Indiana—along with South Carolina, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Georgia—is currently one of only five states in the country without a hate crimes law on the books.
A series of high profile incidents helped highlight this disparity, including a July 2018 attack on Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, in which a pair of spray-painted Nazi Party flags and Iron Crosses, along with burn marks, were discovered on the brick walls around the garbage bins outside the synagogue.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders have pledged 2019 would be the year Indiana would remove itself from this ever-shrinking list.
However, the question of whether or not to include protected classes continues to be a sticking point.
Hate crimes legislation was conspicuously absent from House Speaker Brian Bosma’s list of legislative priorities for this session, but remains a top priority for Democrats and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, in particular, has been outspoken on this issue. He even broke with members of his own party to push for progress.
“I look forward to working with the General Assembly to achieve this goal so that our state law reflects what’s already in my administration’s employment policy,” he said during his Jan. 19 State of the State Address “Businesses interested in Indiana care about this issue, but it’s not just about business. At heart, this has to do with people’s dignity and how we treat one another. Standing strong against targeted violence motivated to instill fear against an entire group is the right thing to do.”
Indiana Forward, a bipartisan group of representatives from the business, nonprofit, advocacy, education, and faith communities praised Holcomb’s efforts. At a minimum, the campaign believes that any bias crimes law should clearly enumerate at least the following immutable characteristics: race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with him and our leaders in the General Assembly to make sure the best legislation crosses the goal line,” read part of the group’s statement following Holcomb’s address.
Hate crimes bills introduced this session include
Senate Bill 469, authored by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis
House Bill 1203, authored by Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City
House Bill 1159, authored by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis
House Bill 1371, authored by Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette
House Bill 1093, authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon
House Bill 1020, authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Avon
House Bill 1320, authored by Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis
Senate Bill 12, co-authored by Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores
Senate Bill 75, co-authored by Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis
Senate Bill 599, authored by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis
February 16, 2019 Local Lawmakers Discuss Teacher Pay, School Funding At Legislative Breakfast
A Saturday breakfast with lawmakers who represent Tippecanoe County in the Indiana General Assembly generated so many questions from attendees about education that moderators had to offer more time for the legislators to respond.
West Lafayette Rep. Chris Campbell says lawmakers are considering boosting school funding by two percent, but she says that might not be enough.
“At face value, it doesn’t look like the funding is going to be adequate enough to cover things like those pay raises that those teachers much need,” Campbell says.
But Campbell also says it’s hard to tell at this point how funding might change for each individual school, as the session is only about half-over.
Jefferson High School Senior Christie Cole attended the forum, along with several of her classmates. She says she agrees teacher pay and school safety should be a priority.
“I definitely think there’s a lot of things that could be improved in the school system right now,” Cole says.
Campbell says lawmakers will have a better idea of funding changes after the legislative budget proposal is released Tuesday.
February 21, 2019 State House Representatives vote ‘no’ to save funding for Hoosier State rail line WLFI
INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) – An amendment to the state budget proposed by State Representative Chris Campbell to keep state funding for the Hoosier State Rail Line was voted down in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
In the past, the state has contributed $3 million annually to support the rail line. It also received a combined $500,000 from Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Rensselaer, and Crawfordsville.
Governor Holcomb’s current proposal for the state budget does not include funding for the Amtrak line that connects Indianapolis to Chicago.
Representative Campbell’s amendment was for the full $3 million. It was voted down, 59 nays to 35 yeas. She said she has heard from her constituents that they want this rail line to continue.
“We have a lot of students in the West Lafayette, Lafayette area that rely on that transportation to get to and from the university to Indianapolis or Chicago,” she said.
She said she is also concerned for the jobs that will be lost because of the ending of this line, which will in turn impact tax revenue brought into the state. She said we will also lose federal dollars used to maintain the track.
Representative Campbell said the train line impacts other areas too.
“It will help our environment, it helps our roads, and it helps people with financial difficulty making those rides,” she said.
She said the city of Rensselaer will be impacted by the loss of transportation, especially since the city recently rebuilt its train depot in 2013.
People can still ride along the rail line as part of the Cardinal Rail line that runs from Washington D.C., through Indianapolis, to Chicago. That line only runs three times a week, opposed to the daily running of the Hoosier State Rail Line.
Governor Holcomb’s proposed budget is for the next two years and goes into effect on July 1st.
