4/8/2017 Moving legislation through the process as session winds down Guest Column
Tony Cook State Rep.
At this point, the governor has signed 20 bills into law. He is considering a handful of others, including proposals I supported to decrease cervical cancer rates in the state, help veterans and remove financial barriers for those heading off to college.
According to the Indiana Cancer Consortium, there are nearly 250 new cervical cancer cases annually in our state, with 86 of these diagnoses eventually resulting in death. This type of cancer is largely preventable and highly treatable when it is diagnosed early. I supported a proposal that would require the Indiana State Health Department to create a strategic plan to identify barriers to cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment; develop private and public partnerships to increase awareness; and recommend actions to reduce the number of Hoosier cervical cancer deaths.
Another piece of legislation that I supported is dedicated to ensuring that families of military members who have passed away receive the benefits that they deserve. There are times when the spouse of a military service member may not always be aware of the resources available to them and their family. Legislation now heading to the governor for his consideration would allow the surviving spouses of veterans to indicate that status on their Indiana driver's license. Currently, only veterans and service members are allowed to list this information on their licenses.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles would then share the surviving spouse's status with the Department of Veteran's Affairs that would then forward the information to a local county veteran service officer. These service officers help connect veterans and their surviving spouses with assistance programs and other resources. Going forward, this would help prevent any surviving spouses from falling through the cracks of our various veterans' assistance efforts.
On a similar note, Indiana was recently recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as having the lowest unemployment rate for veterans in the nation. This proposal is another avenue helping those who bravely served our country.
As a former educator, I am eager to support legislation that helps our students achieve academic success. In 1997, Indiana established the CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings Plan to help families save tax-free money for college or other post-secondary education expenses. More than $3.76 billion has been invested in over 321,000 accounts. However, these funds are taken into consideration when a student applies for public assistance programs, such as Medicaid, and can negatively affect an individual's eligibility for state financial aid programs. I supported legislation that would prevent these savings from being taken into account. The cost of tuition, textbooks and other expenses are increasing every year. Hoosier families should not be deterred from saving for college or have their financial aid eligibility jeopardized.
As we continue to move bills through the legislative process, please contact me with any questions at H32@iga.in.gov or call 317-232-9793.
State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.