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Johnson County representatives lace up sneakers to raise cancer awareness

Friday, February 22nd, 2019
Johnson County Legislators_Suits and Sneakers_Feb. 19

State Reps. John Young (R-Franklin) (left) and Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) (right) pair sneakers with their suits to draw attention to National Cancer Prevention Month Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. Each year, the Indiana House of Representatives participates in the Suits and Sneakers challenge, an annual event hosted by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate from cancer has dropped 19 percent in Indiana over the last 25 years. Local lawmakers encourage Hoosiers to take preventative steps like receiving regular cancer screenings to continue lowering this rate.

House advances Burton’s bill protecting property owners

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

 The House of Representatives voted in supported of State Rep. Woody Burton’s legislation protecting property owners from being held accountable for their tenants’ unpaid utility bills.  

According to Burton, smaller communities can pass ordinances that place the responsibility for tenants’ unpaid utilities on property owners. Burton said these local ordinances tie the hands of landlords who have limited options to prevent high bills.

“Aside from a lengthy and costly eviction process, property owners who are fully responsible for utility services have few options to prevent tenants from racking up excessive bills,” Burton said. “Unlike utility companies that are able to hold customers accountable by terminating services for nonpayment, landlords are stuck paying, even if they are not receiving money from their tenants.” 

Burton’s legislation would require municipally owned utility companies to bill renters directly for services for gas, electricity or water, unless the landlord and renter come to a separate agreement.

“Shifting the responsibility away from the tenant unfairly burdens the property owner,” Burton said. “While most renters pay on time and in full, some can rack up several months’ worth of unpaid bills that landlords could be held accountable for paying. This legislation would ensure that the person using the service, pays for the service.” 

House Bill 1347 can now be considered by the Senate. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more.


Get the Facts

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Misinformation is a common problem in the modern era. Thanks to the internet and social media, it is easy for information about a variety of issues, including legislation, to be shared quickly and become distorted or inaccurate. It is like a game of telephone. A message can change many times before reaching you. The easiest way to ensure you have correct information is getting it from the original source.

The best place to learn about legislation working its way through the General Assembly is by visiting iga.in.gov. On this website, you can find the exact language of a bill and how it will appear in Indiana code. Committee hearings and session meetings are livestreamed and archived, so you can watch lawmakers discuss different bills and listen to public testimony. If you are passionate about a bill or topic being considered, you can also attend meetings in-person and testify in committee.   

If you read something about a bill or the work being done at the Statehouse, I encourage you to consider the source. Without fact-checking, you may only get a small snapshot of a proposal’s impact. Throughout session, groups send out mass emails or alerts, sometimes only sharing half the story in order to rally a large number of people in support or opposition of legislation.

A recent example of this is a bill concerning firearm training for teachers. I received over 100 emails about this legislation. Many constituents had been misinformed about what the proposal would actually do, and were led to believe it would put their children at risk by arming public school teachers. In reality, Indiana law already gives school boards the authority to allow specific teachers or administrators to legally possess a firearm while on school property. The legislation currently being considered would only allow school districts to apply for a grant from the Secured School Safety Grant Program so those choosing and permitted to carry on school property can complete a 40-hour training course.

I am a firm believer in taking the time to learn and understand what it means to carry a firearm. Not only do these courses provide training on how to fire a weapon, but they also teach school faculty how to operate in moments of crisis and great stress, like an active shooter situation.

I support this bill because providing proper training for teachers and school staff who volunteer to carry could add an important layer of protection for Indiana students. Unfortunately due to inaccurate information, a majority of our conversations concerning this bill have been spent dispelling rumors.

In order to prevent this from happening in the future, I recommend reaching out to me directly. I am always available to talk about legislation moving through the process. Before making any decision, I consider all of the feedback I receive from our community. You can contact me to ask questions or voice concerns by calling 317-234-3827, or emailing h58@iga.in.gov. To keep our community informed of the work I’m doing at the Statehouse, I often share updates on different bills being considered through my regular e-newsletter. To sign up to receive these, please visit www.iga.in.gov/h58.

While it may be tempting to take everything you hear or read at face value, it is always best consider the source and research the issue further to get all the facts.

Burton’s ‘13th check’ legislation advances to the Senate

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

The House of Representatives on Monday supported State Rep. Woody Burton’s bill providing a 13th check for public employee pensions. 

The “13th check” is a flat payment based on an individual’s number of years vested in their retirement plan and is not equal to a monthly pension check. Burton said this additional check would help close potential cost-of-living gaps that pensioners face.

“As some costs continue to rise, pension benefits do not go as far as they used to,” Burton said. “Because Indiana has continued to pass fiscally sound policies, we have the means to provide additional support to public retirees who dedicated their careers to serving Hoosiers.” 

Burton said teachers, public employees, state excise police, gaming agents, conservation officers and police officers who are a part of Indiana’s public pension program would receive a 13th check in 2019 and 2020, if this proposal becomes law.

According to Burton, the Indiana General Assembly passed the first 13th check in 1991 and has supported one nearly every year since.

House Bill 1139 can now be considered by the Senate. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more.

Keeping siblings, families together

Friday, January 18th, 2019

At the start of the new year, lawmakers returned to the Statehouse to begin working on critical issues impacting Hoosiers. I’m excited about many of the topics being discussed, but my top priority continues to be helping children in the foster care system. We should be doing everything in our power to protect children in foster homes and take every step to limit potential trauma during this transition.

Over the last several years, I talked with families, children and organizations from across the state to find ways to improve Indiana’s foster care system and adoption process. Last year, I authored a law increasing accountability and transparency during the fostering and adoption processes. To build off that progress, this year I authored legislation to ensure siblings are kept together and placed with available family members when possible. 

This is an issue close to my heart because as a young child, I was placed in a group home after my birth father, who frequently abused my mother, siblings and me, forced my mother to leave with him at gun point. Until my mother was able to escape and return home, I stayed in the group home. To this day, I still remember how frightened I was during that time. Because of my background, I am working hard to prevent children from having similar experiences.

Right now, the Indiana Department of Child Services works to place children with relatives or other custodial parents whenever possible; however, brothers and sisters can still be separated when a single home does not have enough room to take in every child. Under my proposal, DCS would work with juvenile courts to make every effort to place children in a relative’s home, while also considering placing a child in a home their brother or sister is already staying in. If this is not possible, a child would then be placed in the care of a foster parent. By taking these additional steps, we can help ensure a child’s needs are met and limit additional distress.   

This effort could go a long way in making a child feel safe and secure during an unknown and difficult situation. In many cases when brothers and sisters are separated in the foster care system and later adopted, they often lose contact with each other. Limiting the emotional distress can increase the chances of a successful placement in a foster home, and siblings who are placed in a home together often have a higher likelihood of being adopted together. Strong family ties are vital to the well-being of a child.    

This is just one of many important bills being considered to help Hoosier foster children. I will continue working diligently to help children find a safe and loving place to call home. To track bills as they move through the process and watch hearings online, visit iga.in.gov. Please share any input with me on issues impacting the state by emailing me at h58@iga.in.gov or calling 317-234-3827, and sign up to receive my regular e-newsletter updates at in.gov/h58