INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, will lead the House Utilities Committee next year after successfully enacting a sustainable state and local road funding program during his eight-year tenure as Roads and Transportation Committee chairman.

In his new role, the seven-term lawmaker is expected to apply the same careful, evidence-based approach he used to identify and prioritize transportation spending as he begins tackling Indiana's multi-billion dollar water infrastructure issues.

According to the Indiana Finance Authority, there is an "immediate" need for $2.3 billion in water system repairs, and another $815 million a year is required for additional maintenance to protect human health and stem the loss of some 50 billion gallons of water a year that never make it to a customer.

"The gap between the money we have and the money needed is a very large number, and unless somebody has a friend that's a leprechaun we're going to have to find a way to set priorities, and do that in a constructive way so we can make progress," Soliday said at a Sept. 13 Water Infrastructure Task Force meeting.

He explained that, as with road funding, it's important to first understand the state's needs, which vary greatly among the more than 500 local water utilities, and then figure out a system to rank those needs and determine who is responsible for meeting them.

Beyond water infrastructure, Soliday's utilities committee also will evaluate and revise proposed new laws pertaining to electricity, telecommunications, rural broadband, wireless networks, wastewater systems and utility pole placement, among other topics.

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Its previous chairman, former state Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, a Purdue University Northwest graduate, resigned from the House in March after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed him to serve on the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission.

Soliday is the only Region representative selected by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to lead a committee during the four-month legislative session that begins Jan. 3.

Other notable committee appointments include state Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, as co-chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, while its usual leader, state Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, continues recovering from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle crash.

State Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, also was named chairwoman of the Ethics Committee by the No. 2 and No. 3 House Republicans, since Bosma is likely to be the subject of an ethics complaint in connection with his alleged efforts to intimidate a former Democratic House intern with whom in 1992 he reportedly had a sexual encounter.

Bosma has said those allegations are "unsubstantiated and unequivocally false." He also denies making any attempt to prevent the woman from telling her story.

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