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Indiana Senator Randy Head (R - Logansport) visited Culver and Argos Saturday, discussing some of the more high-profile areas of state legislation of late and fielding questions from citizens.
At a "town hall" style meeting at Culver-Union Twp. Public Library, Head, now in the fourth year of his first term and serving the area due to recent redistricting, initially discussed the controversial "Right to Work" law, which passed last month, as well as the state smoking ban, which has passed the House but not the Senate.
The Right to Work law, Head emphasized, says no one in a union shop can be forced to pay union dues in order to work there, but that the law does not outlaw unions, as some have suggested. He also insisted the legislation won't drive down wages and will instead bring new jobs to Indiana.
"I voted on the side of worker freedom," he said. "Some Right to Work states have stronger unions than non Right to Work states. The stronger unions are those that bring value to workers; those kind will stay or grow."
Head said the proposed Indiana smoking ban is the "second most controversial thing we've done" this session, adding he voted for it in committee and in the senate. The House and Senate versions of the bill are "drastically different" and must be reconciled in order for the bill to survive, he said. The House version, he explained, has numerous exemptions to the ban -- including casinos, bars and taverns, fraternal organizations, home-based businesses, and nursing homes. Opponents of the bill felt it infringed on the rights of business owners to decide what may happen on their own property.
Head noted testimony from a cardiologist was quite compelling for him; the heart attack rate among nonsmokers was 70 percent below that of smokers in one smoking ban community, it was said.
Discussion of local issues included a bill which would allow counties to choose to allow golf carts on county roads, a revision of 2009 legislation which allowed towns and cities to permit the vehicles on their streets, but banned them from state and county roads entirely. The ruling has been particularly thorny in communities like Culver, in which traveling the few blocks from town limits to the Culver Academies campus technically puts golf carts briefly -- and illegally -- on a county road. House Bill 1117, which defines utility distribution, could have a tangible impact on one major development in the Lake Maxinkuckee area of late. Audience member Trent Bennett discussed an historic agreement between the town of Culver and Southwest Conservancy District, which would hook 165 homes previously using septic systems, to the town's municipal sewer system. The bill in question, said Bennett, provides that sewer districts may not require property owners to connect for ten to twenty years, provided the health department certifies their septic is working.
Seven homes on Lake Maxinkuckee's south or west shores have already hooked up, Bennett said, with the rest to be on by this fall.
The bill passed the Indiana Senate last month.
Other discussion included public education, funding for 911 dispatch by billing cell phone owners, and better rehabilitation for those leaving the state's prison system, to prevent their becoming repeat offenders.
A MORE DETAILED VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WILL APPEAR IN THE PRINT EDITION OF THE CULVER CITIZEN.