Friday, January 13, 2012
Volume 12, Issue 2
The following county Farm Bureaus are scheduled to visit the Statehouse next week.
Wednesday, January 18: Wayne
Thursday, January 19: Knox and Owen
HOUSE FINALLY CONVENES AS DEMOCRATS SHOW UP This past week has been a busy one in Indianapolis. On Monday, House Democrats finally showed up for scheduled meetings of the full House. This provided the quorum that Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) needed to formally convene the House for its 2012 session. The House Democrats had stayed off the floor as a means of drawing public attention to what they felt was the lack of public input on the controversial right-to-work legislation. Once the session was officially opened, committees were able to take the votes necessary to forward bills to the floor of the House for consideration by its full membership. As a result of this action, a number of bills are now moving in the House as well as in the Senate.
INDIANA ASSOCIATION OF SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICTS The IASWCD held its annual meeting in Indianapolis this week, and Farm Bureau was actively involved in this meeting, which always brings a number of Farm Bureau members who are active in their local soil & water conservation districts to Indy. Again this year, Farm Bureau presented five “Conservation Farmer of the Year” awards and helped greet legislators at the IASWCD legislative breakfast on Wednesday morning.
GRUBB OUT AS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR Rep. Dale Grubb (D-Covington) was replaced last Friday as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus by Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis). Rep. Grubb, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election in 2012, is a longtime friend of Indiana agriculture and has been an effective and persuasive voice within the House Democratic Caucus for our interests. At the end of the session, it will be appropriate to thank Rep. Grubb for his long service to the citizens of Indiana, but right now it is important to acknowledge his work as caucus chairman to sincerely thank him for his efforts on behalf of Indiana agriculture in that capacity.
LEGISLATURE AND FARM BUREAU WILL OBSERVE MLK HOLIDAY ON MONDAY Indiana Farm Bureau, the Indiana General Assembly and the rest of state government will be closed on Monday, January 16, to observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everything will be back in business on Tuesday morning.
RIGHT-TO-WORK REMAINS THE SPOTLIGHT ISSUE Right-to-work legislation – which would make it illegal to require an individual to belong to a labor union (or pay an amount equivalent to union dues) as a condition of employment – remained the General Assembly’s most visible issue throughout the week. Following an unusual and lengthy joint hearing of House and Senate Labor Committees last Friday, the Senate committee voted its bill, SB 269 (Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury), out by a vote of 6-4. At that time the House Committee was unable to take formal action, but it did reconvene on Tuesday and approved HB 1001 (Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel) by a party line vote of 8-5. Both houses expect to hear proposed amendments on the floor and vote on the bill by the end of next week. The issue remains highly controversial and continued to attract large crowds of union members to the Statehouse where security remained unusually strong.
RIGHT TO FARM The House Agriculture Committee considered and passed HB 1091 (Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy). This bill has two sections, both of which Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider supported in his testimony. The first section provides that when a court finds an agricultural operation accused of being a nuisance is not a nuisance and determines that the lawsuit was frivolous, intentionally malicious or groundless, then the court must award the expenses of litigation, including attorney fees, to the defendant. The law currently provides that a court may award these expenses in frivolous lawsuits but does not require it. As reasonable as this provision seems, it was opposed by the Indiana Trial Lawyers, the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Sierra Club. The second provision of the bill provides that the owner of farm property may detain somebody he suspects is manufacturing methamphetamine on his property for up to two hours or until law enforcement arrives. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 9-3. The legislators who voted against the bill were concerned that the detention provision could result in harm or death to the property owner.
ENVIRONMENTAL BILLS On Thursday, the Senate Energy & Environment Committee heard three bills, each of which was supported by Farm Bureau in testimony from Justin Schneider.
