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Legislators talk current session

By Marissa E. Lane, Staff Writer

The Union County branch of the Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) hosted state legislators for a legislative breakfast at the Liberty Church of Christ on Saturday, Feb. 3.

Citizens and government officials from Franklin, Fayette, Union and Wayne counties were encouraged to attend to stay informed of what is currently happening in the Indiana Statehouse.

After the complimentary breakfast, the crowd gathered in the sanctuary of the church. INFB Regional Manager Casie Conley spoke briefly about the issues that are INFB's top priorities right now—namely the township merger bill, broadband accessibility, annexation, defending and supporting livestock and poultry farms and food access—before turning the time over to the legislators.

Representative Cindy Ziemke (R - BATESVILLE) spent a good portion of her speaking time advocating for her township merger bill (HB1005). The bill mandates that any township with a population under 1,200 must merge with another township by 2021. Another requirement of the bill is that townships must have a capital improvement plan instead of potentially holding on to a large balance from tax levies. She emphasized that she doesn't want to get rid of townships, but to help them make the best economic decisions for the area.

“This township legislation is all about efficiencies for the taxpayers,” said Ziemke.

INFB officially opposes HB1005 and the “forced elimination of smaller population, lower-cost townships in rural areas across the state,” according to their weekly Public Policy Dispatch.

Senator Jeff Raatz (R - RICHMOND) used his time to champion the education legislation he is currently working on. Senate Bill 172, if passed, will establish the funding and training to implement and require computer science courses in Indiana's public schools.

Senator Raatz also briefly discussed a bill that has just passed out of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Senate Bill 297 will require Indiana schools to “include interdisciplinary employability skills standards in their curriculum,” according to the recent press release from Indiana Senate Republicans. These skills would include interpersonal interactions, interview manners and a focus on developing a strong work ethic.

Finally, Representative Randy Lyness (R - WEST HARRISON), whose district includes most of Union and Franklin counties, stated that he'd rather use his time hearing from the public.

“I don't carry a lot of bills. What I like to do as much as possible is go anywhere I can and talk to people,” said Lyness. “I'm relatively new up there [at the Statehouse], but as I'm there, I don't think we have the problems they've got in a lot of places in this state. I really don't. But if you see me out and about, and you have something that you feel is important, come talk to me. And if I think it's something that could be important to other people, we'll talk.”

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, the public was vocal, asking questions about administrative costs of township trustees, how the township legislation might affect response times for emergency services and potential changes to graduation requirements. The strongest opinions were in regards to Raatz's proposed education bills. A local educator and a concerned grandparent both cited the length of the school day as a major issue: there is hardly enough time to meet all of the current education requirements, let alone add more. Senator Raatz stood by his legislation but admitted that there is concern about how it will be accomplished.

For more information on bills that are currently in the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate or contact information for representatives, please go to