Legislators discuss myriad of topics
A crowd gathered Saturday morning to hear from elected officials at the annual Third House Legislative Update hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and Harrison County Farm Bureau at the Government Center in south Corydon.
The event gave officials ‘ Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, and state representatives Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, District 70, and Steve Davisson, R-Salem, District 73, an opportunity to update attendees about their work, and constituents were given the opportunity to ask questions of the officials.
Topics included education, casinos, veterans and a cigarette tax.
Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of the South Harrison Community School Corp., thanked the officials for their support and said they represent Harrison County well. He said mental health and the opioid addiction crisis is a major concern.
‘And you all get that,’ he said.
He said discipline issues at the schools are generally related to mental health.
‘If you see an ambulance in front of our school, it’s just as likely they’re not going to the hospital; they’re going to a mental facility,’ he said. ‘That’s just the reality of it.’
He said the majority of incidents come down to difficult parental issues, which are related to substance abuse or mental health.
Just the week before, Eastridge said, they had a child who was suicidal and needed an evaluation. To do a formal assessment, the counselors needed permission from the student’s parents, but, in this case, they could not reach them.
‘Why not? They’re incarcerated,’ Eastridge said.
After a phone call to Sheriff Nick Smith to get in touch with the parents, an assessment could move forward.
‘You’re spot on with that,’ Eastridge said to the officials regarding the need for more mental health resources in schools.
Eastridge had an issue with House Bill 1404, which included language to post-graduate accountability for schools. He said he supports that 100 percent and South Harrison already does it, but it shouldn’t be part of the school accountability model.
Houchin said maybe they could modify it to make it so it is only an added bonus and can’t hurt schools.
Matt Schickel, who moderated the update, thanked Eastridge for his attendance and said Steve Morris, superintendent of the Lanesville Community School Corp., planned to attend but had a good excuse for missing the update.
‘I’m proud to say it’s for a good reason,’ Schickel said. ‘Our Lanesville Eagles are playing in the regional at 10 (a.m.). Go, Eagles.’
Lanesville school board member Margaret Meyer asked the officials to avoid any unfunded mandates on schools.
Steve Gilliland brought up veterans’ benefits and said he and his wife, after retirement, are moving to Kentucky.
‘One reason was so my military retirement won’t be taxed,’ he said. ‘There’s probably some people that are glad to see me go but, if you need to use me as an example, that’s one of the issues that made me say I’ll look elsewhere.’
Davisson said Gilliland could come back in four years when Indiana will no longer tax military retirement.
‘I’ll see if it actually makes it,’ Gilliland said. ‘I know this isn’t the first time.’
Davisson said they’ll keep after it to get it done.
Davisson then changed up the format of the event after no one else had questions. He asked the audience to raise their hand if they support a cigarette tax, with the revenue used to initiate educational and treatment programs. A good portion of the residents raised their hands.
‘That’s quite helpful,’ he said.
Attendee Kendall Sears spoke against the tax, saying punitive taxes, such as a cigarette tax, are put in place to decrease the number of people using whatever it is.
‘When the money coming in decreases, inevitably they take money from elsewhere for these programs,’ Sears said.
Sears said he never met a politician who likes a decrease in funding coming in.
Davisson said the cigarette tax has not moved forward yet, but he wanted to gauge the interest of the room. He also asked who would like to see the age limit for purchasing cigarettes increased from 18 to 21. A similar number of hands were raised in support.
He also asked for a show of support for a biased-crimes bill, which would give judges the ability to enhance a sentence if the crime was committed with a bias, such as race, gender, etc.
A very small number of hands were raised.
‘Thank you, that’s very helpful,’ Davisson said.
A biased-crimes bill was passed out of the Senate to move to the House.
A casino bill, which would move a license from northern Indiana to a new location, possibly Terre Haute, will greatly affect French Lick, Houchin said.
The bill also includes sports betting.
‘People think the revenue from sports betting is just going to be incredible,’ she said. ‘It’s going to be very minimal.’
The way it would work, she said, they would ‘geo-fence’ an area to allow sports betting such as inside a casino, sports bars, etc.
Houchin said she didn’t think any of the proposed legislation would effect Horseshoe Southern Indiana at Bridgeport in southern Harrison County.
Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., said he strongly disagreed, and, once a license is allowed to be moved, like the one proposed for Terre Haute, it would open a flood gate of others wanting a license moved to their city.
Houchin said no new licenses are a part of the legislation.
Voelker said the casino in Rising Sun would like to be one that could move.
The legislators stayed after the alloted time to answer questions and hear from constituents.