The Indiana General Assembly has been busy the last few months, tackling a number a contentious issues with most of their actions right on target as lawmakers took substantial steps to create a healthier and more prosperous state.
Undeterred by Democratic walkouts early in the year, lawmakers would not be bullied or allow the beneficial right-to-work legislation to die. In the end, after their parliamentary tricks were exhausted, opponents thankfully didn’t have the votes to stop right-to-work, which should mean a better economic climate for everyone. Right-to-work does not, as opponents claim, kill unions but simply allows individual employees the freedom to decide if they want to join the union. Workers should have the right to decide if they want their hard earned wages going toward union dues.
Right-to-work states also see higher private-sector payroll increases and have actually experienced private-sector job growth during the recession. Indiana was already considered business-friendly before the right-to-work law, and we think this effort will continue to make Indiana a destination state for businesses.
Lawmakers also — finally — approved a statewide smoking ban. We don’t love the ban because it is riddled with exceptions that fail to protect employees at bars, casinos and private clubs, among many other exempted locales. Nevertheless, the health of a majority of Indiana workers now will be protected from secondhand smoke, which costs Indiana more than $390 million dollars in excess medical expenses. We should see a great reduction in those medical bills, despite whatever holes remain in the ban.
Another outstanding accomplishment this session was creating a better climate for college students. One bill will make it easier for college credits to transfer and another helps fights the “credit creep” so more students can complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time and expense.
It was also pleasantly surprising to see elected officials put a clamp down on nepotism by preventing government employees from hiring their spouses or serving on elected boards that manage or oversee their offices’ budgets.
A phase out of the inheritance tax over the next decade will benefit business owners, farmers and families as it raises the current threshold from $100,000 to $250,000 starting this year and will eventually be eliminated completely. It will eventually reduce tax revenues by $160 million, but as the state has a comfortable surplus, putting this money back in the hands of taxpayers is the right thing to do.
It might be referred to as the short session, but we believe many of the actions taken by lawmakers will have a long-lasting effect that will benefit Hoosiers for years to come.