March 9, 2019 State Representative Chris Campbell to host coffee with constituents event
State Representative Chris Campbell of District 26 is hosting a coffee with constituents event. It will be held on Mar. 10 at West Lafayette Library located at 208 West Columbia Street from 2 to 3 p.m.
The goal is to give residents an opportunity to discuss concerns and issues in the community. This is the first public discussion she’s held since taking office this year.
Campbell is looking for thoughts and suggestions to help guide her legislation and the votes she will cast.
April 2, 2019 House rejects efforts to hike rental property registration fee in wake of Indiana Supreme Court ruling
Northwest Indiana Times
“This has been a very positive and very important thing that we’ve done in our community to keep students safe while they are at Purdue,” Campbell said.
State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, also pleaded for the fee hike, so his hometown has the tools it needs to ensure students attending Indiana University live in safe rental housing.
In addition, the fee increase was endorsed by state Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, and state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, who both argued that rental properties are like any business that must be inspected, and $5 doesn’t cover the cost.
“This isn’t just an issue that affects college towns. The city of Hammond is an older city, in transition, and there are a lot of really big, old homes that have been chopped up into apartments,” Candelaria Reardon said.
“These inspection programs are essential and they cost money, they cost money to run. This fee is reasonable.”
State Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, co-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, did not dispute that there may be some value to the rental registration program.
But he said going from a $5 annual fee to $150 a year is “a dramatic fee increase — one that I cannot support.”
Nearly all of Huston’s fellow state representatives concurred. Campbell’s proposal was defeated, 73-21.
April 2, 2019 House Rejects Rental Fee Cap Increase After Court Ruling
Indiana Public Media
The Indiana House rejected an attempt Monday to raise the cap on rental fees cities can charge to landlords.
Current law says municipalities can’t charge landlords an inspection fee of more than $5 per unit. Those charges are often passed on to renters.
Bloomington and West Lafayette – college towns with significant rental inspection programs – were exempt from that cap until a recent state Supreme Court decision eliminated those exemptions.
In response, Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) wanted to raise the cap for all cities to $150 per unit. She says the inspection programs help keep people safe.
“A lot of those inspections have led to cases where there were not fire alarms in the homes or too many occupants in the homes,” Campbell says.
But Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says jumping from a $5 cap to $150 is a dramatic increase.
“One I cannot support and I would appreciate your vote against this amendment,” Huston says.
Campbell’s amendment failed, 21 to 73.
April 3, 2019 Amtrak reaches “Hail Mary’ time to save Hoosier State train in Lafayette
Lafayette Journal & Courier
From a perch on the walkway that connects Riehle Plaza with the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge, Joe Krause knows the sound of Amtrak’s Hoosier State pulling into downtown Lafayette.
A whistle at a Shadeland crossing five miles from the Big Four Depot will be followed shortly in Tuesday’s dawn by one on Wabash Avenue, just a mile away.
“I used to carry a radio, but it got too heavy,” said Krause, a retired West Lafayette High School teacher who has been greeting Amtrak trains, including the Hoosier State line on its way from Indianapolis to Chicago, as a volunteer most mornings since 2000. “The whistle tells me what I need to know.”
From Krause’s vantage point on the pedestrian overpass, he can see Julius Walker, a retired postal carrier and fellow Amtrak volunteer for the past five years, who has ushered 26 passengers from a depot lobby to the platform on the other side of the tracks in time for the Hoosier State to pull in. (“OK, everybody,” Walker said holding the door, “let’s go catch a train.”)
Krause says his station, up high, gives him a clear view of the Myers Pedestrian Bridge, the depot parking lot and the corner of Second and Main streets, all of which could produce what he calls “runners” trying to make in on board by the 7:36 a.m. departure. He’s got two runners on this Tuesday morning.
“You’ve got four minutes,” Walker hollered up to Krause, as the rest of the passengers boarded. “They’re going to be fine.”
“And they were,” Krause said, as the train pulled out of the station, on its way to Rensselaer, Dyer and then to Chicago.
How much longer, though?
That’s a ripe question for Krause, who has been watching that Indiana General Assembly closely in recent weeks, after Gov. Eric Holcomb said in January he was ready to pull a $3 million a year from the state’s next two-year budget for the four-day-a- week Hoosier State line.
