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Friday, February 10, 2012
Volulme 12, Issue 7

Thanks to Adams, Allen, Decatur, Fountain, Hamilton, Hancock, Harrison, Orange, Perry and Wells County Farm Bureaus; and District 1, District 3 and District 9 for visiting the Statehouse this week.
The following county Farm Bureaus are scheduled to visit the Statehouse next week.
Tuesday, February 14:  Howard
Wednesday, February 15:  Dearborn, Fountain, Jay, Montgomery, Randolph and St. Joseph
Thursday, February 16:  DeKalb and Steuben

STATEHOUSE RETURNS TO NORMAL AS SUPER BOWL AND UNION PROTESTERS LEAVE TOWN  This week the atmosphere and the routine at the Indiana Statehouse were closer to normal than they have been at any time this year.  With HB 1001, the new Indiana right-to-work law, signed into law and the hoopla surrounding Indianapolis’ successful hosting of the Super Bowl finally behind them, legislators were able to approach the business of the General Assembly in a more organized, less hectic fashion.  Much of this week’s business consisted of each house receiving, reviewing and assigning to committees the bills that had passed the other house during the first month of the session.  To officially conduct these important procedural steps, the legislative bodies were called into session. However, these activities are not subject to debate and require very little actual time.  In all, about 140 Senate bills and 110 House bills theoretically remain alive.  With the short session’s deadline for bills to pass the second house coming in the last week of February, this means that all committee work must be accomplished in the next two weeks.  Look for several bills to die as the time to consider them is exhausted.

POULTRY SALES BILL MOVES IN SENATE, NOW INCLUDES LOCAL FOOD STUDY   On Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee considered and passed HB 1312, a bill dealing with the sale of poultry at farmers markets and at farmers’ homes.  The bill, authored by Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand) and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Richard Young (D-Milltown), was substantially amended on the floor of the House.  It now directs the Indiana Department of Health to adopt rules that allow limited sales of home processed, uninspected poultry products at farmers markets and roadside stands.  The rules must comply with the requirements of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act.  The amended bill also provides for the establishment of a legislative summer study committee to study obstacles to local food production, processing and distribution in Indiana; and make recommendations for action that will encourage farmers and residents to produce, process and distribute locally grown food.  The committee unanimously approved the bill and forwarded it to the full Senate.  Sen. Young plans to offer an amendment on the floor of the Senate that will direct the Board of Health to require poultry processed under this section be frozen at the point of sale and labeled in compliance with federal regulations.

RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PILOT PROGRAM MOVES IN SENATE COMMITTEE  HB 1241, Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand) and Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg), was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on Monday and, because of its fiscal impact, reassigned to the Appropriations Committee.  This bill will establish a pilot program that will allow the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to designate one rural county as a rural entrepreneurship development incentive area.  With this designation, the state income taxes withheld from employees working for a new business in the designated area may be transferred to the county for purposes of developing new business opportunities.  The amount that may be transferred in any year for this purpose is limited to $500,000. “Rural county” is defined in the bill as a county with a population of less than 50,000. Under this definition, 64 of Indiana’s 92 counties are currently rural.

SENATE PANEL OKs LIABILITY LIMITS FOR CEMETERY VISITS  This week the Senate Corrections, Criminal & Civil Matters Committee approved HB 1015, the bill authored by Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem) and sponsored by Sen. Richard Bray (R-Martinsville).  Except for a slight technical amendment, the bill was approved in the same form in which it passed the House with Farm Bureau support.  The bill will give landowners who allow access to cemeteries on their property immunity from civil liability.  It also increases from one to three the number of visits a landowner must allow family members during a year.  A landowner who allows additional visits or other visitors to the cemetery would be protected in those cases as well.

INHERITANCE TAX BILLS REMAIN ALIVE  Among the bills that remain alive are two that will phase out Indiana’s inheritance tax.  Farm Bureau’s lobbying staff will continue to press for the passage of HB 1199 (Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero & Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek) and SB 293 (Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown), but would appreciate Farm Bureau members providing all the positive reinforcement they can.  Even the bill’s strongest supporters want to be able to tell their colleagues that they continue to hear from constituents on how important these bills are.  If asked, please say that Farm Bureau prefers a bill that would eventually phase the inheritance tax out altogether.

BILL TO ADDRESS MUNICIPAL JURISDICTION OVER WATER RESOURCES AWAITS ACTION    SB 132 (Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield & Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Winona Lake) contains a provision that would overturn the recent decision by the Indiana Supreme Court in the case of the Town of Avon vs. West Central Conservancy District 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.  The failure of this bill could impact a farmer’s ability to drill a well and extract water on his own property.  Please contact your state representative and ask him or her to support HB 132.

CANDIDATE FILING DEADLINE TODAY  The deadline for candidates to file for the ballot in the major party primaries on May 8 was noon today.  The Election Division of the Secretary of State’s office was still preparing its final report on candidate filings as this edition of the Dispatch went to press, but we do know there will be a number of current legislators who will not be seeking re-election.  Watch for a full list of legislative retirees in next week’s Dispatch.

UNCERTAINTY CONTINUES TO REIGN AT SECRETARY OF STATE OFFICE  The circumstances surrounding Indiana’s chief election officer, the Secretary of State, became even more unsettled this week as a Hamilton County jury convicted the elected incumbent, Charlie White, of felony voter fraud.  As a convicted felon he will not be able to continue in office.  White has indicated that he will request the court to reduce all the charges against him to misdemeanors so he can continue to serve.  Gov. Mitch Daniels, honoring the court’s prerogative to reduce the charges, has not appointed a replacement for White, but has designated Jerry Bonnet, the chief deputy in the Secretary of State’s office, as acting secretary.  Sentencing for White is scheduled for Feb. 23.

Indiana Democrats, meanwhile, are continuing legal avenues to have White declared an illegal candidate when he was elected in 2010 and have his opponent, Vop Osili, declared the winner.  Unless the trial court reduces all the charges against White to misdemeanors, a partisan legal battle is probably on the horizon, and the Supreme Court will ultimately decide who will be the next Secretary of State, Vop Osili or the governor’s choice for a permanent appointment.

DLGF ISSUES NEW SOIL PRODUCTIVITY ADJUSTMENTS   Late last Friday afternoon, the Department of Local Government Finance provided county assessors with a new table of adjustments for soil productivity to be applied to the base assessed value of farmland.  The base value is calculated each year and applied to all farmland across the state.  The base value is then adjusted to account for such variations as slope, drainage, forestation and, most importantly, soil productivity.  The table defining these adjustments is meant to reflect specific variations from the norm that was used to calculate the base value.  Since these variations are not subject to change, the tables have provided consistent adjustment factors from year to year.  Last week, these longstanding relationships were completely disrupted as DLGF issued new tables only three weeks before the March 1 start date of the new assessment cycle.  Note that these adjustments are on a parcel by parcel basis and that the base value to which they are applied has been recalculated for 2012 at $1,630 per acre.  Farm Bureau has been working diligently to determine how these tables were derived, what their impact will be on Farm Bureau members, and what remedial steps might be appropriate to mitigate their impact on farmers.

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

  • 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 or calling Megan at 317-692-7833 or BJ at 317-692-7834.

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.