Committee process offers important chance to tighten bills as legislative process moves ahead

By the time you read this column, we will be a quarter way through the 2015 legislative session.

Each session has its own personality, and this session certainly does. I seem to be constantly on the go between committee meetings, caucuses and session each day.

I am also getting an opportunity to serve as a committee chair for the first time, which has exposed me to the additional challenges of working on bills that are not mine in order to get them in condition to pass.

The full Senate body depends a lot on the committee process, and chairs are expected to get bills to the floor in the best shape possible in order to minimize further amendments.

It can be a bit uncomfortable to push back on a senior member whose idea is up for consideration; however, it is necessary, so I find myself exploring options in depth so I can intelligently discuss the bill.

This experience is helpful as I consider how to discuss my own proposals. This year, it seems that I have chosen proposed changes in law that require my full attention.

In normal reporting of this newspaper and others, you have heard about the bill to amend the statute of limitations for rape. This effort is based on the unfortunate experience of a local girl, Jenny Wendt Ewing.

My bill passed out of the Senate 49-1 this past week and moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

I am also hopeful about my proposal to address innocent co-insured parties who can be held responsible for the actions of a spouse who causes damage to property during a domestic breakup.

I am working hard on a bill to provide a series of pilot projects to examine the gaps in mental health services. This bill expands on the law that I passed last session dealing with psychiatric crisis intervention.

This effort, combined with a supporting bill, seeks to provide more training to law enforcement officers so they can effectively connect members of the public to mental health services. A bill to expand problem-solving courts will hopefully begin to make a difference in this area as well.

As always, I encourage you to contact me with ideas or concerns. My legislative survey will be coming back to me, and I always appreciate seeing how you feel about certain issues. I continue to enjoy serving you in this office and look forward to hearing from you soon. If you have occasion to be at the statehouse, please ask for me, and I’ll be glad to visit for as long as possible.

State Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, represents Hancock County in the Indiana General Assembly.