For immediate release:
Jan. 16, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - During the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly, State Representative Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) will focus on several bills that would positively impact constituents in House District 77 while providing benefits to Hoosiers statewide.
Rep. Riecken is encouraging legislators to consider bills to address the ongoing concerns created by vacant and abandoned housing, provide an option for riverboat casinos to be land-based, and fund the construction for a state-of-the-art medical school in the Evansville area.
One bill would speed up the process where a legally defined abandoned and vacant property would be ready for new owners a year earlier. The bill clears up bill drafting errors of law enacted last session that prevented cities like Evansville from using the new law.
“Vacant and abandoned housing in Indiana is more than just an eyesore. These properties are linked to increased crime and cause neighborhood property values to decrease,” explained Riecken. “Demolition is a significant expense for cities, and sometimes the money just isn’t there.” We find some of these properties are valuable to our history and we would rather rehab them but can't get them through the system before they fall into costly repair.
Land based casinos is getting another look in the legislature. Lawmakers looking more favorably on land based casinos are interested in preserving the revenue stream to the state and understand our casinos must be more competitive with other states. Evansville's riverboat is the oldest in the state and the hope is that developing a new, vibrant casino on land would add revenue.
“Constituents of District 77 have spoken and what they’re saying is this: drop the dock and move Tropicana Evansville on land!” said Riecken.
IU School of Medicine Dean Jay Hess has endorsed downtown Evansville as the future site for an ultramodern medical school. The facility will also have a high-tech simulation center for teaching and research, and programs such as nursing and related fields, physical therapy and the four-year medical school programs.
“Having a medical school in Evansville that introduces the model of a consortium of four colleges and universities in one unique program and headed by Indiana University will provide expanded professional opportunities for students and Hoosiers in our state,” Riecken said. “There are still some details to work out, but the proposal is gaining momentum locally and statewide.” Proponents of the plan are working to secure funding for the school in the biennial state budget that the Legislature must pass in the 2015 session.
Rep. Riecken said she also will ask the Legislature to study two topics of concern. “We need a summer study committee to hear testimony about juveniles, who are incarcerated and deemed incorrigible, being serviced by the Department of Child Services instead of the Department of Correction,” she said. “I also want us to examine the definitions of child abuse and neglect that have evolved since 2006 and determine if the legal definitions are adequately protecting the safety of our children and meeting their needs for services in today's environment.”
In response to an ongoing local controversy, she has also introduced legislation that would give area residents a greater voice in determining a local issue, giving residential neighbors more control in the determination of a renewal permit for a liquor store at its existing location.