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Indiana Statehouse

The Indiana Statehouse is in Indianapolis.

Some Northwest Indiana lawmakers, fully aware of the need and thirst for more and better Region jobs and economic opportunities, didn't reflect these priorities in key Statehouse votes this past session.

These lawmakers should reevaluate their priorities, and voters and tradespeople need to remind the elected stewards what interests they're actually supposed to be serving.

The voting records for three bills, which carried key job and economic development measures for Northwest Indiana, tell the story.

The Legislature as a whole should be commended for passing House Bill 1015, which allows for one Gary riverboat casino to move to a far more lucrative land-based location.

A "hold-harmless" provision ensures Hammond, East Chicago and Michigan City will see no drop in their municipal gaming tax revenue for four years after the Gary casino move. It also authorizes a Terre Haute casino and legalizes sports wagering, including on mobile devices.

Ultimately, the bill will mean millions in new Region investment, construction and trades as well as casino jobs and a better revenue stream for the Steel City.

Region Indiana House Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, all voted "no" on the bill, which passed both chambers in spite of their opposition.

Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, was absent for this key Gary vote.

State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, was absent for the Senate vote — and all other 2019 votes — because of health issues.

Candelaria Reardon, Jackson and Moseley voted against jobs and a better shot at prosperity for our Region's most struggling city.

Three other Democratic lawmakers lodged disappointing votes for an economic development measure that could yield major job and revenue dividends for Hammond and the rest of our Region.

House Bill 1405 passed the General Assembly and has been signed into law by the governor.

It provides sales and business tax incentives to enable the $40 million, 105,000-square-foot Digital Crossroads of America Data Center at the site of the former State Line Generating Plant in Hammond to grow into a $200 million campus with 400,000 square feet of data storage.

Indiana House Reps. Lisa Beck, D-Crown Point, Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, and Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary, all voted "no" on the bill.

Candelaria Reardon did not vote on the measure, which is understandable given that her husband plays a role on the Hammond data center project's development team.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, was absent from voting in his chamber. He said he was traveling between committee meetings at the time of the vote.

Then came the vote on the state budget bill.

It includes up to $205 million in additional state money for the South Shore Line's West Lake expansion and double-track projects to cover a potential funding gap if the federal government reduces its matching share for transit projects.

Reps. Beck, Chyung, Candelaria Reardon, Hatcher, Jackson and Moseley all voted "no."

Thankfully enough other legislative stewards realized the value of these important bills to the state and Region.

Now it's time for the legislators who voted "no" to do some soul searching.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.