Source: The Corydon Democrat

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HJR3, education topics at update

by Ross Schulz

February 04, 2014

Ron Haendiges of New Salisbury signs in before the 35th annual Legislative Update hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and Harrison County Farm Bureau at the Justice Center. A number of Harrison County FFA members await their opportunity to lead the audience and legislators in the pledge to the flag. Photo by Ross Schulz
"How would you feel if someone had to vote on whether you could marry the person you love or not?"

Harrison County resident Adam Schneider asked that question Saturday morning to legislators at the 35th annual Legislative Update hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and the Harrison County Farm Bureau.

Schneider wanted to know the thoughts of Sen. Richard Young Jr., D-Milltown, and State Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, about HJR3, the legislation to put the wording that marriage is between a man and a woman in the Indiana constitution by placing it on the ballot this November.

Rhoads, who co-sponsored the bill, said she would not reveal how she would vote on the ballot in November; and Young said he would vote "yes" to placing the wording on the ballot in November.

Before asking the question, Schneider said he wanted to talk about liberty, personal freedom, the essence of what America is about. Schneider then showed the audience gathered in the superior courtroom a photo of his young daughter.

"I'm a Christian, and I'm also gay," he said.

Schneider said he respected anyone whose religious beliefs disagreed with his, but those religious views should not be viewed as more important than his.

"That's not right in America," he said. "This is personal for me."

Young said Indiana state law already contains the wording that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

"Do you think that it is right to change the constitution?" Schneider asked.

Young said he didn't think it was necessary to change the constitution, but he had no problem with it being on the ballot and having people voice their opinion.

Rhoads said she thinks it's important people have the opportunity to vote instead of having it changed by the stroke of one man's pen (judge).

"It's important we have that vote," she said. "We need input from people; we'll know how they feel."

Jennifer Reas of New Middletown also spoke and asked Rhoads and Young to vote "no" on the legislation, or at least strike the section banning civil unions.

"Focus on the economy; this is not a good business approach for the state," she said.

The bill has passed the House and will move to the Senate.

Seventeen states have legalized same-sex marriage, including neighboring Illinois, while the other 33 still have bans against it.

The majority of the discussion outside of HJR3 centered on education.

Jim Kincaid of Bradford (chairman of the Harrison County Democrat Central Committee) asked how the state plans to make up funding from proposed tax cuts by Gov. Mike Pence to fund schools and other functions.

Young said the goal is to provide a better opportunity for businesses and, therefore, make up the difference with other taxes once the businesses relocate to Indiana or existing businesses expand or successfully grow profits. Young said companies such as Amazon never would have located in Indiana without the change in the inventory tax. He said the problem with that method is the benefits are not always proportionate throughout the state, with some areas having huge gains while others have losses.

Steve Gilliland, executive director of the Harrison County Community Foundation, discussed HB 1004, which would allow state funding for preschool. The data is crystal clear, he said, that the value outweighs the money invested in preschool exponentially.

"I'm urging both of you to support that legislation," he said, to a round of applause from the audience.

Rhoads said she voted against the bill because the state has yet to fully fund all-day kindergarten and she needs to see actual positive data regarding that before moving down a grade level to preschool. She said it'd be foolish to do so.

"Any money given to preschool won't go to K through 12," she said.

Rhoads said the initiative is being pushed by the leadership in her party, including the governor, so she wanted to express her reasons for voting against it. Rhoads also received applause for her stance.

The moderator for the event, Peter J. Schickel, informed the audience that it would be his last Legislative Update as moderator.