

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 possession.

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.

Cannabis Oil

Proposed marijuana 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.

Moseley said 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 said.

“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 topics

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 like ArcelorMittal.

Another bill 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.

Committees Tallian 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.

“We’re certainly not interested in being obstructionists,” Moseley said. “I have a lot confidence we can all work together.”

Soliday mentioned 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.

Soliday’s 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 The site will have live feeds of committee meetings and hearings throughout the General Assembly.



Posted 1/3/2017




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