The Indiana House budget that followed didn’t include money for the Hoosier State. (That includes a specific rejection of an amendment offered in February by state Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, to fund the Hoosier State.) And, so far, there have been no signs that Indiana Senate budget-makers are ready to feed that $6 million to the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Hoosier State line item, either.
Without that cash, the Hoosier State is scheduled to stop June 30.
“I never say it’s over until it’s over,” Krause said. “But we all know, it’s not looking good. … The people who care don’t matter. And the people who matter don’t care. I’m not sure how they’re going to resolve this.”
‘WORRY ABOUT THIS TRAIN ON A DAILY BASIS’
Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice president for state-supported services, said the rail company understands it is down to the final days to make its case for Indiana’s continued investment into the Hoosier State – a line he said was “in a tough corridor, because the drive time is still faster than what the train could do.”
“We’re not particles trapped in amber here,” McHugh said. “We think about and worry about this train on a daily basis. And we want it to be successful. I completely understand the fact that taxpayers of Indiana are paying money for this train. And there’s a lot of demand for that money, so we need to prove that we are doing
everything we can to make this a viable and relevant service for the people in Indianapolis and along the route to Chicago.”
In March, Amtrak played its most recent hand, announcing that it planned to shave 15 minutes off the five-hour trip from Indianapolis. The details, including departure and arrival times at stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette and Rensselaer, are expected by the end of April.
McHugh said the move was part of a long-term negotiations with CSX, the freight rail company that owns the majority of the tracks on the 196-mile route, to help shorten the time from Indianapolis to Chicago.
McHugh said the idea was that the time savings would attract more riders, and the $72,000 annual savings in crew costs and other expenses found in those 15 minutes per run would be a bonus for INDOT.
“We were able to carve out some time from the schedule for no cost to the taxpayers of Indiana,” McHugh said. “That’s significant. … Getting minutes across the system is never free.”
Is it enough to change minds at the Statehouse?
“I don’t believe that’s changes the state’s position,” said Scott Manning, INDOT spokesman.
AMTRAK MAKES ITS CASE
The state’s $3 million – combined with roughly $500,000 from Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer, all communities looking to save the Amtrak route – has been part of the Hoosier State survival since 2015. At that time, federal funding dried up for Amtrak routes shorter than 750 miles. The Hoosier State is one of more than two dozen state-supported train routes for Amtrak. The local-state partnership was predicated on demands for better service for the Hoosier State, including ridership growth and on-time performance.
McHugh made the case that the Hoosier State’s reliability – “That was the biggest complaint we got from your communities when this all started,” he said – has improved.
The Hoosier State’s on-time performance was at 54.1 percent and 66.7 percent in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, according to Amtrak figures. In the three years that followed, the on-time performance was 82.9 percent, 73.2 percent and 77 percent. In the most recent 12 months, through February 2019, the Hoosier State was on time 80.5 percent of the time, Amtrak figures show. Amtrak sets an 80 percent on-time or early target for all of its lines.
Manning said INDOT was looking for more tickets sold. Riders on the Hoosier State in each of the past four fiscal years. In fiscal year 2014, 33,930 people rode the Hoosier State. By fiscal year 2018, that was down to 27,876. That’s a 17.8 percent decrease.
Manning said INDOT put the revenue per rider during fiscal year 2019 at $32.85, with a state and local subsidy cost of $100.89 per rider.
“Where we’ve been, there has not been the increase in ridership needed,” Manning said. “That’s really been the sticking point for the state since the conversation started. … Even with that (15 minutes) in place, we’re not of the belief that that’s going to significantly boost the ridership to a level where we can see that per-ticket subsidy come down.”
State Rep. Sharon Negele, an Attica Republican, is financial officer for the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, a group of state leaders from across the region that advocate for passenger rail improvements. She called the Hoosier State’s cause “an uphill battle” at the Statehouse.
“Amtrak has been working the halls with their announcement of reducing travel time by 15 minutes and saving the state $72,000 annually,” Negele said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, that’s not enough to swing the pendulum. I know there are some folks still investigating federal grant dollars that could possibly cover operating costs and capital improvements, but at this point it appears to be a Hail Mary.”
ANY MORE MAGIC LEFT TO SAVE THE LINE?
Is there more Amtrak could offer in the weeks left until the end of the General Assembly session?
