NO SHORTAGE OF ISSUES FOR LEGISLATORS TO DISCUSS AS ANOTHER 'SHORT' SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY NEARS
When it first happened, Ed Whitcomb was governor, Market Square Arena was under construction in Indianapolis and the Colts were an NFL team that played in Baltimore.
The year was 1972, and legislators from across Indiana gathered at the Statehouse as part of a new concept: a "short" session of the General Assembly. Up until that time, the state legislature convened only once every two years, with the budget always the center of attention.
But times changed, as did the complexity of everyday life. Some issues in need of legislative attention just couldn't wait a year. In fact, "special" sessions were being called so often to handle unexpected emergencies that it was decided in the best interests of Hoosiers to conduct a shorter version of a legislative session during non-budget years.
This year's short session of the 117th Indiana General Assembly begins on Wednesday, January 4, and must, by law, conclude no later than Wednesday, March 14. Our annual "Organization Day" meeting is set for Tuesday, November 22.
Even though our last legislative session ended April 29, we've had an active interim period. Many study committees have met to discuss problems and possible solutions on a variety of topics. Here is a snapshot of some issues we'll be addressing in this year's legislative session:
•Jobs and the Economy:
•No issue will be more important to lawmakers in the 2012 legislative session than strengthening Indiana's economy. Our state is widely recognized as a leader in economic development, but some of the worst national economic conditions in decades continue to keep too many Hoosiers out of work.
While government can't create jobs by itself, its actions can help attract increased private-sector investment, which is the real engine of economic growth. With this in mind, legislators will continue to pursue pro-growth policies by leveraging some of Indiana's key resources: a highly skilled workforce, world-class education system, strategic geographic location and modern infrastructure.
Continued Fiscal Responsibility:
While many states face daunting budget shortfalls caused by overspending and a difficult national economy, Indiana's commitment to fiscal responsibility has allowed our books to remain balanced with reserves in place. Lawmakers will work hard this session to preserve Indiana's sound fiscal footing by living within our means and finding ways to stretch tax dollars without negatively impacting essential state services.
Preparing Students for Success:
By supporting a student-focused, results-oriented public education system, Indiana is laying the groundwork for a future workforce with the skills necessary to grow our state's economy and succeed in an increasingly competitive world. Lawmakers and educators will strive this session to maintain Indiana's status as a national leader in education by promoting college and career readiness for every student and ensuring accountability for all schools.
Clarifying State Self-Defense Laws:
Balancing safety for law-enforcement officers with Hoosiers' right to defend their property will be a key concern for legislators this session as we respond to a recent unexpected Indiana Supreme Court ruling which said that Hoosiers don't have the right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes. At stake are two important principles: the centuries-old understanding that citizens can defend their property from unlawful intrusion and the responsibility to minimize the dangers faced by police in fast-paced, complex criminal investigations. The General Assembly will pursue legislation that honors both principles.
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne.