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May 9, 2011

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Representative Jim Baird’s First Term

Representative Jim Baird says he is humbled by the opportunity to serve in the Indiana State House. Baird recently finished his first term representing the 44th district of Indiana. He says his local government experience as Putnam County Commissioner was helpful in his new state position. As Commissioner he became familiar with the needs of local governments, which helped him distribute funds from the state to local programs. Baird says he was happy with the budget balance this term and the state’s ability to provide another 150 million dollars for the K through 12 education fund. He is also satisfied with actions to increase economic development.

BAIRD: "I really enjoyed the fact that we stayed on focus and we did do some things in this economic development area that I think are going to turn out to be beneficial."

These development programs include the Industrial Recovery Tax Credit that enables an organization to defer some of the upfront costs of restoring old structures. Baird says this will encourage business in the state. The Indiana Department of Education is also being encouraged to develop an entrepreneurial program. This would teach students about launching new businesses. Baird says he is satisfied with his decisions during his first term in office.

BAIRD: "I am very comfortable that we responded or I responded to the majority of our constituents and what they thought needed to be done at the state level."

Baird says he is interested to receive the results from a study being done this summer on the state’s infrastructure. This will determine needs for the coming years through 2035. He says the results will allow legislators to begin to establish funds for necessary infrastructure projects when the next term begins.

Indiana State Legislature Update

DePauw University Political Science professor, Bruce Stinebrickner says the Indiana State Legislature passed a lot more laws this year than in past years.

STINEBRICKNER: "It was a historic session. There was more significant historic legislation passed this year than there typically is in a ten year period. Remarkable. It was just explosive."

The new laws cover many topics. They range from blocking Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid money to reducing unemployment benefits and even banning texting while driving. However, Stinebrickner says the most important law passed dealt with public schools. Six different bills involving public schools were passed.

STINEBRICKNER: "That package of 6 different bills constitute a veritable revolution in the way public schools will be governed in the state-- it may lead to a great many more charter schools, a great many more private schools and in that way, signal the decline of public education in Indiana. That’s pretty important."

Stinebrickner says he was surprised that the Legislature was so productive this year, especially since in 5 of the 17 weeks no laws could be passed. This dead zone was due to the House Democrats leaving for Urbana, Illinois. Stinebrickner says the Legislature is done for the year but Indiana may continue to stay on national radar for a longer time. This is because Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels may declare a run for president in next year’s election. Stinebrickner says if Daniels decides to run, he will declare within the next two weeks.

Rain Keeps Farmers from Fields

Local farmers around Putnam County have been forced to push back their original planting dates due to the heavy amount of rain in the last several weeks. County Executive Director for the Putnam county farm service agency John Hannan has farmers in his office talking about the wait every day.

HANNAN: "The rain has really delayed farmers in getting their crops in the ground. Pretty much all of the farmers that I’ve spoken with and heard talking in and out of our office have said that they really have been waiting for their fields to dry out."

The scare for farmers is that this amount of rainfall will continue on throughout the month of May. Putnam County farmers who planned on double cropping, or planting long growing corn this season are already at risk of running out of time at the end of the season. Hannan and many of the farmers still have good expectations for the season and they have broke it down into the main factors which will make or break this grow season.

HANNAN: "Its dependent on how soon guys can get into the field at this point and then it will depend on the growing season, if it stays real wet, that could be a different story."

The following month will be a waiting game and until the rain stops the biggest problem farmers will have is trying to find the patience to wait for the land to dry up before sowing their seed.

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