McHugh said the schedule change should signal Amtrak’s willingness to work with INDOT to chase federal money for track improvements that could cut more time and eventually take the Hoosier State from one train four times a week to two trains daily between Indianapolis and Chicago.
“But the rabbit is no longer up our sleeve,” McHugh said. “The train had been performing poorly. I think we fixed that, and we can demonstrate it. … I’d say that was one rabbit we pulled out.”
McHugh’s pitch: “Long term, Chicago to Indianapolis needs rail service. And I mean daily service. … We were very saddened by the turn of events, and we very much want to do whatever we can to convince people that we will make this service better.”
Tod Bassler, a board member of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said he agreed that the Hoosier State should be saved. He said that once it’s gone, it would take a lot for Amtrak to win – or buy – back that slot in CSX’s schedule. He said Amtrak’s Cardinal line – a long-route train that stops in Lafayette on the days the Hoosier State doesn’t – isn’t enough.
Bassler said he doesn’t have “details or guarantees,” but he predicted that even if the General Assembly leaves the Hoosier State out of the budget, “don’t be surprised if after July the service is still around, but in a slightly different form.”
“Even though on the surface it doesn’t look very good, there continues to be work in order to come up with some sort of compromise,” Bassler said. “I continue to be surprised by last-minute surprises.”
McHugh didn’t sound as optimistic if the $3 million a year isn’t in the budget. Manning didn’t either.
“We’re waiting to see what the final budget looks like,” Manning said. “If the funding line item is placed in the next biennium, we’ll work with Amtrak to continue service. If not, we’ll work with them to wind it down.”
At the Big Four Depot Tuesday morning, the Hoosier State pulled out on time, even with the two “runners” emerging from the Riehle Plaza elevator at 7:35 a.m. to be greeted by Walker, who assured them again that they were right on time. They trailed Emily Armstead, a Lafayette resident who said she was traveling to see her sister in Chicago for a few days.
“I just like the train,” Armstead said. “Sometimes, it’s the way to go.”
Krause said he and Walker saw all sorts of people, including regulars traveling for business and Purdue University students making connections in Chicago.
“I don’t think the governor knows what Indiana’s going to miss,” Krause said. “I’m hoping for the best. I’ll be here until the end, if the end is coming.”
April 8, 2019 Amtrak suspends Hoosier State line tickets WLFI
Amtrak’s Hoosier State line from Indianapolis to Chicago may not continue after July 1. The company suspended ticket sales after June 30th.
State funding for the route isn’t in the budget right now but customers like Victoria Woeste hope that changes.
“For me, it’s been an honest to goodness life saver,” said Woeste.
She said the Hoosier State line saves money on her commute to Chicago each week for work.
“Parking anywhere in Chicago for two hours is going to cost you as much as a one way train ticket,” said Woeste.
She doesn’t understand why the state doesn’t have the Hoosier State line in the current budget proposals.
“It’s a drop in the bucket of the overall budget of the state,” said Woeste. “Three million dollars per year for two years, that’s what we are talking about.”
The route doesn’t just help out people in the Tippecanoe County area, it goes from Indianapolis to Chicago.
“There should absolutely be more than just I-65 connecting those two cities,” said Woeste.
State Representative Chris Campbell agrees. That’s why she proposed an amendment to add the funding into the budget but failed.
“When it comes to public transportation options, we are getting less and less,” said Rep. Campbell. “We can’t continue to just pour money into our roads that continue to become just overcrowded.”
Woeste said she’s been telling people to call the Governor to get the funding back. However, she hasn’t had much luck doing that herself.
“It will be a real loss to me personally,” said Woeste.
Without it, she’s going to take the train one way and catch an airport shuttle back.
“Which is a heck of a lot less convenient and frankly, not nearly as comfortable,” said Woeste. “And it’s also like three times as expensive.”
There’s still a chance Hoosier State line funding could be added to the budget this session.
Campbell and Woeste said if you want it, you should call your state legislator and the Governor’s Office before it’s too late.
April 8, 2019 Indiana Lawmakers Firmly Reject Landlord Fee Hike
Landlords in Indiana have an extra reason to smile this Spring.
Indiana lawmakers forcefully rejected a measure that would increase the maximum registration fee municipalities can charge rental property owners each year.
