ELKHART — A proposal aimed at dealing with drug users who collect public assistance fizzled in the recently concluded legislative session.
Indiana Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, hasn’t given up, though. He backed the legislation, House Bill 1483, and said Friday, May 10, that it’ll likely be a priority issue for him in the 2014 legislative session.
“That particular bill, in my way of thinking, was about as good as you can get,” said Neese, speaking at a legislative round-up session sponsored by the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. Other lawmakers were apparently worried about the potential impact to children, though, and House and Senate reps ultimately couldn’t reach compromise legislation on the matter before the session ended on April 26.
H.B. 1483, as approved by the Indiana House, would potentially have made recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, benefits submit to drug testing. TANF benefits are meant to help children in low-income families.
More specifically, the measure, as proposed by the House, would have obliged recipients of TANF benefits to complete a screening test for substance abuse. Those suspected of drug use would potentially have been required to submit to drug testing or face random testing. Those subsequently testing positive for drug use could still have received TANF benefits, but they would have had to submit to drug counseling and remain clean or risk losing the aid.
Neese said H.B. 1483 was the third version of legislation on the topic in his 11 legislative sessions. It’ll likely be a priority for him in 2014 and he’s willing to bring a measure back, perhaps with unspecified tweaks.
RV SALES TAX
Another priority for Neese in 2014, he said, will be a measure eliminating the sales tax in Indiana on recreational vehicles for out-of-state buyers. The state would lose some revenue, but the change would boost RV sales and the resulting income tax spike from RV manufacturers would offset that shortfall, argued Neese, the only lawmaker to attend Friday’s Elkhart chamber session.
Gov. Mike Pence, meanwhile, has indicated that a priority for him next year will be streamlining the process for businesses — barbershops, beauty parlors and real estate agencies, for instance — to get proper licensing, Neese said. The aim would be to make the process quicker and easier, spurring business development, or at least not hindering it.
Elkhart County Health Officer Dan Nafziger, one of about 15 people in attendance Friday, questioned Neese on a cut in anti-smoking funding in the two-year 2014-2015 budget that lawmakers approved last month. The funding, which aids anti-smoking and smoking cessation programs around the state, will go from $8 million down to around $4 million.
“It was an unfortunate situation that it was reduced at all, but it clearly happened,” said Neese. Anti-smoking and smoking cessation remain priority concerns, he said, and he expressed hope funding could be returned to the prior level or even increased.
$625 MILLION IN TAX SAVINGS
Neese spoke glowingly of the new two-year, $30-billion state budget for 2014 and 2015. It will result in a collective tax savings for Hoosiers of $625 million per year over four years due to cuts in the personal and corporate income tax rates and elimination of the inheritance tax. It’ll increase funding for primary and secondary education by $390 million over the two years and boost funding for roads statewide by $215 million, with $1.4 million of that earmarked for Elkhart County.