The new lawmaker in the Indiana General Assembly representing Columbus is wasting no time in seeking changes in state government.
State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, filed House Bill 1192 — a measure to toughen penalties for any Indiana public servant convicted of felony theft, on the first day of the 2019 session on Thursday.
Under the proposal, any public servant in Indiana entrusted with tax dollars convicted of felony theft by stealing more than $750 in public funds would be required to serve at least 30 days in jail, Lauer said.
Five township officials in Bartholomew County have been investigated for financial improprieties in the last four years. They include former Rockcreek Township trustee David E. Buzzard, 2017; former Clay Township Trustee Rebecca A. “Becky” Smith, 2017; former Wayne Township Trustee Clint Madden, 2016; and former Clay Township Trustee Christa K. Acton and Deputy Trustee Laurie L. Baker, 2014.
While Lauer did not wish to say whether any of those high-profile cases motivated him to file the legislation, the former Bartholomew County Council president did say too many public officials are not adequately punished after being convicted of stealing public funds.
“It boils my blood,” Lauer said. “It’s something I’ve had on my mind for some time now.”
In regard to other legislative matters, Lauer said he anticipates education will be among his top priorities during the four-month legislative session.
However, state fiscal analysts projected that tax revenues will grow by about 2.5 percent each year for the next two years.
The math will be difficult as the state’s troubled Department of Child Services (DCS) is seeking about two-thirds of that money to keep paying for hundreds of new child-welfare caseworkers added over the last few years.
An expected jump in state costs for the Medicaid health care program for low-income families could consume the rest.
That would leave little money for even inflationary increases to K-12 schools, which account for about 52 percent of the state budget, statehouse leaders say.
Lauer said he supports teacher raises and proposals to strengthen Department of Child Services. In addition, the full-time technical specialist for Cummins, Inc. plans to propose a bill to create education savings accounts that will include a $1,000 annual tax credit, he said.
But when asked what areas of state government might experience cuts, Lauer did not have specifics.
“There are some areas or departments that may not be utilizing their full budgets, and that’s a good place to start,” Lauer said. “But it is prudent to look at the total spending of state government before we focus on priorities.”
Another bill Lauer says he plans to either introduce or co-sponsor is a measure that enhances protections against Social Security fraud. He also wants stronger penalties for scam phone callers and robocalls. Larger tax deductions for veterans are also something he is also considering, he said.
The General Assembly has 21 new faces this year, which includes 16 in the House and five in the Senate.
While that is a significant amount of turnover for a body of 150 lawmakers, Republicans are entering their seventh year of super majorities in both the House and the Senate that gives them control over legislative action.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”House Bill 1192 ” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Requires that a public servant who commits theft of public funds having a value of at least $750 be sentenced to a mandatory term of imprisonment of at least 30 days as part of the sentence. Specifies that: (1) the mandatory term is not suspendible; and (2) the person does not earn good time credit while serving the mandatory term.
Source: State Rep. Ryan Lauer
[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”How to reach Lauer” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
State Rep. Ryan Lauer
200 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 800-382-9841 or 317-234-9450
Email: [email protected]
Lauer is also expected to address constituent questions and concerns during the Third House sessions, sponsored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. These free public meetings will be held on the fourth Monday of the month — January through April — at Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.
[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Third House sessions” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
What: Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Third House sessions
When: 7:30 a.m. Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 25 and April 22
Where: Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.
How much: Free and open to the public. Sessions are canceled if Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. cancels classes due to weather.