Chesterton Tribune



State Senator Karen Tallian aims to make voting easier in Indiana

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Indiana saw its lowest voter turnout in the 2014 mid-term elections with about 28 percent of voters going to the polls, one of the bottom five states in the nation for voter turnout.

After another poor showing this November -- with Porter County reaching a voting turnout of just 21.09 percent -- State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, has filed Senate Bill 135 to give voters more time to make it to the polls.

“We are dead last in the U.S. for (voting). I think it’s terrible” she told the Chesterton Tribune. “We need to find easier ways for registering voters and make the process more automatic.”

The Indiana General Assembly will reconvene starting on Tuesday, Jan. 5 in Indianapolis to hear proposed bills. With a shorter session, legislators are limited to introducing only a few bills this year as the last day is March 14.

If passed into law, SB 135 would give county election boards the option, by majority vote, to keep the polls open as late as 8 p.m.

Additionally, voters who haven’t registered to vote by Election Day but are qualified can complete a voter registration form when they go to the polls and present an official form of identification. The voter would then be added to the registration record by the voters registration office.

State residents receiving their driver’s license who are qualified to vote can sign up to vote while they are at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, unless they specifically choose not to.

The legislation would also give voters the opportunity to apply for permanent absentee voter’s status. Those who are eligible for the list would automatically be sent absentee ballots by the County Clerk’s office each time there is an election in the precinct. If three times there is no ballot sent back, the voter would be removed from the list.

One of the reasons for dismal turnouts in many counties is the high numbers of deceased persons on voter registration lists, Tallian said. What SB 135 aims for is allowing a voters registration office to put a voter to inactive status whenever there is a notice by the United States Postal Office of an unknown or insufficient address.

“Something we can try to do is keep the voting rolls up to date,” said Tallian.

Another proposal in the bill is to call upon the state to study the use of offsite electronic voting next year.

School topics

Next, in response to a current law that makes parents of children attending private schools eligible for a $1,000 deduction in taxable income per dependent, SB 136 authored by Tallian would make the deduction also obtainable for parents of children in public schools.

In other education matters, Tallian is one of the state senators on the School Funding subcommittee. Tallian said that the state budget is closed this year but school funding will be a topic discussed by the legislature, particularly dealing with the performance funding grants for the A-F accountability grades since there is a sizeable drop anticipated in how well students did on the test. The test included stricter standards last year with the elimination of the Common Core methods.

The accountability grades are to be released by the Department of Education later in January.

Tallian is ranking minority member on the Senate’s Appropriation Committee and Pensions and Labor. Other committees she’s a part of include Corrections and Criminal Law, Environmental Affairs, and the Rules and Legislative Committee.

Dunes Pavilion

While on the Environmental Affairs committee, Tallian said she has not heard about any proposal to address issues with the development at the historic pavilion in Indiana Dunes State Park. The 2015 legislature passed a bill to allow alcohol for special events within 100 feet of the pavilion and parking lot.

Tallian said she will be discussing the issues surrounding the Pavilion rehab project with members of the Department of Natural Resources which has signed a lease with Pavilion Partners LLC.

Road funding

An emerging issue for the 2016 assembly that will likely be a major discussion point, Tallian said, is funding for local roads and state-owned highways. Governor Mike Pence announced in October the “21st Century Crossroads” plan to use over $1 billion for 2017-2020 -- some from borrowing, some from reserves and about half in budget appropriations -- to resurface 16,000 miles of state roads and repair 5,200 bridges.

Shortly after, House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, offered a plan using the sales tax collected on gasoline that would include giving counties money to take care of their roads.

Recently, another suggested plan, from Republican Senator Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, would put $418 million into county roads from the local income tax (LOIT) held in the state’s reserve accounts.

Tallian said her party has criticized Hershman’s plan for not offering a solution for road funding in the long term.

Other goals

Meanwhile, Tallian said that for 2016, she plans to reintroduce her bills to reduce the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana and to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Tallian has filed SB 134 to establish a Hoosier Youth Corps program which will open up summer internship opportunities to college students in local government and nonprofit organizations “to help meet critical community needs.” Those who complete the internship can receive a tuition grant of up to $2,500.

Tallian was re-elected to her third full four-year term in 2014.



Posted 12/29/2015





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