- SB 130, authored by Committee Chair Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield), will consolidate the current water, air, and solid waste management boards into one environmental rulemaking board with 17 members. Based upon comments from Farm Bureau and other interested parties, the bill was amended to require the board to hire a technical secretary to assist the board members in adopting rules and to prevent the IDEM Commissioner from voting on rules which the agency itself is proposing.
- SB 132, also authored by Sen. Gard, will require water utilities to report information related to water use and availability. Farm Bureau’s primary focus on SB 132 was an amendment to address a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision which allowed the town of Avon to regulate withdrawals of water from an aquifer up to 10 miles from the town boundary. The amendment clarifies that an aquifer is not a “watercourse” and a local unit of government cannot regulate an activity already regulated by the state.
- SB 311, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), would require Indiana’s Office of Management & Budget to conduct a cost/benefit analysis of all new rules after three years after their adoption. Farm Bureau supported the concept but raised questions regarding the potential cost to regulated farms to collect and provide data to the agencies as well as how to protect the data submitted so that it was not available to the public. Sen. Hershman stated he would work with the regulated industry to protect the information and amend the bill so that the review applied to all of the state’s rulemaking functions.
CEMETERY ACCESS On Monday, Farm Bureau's Bob Kraft testified in the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 1015, a bill introduced by Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem) that would grant immunity to property owners when they allow the families and descendents of people buried in old cemeteries on their property to visit these graves. The law currently requires that these relatives be granted access at least once a year, at a time mutually agreed upon, but still exposes the landowner to liability if a visitor to a cemetery is injured. The proposed law provides that the visitor assumes the risk of injury during such a visit. Some members of the committee felt access should also be granted to veterans groups, historical societies, genealogical enthusiasts and others. Kraft pointed out that the landowner may grant access to anyone he chooses, but should not be required to do so for individuals who are not relatives of the deceased. Rep. Davisson has subsequently indicated that he does not favor mandating this additional access, but may require up to three visits a year.
STATE OF THE STATE On Tuesday evening, Gov. Mitch Daniels delivered his final State of the State address to a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly. Many of the Democrats in the legislature chose not to attend the speech and the Statehouse halls were jammed with extremely vocal union members who attempted to disrupt the speech. Daniels used the opportunity to review a number of the successes he feels the state has realized during his two terms as Governor and to again express his support for the enactment of right-to-work legislation in Indiana. He pledged that his administration and he would not coast through the remainder of his term.
CORRECTION In last week’s Dispatch, we mistakenly reported that super majority held by the Republicans in the Indiana State Senate was 67 to 13. Since there are only 50 members in the Senate, this is obviously wrong. The correct numbers are 37 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
FARM BUREAU ADOPTS NEW FARM BILL POLICY Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Honolulu voted to end AFBF’s support for direct payments program that crop farmers get whether prices are high or low on Tuesday. The delegates said they wanted to develop a farm policy that includes a “strong safety net to help producers deal with catastrophic revenue losses; a program that allows farmers to purchase insurance products to further protect individual risk; a program that is available to producers of all corps that have insurance available to them; and a program to be delivered by private crop insurance companies." The farm bill is due to be reconsidered by Congress this year.
WATCH FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT EDITION OF DISPATCH The General Assembly has been dealing with a number of issues concerning the administration and organization of local government in Indiana. Because of our concern that these efforts could diminish the voice of rural Hoosiers in their local government, Farm Bureau has been following these closely and will issue a comprehensive report in an upcoming issue of the Dispatch.
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS Indiana’s legislators listen to their constituents. Let yourself be heard on issues that are important to you. You can write to your senator or representative at the Statehouse, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Call House members at 317-232-9600 or 1-800-382-9842. Senators can be reached at 317-232-9400 or 1-800-382-9467. You can email your legislator from the Public Policy tab on the Farm Bureau website at www.infarmbureau.org. This is part of the General Assembly homepage at Access Indiana. Personal contact when legislators are home on weekends or at third-house or cracker-barrel sessions remains the most effective way to communicate your ideas to your elected representatives.