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Monday, January 23, 2012
INDIANA FARM BUREAU – ACTION ALERT                                                    Volume 12, Issue 4         

Please note, you received this Action Request email because you are a subscriber to Farm Bureau’s Public Policy DISPATCH.  If you have not signed up to be part of the Indiana Farm Bureau legislative action group, you may not get action requests in the future.  If you would like to receive these requests in the future please sign up.  If you’re not sure if you have already signed up or not and are interested, please sign up again.  To sign up go to:
http://www.infarmbureau.org/PublicPolicy.aspx?id=8154.

Substantial activity has occurred already this session on tax issues and local government reforms.  The following are the most pressing of such legislation.  When action is requested, we would like to know that you made contact as well as if you have additional information from the legislator.

ACTION REQUESTED:  HB 1199 Inheritance Tax, Turner (R-Cicero)
HB 1199, authored by Rep. Eric Turner, was heard in House Ways & Means on January 19.  HB 1199 is co-authored by Reps. Welch (D-Bloomington), Thompson (R-New Salem), and Torr (R-Carmel).  Katrina Hall testified in favor of the bill as did representatives of the Indiana Manufacturers Association, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and NFIB.  The bill phases-out the inheritance tax over a period of 10 years beginning in 2014.  The bill was presented but a vote was not taken.  It is expected that a vote will occur in Ways & Means early this week, so members are asked to call their representatives to voice support for this measure.

 

ACTION REQUESTED:  SB 293 Inheritance Tax, Hershman (R-Buck Creek)
SB 293 is scheduled for hearing in the Senate Tax & Fiscal Committee on January 24.  Sen. Hershman’s version of the inheritance tax repeal increases exemptions and changes tax rates, resulting in a phase-out by 2019.  Members are urged to contact their senators and ask them to support SB 293.

 

ACTION REQUESTED:  SB 110 Single County Commissioner, Holdman (R-Markle)
SB 110 is titled “Local Government Issues” but it basically deals with the concept of a single county commissioner (formerly proposed as single county executive).  SB 110 provides for optional methods to move from the current structure of three county commissioners to a structure in which there is one county commissioner who would serve as the county executive.  The optional methods include:  1) a unanimous vote of the three existing county commissioners to go to one commissioner, 2) a non-unanimous vote of the existing county commissioners, which triggers a referendum on the matter of a single county commissioner, or 3) a petition from 5% of registered voters that would initiate a referendum.   The single county commissioner would act only as the county executive but would have broad powers over duties now assigned by law to other county officials.  County legislative responsibilities would move to a newly configured county council where all seven members are elected from districts rather than the current four from districts and three at-large in place in most counties.  This alternative was presented in an effort to provide more rural representation, but the results will vary county by county.  Members should consider how going to a seven-member county council district might apply in their county, discuss locally and pass your thoughts along to IFB staff.

Katrina Hall from Indiana Farm Bureau testified against SB 110 as did representatives of the Indiana Association of County Commissioners.  County commissioners from Hancock and Grant counties and a representative of the Allen County Commissioners supported the bill.  The bill passed out of the Local Government Committee along party lines by a vote of 6-3 on January 11 and was amended on the floor on second reading by eliminating mandatory training for the new single county commissioner.  The bill was ready for third reading but has been moved back to second reading.  Members are urged to contact their state senators to oppose SB 110. 

ACTION REQUESTED:  HB 1254 Township Reorganization, Foley (R-Martinsville)
HB 1254 was heard in House Government & Regulatory Reform on January 17.  As presented by its author, Rep. Ralph Foley, the bill would abolish township boards by January 1, 2015, and would transfer fiscal responsibilities to the county council.  It requires a referendum in each county in November 2012 on whether or not to eliminate township government.  If the referendum passes, township government in the county is abolished and all township duties are moved to county government.  If the referendum fails, a board of trustees is formed in the county that comes up with common poor relief standards.  In either scenario, the result is countywide poor relief and firefighting property tax rates, along with county-wide coordinated firefighting services.  Katrina Hall testified against the bill and no vote was taken by the committee, but will be heard again on Tuesday, January 24.  Members are urged to contact their state representatives in opposition to HB 1254. 

