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Friday, February 17, 2012
Volume 12, Issue 8

Thanks to Dearborn, DeKalb, Hancock, Howard, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Montgomery, Ripley, St. Joseph, Steuben and Union County Farm Bureaus for visiting the Statehouse this week.
The following county Farm Bureaus are scheduled to visit the Statehouse next week.
Tuesday, February 21: Elkhart, Hamilton, Shelby, Switzerland and Vigo
Thursday, February 23: Franklin and Whitley


LEGISLATIVE LEADERS SET NEW ADJOURNMENT DEADLINE Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) have agreed that the 2012 short session of the Indiana General Assembly will adjourn sine die on Friday, March 9, rather than on the statutory deadline of Wednesday, March 14. This means that there are only three weeks left in the legislative session and the pace, which has already been fast, will become even more hectic. If a bill has not been given a committee hearing in the second house by the end of next week it will be dead for all practical purposes. However, an idea that has passed one house may be resurrected and included in another bill during the conference committee process.

FARMLAND ASSESSMENT Legislators in both houses are upset with the Department of Local Government Finance’s last minute revisions of the soil productivity factors used by county assessors to determine the assessed value of farmland. In the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) offered an amendment to HB 1190 (Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville & Sen. Hershman) that will delay the effective date of the new DLGF rules by a year. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Jeff Espich has indicated that he expects a similar amendment on a Senate bill in his committee.

Action Requested - Members have been asked to take action on this issue. For the full action request go to: http://www.infarmbureau.org/PublicPolicy.aspx?id=8154

MUNICIPAL JURISDICTION OVER AQUIFERS The House Utilities Committee heard testimony on SB 132 (Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield & Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Winona Lake). The bill will require the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to collect, compile and publicize in the aggregate data regarding water use by water utilities in Indiana. The controversial portion of the bill is a section that would exclude underground aquifers from the definition of “watercourse" as that term is used in several statutes that give cities and towns the authority to regulate “watercourses” ten miles outside their municipal boundaries. A Supreme Court decision last fall concluded that municipalities had the authority to regulate aquifers. This means that a town could require a farmer to obtain a permit to pump water from the aquifer with a well on the farmer’s property, or they could prohibit the withdrawal of water altogether. It could also set up a race among municipalities that are within ten miles of one another to claim the aquifer first. Farm Bureau is one of the strongest voices calling for the legislative reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision to include aquifers in the definition of “watercourse.”

At the hearing on Wednesday, Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified in support of the bill. The Indiana Association of Cities & Towns and several mayors testified against reversing the Supreme Court’s decision. Following a lengthy hearing, Committee Chair Jack Lutz (R-Anderson) decided not to take a vote on the bill but announced that a vote would be taken this upcoming week. 

Legislators are being asked by the mayors of the municipalities in their districts to vote against SB 132. Legislators, even those who want to support our position, need to hear from their constituents who support the bill. 

Action Requested - Members have been asked to take action on this issue. For the full action request go to: http://www.infarmbureau.org/PublicPolicy.aspx?id=8154

INHERITANCE TAX BILLS CONTINUE TO MOVE On Thursday in the House Ways & Means Committee, Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) presented SB 293 rather than the author, Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown). SB 293 includes changes to the exemptions in the inheritance tax law and contains phase-down language. As the bill left the Senate, it does not completely eliminate the inheritance tax. Farm Bureau’s Katrina Hall testified in favor of the bill, noting how dramatically IFB members are affected by inheritance tax and stressed that we would prefer the complete elimination language that is included in HB 1199, authored by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero). HB 1199 phases-out the inheritance tax over 10 years starting two years from now. HB 1199 has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate.

Action Requested - Members have been asked to take action on this issue. For the full action request go to: http://www.infarmbureau.org/PublicPolicy.aspx?id=8154

REGIONAL SEWER DISTRICTS This week, two separate Senate committees heard bills dealing with regional sewer districts. On Monday, the Senate Energy & Environment Committee heard HB 1225 (Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne & Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle), and on Thursday the Utilities Committee heard HB 1117 (Rep. Dave Wolkins, Winona Lake & Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield). No vote was taken on HB 1225, but HB 1117 was amended to include some of its provisions. HB 1117 was approved, 10-0, by the Utilities Committee after a long hearing.

