Leonard staying busy this session

Dan Leonard
Dan Leonard

Huntington’s State Rep. Dan Leonard (R, District 50) represents all of Huntington County at the State House.

Leonard has served as Huntington County’s representative in the Indiana House of Representatives since 2002.

As a seasoned member, Leonard stays busy, but is also a guiding force for newcomers.

He co-authored a Grain Indemnity Bill, HB 1483, which is meant to help local farmers.

The bill would amend the definition of “failed” or “failure” under the Indiana Grain Buyers and Warehouse Licensing Law.

Leonard says Salamonie Mills and Agland Grain, of Warren, recently struggled financially, and many farmers from around the county and surrounding areas stored their grain there.

The new bill would work as an insurance program, Leonard explains.

Leonard said newcomer Rep. Craig Snow (R, District 18) is the official author of the bill, and “he’s doing a great job with it.”

Leonard says Snow has experience writing crop insurance for farmers, and he is very knowledgeable about the subject matter.

“We always try to have freshman carry bills,” Leonard explains of co-authoring the bill with Snow. He says it helps give them the experience they need to be successful with authoring their own legislation.

The bill, at press time, was 25 percent progressed, and was scheduled to be heard in committee on Feb. 3.

Leonard’s big kahuna this session is HB 1043, his bill concerning courts and magistrates.

If passed, this bill will allow the judges of the Huntington circuit and superior courts to jointly appoint a magistrate to serve the Huntington County courts.

 “It’s moving,” he says of the bill.

He explains HB 1043 will most likely be combined with another similar legislation, Rep. Bob Cherry’s (R – District 53) HB 1064, which requests a full-time magistrate for Hancock County.

A study completed in summer 2020 showed heavy caseloads in Huntington courts. The magistrate, a civil officer or lay judge who conducts court with minor offenses and holds preliminary hearings for more serious ones, would help to alleviate some of the back log.

The bill has been recommitted to the Ways and Means Committee, says Leonard, which happens any time a bill has a financial aspect, he explains.

The bill would cost the state $180,000, which would reduce the cost of a magistrate for the county.

Leonard has authored two other bills this session, including an unemployment insurance bill, HB 1152, which seeks to reduce fraud and abuse of unemployment benefits.

Leonard says it is a fairly simple bill, and if passed, it would move many people who are waiting for appeals to be heard to the front of the line.

The other, HB 1271, deals with the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF).

Leonard says it started out as a 79-page bill and he anticipates it will be over 150 pages “by the time we’re done.”

He says it is what is called a “Christmas tree” bill, because it encompasses every type of tax imaginable.

Information about the bill, including a digest of all it entails, can be found at iga.in.gov.

Leonard says it already has 18 amendments and he expects even more.

The bill will be heard in the House this week.

Leonard says overall there have been some interesting bills introduced this year, and COVID-19 has certainly caused some angst, but he says Indiana has sustained much better than most states.

“Indiana is doing extremely well under the conditions,” he explains. “Indiana is so fortunate.”

Leonard mentioned numbers recently released from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), reporting a 4.3 percent unemployment rate in Indiana.

Leonard says it is something to be proud of, as the national rate sits near 6 percent.

He says 120,000 jobs are available on indianacareerconnect.com, a website fueled by the DWD.

He says the balanced budget in Indiana, as well as the $2.2 billion surplus, sustained the economy much better than other states in the nation.

“Indiana is very frugal,” he says.

Leonard says he is confident Indiana will weather current situations and come out in good shape.

He says he has received his first COVID-19 vaccination, and is excited to receive his second dose in the coming days.

As vaccines continue to roll-out across the state, a bill being heard in the House Rules Committee, of which Leonard is chair, aims to “reign in the governor’s authority on executive powers,” says Leonard.

This week the committee will vote on the amended bill.

“We are certainly not trying to slap the governor,” says Leonard.

“I do think it is time we send a message to him to be thoughtful of his executive orders.”