Senate Bill 171 aimed to increase the highest allowable fee per rental property from the current $5 fee to $150 per rental property. The additional funds were earmarked to help maintain rental safety programs in West Lafayette and Bloomington, which is home to Purdue University and Indiana University, respectively.
“This has been a very positive and very important thing that we’ve done in our community to keep students safe while they are at Purdue,” said State Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana.
In addition to helping with student rental housing safety, other lawmakers contended that rental properties are similar to many other businesses that need inspections. Such inspections can be expensive and $5 isn’t enough, said state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, according to the Times report.
While he believes there is merit in such rental registration programs, Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said that the proposed hike from $5 to $150 is “a dramatic fee increase — one that I cannot support.”
Many lawmakers agreed with Houston, voting 73-21 on April 1 to defeat the measure. Two days later, an amended version of the bill was returned to the Senate
April 9, 2019 West Lafayette football team honored for state championship on Indiana House floor WLFI
The West Lafayette football team was recognized on the Indiana House floor Tuesday for their 2018 state title. Representatives Sheila Klinker and Chris Campbell hosted the Red Devils at the statehouse.
West Lafayette defeated Evansville Reitz 47-42 in the Class 3A State Championship and finished the season 15-0.
“The accomplishments of these young men speak to the talent, skill and dedication they have given to high school football and their team,” Klinker said. “This historic season will be remembered by players, coaches, friends, family, and now the Indiana General Assembly for years to come.”
The championship was RDP’s first state title since 2009.
April 9, 2019 Teachers across Tippecanoe County “walk-in” to show support for education funding
Teachers across the state went to school early Wednesday, but it wasn’t to get a jump start on their daily lessons. It was to rally in support of funding education.
Teachers wore red as they took part in a statewide walk-in before school Wednesday morning.
Walk-ins began early in the morning, depending on what time school started.
Administrators were made aware of the plans, and many speakers were in attendance at different schools including Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis.
A teacher at Lafayette Jeff High School said it’s important to bring light to the lack of teacher pay and the teacher shortage in Indiana.
She said it’s all about having the state legislature listen to the teachers.
“They want to send a positive message to the state legislature and say ‘hey we’re gathering together we have all of these people that are in support of more funding for public education and now we need you step up and do the right thing.'” said Jennifer Smith-Margraf. “I will say there is also some frustration that is has to get to this point.”
The walk-in was to encourage state legislators to increase the amount of money budgeted for public education.
Right now, the state budget proposal includes a two-percent increase.
Educator Kathy Parker said it would do very little to benefit public schools. That includes what she says is a much needed increase in teacher’s salaries.
Parker hopes state lawmakers are paying attention.
“We do want to make our voices heard,” she said. “We want to give the legislature notice that we are watching what they’re doing and we want to be treated fairly.”
Educators in the Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe School corporations were among those participating.
The teachers were joined by city officials and members of the state legislature. That includes Democratic State Representative Chris Campbell.
She said Wednesday’s demonstration sends a clear message to the state.
“I think our teachers are telling our state that this is important,” said Campbell. “This is an investment in our future, and we are not going to let that be jeopardized.”
The state legislature has until midnight on April 29 to decide on the budget.
April 10, 2019 Tippecanoe County Teachers Join Protest For Better Pay
Teachers around Indiana rallied Wednesday in support of increasing teacher pay beyond what Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly have proposed.
Governor Eric Holcomb has led the push for adding two percent to what the state puts into its K-12 education budget, but educators like West Lafayette High School science teacher Andi Hipsher say that’s not enough.
“We feel that the two percent will barely even cover raises and they’re taking money from us in other places, so in some corporations, ours included, we might end up having a net loss,” she says.
Democrats have complained too much money is going to charter and virtual schools, and they claim the governor’s proposal to free up dollars elsewhere isn’t likely to translate into larger paychecks for classroom employees.
State Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette), who was elected to her first term in November largely on a platform of improving teacher pay, says she thinks even if schools can free up those dollars, needs such as building maintenance will come first.
“I think the schools don’t have the money to do that,” Campbell says. “The schools can’t do that unless they get rid of teachers to do that. If they can’t fund the teachers that they have with the money that they’re getting, they’re actually going to have to cut teachers.”
Indiana State Teacher’s Association President Teresa Meredith addressed a crowd outside West Lafayette High School, noting an apparent disconnect between how the state’s business community and Indiana teachers are treated.
