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Buchanan updates Rotary on legislature

ROTARY VISIT: State Sen. Brian Buchanan, center, gave a talk and answered questions on legislative actions at Thursday’s Frankfort Rotary Club lunch at Arborwood, taking some time to visit with members afterward.

By ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

State Sen. Brian Buchanan spoke to Frankfort Rotary Club members during a lunch at Arborwood on Thursday, updating the membership on the state legislature and answering members’ questions afterward.

“Really today I just gave the folks here at the Frankfort Rotary an update of what we did last legislative session,” Buchanan said afterward. “I talked a lot about the budget because I think it’s important that taxpayers who provide revenue to the state know where their money goes.

“I just shared with them where their money is going and how the state’s using the taxpayers’ money and then I also talked about what potentially could be coming up in the next legislative session in January.”

Member questions afterward included ones concerning health-care costs,education funding, mental-health issues, climate change and the recent forming of a climate caucus federally by Republican Sen. Mike Braun and what may be done regarding dangers with vaping. Another member wanted to share his appreciation of recent improvements to Indiana’s roads and highways. 

“You never know for sure until bills are filed, but health care and health-care costs here in Indiana and how to we bring those down a little bit (is being discussed),” Buchanan said. “Compared to other states, we are definitely on the higher end of health-care costs and also some education issues (should be addressed).

“That will be some discussion. Those are two things I expect to take some time and also economic development and job growth.”

The Lebanon Republican provided a “State Budget Highlights” sheet for the nearly 40 members attending the lunch. It showed 50 percent of the budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year going to K-12 education, 15 percent to Medicaid/HIP, 12 percent to higher education, 6 percent to Public Safety and 5 percent to the Department of Child Services, along with some smaller dispersions. 

The flier highlights $75 million to teacher appreciation grants with a third of that available to teachers with less than five years experience and funding for a 13th check for teacher pensions. For K-12 education, it notes $17 billion in funding with increased support by $763 million and increased school safety grants by $20 million.

Other budget highlights from the flier include $502 million more in funding for DCS and “tools to increase efficiency” at DCS.

In relation to member questions, Buchanan noted that he believes vaping issues “will get a huge amount of discussion, especially with the things you read in the news in the last six months of students dying or having huge health issues.

“I know last year we talked about it and we talked about how do you tax vaping products,” he added. “One of (the reasons) we dropped it (was) because some of the legislators thought it was going to be such a low tax that it wasn’t going to make an impact. Two, is how do you tax it? Cigarettes right now are taxed by the carton or the pack where vaping you can mix it up with how much nicotine is put in. Is it done by the millimeter, is it done by this?

“... I can almost assure you (this will be addressed),” he added. “This goes into health care and Indiana has some of the highest health-care costs.”

After his talk, Buchanan spent some time visiting with Rotary members.

“It’s just been a real honor for me to get to know the people of Frankfort and Clinton County over the last year and a half and I look forward to serving them and representing them in Indianapolis,” he said.