Set to begin his third term representing Indiana’s fourth
district, state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, is planning to introduce
several bills in January’s 2011 Indiana General Assembly.
Soliday is eager to implement legislation that would be
protect the improvements made to the Little Calumet River Basin levees in
Lake County west of Interstate 65.
He said there currently is no provision in place that
requires a certain body to maintain levees along the river, although there
was an agreement made roughly thirty years ago that called for each
community along the river to use their own funds to maintain their levees.
The improvements, Soliday said, could be wasted with one hard rain.
“Most of these cities are struggling with their budgets, said
Soliday. “What we want to do is maintain that which has already been
The total accumulated cost on flood control in Lake County is
$250 million from state and federal sources.
The bill does not include the Porter County portion of the
Little Calumet River. Soliday has heard proposals to charge flood plain
residents all the way to LaPorte County, which he sees as not the best
“If you try to use maintenance fees to maintain an area that
has no levee, you’re just going to suck down all the money over into that
section,” he said.
Soliday said he wishes to create a new five-member commission
similar to the current Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission. He
said the commission will be responsible for organizing close to $9 million
in funds for the first few years which would be used to remove trees that
have grown up in the levees.
The new commission could collect $2.9 million per year,
enough for maintenance plus a “cushion” for an emergency contingency only to
be used for flood control.
The funding source is uncertain as of now, Soliday said, but
it will likely be collected through a small fee from those who live in the
flood plain area.
Soliday said he is against establishing a conservancy
district for the Little Calumet that would cross into Porter County. He said
a conservancy district would require large amounts of time and a major rain
could hit while getting all the ducks in a row.
“We don’t want to go down that path. We need to get it moving
before we get more deterioration,” he said.
He also said he does not want to wait on Illinois, which too
has seen flooding, to develop their own maintenance plan for their section
of the river.
Proposal to changes RBA Board
Another bill Soliday will push is to retool the 21-member
Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority.
The goal is to include representation from all the mayors and
one Lake County commissioner. Porter County government and municipalities
could also join the RBA if they vote to do so. The RBA board would also need
to approve the appointment.
Soliday said appointing an alternate for those members is
permissible if that person has at least five years experience in
transportation management, urban planning or financial management.
The RBA, which was created in 2005 by the legislation along
with its funding source the Northwest Indiana Regional Development
Authority, helps provide funding opportunities for buses in Lake and Porter
Some members of the Porter County Council and outgoing county
commissioner Robert Harper, D-Center, have recently attacked the motives of
the RBA, warning that Porter County residents could be taxed by the RDA to
make up the shortage of funds.
Soliday said the RDA does not have taxing authority and that
its function is to be a granter for capital, not operating expenses. He said
from the conversations he’s had with other legislators that there is “no
mood to get any further taxing to the RDA” in the state legislature.
Soliday acknowledges the RBA is in need of funds fast if it
wishes to keep operating and would need to secure a plan in place sometime
next year. He hopes the changes to the board will help expedite that
“If they don’t get some kind of a plan, they probably won’t
be here in eighteen months,” he said.
A referendum to raise taxes for mass transit would not be a
wise solution, Soliday said, even if the vote is in favor because it would
take more than a year to collect the money.
Soliday said North Lake County bus systems have been short of
funds for years. Transportation heads in Lake County have in the past
requested the state pick up the tab. Soliday said it is not in the
constitution for the state to pay for the bus routes and said South Bend and
Indianapolis are cities which independently fund their bus systems.
“If Lake County wants a bus system, then they are going to
have to step up to the plate,” he said.
Part of Soliday’s bill also blocks bus service operators from
being on the board which has met opposition from those who believe their
experience is valuable.
Soliday believes that even if the bill is shot down in the
assembly, the bill is a catalyst for discussion that will eventually lead to
some type of solution.
“Our current style in Northwest Indiana is we don’t talk
about the issue. We find somebody and accuse their motives as opposed to
saying, ‘Hey, this is an issue we need to talk about,’” said Soliday. “We’ve
got good people in Northwest Indiana and we’ve got a lot of resources. We
got to quit talking about what is different about us and start talking about
what we have in common.”
Porter County bus service
In regards to Porter County, Soliday said the top concern he
has heard from citizens is the limited capacity of the Porter County Aging
and Community Services buses. He said there is a definite need for public
transportation systems to expand service to those who cannot get around by
car such as the elderly and the poor.
“That need should be recognized at the table,” he said.
Soliday believes the best way to maintain a high quality bus
system is using small and on-demand buses, like PCACS.
In the Driver’s Seat
Earlier in November, Soliday was appointed chair of the Roads
and Transportation Committee by state House Speaker Brian Bosma,
In the works is a five-year plan that takes a close look at
infrastructure within towns and counties. The study in its first year will
look at status of county roads, bridges, railroad crossings and others, and
quantify them at county, city and state levels.
“Many counties are crying for funding to pave roads and
streets so we are going to try and define the problem that first year,” he
Subsequent steps will find the sizes of the problems and then
designate possibly in 2013 who will be responsible for funding, whether it
be the state or local governments.
Redistricting is Coming
Soliday is also a member of the Elections and Apportionment
Committee this year which will look at the complete 2010 census data from
this spring to decide how it will redraw districts.
The redistricting will come later in the assembly, Soliday
said, no earlier than March. Concerns have risen on how a Republican
majority will decide boundaries, but Soliday believes that the committee
will be fair based on Speaker Bosma’s selections.
“Everyone on the committee is level-headed. In other words,
no one is extremely partisan. I’m committed to fair districts, but we all
have our view on what is fair,” said Soliday.
Public hearings for the redistricting will also be held
during that time for citizens to give their desired input.
County Government Reform
Soilday said he is also drafting a “complicated” bill that
would transfer legislative power from the boards of commissioners and to the
county council. The commissioners instead would be given the responsibility
of creating a unified budget for all departments similar to what a mayor or
Soliday said there are six counties in Indiana which follow
Another part of the bill allows the commissioners to develop
a policy and ethics manual that all county departments would need to abide