“Now if we were standing in front of you and saying the business community – the folks in the business community – were profiting the least amount in the entire county, do you think our legislators would stand for that? No, they wouldn’t,” Meredith says. “They would be moving heaven and earth to make sure this was a business-friendly state and that this was certainly a business-profitable state.”
A recent study shows Indiana teachers have seen the smallest pay hikes in the country since 2002.
Still, teachers at the West Lafayette rally say they’re not ready yet to walk off the job as West Virginia teachers did in early 2018 and early 2019.
April 13, 2019 Recognizing the band
State Representative Chris Campbell (West Lafayette), IPL 500 Festival Parade Co- Chair Mark Eutsler, State Representative Sheila Klinker (Lafayette), State Senator Brian Buchanan (Lebanon) and Purdue University Director of Bands Jay Gephart gathered recently at the statehouse for passage of House Concurrent Resolution 51, which recognizes the Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band’s centennial appearance at the Indy 500 — the year Crawfordsville native Howdy Wilcox won the race driving a car entered by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gephart, a Ladoga native and Southmont High School alumnus, is the band’s fifth director. He also
coordinates the Parade of Bands, begun in 1922, in which high school bands march around the IMS as part of Indy 500 pre-race entertainment. The AAMB has also appeared in every nationally televised IPL 500 Festival Parade since its inception in 1957, held in downtown Indianapolis the day before the Indy 500.
April 17, 2019 Local legislators fighting for Hoosier State rail line
State Senator Ron Alting is not giving up on funding for the Hoosier State Rail Line. That’s the Amtrak rail line that connects Indianapolis to Chicago, and runs through Lafayette and Rensselaer.
As News 18 previously reported, it first became evident that the line might lose its funding back in February of this year, and Amtrak suspended the ticket sales for the line earlier this month.
Funding for the line has not been included throughout the entire process of getting the state budget through the statehouse.
He said that is why he was asked not to propose his amendment yesterday, which was the deadline to make changes to the state budget. However, Senator Alting and other legislators, like Representatives Campbell, Klinker, and Negele, are still fighting to get $6 million into the budget for it.
“Persistence is the key on any legislation, on getting something done,” said Senator Alting. “You just have to be persistent, persistent, persistent and that’s what we are doing.”
He added that he is grateful for the support and collaboration of his fellow legislators from this area.
Senator Alting spoke at the Indiana Passenger and Rail Alliance rally at the statehouse on Wednesday afternoon. Representatives Campbell and Klinker also attended the rally to show support. He hopes the rally will show the importance of the passenger rail line to his fellow legislators. Especially considering the number of his constituents who utilize the line regularly.
“It’s a necessity in Tippecanoe County,” he said. “We have a variety of people who ride it. Students going home to visit their families, which is a quality of life issue, we have economic development people that ride it to go to various meetings in Chicago and elsewhere, we have families who travel to Chicago for fun.”
The lack of funding for the Hoosier State line will also relocate the jobs of 500 Hoosiers who work at an Amtrak maintenance facility in Beech Grove to other states in the Midwest that are investing in rail transportation. Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley also attended the rally to advocate for the rail line.
April 20, 2019 Lawmakers fail to reach deal to keep Hoosier State line on rails
RENSSELAER — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to pull millions of dollars from the state’s two-year budget will derail a popular passenger train service between Chicago and Indianapolis as of July 1.
And a new deal to secure funding for the line appears highly unlikely.
Supporters of the Indy-to-Windy City route — known as the Hoosier State line — gathered at the Statehouse for a rally Wednesday, hoping to convince Holcomb and state lawmakers that the line is an important part of transportation for Hoosiers.
Holcomb announced in January that he would pull $3 million per year earmarked for the Hoosier State from the state’s two-year budget which begins July 1.
The Hoosier State line consists of two trains — No. 850 and No. 851 — that run Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday between Indianapolis and Chicago, with stops in Dyer, Rensselaer, Lafayette and Crawfordsville.
The other train with local stops on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday each week is the long-distance Cardinal line that runs between New York and Chicago. That line, which will continue to operate as usual, also makes Indiana stops in Dyer, Rensselaer, Lafayette, Crawfordsville and Connorsville.
Cost of a one-way adult ticket on both the Cardinal and Hoosier State from Rensselaer to Chicago ranges from $27-$34 for a reserved coach seat to $42 for a business class seat. From Rensselaer to Indianapolis, it ranges from $31-$47 for coach, and $52 for business class.
