Starke County Highway Superintendent Elaborates on Road Funding

Starke County will be able to implement plans to pave 123 miles of local roads with asphalt over the next decade without raising taxes, according to Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler. He presented options to the county council Monday. They include using money from the Local Roads and Streets and County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) funds to draw down a maximum three-to-one funding match from the state. Continue reading

RFRA Expected to Dominate Legislature Again

Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Jim Arnold

The controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act that put Indiana in the national spotlight last year is expected to once again dominate the statehouse. Lawmakers return to work today. Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, says a bill has already been filed seeking to lessen the blow by making amicable measures for everyone concerned. Continue reading

Transportation Improvements Top List of Legislative Priorities

Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Jim Arnold

State lawmakers face the unenviable task of finding money to pay for significant road improvements during an election year. Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, says they’ve let the state’s infrastructure go for too long.

“We’re the crossroads of the nation, and right now we’re kind of in a real trick bag. What brought it to light was the I-65 at the Wildcat bridge down there in Lafayette. When that went out, it shut 65 down. The whole nation, the whole nation was tied up. Now that we’ve got that fixed we’re all realizing we’re going to have to put some money into roads.” Continue reading

Pseudoephedrine Regulation Proposed to Curb Meth Epidemic

Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Jim Arnold

State lawmakers may consider further regulating cold medication sales in an effort to curb Indiana’s methamphetamine epidemic. Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, says that’s one of several priority issues they will consider when they reconvene next week. He notes Indiana is the top state for meth production and says lawmakers need to find ways of harnessing the problem. Continue reading

Senator Decries Legislature’s “Education Session”

Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Jim Arnold

A local lawmaker says the recently completed session of the Indiana General Assembly was the most trying and most contentious of his nine-year legislative career. Gov. Mike Pence touted it as the education session. Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, agrees this year’s 2.2 percent increase in school funding and next year’s 2.5 percent hike are the largest increases in education funding in history.

“It sounds very good. The downside of that is that the vast majority of our increased money now is going to vouchers and going to charter schools, not going to public school systems,” Arnold recently told the Starke County Council and Commissioners. “The big winners of this are going to be the urban schools. The rural schools such as Knox are going to be the big losers.” Continue reading

ISTEP Testing Delayed at Knox Schools

 
 

The icy conditions yesterday, causing cancellation of a school day, also delayed the start of ISTEP testing in the Knox Middle School. Testing there was scheduled to start Tuesday.

At Monday’s meeting of the Knox School Board, Superintendent A.J. Gappa reviewed the constant changes in the ISTEP provisions by the State. In a visual presentation, he compared last year’s testing plan with the current year.

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Pulaski County Legislation May Lack State Support

Pulaski County Economic DevelopmentEfforts that could potentially benefit Pulaski County’s economic development may have a difficult time gaining support in Indianapolis.

Pulaski County Economic Development representatives say there is language in the Indiana Code restricting use of County Adjusted Gross Income Tax, or CAGIT funds. Those restrictions specify that monies generated through the tax are to be used only for the maintenance and operations of the Pulaski County Justice Center. Economic Development Director Nathan Origer says the jail’s lease payment is about 260-thousand dollars annually, the balance of which comes out of the County Economic Development Income Tax, or CEDIT fund. He would like to see a change in the law to allow that payment to be made from the CAGIT fund instead. Continue reading

Arnold Appointed Ranking Democrat on Four Senate Standing Committees

Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Jim Arnold

A state lawmaker whose district includes half of Starke County will serve as the ranking Democrat on four standing committees when the Indiana General Assembly convenes next month. Sen. Jim Arnold of LaPorte will serve in that capacity on the Senate Ethics Homeland Security and Transportation; Public Policy; and Veterans Affairs and the Military Committees. Continue reading

Competitive Grant Awarded to Help Treat Offenders with Mental Disorders

  
 

A grant in the amount of $175,000 has been awarded locally to provide treatment to adult offenders diagnosed with a mental disorder.

Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall and Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper worked together with Porter-Starke Services to secure this competitive grant which requires no local match money. Only 12 grants were distributed.

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Indiana General Assembly Approves More Than 300 New Laws

  
 
The Indiana General Assembly has approved just under 300 new laws this year, many of which became effective July 1. The new state laws impact a variety of issues, including the budget, roads and infrastructure, education funding, Medicaid expansion, and several others.

Some of the laws passed regarding education include House Enrolled Act 1003, which extends vouchers to any student who lives in an attendance zone with a failing school or has a sibling already participating in the program. In addition, the legislation permanently lifts the cap on the number of vouchers and increases eligibility to those earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. HEA 1003 amends the definition of voucher to require an individual or sibling of the individual to receive a scholarship granting organization of at least $800 in a prior school year as well as meet 150 percent of free and reduced lunch program income requirement.

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House Passes Bill to Limit Pseudoephedrine Sales

pseudoephedrineHoosier allergy sufferers could soon face tougher limits on how much over-the-counter cold medication they can purchase. A bill to set an annual cap on pseudoephedrine purchases passed the House by a vote of 91-1. The goal of the legislation is to curb the manufacture of methamphetamine by crimping the supply of one of the drug’s main ingredients. Plymouth Mayor and former Indiana State Police Trooper Mark Senter testified in support of the limits during a House hearing on the bill. Cold medications containing pseudoephedrine are already sold behind the counter in pharmacies in limited quantities, and purchasers must show a photo identification to buy them. The 61 gram per person limit is about an eight-month supply of the current law’s monthly limit. The bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration of a few minor changes before it can be sent to Governor Mike Pence for consideration.