Recent Visit To OVHS Focuses On Statehouse Issues For 2013 Session
On his way to the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Indiana State Senator John Waterman (R-Sullivan) stopped by Owen Valley High School late last week to talk with students involved with Students Against Destructive Decisions.
Waterman explained that following a redistricting in early 2012, he now represents all of Owen County with the exception of the Cunot area. He also represents residents as far south as Martin County and Knox County.
“I started out in politics as a two-term sheriff in Sullivan County, I was in law enforcement for 14 years and have been in the senate now for 17 years,” he noted. “I ran a construction company for 25 years, as well. One of the things I really enjoy the most is law enforcement.”
Waterman was asked about bills in reference to drug usage.
“Right now, there are a lot of hearings on the sentencing in the criminal code. You’ve seen here recently that our state police superintendent made the statement about legalizing marijuana,” he said. “When someone with that type of appointment makes that type of statement, it brings a lot of attention to it. It will be an issue this year, but I don’t see it being legalized in Indiana in the near future. We are working on a bill to allow farmers to harvest hemp. Back in the 1940s, Indiana farmers used to be big suppliers of hemp fiber. The commercial plant has a very low level of THC, and it makes the best paper in the world, it makes clothing and other things. We import a lot of hemp fibers from Canada and China right now and we’d like to see our farmers given the opportunity to start growing hemp again.”
Waterman added that the primary concern of senators is the biannual budget that will be discussed during the upcoming 2013 legislative session.
“The main concern is the taxing revenue that comes in to support our schools, infrastructure and businesses,” he said. “With unemployment as high as it is, we’ve got to get a tax-friendly code in place to attract business to Indiana and bring a lot of outside investments into Indiana. Since 1999 I’ve worked with the business people in Taiwan. They buy a lot of their food from us, we export about $130 million of produce there every year.”
Waterman noted that while drinking and driving accidents have decreased in recent years, texting and driving crashes continue to rise.
One student questioned Waterman about Indiana reportedly being one of the leading states in terms of air pollution.
“We generate most of the electricity for several other states because Indiana is blessed with a lot of coal. We just spent $2 billion on a unit in southern Indiana using clean coal technology,” Waterman said. “That’s going to affect your parents’ rates and the schools’ electric bills, they will probably go up a third higher than what they are now. There is a big push by the federal government to go to alternative energy, but Indiana probably has a couple hundred years of coal reserves here and it’s the cheapest way to make electricity. It also provides high paying jobs, it’s hard to find good paying jobs like that around. Also you take into account all of the jobs that industry supports, like in rail and trucking.”
Waterman added that a major issue with the state’s workforce is the lack of vocational education.
“In junior high we used to have metal shop, welding and things, it used to be mandatory that students took those. Now we have at our plant in Carlisle, people from 25 years on down who can’t even read a tape measure,” he said. “They’re coming out of school with no training. I’ve got a bill I’ve introduced for the last three years that brings the vocational education back into the schools. I’m hoping the new public instruction superintendent will look at it and try to get more training for students. You have to get the skills in their hands by about seventh or eighth grade, get them adapted to it through high school, that way when they graduate, they enjoy doing it. Once you get out of school and are 19 years old, you don’t want to start doing things like that. A problem we’re having is some are trying to move all of that training to Ivy Tech so they can charge the kids to train them, instead of having it right here at their finger tips in high school.”
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