Legislators address internet, housing, term limits


JASPER — Saturday’s legislative breakfast encompassed discussions about a range of topics, such as high-speed internet, housing studies and term limits.

State Reps. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, and Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty and State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, addressed the topics at the meeting, which was hosted by Vincennes University Jasper Campus and the Jasper Chamber of Commerce.

All questions were written and submitted to Jasper Chamber Executive Director Nancy Eckerle, who read them aloud.

A questioner asked how legislators will make sure Dubois County gets reliable high-speed internet soon. Messmer mentioned Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to use $100 million for grants to companies that will expand service to unserved and underserved areas.

“It will be up to the companies to submit their plan,” he said, “detailing how much it will cost, how much they will put in and how much they are asking the state for.”

Bartels said broadband may eventually have to become a regulated business. “Everybody hates to hear that, and I hate to say that as a legislator,” he said. “But it is a necessity. We have to face that fact. Indiana is going to have to look at this as a utility, at some point.”

He mentioned that he fought against allowing companies to include in their grant request costs to operate the service. “I’m fully against that,” Bartels said. “It should be for the expansion, not the operation of broadband.”

House Bill 1625 would require local units of government to prepare a housing study if they intend to adopt an ordinance that may increase or decrease the cost of housing. The commenter wrote that the unfunded mandate would be costly, especially to small governments.

Both Lindauer and Bartels voted against the bill, which narrowly passed the House.

“We voted against it because it was never explained to me how it would benefit local units,” Lindauer said. “I think the author’s intent with the bill was good; but I didn’t necessarily agree with it.”

The bill is being sponsored in the Senate by Messmer. “The intent was to not pass ordinances that raise the cost of workforce housing,” Messmer said.

The senator has met with people who support the bill and will meet with this week with the Association of Municipalities and the Association of Indiana Counties. Governments do not support the bill, the commenter wrote.

“I can’t tell you what is going to happen to that bill,” Messmer said. “I can tell you that I am going to listen to the people on the local government’s side of things and what was drafted. If it can be fixed, it will be fixed. It it can’t, it will go away.”

Other topics bought up at the meeting included legislation concerning education, payday loans, liquor laws and the publication of foreclosure notices.

A question about term limits also came up. Lindauer said that he would prefer there be a limit. “A person can be there too long” he said. “But there is a value in being there for a certain amount of time, whether that be eight, 10, 12 years.”

By then, a legislator has had time to learn the process and is able to be effective in the position, he said.

Both Messmer and Bartels do not favor term limits. Messmer said that because the Indiana Legislature is a part-time position, there is always some turnover, with old members going out and new members coming in. He believes term limits would be more effective in places where legislator positions are full time.

“There is already term limits. I’m elected for a two-year term. That’s it,” Bartels said. “If I don’t do that job well, vote me out.”

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