One of the best parts about being a legislator is you get to help pass bills that make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers. Each bill passed is aimed at helping Hoosiers and making our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.
It was especially important for us this session to provide help for Hoosier military families. Many of our soldiers return from duty and need help to get back on their feet. To provide relief, a Military Relief Family Fund was created in 2007. Military families are eligible to apply for the grants from this fund that can be used to pay essential family expenses. This year’s bill has extended from one year to three years, the time a military service family may be eligible to receive assistance from this fund.
This year, it was equally important for us to help the victims of the State Fair stage collapse. We doubled the amount of compensation available for State Fair stage collapse victims. Legislation passed provides $6 million of supplemental funds for victims of the State Fair stage collapse, which increases total compensation from $5 million to $11 million.
Along similar lines, we created an Outdoor Stage Equipment Committee as an immediate action to regulate outdoor stage equipment while the summer study committee analyzes the issue further. We hope this will prevent the unfortunate tragedy that occurred last year at the Indiana State Fair from reoccurring.
Another critical bill passed this session makes a number of formerly legal but hazardous substances illegal to possess, transport or sell in the state of Indiana. Many Hoosier youth were falling prey to these dangerous drugs, which are designed to mimic the effects of marijuana and cocaine.
With the bill’s enactment, more than 60 chemical compounds found in synthetic drugs like “Spice” and “Bath Salts” were immediately added to the state’s list of illegal substances. The legislation closed loopholes in Indiana’s “synthetic drug” laws to cover the new products hitting the market that have slightly different compounds than those prohibited by Indiana law.
Passing legislation that helps Hoosiers families will remain the General Assembly’s top priority. I think all legislators would agree the 2012 Legislative Session was a productive session with needed legislation passed that will benefit Hoosiers.