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OPEN ITEM – Welcome the Indy Star’s Statehouse Team

The Indianapolis Star has a new team of reporters covering the Statehouse - we've got their biographies for you in case you missed them.At the end of a long article covering Governor Mike Pence’s proposal to phase out property taxes on industrial equipment is a brief introduction to some of the other issues in the legislature and introductions to the team who will be covering the action in the Statehouse for the Indianapolis Star. We pulled out the intros from Tony Cook’s article for those who didn’t read all the way to the end:

Barb Berggoetz, a veteran reporter who has worked at The Star since 1985, is returning to covering the Statehouse after several years of focusing on wellness, fitness and consumer health issues. She has extensive experience writing about state education issues, K-12 schools, higher education, courts and the retail industry. Email: barb.berggoetz@indystar.com. Twitter: @barbberg.

Tony Cook has spent past year exploring the intersection between government and business as a member of The Star’s business and investigative teams. He has written about questionable pay raises for utility executives, allegations of self-dealing within a grant program funded by public riverboat casino money, and controversy surrounding a proposed coal gasification plant in Rockport. Before joining The Star in 2012, he worked at the Las Vegas Sun, the Toledo Blade, and the Cincinnati Post. Email: tony.cook@indystar.com. Twitter: @indystartony

Greg Weaver is the editor who will be guiding The Star’s Statehouse coverage. He covered his first session of the Indiana General Assembly in 1983 as a college reporter for the Ball State Daily News and developed the first computer database of Indiana campaign contributions as Statehouse reporter for The Evansville Courier in the early 1990s. He is now in his second stint as government editor at The Star, where over the past 20 years he has guided award-winning reporting on the deep influence of lobbyists, the ethics scandal surrounding Duke Energy’s Edwardsport plant and questionable grants from a casino-funded government program. Email: greg.weaver@indystar.com. Twitter: @BizWeaver.

Other members of The Star’s government and education team also will provide some coverage of the legislature this year. They include city hall reporter Jon Murray, John Russell on economic development and health care, Eric Weddle on K-12 education and Stephanie Wang on higher education.

We’re looking forward to their efforts covering the action in the capital during what promises to be a fast-paced legislative session. The tax proposal could cast a large shadow over a session that everyone expects to be dominated by debate over HJR 6 – the resolution that would allow Hoosiers to vote on amending the state Constitution to define marriage. There are a couple of reasons why this could be a really big deal:

  1. The governor and state legislative leaders agree in concept on the importance of phasing this tax out. Economic developers at the state level clearly believe that this has cost the state investment opportunities and this is a clear way to improve the business climate in Indiana relative to our neighboring states.
  2. Local governments are very concerned about the impact of shifting the property tax burden in their communities. It’s notable that there are tons of complaints in Cook’s piece from local governments in spite of the fact that the proposal hasn’t been completely flushed out and Statehouse leaders have clearly indicated they’re looking for ways to replace the revenue local governments may lose from this restructuring
  3. Tax policy is a nuanced issue and it’s not often that you see major changes to tax policy considered during a short session, so close to elections.

While we anticipate a fast-paced legislative session, there is still time for legislators – who are going to be in close contact with their municipal leaders throughout the session – to sort through the details. Expect that various interests will stake out their ground as the policy is developed. This united front in terms of setting the priorities and the governor deferring to the legislature to work out the details suggests a more coordinated effort to this change in tax policy than the debate surrounding the income tax cut during last session.

In other news, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) will be unveiling his legislative agenda for the House at 10 a.m. tomorrow. We’re checking to see if there will be a livestream of his press conference. Watch our Twitter and Facebook feeds for updates if we learn more.

Yesterday we had the first effort from a new contributor, Jessica Evers. Please be sure to check out her thoughts on lessons that can be taken from the popular drama The West Wing and how we approach conversations about policy and politics. Evers is a recent Top 25 Under 25 honoree and we look forward to more contributions from her in the future.

If you have some thoughts you’d like to share with the world, Hoosier Access is the best platform to reach Hoosier conservatives and right of center activists. Please send us a note if you have something you’d like to contribute. Also, today’s the final day we’ll be collecting input on reader survey – please take the time to share your thoughts with us before we start going through the results.

This post was tagged under: 2014 Election, Brian Bosma, General Assembly, Governor, Indiana House, Indiana Politics, Indiana Senate, Legislation, Local Government, Local Politics, Mike Pence, Open Item, Property Taxes, SJR7/Marriage Amendment, Taxes, Top 25 Hoosier Politicos Under 25

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