Candidate Q&As: State Representative District 65

The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates who have opposition in the May 3 primary in the following races: U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress District 9 (ran in paper March 30), State Senate District 44, State House District 65, Brown County Council at-large (ran April 6), Brown County Commissioner District 3 (ran April 13) and Brown County Recorder (ran April 6). Remaining Q&As will appear in upcoming editions of the Brown County Democrat. The League of Women Voters of Brown County — a nonpartisan organization — chose the questions. Answers appear in the candidates’ own words, though some were trimmed to fit available space. Candidates who do not have an opponent in the primary were not asked to complete a questionnaire yet; they will be asked before the November general election.

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Please describe the occupations, training and experience that qualify you for this office.

(R) Franklin Andrew: No response.

(R) Darren Byrd: This is my second year as an elected official. My previous 45 years, and my current two, were spent living my life in the real world. I spent six years in the Navy with some leadership experience. I’ve worked in the private sector (before and after military service) in building, manufacturing, service and management. My experiences in life are not a theoretical study of government seminars and think tanks; they’re real. I’ve seen what works in reality and what doesn’t. My responsibility as a representative is one who takes our concerns to the Capitol in order that we can live our real lives with our right to life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness. I am committed to representing our interests as they apply to real life.

(R) Jacob Franklin: I am the only candidate who has worked in the judicial profession. I have been through the implementation of new or updated laws 18 times. I have firsthand experience regarding how new or updated laws affect everyone, and have worked with citizens, state, federal and local authorities in implementing and understanding the anticipated impacts of new or updated laws. That means I have dealt with and understand every law, from traffic citations, civil, family, misdemeanor and serious felony criminal cases including murder. I have worked with a wide array of personality types and have been able to successfully communicate with them. I have the experience of understanding and communicating with a vast array of people in very complicated situations full of emotion. Communicating with and understanding people’s needs and desires has been my profession for the past 14 years. For more information, visit my website, JacobFranklin.us.

(R) Mark Mathis: No response.

(R) Christopher D. May: No response.

(R) Jim Pfaff: I am a small businessman owner of Innovative Research and Data Solutions providing consulting to non­profit and campaign organizations around the country. I have been involved in public policy work including with Focus on the Family and Dr. James Dobson and as congressional chief of staff for four years for Congressman Tim Huelskamp. I ran Opportunity Project of Indiana from 1992 to 1995 supporting state legislative candidates statewide. I then ran George Witwer’s gubernatorial campaign in 1996.

The DNR has lost state funding and is monetizing on a critical natural resource in our county and throughout Indiana by significantly increased logging of state forests. What is your position on this, and what are your recommendations for funding DNR as well as protecting our valuable asset?

Andrew: No response.

Byrd: I believe that those who use the services should shoulder the majority of the cost. Some logging makes sense, but there is a balance between the thinning that needs to happen to keep a forest healthy and over-logging. The fact is that if DNR is going to maintain commonly used parks and rec areas, those will have to be paid for. I favor more of a fee-based revenue source, because it doesn’t force payment by those who don’t and won’t use it. Every year, I buy my fishing license, whether I go much or not; it helps pay for what I use. We may also need to expect less-manicured park areas. Keep more of it wild and natural and groom less. This will help reduce the funds needed.

Franklin: I am for sustainable forest management, and when implemented properly, it will maintain and introduce natural habitats. According to in.gov/ONR, the three main funding sources are the General Assembly, environmental plate sales and donations which account for funds that protect 62,000 acres since the program’s inception. These funds do not help to acquire more land. Indiana environmental plate sales alone are down in fiscal year 2015. It is time to look for additional funding. It is my understanding that Brown County received approximately $64,000 from the DNR regarding the logging of Yellowwood. To each of the eight fire departments went $1,000 as prescribed by law, with the remainder going to the county general fund. It is my opinion that through federal grant applications, creative thinking and donations as well as other creative tax revenue, Brown County can receive more.

Mathis: No response.

May: No response.

Pfaff: I believe we should put more control over decisions about logging and similar use of natural resources in the hands of our counties. The extent of the DNR’s mission should be reviewed and modified as needed. And funding should be closely tied to park and license fees. We should encourage private partnerships with organizations which are privately funded to carry out some of DNR’s mission.

Where do you see our state in 5 to 10 years as far as energy development and the role of renewable energy?

Andrew: No response.

Byrd: Here’s a risky political answer: I don’t know. Technically, every source is renewable, just to different extents. Oil is renewable, but not at a rapid pace. Every source has disadvantages. Oil and coal pollute more; wind power is very expensive, requires a lot of maintenance, is inconsistent, and kills a lot of birds; solar is very expensive and not that efficient. We really won’t know what the best route is until we see what technologies are advancing, and they are. We’ll just have to see what works best with the least negative impact.

