Friday, February 3, 2012
Volume 12, Issue 6
The following county Farm Bureaus are scheduled to visit the Statehouse next week.
Tuesday, February 7: Perry, Wells and District 1
Wednesday, February 8: Fountain, Hamilton, Jay, Randolph and District 3
Thursday, February 9: Allen, Hancock, Harrison and District 9
RIGHT-TO-WORK SIGNED INTO LAW; FIRST HALF OF SESSION ENDS Following the passage of the right-to-work legislation by the House last week, the Indiana Senate rapidly moved the House bill through the necessary legislative hoops and passed it on Wednesday morning. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed HB 1001 into law later that afternoon. This makes Indiana the 23rd state to adopt such legislation, which prohibits an employer from requiring its employees to belong to a union or pay the union an amount equal to what the dues would be.
This legislation was a divisive focal point of the first half of the session with huge numbers of union members flooding the Statehouse, and Democrats regularly denying the House the quorum it needed to conduct business. Notwithstanding these disruptions, both Houses completed their agendas and recessed for a few days while Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl. Among the other high-profile issues of general interest addressed by the legislature so far this session are passage of a statewide smoking ban by the House (HB 1149, Rep. Eric Turner, R- Cicero) and the enactment of a new law increasing the penalty for human trafficking which was enacted in expectation of increased prostitution activity during the Super Bowl (SB 4, Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport). The Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 6, and the House on Tuesday.
HOUSE AGREES TO STRONGER RIGHT-TO-FARM LAW The bill will strengthen Indiana’s right-to-farm law by providing that a court must award the defendant farmer litigation costs, including attorney fees, if the lawsuit was brought frivolously or maliciously. Farm Bureau supported this bill, HB 1091, authored by Rep. Bill Friend (R-Macy), which was amended on the floor so that it now orders anyone who manufactures methamphetamine or grows marijuana on someone else’s property to pay restitution to the property owner. It also provides that an agricultural contract may not require that a trial involving the same contract be held outside Indiana if the lawsuit is seeking less than $25,000. Sens. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) and Brent Steele (R-Bedford) will sponsor the bill in the Senate.
CORN MARKETING CHANGES OKd IN BOTH HOUSES Parallel bills that would update the law authorizing the voluntary checkoff for Indiana’s Corn Marketing Council have passed their respective houses. The two bills, both of which Farm Bureau supported in committee, are HB 1128 (authored by Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston) and SB 350 (authored by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield), have passed the house where they were introduced. Rep. Lehe and Sen. Gard will assume responsibility for one another’s bill in the second house. Each bill would repeal the current provision that requires the Corn Marketing Council to pay $500,000 a year to the state to fund a tax credit for E85 retailers; change the way the 10 percent cap on administrative expenditures is calculated – going forward the cap will be determined by calculating the Olympic average (that is, disregarded in the high and low years) of actual receipts after requested refunds for the past five years; redefine “producer” for the purpose of the checkoff to more accurately reflect the business structure of today’s farms; allow the Corn Marketing Council to hold refunds of less than $25 to a producer until that amount is reached; and change the council’s fiscal year to coincide with the crop year rather than the state’s fiscal year.
SENATE APPROVES BILL TO ADDRESS COURT ACTION EXPANDING MUNICIPAL JURISDICTION OVER WATER RESOURCES The Senate has approved, by a vote of 37-11, SB 132, a bill authored by Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield) that would require the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to collect certain information on the source and use of water by regulated water utilities. The bill also contains a provision that would overturn the recent decision by the Indiana Supreme Court in the Town of Avon vs. West Central Conservancy District case that the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a municipality to regulate a “watercourse” includes jurisdiction over aquifers up to 10 miles from its boundary. This means that a municipality could regulate or charge for water from a private well. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified in support of this provision in committee, and Katrina Hall emailed to the full Senate Farm Bureau’s support of the bill and our concern that the court decision will jeopardize the right of property owners to access the water under their own property. Rep. Dave Wolkins (R-Winona Lake) will sponsor the bill in the House.
EFFORT TO LEGALIZE RAW MILK SALES HELD IN SENATE A second reading amendment was offered by Sen. John Waterman (R-Shelburn) to SB 398 that would have legalized the direct on-farm sale of raw milk in Indiana. The amendment was adopted by the full Senate on Monday by a vote of 30-20. After the amendment was approved, Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft, who had testified in support of SB 398 in the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, sent an email to all members of the Senate withdrawing Farm Bureau’s support and urging them to vote NO on the amended bill. The amended bill was also opposed by the Indiana Professional Dairy Farmers. Following its amendment, Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen), the bill’s original author, withdrew and was replaced by Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City). Sen. Banks eventually decided not to call SB 398 for a final vote.
