GREENFIELD – Road funding and solutions for Indiana’s drug problem dominated local lawmakers’ discussion with residents last weekend.
Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, and Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, met with a room full of local officials and residents Saturday at Carol’s Cornerstone Café in Greenfield to talk about this year’s legislative session. About 25 people attended.
Cherry, who has so far been absent from the Statehouse as he recovers from triple-bypass heart surgery he had last month, told the crowd he plans to return to work this week.
One of Cherry’s five bills he authored this year was sent to the Senate; he’s now sponsoring three Senate bills in the House. Crider had five bills advance from the Senate to the House — the average is three — and he’s now sponsoring a dozen House bills in his chamber.
Lawmakers said they plan to wrap up this year’s session in about a month, and there’s much work to be done before they leave Indianapolis.
Much like Saturday’s discussion, much conversation at the Statehouse this year has concerned road funding, lawmakers said.
Legislators are looking for ways to generate more money for Indiana’s failing infrastructure, and a House Bill that would generate about $500 million every year for roads by increasing the state’s cigarette and gasoline tax is working its way through the Legislature.
Crider told residents House Bill 1001 — which would hike Indiana’s 18 cent gasoline tax by about 4 cents, increase the cigarette tax by $1 and require the state to study the possibility of establishing toll roads on interstates 65 and 70 — has been assigned to a Senate committee for further study.
The bill passed the House 61-36 earlier this month and must be approved by the Senate and governor before it becomes law.
Crider said he expects the Senate to make some changes to the bill before it’s passed, and the Legislature needs to have a lot of discussions about road funding and the best ways to generate money for it before any bills pass.
Cherry told residents although he hasn’t been at the Statehouse or been able to vote on legislation, he’s keeping up with bills as they progress by staying in touch with fellow lawmakers and watching committee and House meetings online.
If House Bill 1001 passes, it will increase funding for roads across the state by about $1 billion in 2017. More than $200 million of new money would be generated every year for local communities.
“Local government is in darn need of money,” he said. “You’ll spend an extra $366 in automobile repairs every year because of the road conditions.”
Greenfield resident John Priore, who attended the meeting, said he doesn’t mind paying more gasoline tax if it means more money is spent on roads but worries the language of the bill is too broad, opening the possibility for money to be spent elsewhere.
Legislators also took time during the meeting to discuss their concerns about Hoosiers who are addicted to heroin and methamphetamine; legislation to curb those problems is currently on the table.
Crider and Cherry told residents about a bill that requires people who have been convicted of a drug-related felony to have a prescription in order to get pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, a common ingredient in meth. Two bills dealing with purchasing pseudoephedrine have already passed their chambers, lawmakers said.
Crider who is the disaster preparedness coordinator at Hancock Regional Hospital, said his work outside the Statehouse has brought him into contact with Hoosiers struggling with addiction, and lawmakers need to find proactive ways to help communities find solutions to help addicts.