An effort to prevent soft drinks from being purchased with food stamps has died for this year in the Indiana General Assembly.

State Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville, filed House  Bill 1118 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1118) that would have prevented Supplemental Nutrition Program Assistance benefits (formerly called food stamps) from being used to purchase energy drinks, carbonated beverages, candy, chips and cookies.

The House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee did not give it a hearing.

Ziemke, whose district includes Fayette County, said from the start she knew passing the bill would be an uphill fight because of lobbyists from soft drink companies and other businesses affected by the prohibition. The federal government has not allowed implementation of similar laws in other states.

“Let’s acknowledge that we know the health of Hoosiers is not good with obesity and diabetes,” she said. “I think the most vulnerable population is that population (receiving SNAP). It doesn’t surprise me I didn’t get a hearing on it.”

She voted against House  Bill 1414 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1414), which would give utilities an extra year before closing coal-fired electric generating plants while the state studied the issue, she said.

Although the Sierra Club sponsored advertisements to kill the bill, Ziemke voted against it for her own reason: She did not agree with its purpose. Still, the bill passed out of the House, 52-41.

“They could not prove to me it was good for the ratepayers to give them (coal plants) an extra year,” she said. “If a utility says it is going to shut down a plant, why is it for us to give them another year?”

That is the state telling private utilities what to do and is viewed as the state propping up coal companies.

She voted for HB 1070 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/house/1070), which prohibits the use of telecommunication devices in motor vehicles such as cellphones without hands-free or voice-operated technologies.

Ziemke said the bill passed 86-10.

“We passed that you cannot text and drive but it is not enforceable because you can still be holding a phone,” she said. “The bill requires it to be in a cradle or using Bluetooth. The testimony from police is that at night they could see the blue lights in vehicles so people weren’t looking up.”

In past sessions, Ziemke has authored bills to reduce the size of township governments. This year she did not author bills on that subject. Rep. Karen Engleman authored a bill to eliminate all township assessors.

Twelve years ago the state legislature eliminated township assessors except in larger townships, which could have a referendum to keep their assessors. Township assessor duties became part of the county assessor’s duties.

The House approved the measure 53-44 with Ziemke voting in favor. The Senate Local Government Committee gave it a hearing Thursday but did not pass it.

Thirteen townships approved keeping their assessors, including Wayne Township in Wayne County.

A Senate bill to eliminate township government did not receive a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee.

Ziemke said Democrats have complained that Republicans took surplus revenue money and paid for six university projects to eliminate interest expenses instead of for teacher pay raises.

“It’s what the governor wanted and of course we agreed because it will save $137 million in the long run by not bonding for these capital projects,” she said. “It was a one-time amount of money we had as an overage. We can’t say we’re going to do it one year and not do it the next.”

Senate  Bill 436 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/senate/436) to have the Indiana Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute crimes in a county where the county prosecutor by policy would not prosecute died on the Senate floor.

“That goes back to prosecutors being mad the new Marion County prosecutor saying he will not prosecute marijuana possessions,” she said.

The last day for the Senate and House to pass bills is March 3 and then conference committees will begin meeting. The final day for the session is March 15.
Copyright © 2021 The Connersville News-Examiner