The Indiana Citizen

The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

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BOB HEATON

Republican Birth Date:

Indiana House District 46 covers most of the distance from Indiana University in Bloomington west to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, an hour’s drive that in some ways takes the traveler from one economy to another. Thoroughly branded as a college town, Bloomington doubled in population as it flourished in the knowledge-based economy that emerged during the past half-century. Associated more with manufacturing than with its smaller state university, Terre Haute and rural communities to its east – once the site of coal mines – have struggled just to maintain. The area’s hopes these days are pinned on plans for a new casino, made possible in 2019 by legislation that moved a gaming license from Gary to Terre Haute; advocates pushed the legislation in part as a way to turn around the economies of both cities.

The district has been represented since 2010 by Robert “Bob” Heaton, a Republican and owner of a Terre Haute financial services firm who is still best known as a backup forward on Larry Bird’s team at Indiana State, NCAA runner-up in 1979. Bird’s wife was among the contributors to Heaton’s 2018 reelection campaign.

As a legislator, Heaton’s most conspicuous efforts have centered on economic development in his native Wabash Valley. He was credited with securing $37.5 million in the 2015 biennial budget for renovation of the Hulman Center at Indiana State, and he played a key role in the Terre Haute delegation’s successful push for a Vigo County food and beverage tax to fund a downtown convention center. Heaton also was an early advocate of a casino in Terre Haute, authoring legislation for that specific purpose in 2018. It was incorporated into the more wide-ranging bill of 2019.

In a referendum that fall, Vigo County approved the new casino with 63% in support; more recently, the headlines have centered on possible complications in the plans due to an Indiana Gaming Commission investigation of the prospective operator. Also on the fall ballot was a schools referendum that passed with 54% of the vote. Heaton clashed with local teachers over his public opposition to it.

Democrats held House District 46 for most of the previous three decades before Heaton’s election. His closest races were in 2012 and 2014 against a Vigo County social studies teacher. Heaton has defeated his opponents since by wider margins and in 2020, for the first time, was unopposed for reelection. – Kevin Morgan

CONTACT INFORMATION

KEY VOTES

SB 198-2019 (Sentencing, bias crimes). Allowed longer sentences in crimes based on personal characteristics, stripped of references to sexual orientation, gender identity and race. Yes

SB 516-2019 (Regulation of hemp). Allowed cultivation and regulation of hemp products in Indiana, did not change marijuana laws. Yes

HB 1001-2019 (State budget). Set funding for state agencies and services, including 2.5% annual increases for education, though not directly for teacher salaries. Yes

HB 1004-2019 (School safety). Increased access to funding for security systems and resource officers, was stripped of provisions for mental health screening. Yes

HB 1015-2019 (Various gaming matters). Allowed sports betting statewide and table games in more casinos, relocated a casino in Gary and authorizing a new one in Terre Haute. Yes

SB 1-2020 (Tobacco and vaping). Raised from 18 to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco or vaping products in Indiana. Yes

SB 148-2020 (Zoning and housing matters). Was amended to overrule local tenant protection measures like those in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville. Vetoed by governor. Yes

HB 1004-2020 (Health matters). Controlled surprise billing for out-of-network and other costs. Yes

HB 1070-2020 (Distracted driving). Made it an infraction to handle a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Yes

HB 1414-2020 (Electric generation). Prohibited utilities from closing coal-fired generating plants without permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Yes

DISTRICT

Population: 64,836

Race/Ethnic Origin: 92.4% white, 3.9% black, 1.4% Asian, 0.8% other, 1.4% two or more; 90.8% white non-Hispanic, 2.2% Hispanic.