According to Steven Coxhead, president of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, the Hoosier State has received $3 million from the state budget each year since 2015. The line also receives a combined $500,000 annually from five municipalities — Rensselaer, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County.
According to Amtrak.com, federal law requires states to pay a portion of the cost of certain Amtrak trains operated on corridors of less than 750 miles in length or designated as high-speed corridors. It’s known as Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which basically yanked federal funding from Amtrak for those shorter lines and placed the cost burden on states and local municipalities.
“I don’t see any movement yet to help us fund the Hoosier State,” Rensselaer Mayor Stephen Wood told the Rensselaer Republican for an online story published April 8. “It looks pretty bleak.”
According to figures provided by the Indiana Department of Transportation, ridership on the Hoosier State has decreased about 18 percent since 2014 — a statistic that likely figured into Holcomb’s decision to pull funding.
Without the $3 million in funding, Coxhead said the Hoosier State line will stop service effective July 1. Amtrak, which operates the Hoosier State, announced on April 8 that it has stopped selling tickets for service after June 30.
“We are extremely disappointed in Gov. Holcomb’s decision to defund this Amtrak service,” Coxhead said, adding that the line provides an alternative to “congested Interstate 65” and the “frequently delayed O’Hare (International) Airport.”
A ride on the 196-mile Hoosier State line from Indianapolis to Chicago takes about five hours — or two hours longer than it would to drive between the two cities on the interstate highways.
April 24, 2019 How your state legislator plan to vote on state budget WLFI
The Indiana Legislative session is expected to adjourn on Wednesday, three days earlier than originally planned.
It’s going to be a late night for legislators, as final bills are being pushed through and as they look to vote on the biennial state budget.
Representative Sharon Negele, House District 13, and Senators Ron Alting, Senate District 22, and Randall Head, Senate District 18, have confirmed that they will vote yes for the budget.
Senator Head said this is a balanced budget and it needs to be passed.
Representatives Sheila Klinker, House District 27, and Chris Campbell, House District 26, said they will vote no.
Representative Campbell said in a statement, “I am disappointed in funding for teachers and traditional public schools in Indiana and that the Hoosier State Rail was not funded this year, even though ridership increased by more than 4% this year.”
Rep. Klinker agreed with Campbell about reasons for voting no. The current state budget includes $763 million in new K-12 education spending compared to the previous budget. Rep. Klinker said it’s still unclear how the money will be distributed, but said that teachers would expect to get a little more than 2% of a payroll increase.
As a major advocate for education in the statehouse, Rep. Klinker wanted to see 3%.
The Hoosier Rail Line was also a point of contention for Rep. Klinker. As News 18 previously reported, this is one of two Amtrak lines that run from Indianapolis to Chicago.
Legislators from around the viewing area have been very vocal about this lack of funding. They have come together to fight hard in these last few weeks of the session to get it into the state budget, with no success.
They say losing the line will be a major loss to constituents. They are also concerned about losing jobs at the Amtrak maintenance facility in Beech Grove.
Rep. Campbell tells News 18 that the testimony on the budget is tentatively set for 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
April 25, 2019 All you need to know as the 2019 legislative session comes to an end
The 2019 legislative session came to a close Wednesday night, and lawmakers approved a new state budget bill. The Indiana Senate passed the budget 41 to 8. The house also passed the budget bill 67 to 31.The bill now sits on Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk.
How Local Legislators Voted:
Representative Sharon Negele and Senators Ron Alting and Randall Head all voted yes for the budget. Representatives Sheila Klinker and Chris Campbell both voted against the bill. Klinker told us part of the reason for her decision was that she believes it doesn’t include enough money for schools.
Hoosier State Line:
The $6 million required to maintain the Hoosier State Line for two years was not included in the state budget plan approved. As News 18 previously reported, this is one of two Amtrak lines that run from Indianapolis to Chicago.
Legislators from around the viewing area have been very vocal about this lack of funding. According to Greater Lafayette Commerce, a third of the riders of the line are tied to Purdue University. Legislators have come together to fight hard in these last few weeks of the session to get it into the state budget, with no success.
Legislators say losing the line will be a major loss to constituents. They are also concerned about losing jobs at the Amtrak maintenance facility in Beech Grove.
