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Incumbent Republican State Representative Matt Lehman is being challenged in the November 6 general election by Democrat newcomer Mike Snyder for the 79th Indiana House of Representatives’ seat.
Lehman resides at 663 Lehman St., Berne. He first ran for the 79th District House seat in 2008 when former Rep. Mike Ripley announced he would not seek re-election. Lehman was re-elected in 2010 without opposition. He was elected to the Adams County Council in 1994, serving as its president from 2002-2008.
Lehman is a graduate of South Adams High School and Vincennes University and is a life-long resident of Adams County. He first entered politics in 1994, gaining election to the Adams County Council. He has served as the president of the council for eight years.
He has been a partner with Bixler Insurance Inc. for 21 years.
Snyder is a lifelong resident of Adams County and Decatur who is making his first foray into elected politics. He graduated from Bellmont High School and he has been employed at Bunge in Decatur for 35 years.
He attended IPFW in Fort Wayne and earned a bachelor’s degree in labor studies from Indiana University in 2002. Prior to graduating from college, he worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative intern with the United Steelworkers. He also has done post-graduate work at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Snyder is the president of the United Steelworkers Local 15173, Decatur. He is an active member of the Adams County Democrat party, currently serving as its vice chairperson.
The candidates were submitted a list of questions about their views. Following are their responses:
Q. Do you favor (a) a state-run health insurance exchange that would put Indiana in charge of determining what health care plans qualify to be included and what minimum coverage levels they must offer, or (b) a federally-facilitated exchange, in which all of those details would be left to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services? Please explain.
Snyder: In the first place I have been negotiating insurance for over 25 years. I do not favor either of these plans because we must know the specifics of each plan to determine what is best for the constituents of House District 79. Regarding (a) the state has already shown its inability to run the FSSA (Family Social Services Administration) and as for (b) there has to be more information to make a solid decision.
Lehman: I am not supportive of many parts of Obamacare, with one of those issues being the fact that the cost of its implementation is still unknown. It is not a matter of cost verses savings. The fact is it will cost Indiana but we just don’t know how much. As chairman of the House Insurance Committee we have had several hearings on the execution of those parts that directly affect the State of Indiana. The exchange is one part of State responsibility. I do not support any system that gives the total control of the program into the hands of the federal government. The Act mandates that any exchange we establish must meet the “essential benefits” that have been established by the Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS has fought Indiana on multiple fronts from rejecting our use of our Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) as a vehicle for this program to not giving us full control of the persons that will be running the exchanges. Since we are less than 60 days from an exchanges mandated start date and with still so many unanswered question I am afraid we may have to defer to the federal government until such a time as we truly know the impact on our budget and the impact on Indiana consumers.
Q. State Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford has said he’ll introduce a bill next session that would make possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana an infraction, rather than a criminal misdemeanor. Would you support that, or similar, legislation?
Lehman: I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana and will not support a bill that moves in that direction. I do understand the concern of some with how strict our punishment laws are on some offenders. I am not opposed to looking at alternative sentencing in some circumstances. I am a member of the Courts and Criminal Code committee and this will be an issue for us in the next session.
Snyder: I would have to see the entire bill as it is written. I would need to know the intentions of the bill; is it intended to lowering the population in prisons and jails? Is the intention to allow more freedom in smoking marijuana? There is not enough information for me to commit an opinion on that bill.
Q. In light of recent mass shootings around the country, would you support stricter gun control laws for Indiana? Do you favor returning more gun control efforts to local government?
Lehman: I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment and I find it interesting that when there is news of some person mercilessly killing innocent people, we immediately look at “gun control.” Aurora, Colorado has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. In this tragic case the local government had some of its own control. There needs to be some common sense. Should a person with a properly executed personal protection permit be allowed to carry a concealed handgun – yes. Should that same person be allowed to carry a shotgun in and out of the grocery store – no.
Q. If legislation is introduced to give full benefits to same-sex marriage partners in Indiana, would you support that measure?
Lehman: I support the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman. I would not support a law that gives full marriage rights and benefits to same-sex couples.
Snyder: If I am elected as state representative I would be willing to listen to both sides of the issue from all constituents of District 79 because I am there to serve and represent all persons and not just my opinions.
Q. Are Indiana schools adequately funded? Please explain your answer.
Snyder: No. We still have not paid for full day kindergarten. Also, if we truly want to bring good jobs to the state, raise income levels to the people, then we must start educating preschoolers. When preschoolers are educated they are better prepared to achieve a higher education. This benefits the entire state of Indiana.
Lehman: There is a tremendous imbalance with regards to school funding. While schools in our area receive around $5,000 per student there are schools in the state that receive over $10,000 per student. While I am aware that some of the inner city schools have more free lunch and other poverty issues, that imbalance needs to be addressed. K-12 schools are approximately 52% of the state budget. With this much money going out there needs to be a high level of accountability. Our area schools are extremely well managed and they take that responsibility of the public trust very seriously. They are moving kids in the right direction. Test scores are up, graduation rates are higherand more kids are moving on to some form of secondary education. They should be rewarded for this achievement. When we review the school funding formula, consideration should be given for a schools body of work not just the make up of the student body.