Republican Committee Report paves way for roads jobs

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Republican Committee Report Paves Way for Roads Jobs

While the Statehouse has maintained a busy pace the past four weeks, this week’s proceedings became particularly eventful. On Wednesday, House Bill 1369 was heard in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee.

In committee, an amendment, filed by Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson), made numerous changes to the statutes governing public-private agreements with the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) concerning toll roads. The amendment hampered efforts to create jobs by creating a bureaucratic maze before a road project could begin. The amendment also jeopardized two key projects, the Ohio River Bridges project of Kentucky and Indiana and the Illiana Expressway. The proposed 10-mile Indiana portion of the Illiana Expressway would connect Interstate 65 with Interstate 55 in Illinois. The bill passed out of the committee on a party line vote, with no support from any House Republican members.

Due to the concerns expressed in committee, House Republicans filed a minority report giving public-private partnership authority to build the Illiana Expressway. The minority report paved the way for road construction jobs to be created in a part of the state that desperately need jobs and new infrastructure. Unfortunately, the report failed on a largely party-line vote.

Rep. Austin, as the author of the bill, then presented the majority committee report to the House explaining the reason why the bill passed out of committee and should continue to second reading.

Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) told the Post-Tribune that the “majority report included several ‘poison pills’ that were sure to kill the public-private partnership to build the Illiana Expressway.” He also expressed frustration at a requirement of having a memorandum of understanding with every city and town the road touches. “The legislation only complicated the project. I don’t play games with thousands of jobs and people’s lives,” he said.

“This bill was the exact opposite of a jobs bill,” said Rep. Randy Borror (R-Fort Wayne). “It would have created a bureaucratic mess that would have deterred investment in roads in the state, but it would have also delayed job creation at a time when Hoosiers need jobs the most.

“For a vehicle bill to be passed in about an hour and with little discussion is troublesome. The majority report contained too many flaws and if any legislator has an interest in seeing the Ohio River Bridges project of Kentucky and Indiana completed or an interest in the Illiana Expressway being built—they could not have supported this report. Too many people had too many concerns—none of which were answered or even addressed in this report. Some Democrat members of the committee openly admitted that this bill was not a jobs bill. A bill of this magnitude and of this importance that has to do with jobs in Indiana, along with the Illiana and Ohio River bridges project, deserves to go through the proper channels.”

The majority committee report failed by a tie 49-49 vote (a majority is required for passage). Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) adjourned the day’s proceedings shortly after the vote was tallied, killing six other committee reports. If a committee report on a bill is not adopted, the bill doesn’t move to second reading on the House floor.

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