 

ACTION REQUESTED:  SB 174 Local Government Reorganization, Lawson (R-Danville)
SB 174 was presented to the Senate Local Government committee by its author Sen. Connie Lawson who is also the committee chair.  The bill attempts to improve the Government Modernization statute (IC 36-1.5) which allows the merger of virtually any unit of local government.  It adds the requirement of a fiscal impact study for any proposed re-organization which is submitted to the Department of Local Government Finance for review.  Under the bill, the DLGF will also provide a description of the merger for the ballot question.  The most controversial part of the bill deals with how referenda votes are counted, most particularly in the merger of a county and a municipality.  Since these type units overlap, Indiana Farm Bureau’s policy states that the votes of those inside and outside the municipality should be counted separately with passage only if both areas approve.  Katrina Hall supported the fiscal impact statement portions of the bill and asked for IFB policy on separate votes to be fulfilled in the law.  Sen. Lawson did not take a vote on the bill so she can reconsider how votes should be counted in this type of referenda, whether or not to have a passage threshold, and whether or not to have those changes retroactive.  If the bill is retroactive, it could affect the on-going mergers proposed in Vanderburgh and Delaware counties.  Members are urged to contact their state senators and ask for SB 174 to include a separate vote of those inside and outside the boundaries of a municipality, because otherwise the process is essentially a form of annexation. 

Other bills offered in committee to address the referenda vote were SB 14 Local Government Reorganization, Tomes (R-Posey Co.), and SB 55 Local Government Re-organization, Eckerty (R-Yorktown).

SB 98 County Highway Maintenance Funding, Kenley (R-Noblesville)
SB 98 was presented in the Senate Appropriations Committee on January 19 by the bill’s author and committee chair, Sen. Luke Kenley.  The bill allows counties to use property taxes and miscellaneous revenues for road maintenance which they, unlike cities and towns, have been prohibited from doing.  Katrina Hall testified in support of the bill because it gives counties the ability to prioritize roads as needed, even though it does not increase county funding overall.  The bill passed out of committee 10-0 and moves to the full Senate.  Members who want to learn more can view “Understanding the Gas Tax” at www.buildindianacouncil.org.

HB 1005 Nepotism and Conflict of Interest, Mahan (R-Hartford City)
HB 1005 was one of the first bills heard in the House Government & Regulatory Reform, which is chaired by the bill’s author, Rep. Kevin Mahan.  HB 1005’s broad bi-partisan support is demonstrated by the fact that it has 50 co-authors.  The bill specifies that once an employee of a local unit of government is elected to the legislative or fiscal body of the unit, that person is considered to have resigned from employment.  This includes volunteer firefighters who sit on township boards.  The bill grandfathers in such employees until they next sit for election.  The bill allows elected officials to contract with a government unit so long as any relationship to the contractor is fully disclosed.  The nepotism portion of the bill basically prohibits employees from being in the direct line of supervision of relatives.  Those currently in this situation are grandfathered in so long as there is not a break in employment.  It also exempts the sheriff’s spouse, who often serves in the position of matron (deputy sheriff); the county coroner, who needs extensive training; and township trustees who have their office in their home and employ a relative who is not paid more than $5,000.  Finally, the bill clarifies the definition of “lucrative office.”  HB 1005 passed out of committee on January 12 by a vote of 10-0 and is ready for second reading in the House.

SB 170 Nepotism and Conflict of Interest, Lawson (R-Danville)
SB 170 has basically the same language as HB 1005. Sen. Lawson, who is the chair of Senate Local Government Committee, is joined on the bill by Sens. R Young (D-Milltown), Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), and Merritt (R-Indianapolis).  The bill passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee on January 11 by a vote of 9-0 and is eligible for second reading.

SB 210 Solid Waste Management Districts, Gard (R-Greenfield)
SB 210 requires more transparency and fiscal accountability for Indiana’s 68 Solid Waste Management Districts.  The SWMDs were created about 20 years ago with the goal of cutting Indiana’s solid waste significantly, but no data exists to substantiate whether or not the goal has been approached or satisfied.  Under current law, each county must be in either a single-county or a multi-county district.  The law defines goals for the districts but does not include a list of duties as it does for other units of local government.  It is hard to compare the performance of districts generally because they all do different sets of things and there is not a common reporting mechanism detailing what services the districts are providing.  The Indiana Environmental Quality Service Council reviewed the SWMDs and made legislative recommendations.  Thirty-four SWMD districts levy property taxes, and the bill as introduced would eliminate this ability.  SB 210 also requires budget approval by the county council, common standards for SWMD public education materials, common financial reporting, and review of the SWMDs every 10 years by the General Assembly.  The bill was heard in Senate Appropriations on January 12, and Katrina Hall supported the bill based on several elements, but it was opposed by the SWMD Association who strongly opposed the elimination of property tax and the option for each county to “opt out” of being in a district.  The bill was on the committee schedule again on January 19 but was not called because amendments are being considered by the author.

CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS  Indiana’s legislators listen to their constituents.  Let yourself be heard on issues that are important to you.
OPTIONS FOR CONTACT –

  • 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. 
  • Email legislators at http://www.in.gov/cgi-bin/legislative/contact/contact.pl
  • 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.

REPORT ACTION –

Let Indiana Farm Bureau know what you have learned from your legislator and that contact has been made by emailing ppt@infarmbureau.org

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 at http://www.in.gov. 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.