Franklin: I see our state developing and implementing renewable energy in such a way that it spawns a healthy environment, jobs, as well as our market and therefore economy. We must protect and manage our finite and renewable resources. I am always open to ideas. There are many top-notch professionals and colleges within our state that can compete with the nation and world in coming up with a solution to develop, protect and manage our energy options. In my opinion, the only energy that can be relied upon long-term is renewable. Therefore, I will listen to the respective workforce and professionals in coming up with a plan that is far beyond five to 10 years. I see our finite resources being strained in 10 to 20 years, if not sooner.

Mathis: No response.

May: No response.

Pfaff: Indiana’s energy sector faces many challenges in years to come due to over-extended regulation, especially from the federal level through the EPA. We should oppose regulation that would threaten our electricity generation, as we get most of it from coal. Renewable energy mandates have proven ineffective in providing affordable energy alternatives. But we should seek an “all of the above” approach to energy in our state.

Given severe infrastructure issues such as water, roads and bridges, what is your vision for Indiana’s future to address these needs?

Andrew: No response.

Byrd: We really need to stop spending money on those things that government has no business funding, and concentrate on the issues for which government was formed in the first place. We can only be taxed so much.

Franklin: Let us try and improve our water, roads and bridges by communicating more and working with the U.S. Army Corps Engineers and INDOT. I personally enjoy clean water as well as structurally sound and smooth roadways. We must also be more fiscally responsible. Finding new sources for funding is always a challenge especially when costs only increase. I feel that each county highway department should, through their county commissioners, file with state legislators an annual report regarding the condition of their water, roads and bridges. We need to come up with and implement long-term plans and funding methods on repairing or replacing roads, including bridges. I feel this will help legislators understand more about local needs. If we tax, we must make sure the taxation is fair and does not create undue burden. I am in favor of HB 1001 and SB 67.

Mathis: No response.

May: No response.

Pfaff: The legislature should reform our system of financing infrastructure improvements which do not raise a dime of taxes on Hoosiers’ backs and without taking away too much of that money out the hands of local county, city and town governments to meet their infrastructure needs.

How do you respond to critics who say our public schools are underfunded while Indiana has one of the fastest growing voucher systems in the county?

Andrew: No response.

Byrd: We have some great teachers; all we need to do is let them teach! Over-funding does not create a better educational system. A great education requires accurate facts, history and logic. A good education is created with good teachers, good written materials and active parents in a strong family. At one time, we delivered an outstanding education in a one-room schoolhouse, because the focus was on learning. Why is that so difficult to replicate with the increased resources we have today? Because today’s educational system is less about the education and more about the system. If we weren’t forced to fund the system, we could easily fund education and the programs that we cherish. We would also see less of a desire for vouchers.

Franklin: We as a state are clearly trying hard to invest in our students, teachers and schools. This particular subject is controversial, as tax dollars, income tax deductions or income tax credits fund other types of schools, and not just public schools in some form. Children are our future and we need to invest heavily in them. I would ask the critics for their input and to have them review HB 1005, SB 330, HEA 1001, HEA 1002 and HEA 1003 as well as refer them to doe.in.gov/choice. According to edchoice.org, 32,686 students participated in the 2015-2016 school year; 316 schools participated in 2015-2016 with the average voucher being $3,977 in the 2014-2015 school year. We must remain dedicated to this cause and come up with ways to garner more funding in order to maintain our strong dedication to our students, teachers and schools.

Mathis: No response.

May: No response.

Pfaff: Parents are the first educators of children, and they should be the ones who direct their education. This should be accomplished through a voucher system which puts the decision-making process in their hands for where and how their children are educated. The goal of education is to educate the child. This can happen in government, private or home schools. And I stand by the principle that the parent should be the one to make that choice.

Indiana is currently ranked 41st in health in the country. What would your vision be to better improve the health of our citizens?

Andrew: No response.

Byrd: I don’t believe that the government has a role in imposing good health on anybody. We are individuals with individual choices, which includes our health. Just as I don’t believe in imposing good health on the citizens, I don’t believe that other citizens should be responsible for the cost of unhealthy choices. We all have our own choices and responsibilities based on those choices. Health care costs are so unaffordable in the first place because of government involvement; free market principles have been completely removed from the equation. We are generous people; we will always have charity for those issues that aren’t a result of poor choices.

Franklin: I believe that healthy Hoosiers put our state at an even stronger economic position. I am in part supportive of Healthy Hoosiers Foundation that was created by the General Assembly in 2013 (SEA 415). I do feel that a well-informed public is a knowledgeable public. We must do all we can as citizens to educate ourselves and I believe this is a way that the state can get involved. I am not in support of offering incentives to those who complete programs. For example, the Baby & Me program targets pregnant women who smoke. If a pregnant woman completes the program, she receives a $25 voucher for diapers for every month that she is smoke-free after the baby is born. This is one-sided, as it does not address women who do not smoke. I feel that funding should be for educational propaganda only.

Mathis: No response.

May: No response.

Pfaff: The best hope for our health care system in this state and in our country is the repeal of Obamacare and a return to a free-market system for providing health care.