In his email to the Senate, Kraft stated: “The safety and reputation of our food supply is a matter of critical importance to all Indiana agriculture. We are concerned that SB 398 as amended could seriously jeopardize both the safety of Indiana consumers and the reputation of Indiana’s dairy industry. Farm Bureau recognizes that there is a demand among some consumers for raw milk and would not object to a comprehensive study with information provided by experts in both human and bovine health. However, the amendment to SB 398 was not the product of such an analysis.”
While SB 398 died when it was not voted on, a parallel House bill, which Farm Bureau also supported, remains alive. HB 1129, authored by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston), passed the House, 84-7, last Friday. Sen. Mishler will be the Senate sponsor of the bill which was introduced at the request of the Office of the State Chemist and makes several changes to that agency’s law. Among the more significant changes is a provision that will allow the State Chemist to impose civil penalties on persons who are found to be in violation of the law or rules dealing with the application of ammonia. This is important because now the only options the State Chemist has are to ignore violations or suspend or revoke an individual’s license. The bill will also give the State Chemist, who regulates pet food in Indiana, specific authority to require raw milk sold as pet food be labeled as “not fit for human consumption.” It was this provision in the Senate bill that led to a committee discussion of raw milk and the amendment to the Senate version of the bill.
HUNTING PRESERVE BILL PASSES HOUSE, DISMISSED IN SENATE The bill to authorize high-fenced cervidae hunting preserve in Indiana passed the House on Monday by a vote of 56-40 and was forwarded to the Senate where it has been assigned to the Rules Committee. HB 1265, authored by Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) and co-authored by Reps. Bob Heaton (R-Terre Haute), Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) and Mike Speedy (R-Indianapolis), would establish licensing and inspection requirements as well as fees for hunting preserves. It is needed to remove the state of uncertainty under which these facilities are currently operating. Farm Bureau is in support of the legislation because these facilities provide a market for the state’s deer farmers. In addition to its sponsors, the bill was supported on the floor of the House by Reps. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) and Dan Leonard (R-Huntington). After it passed the House, the bill was forwarded to the Senate where it will be sponsored by Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) and Jim Banks (R-Columbia City). Both Gov. Mitch Daniels and Senate President Pro-Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) were quoted in the press this week as opposing the bill. Sen. Long assigned the bill to the Rules Committee, a move that usually signals that a bill will be given no further consideration.
INHERITANCE TAX BILLS PASS IN EACH HOUSE Both the House and the Senate passed bills this week to phase out Indiana’s inheritance tax. HB 1199 (Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero) passed the House, 78-17, on Monday; SB 293 (Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown) passed the Senate, 50-0, on Tuesday. While Farm Bureau’s Katrina Hall testified in support of both bills, Farm Bureau prefers the House version because it would eventually phase the inheritance tax out altogether. The Farm Bureau lobbying team also appreciates the contacts made by our Farm Bureau members urging their legislators to support these bills.
FIRE TERRITORY BILL MOVES TO THE HOUSE SB 307, the bill authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), will make permanent some of the temporary provisions regarding the operation and administration of fire territories that were enacted in 2011. The bill, which Farm Bureau supported, passed the Senate unanimously and will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo).
BOTH HOUSES ADDRESS NEPOTISM AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT Both the House and Senate have passed bills that would place tighter controls on the hiring of family members by public officials and prohibit a public employee from serving the legislative body of the unit that employs him or her. SB 170 (Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville) and HB 1005 (Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City) have both moved to the second house.
SENATE OKs LOCAL GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION MEASUIRE The Senate has approved SB 174, a local government reorganization bill introduced by Senate Local Government Committee Chair Connie Lawson (R-Danville), and amended it to include provisions originally contained in several other bills. Among its many provisions, SB 174 will require that any merger of a municipality with a county or a township will require the separate approval of those voters who live within the current municipal limits and those who live outside the current municipal limits as well as the total of both groups. The so-called acceptance threshold required for approval must be at least 50 percent of those voting, but may be set as high as 55 percent. The bill, as it passed the Senate, will not take effect until 2013, so it will not affect mergers currently pending in Vanderburgh, Delaware or Hamilton counties.
SINGLE COUNTY COMMISSIONER BILL NOT CALLED FOR A SENATE VOTE The bill that would provide a path for counties to move to a single county commissioner died in the Senate this week. The author of SB 110, Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), elected to leave the bill on second reading after it had been returned to that status at his request. There was obviously not sufficient support for the measure to move it further.
FARM BUREAU THANKS ACTION TEAM MEMBERS Farm Bureau thanks those readers of the Dispatch who have already joined our newly established Action Alert Team. However, if you have not yet joined, it is not too late. If you are interested in receiving timely requests to contact your state and federal legislators when an issue critical to Farm Bureau is being considered, please join the Action Alert Team by enrolling at www.infarmbureau.org/PublicPolicy.aspx?id=8154. Signing up for the alerts does not commit you to respond to every request you might receive although the Farm Bureau staff will be selective in identifying the issues where we feel our grassroots can make a difference.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Megan at 317-692-7833 or BJ at 317-692-7834.