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Indiana senators make waves in D.C.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Friday’s Third House forum provided more than 50 in attendance not only an opportunity to hear about state issues, but an update from Washington, D.C. as well.

Officials from the offices of U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun were on hand along with a representative of U.S. Rep. Greg Pence’s office.

Sean DuFault, executive director of the New Castle-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the event, asked each to speak briefly about recent Congressional activities. Here is a recap.

Sen. Todd Young

Tom Barclay, a representative of Sen. Young’s office, said the man who is now Indiana’s senior senator has been busy.

“Already this year, the senator has seen four of his bills passed and signed into law by the president. The most notable is creating the 61st national park. Indiana Dunes is now federally recognized as a national park,” Barclay said.

Barclay said Young also has championed legislation for the great outdoors.

“Seeing the extension of the Lewis and Clark trail, legislation that will bring it from St. Louis through Clarksville and on into Pennsylvania, has been a priority for the senator,” Barclay continued. “Modernizing the FFA program to match the needs of agricultural education. Today, a new generation is being raised in the agricultural world. Also allowing people who are receiving housing vouchers to move where they can find work and not being constrained to a single area.”

State Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville), praised Young’s effort with the Lewis and Clark trail.

“I have served on the Lewis and Clark Commission by state statute for over 10 years,” Saunders said. “I drive to Jeffersonville for an hour meeting every quarter. I know they’ve worked for more than 20 years to get that expanded. St. Louis has always taken credit for Lewis and Clark starting there. The argument is it started when Merriweather Lewis and William Clark shook hands at the Falls of the Ohio and went across the river to Louisville and recruited the 16 brave men who made up the expedition and left there to go to St. Louis.”

Sen. Mike Braun

Though still in the early weeks of his tenure as Indiana’s junior senator, Braun has been anything but a spectator.

“He’s been very active since the day he was sworn in as your new senator,” said Braun’s regional director, Jerry Alexander. “He proposed a bill right out of the gate called ‘no budget, no pay’ that received a lot of attention and a lot of support. We’re hoping that bill passes.”

Alexander also said a Braun retirement bill receiving a lot of support. The bill would carve what some perceive as outrageous retirement benefits for politicians.

“The current Speaker’s retirement would be $164,000 a year,” he said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Braun has also introduced three bills dealing with prescription drugs in an effort to reduce cost by taking out “perks” drug manufacturers get.

“The senator has done a lot of great things in a very short time. I’m excited about it and I hope you are too,” Alexander said.

U.S. Rep. Greg Pence

Ryan Jarmula, the district director and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, said the congressman’s priorities are constituent services.

“It’s no secret that we are in the minority so the Congressman wants to focus on constituent services and correspondence,” Jarmula said. “If you need help with navigating the bureaucracy with Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare or Veterans Administration issues or working with federal agencies, we have a very experienced staff throughout the district.”

Jamula said Rep. Pence’s flagship office is now open in Columbus with others opening soon in Richmond, Muncie and “maybe Greenfield.”