Service is scheduled to end July 1.
Hoosier lawmakers voted on a historic increase in education funding during Wednesday’s session. More than $500 million will be used to fund K-12 education in
2020 and 2021. The new budget will increase school funding by around 2.5-percent each year for the next two budget years.
The increase still falls short of the nine-percent education advocacy groups estimate is needed to boost the state’s average teacher pay to the midpoint of surrounding states. The budget will pay off $150 million of schools’ teacher pension obligations.
The payoff will be funded from state reserves. It would help save schools up to $70 million per year.
State Representative Sheila Klinker said there is still work to be done on the budget.
“We do want to make sure that those dollars go to teacher pay raises where it’s supposed to go,” said Klinker.
An additional $74 million each year would be used for various statewide education programs. This includes various grants and teacher training programs.
School Bus Stopping Arm Violations:
A bill to create harsher punishments for drivers who pass a stopped school bus passed. State Senator Randall Head wrote the bill after three young children in his district were killed as they boarded their school bus.
It raises the penalty of recklessly passing a stopped school bus from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Level 6 Felony.
“Schools have been very cooperative,” said Head. “A lot of schools have been getting cameras and redoing their bus routes with an eye toward safety since this happened. A lot of good things have come from this horrible, horrible tragedy.”
Head also said that he has been in contact with the family of the children who were killed. He said they had “tears of joy” knowing that the bill was successful.
Purdue Funding in Budget:
There was a big win for Purdue in the state budget. The university will get $133 million for two different capital projects.
One would save the accreditation of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and the other would allow for a new STEM lab to be built. Purdue President Mitch Daniels lobbied for the funds in March.
Daniels says $73 million will go to the new Vet Hospital. The current facility was built in 1959 and is no longer up to regulations. The program was at risk of losing its accreditation. The price tag for the new hospital is $108 million. According to Daniels, $35 million has already been raised.
Daniels says the university was treated well in this bill.
“A school like ours should hope for at most one major capital project,” said Daniels. To be awarded two in the same year affirms that the general assembly sees Purdue as providing very special value to the state.”
The other project getting state money is the new 145,000 square foot STEM lab teaching facility. Purdue will get $60 million in state funds for the facility.
The only request the school didn’t get was $2 million for expanded programs at the Purdue Fort Wayne campus.
Attempted Murder Suspect Trial Age:
A bill to lower the age where an attempted murder suspect can be tried as an adult has failed. It was proposed after a school shooting in Noblesville last may, where the 13- year old suspect had to remain in the juvenile court system.
Amnesty for Unpaid Traffic Fees:
A bill to create an amnesty program for unpaid traffic fees was approved. It will allow people to pay lower fines than what they were originally issued in some cases. The bill was co-authored by local representative Sharon Negele.
Also passing, a gambling bill, that legalizes sports betting in the state, as well as opening the doors for new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute, the Associated Press reports. The House and Senate both voted Wednesday to support the proposal hours after a final agreement was reached adding payments to Evansville and three northwestern Indiana cities that are expecting tax revenue hits from the new casinos competing with those in their communities.
A proposed $40 million tax credit to the new owner of the current Gary casinos was dropped, but negotiators say tax changes could save Spectacle Entertainment a similar amount over five years.
The bill would also legalize sports betting in the state possibly starting as early as this fall if it is signed into law by the governor. The horse track casinos in
Anderson and Shelbyville will be allowed to have table games with live dealers starting Jan. 1, 2020. That’s 18 months earlier than allowed under current law.
Gov. Eric Holcomb released the following statement:
“I want to commend Speaker Bosma and Senator Bray for their extraordinary leadership, and a job well done to their members and staffs.
“With the investments we’ll make over the next two years, we’ll be able to make our strong state, even more so.
“We balanced our budget for the eighth straight time and protected our AAA credit rating. We’re making historic investments in K-12 education, expanding our school safety efforts, and implementing all the recommendations to improve our child services. We are strengthening our already transformational road and rail programs, doubling down on our Next Level Jobs programs, and connecting more Hoosiers to affordable broadband service. We passed a bias crimes law and modernized our tax code. We’ll help more babies reach their first birthdays. Indiana is on a roll.
“I am proud of what was accomplished this legislative session and the way it was accomplished — by working together collaboratively.”