Both bills were introduced in response to concerns that the current law gave regional sewer districts to much authority to force property owners to hook-up and allow the districts to operate without enough oversight or accountability. Farm Bureau, working with interested members of the state Association of Regional Sewer Districts, helped develop HB 1117 over the summer. Justin Schneider explained Farm Bureau’s concerns and support for the resolution of those concerns in his testimony supporting the bill in the Utilities Committee.

CORN MARKETING BILL MOVING IN SENATE On Monday, the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee approved HB 1128 (Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston & Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield), the House version of legislation that would update the law authorizing the voluntary checkoff for Indiana’s Corn Marketing Council. The 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; 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. Bob Kraft testified as to Farm Bureau’s support of the bill in the committee. HB 1128 will be eligible for final passage when the Senate returns on Monday. As HB 1128 moves forward, the Senate version of the same bill, SB 350, becomes unnecessary but could become a vehicle for something else.

RAW MILK STUDY ADDED TO STATE CHEMIST BILL Also on Monday, the Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee amended the House version of the Senate bill that would have legalized the sale of raw milk in Indiana. Both SB 398 (Sen. Jim Banks, Columbia City) and HB 1129 (Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston & Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen) address changes in the law regarding the Office of the State Chemist. Farm Bureau has supported the bills in committee, but we withdrew our support for SB 398 after the raw milk amendment was added to it. The committee amended HB 1129 to direct the State Board of Animal Health to conduct a study of raw milk and report to the General Assembly before the 2013 session.

BILL TO CONSOLIDATE ENVIRONMENTAL RULEMAKING BOARDS SB 130, (Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield & Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Winona Lake) will consolidate the current water, air and solid waste management boards into one environmental rulemaking board with 15 members. The bill has been previously amended based upon comments from Farm Bureau and other interested parties to require the appointment of a technical secretary to assist the board members in adopting rules. In testimony to the House Environmental Affairs Committee, Justin Schneider requested that the technical secretary receive an adequate salary and be a full-time employee of the board rather than be retained on a per diem basis as the bill proposes. Committee Chair Wolkins indicated that consideration is being given to include such a provision.

DRAINAGE ISSUES CONVERTED TO STUDY Another bill heard by the Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee dealt with several drainage issues, including which properties in a watershed were responsible for drainage assessments. Sensing the concerns of other committee members the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), amended HB 1349, which was authored by Rep. Dick Dodge (R-Pleasant Lake), to request a legislative study of drainage issues this summer.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS PROVIDER OF LAST RESORT PASSES SENATE HEADED TO GOVERNOR The Senate this week passed HB 1112 (Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne & Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek), a bill that will allow telephone companies that have been designated the “provider of last resort” to abdicate that designation in certain circumstances. A complicated combination of both state and federal laws and rules is intended to assure that all citizens have telephone service available. The proposed changes in Indiana law would allow a telephone company to notify the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that it would no longer accept that designation and the responsibilities that go with it because there were at least two other service providers (cell phone service in most cases) available to customers. Earlier, Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft testified against the bill’s Senate counterpart, SB 308, in the Senate Utilities Committee that many Farm Bureau members and other residents of rural Indiana relied upon their land-lines for their primary telephone service because cellular service, although available, was so often unreliable. Since the bill passed the Senate with no changes from the House-passed version, it is headed straight to the Governor.

FILING DEADLINE IDENTIFIES RETIRING LEGISLATORS Although many of the legislators who will not seek re-election this year have been identified, last Friday’s filing deadline makes their decisions final. In all, eighteen members of the House and two Senators will not seek re-election this year. The retiring Senators are Beverly Gard of Greenfield and Richard Bray of Martinsville, both Republicans. Retiring from the House will be Republicans Dick Dodge, Pleasant Lake; Jeff Espich, Uniondale; Ralph Foley, Martinsville; Phil Hinkle, Indianapolis; Tom Knollman, Liberty; and David Yarde, Garrett; and, the Democrats retiring are Jeb Barton, Indianapolis; Dave Cheatham, North Vernon; Bill Crawford, Indianapolis; John Day, Indianapolis; Nancy Dembowski, Knox; Chet Dobis, Merrillville; Craig Fry, Mishawaka; Dale Grubb, Covington; Scott Reske, Pendleton; Dan Stevenson, Highland; Mary Ann Sullivan, Indianapolis; and Mike White, Muncie. Each of these retirements represents an open seat and represents an opportunity for Farm Bureau members to become involved in the important process of electing new members of the General Assembly. Farm Bureau’s Political Education Specialist Pete Hanebutt will contact local Farm Bureau officers to establish procedures to evaluate candidates.

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.