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State lawmakers surveying Henry County

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

All it takes these days to talk with a state official is a stamp, a phone call or an online connection.

State Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) and State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) recently sent out their annual legislative surveys to get the pulse of their districts.

Leising represents District 42, speaking for most of Henry County, all of Rush County and portions of Decatur, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Shelby counties.

She wants to know what District 42 residents feel should be the top priority heading into the new legislative session.

On Leising's survey, the choices are: addiction treatment to address the drug epidemic; cutting taxes; increasing Department of Child Services funding to prevent child abuse; increasing funding for job-training programs; or increasing funding for K-12 schools.

The senator also left space for "other" where constituents can comment what their priority is if it isn't on that list.

The survey also asks whether people support or oppose requiring every Indiana school to conduct active-shooter safety drills.

State law currently allows only liquor stores to sell cold beer for carryout. Leising's survey asks whether voters support or oppose allowing licensed retail stores, including gas stations, to sell cold beer for carryout, as well.

She also wants to know if people think criminals should receive longer sentences if they committed their crime because of prejudice against the victim's race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

Crimes that are committed based on these reasons are generally classified as hate crimes.

The senator also asked whether her constituents support or oppose starting school after the fourth Monday in August.

Leising's survey deadline is Jan. 25.

Voters can contact Leising's office at 1-800-382-9467 or Senator.Leising@iga.in.gov to let the senator know what they think about important issues facing East Central Indiana.

Saunders represents District 54, which includes all of Henry County and parts of Wayne County, include Hagerstown, and Rush County, to include Rushville.

Saunders' voter survey covers more issues than the "upper house" questionnaire.

The state representative asks whether or not Henry County and Rushville residents support legislation that would encourage local schools to reduce spending on school administration and increase funding to the classroom, "even if that means that some school districts may elect to streamline school administrative positions and functions."

Saunders noted Indiana has the 36th lowest tax on cigarette packs. He wants to know if people support raising Indiana's 99.5 cent per pack cigarette tax, "which helps fund statewide public health programs such as Medicaid, the Healthy Indiana Plan and local mental health centers."

The District 54 survey asks if people in this area support a new hate crimes law that judges can use to automatically enhance criminal sentencing. The question specifically mentions that Indiana judges can currently consider criminal motivations and victim characteristics when determining sentencing.

Saunders also asked if his voters support adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in Indiana's civil rights statute.

The fifth question on the district poll is about Narcan and other drugs first responders use to reverse heroin or opioid overdoses. The high cost of these drugs can put a financial strain on the agencies that depend on them, Saunders said.

His question is whether or not people support repercussions for those who are administered the reversal drugs multiple times, such as requiring involuntary commitment to a certified addiction treatment program.

The survey asks voters if they believe Indiana should notify people with criminal records who have served their sentence and remained out of trouble for multiple years that they are eligible to have their records expunged.

Saunders also asks if individuals support the legalization of medical marijuana.

He wants to know if his voters think Indiana should direct a majority of its economic development efforts toward bringing in new businesses, helping existing businesses, or give equal efforts to new and existing businesses.

The final question on the survey is whether or not District 54 residents support making the Indiana handgun license a state-issued photo ID, like some other states. Currently, Indiana's license to carry a handgun does not include a photograph of the license holder.

Saunders' office mailed the survey out to each household in his district. Voters can return the mailer by taping it closed and putting a stamp on it.

Constituents can also complete the survey online at www.in.gov/h54.

The deadline for Saunders' survey is Jan. 31.

People can respond to the surveys by mail or online, but they should not do both.

The Indiana General Assembly's first day back on the job is Thursday, Jan. 3.