INDIANAPOLIS | Legislation that may someday boost Gary's economy and create jobs in the Steel City won unanimous approval from a Senate committee Wednesday.
Senate Bill 585, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, requires the state to study the possibility of locating in Gary a new Lake Michigan port, a trauma hospital and an academic medical center.
"This is a huge economic development driver for Northwest Indiana," Charbonneau said.
A provision that would have allowed a land-based casino in Gary was removed from the legislation before the committee vote.
A plan to change the membership of the Gary/Chicago Airport Authority also was dropped, though the measure that now advances to the full Senate gives the governor a veto over airport board members nominated by local officials.
Under the legislation, the city also would get additional tax revenue that is currently going to the Gary Sanitary District.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary City Council members, several Gary ministers and numerous Gary residents testified in favor of the proposal.
"This is our ability to reduce the poverty level," Freeman-Wilson said. "We are faced with a 42 percent poverty rate in the city of Gary, and certainly these developments give us an opportunity to impact that."
State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, the chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, said he was impressed to see the community united behind an economic development plan and hopeful it will prove successful.
"We're going to give you the tools," Alting said. "Just do it."