INDIANAPOLIS | The lazy days of summer are upon us, but Northwest Indiana's 21 state lawmakers aren't sitting in the shade sipping lemonade.
In addition to most of them running for re-election in November, nearly all will head to the Statehouse several times starting in August to participate in discussions to shape policy proposals they'll vote on when the Legislature convenes in January.
The General Assembly's summer study committees hear testimony from experts on a wide range of issues facing Indiana, with a goal of using that information to develop legislation to more effectively target the state's problems. Legislative leaders often assign lawmakers to as many as five study committees.
"I have always said that the committees are the workhorses of the Statehouse," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "The findings of these committees will help lay the path that the General Assembly will follow for much of the legislation that will come before legislators next year."
One of the committees expected to be most active this summer is the Department of Child Services Interim Study Committee, tasked with reviewing how to improve an agency critics charge has failed to prevent unnecessary child deaths by abusive parents.
State Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, is the top Democrat on the Interim Study Committee on Economic Development. That committee is slated to review how Indiana's tax laws affect business growth.
Arnold said his goal is to "take a deeper look at how we can boost the development of good-paying jobs in our state."
The Health Finance Committee will examine how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, affects Indiana's budget.
The court said states could not be penalized for ignoring the law's requirement to expand Medicaid eligibility, which is projected to cost Indiana an extra $2 billion through 2020. Failing to provide coverage to the uninsured, however, will force thousands of low-income Hoosiers to continue relying on expensive emergency room care, the cost of which often is passed on to other patients.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary; state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso; and state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, all sit on the Health Finance Committee.
A hullabaloo by conservative senators earlier this year over a charity license plate issued to an Indianapolis organization supporting gay youth prompted creation of the Interim Study Committee on Special Group Recognition License Plates.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, who sought to reduce or eliminate group license plates prior to the effort to revoke the Indiana Youth Group plate, is chairman of that study committee, which includes Arnold and Rogers.
Other committees will review Indiana's transportation infrastructure, unemployment insurance program, state regulations, education policy, child care needs, the criminal code and several additional topics.
Final reports containing recommendations from each committee are typically the basis for proposed new laws.