INFB members help kill township merger bill

Katrina Hall_HB1005The bill that would have forced more than 300 townships with a population of less than 1,200 people to merge with a neighboring township is dead, thanks to the outstanding efforts of Indiana Farm Bureau members.

The bill, HB1005, died on Feb. 5 because it was not called for a vote before the close of the House session. Had the bill passed, taxes likely would have increased for the lower rate townships when common rates were set.

Killing the bill was no small feat, according to INFB’s public policy team. This legislation was a priority for the House Republican Caucus and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

INFB members’ advocacy efforts were vital to securing this significant victory, said Katrina Hall, INFB director of public policy. Members made their voices heard on the issue during visits with legislators at the Statehouse, during third house meetings and through INFB Action Alerts. From the first Action Alert on Jan. 26 to the death of the bill on Feb. 5, INFB members sent nearly 1,100 emails to legislators in opposition to HB1005.

“Our members really stepped up to the plate on all fronts to stop this bill from moving forward,” Hall said. “I’m proud of the level of engagement members showed in expressing their concerns with their legislators.”

Hall testified in opposition to the bill twice while it was in committee hearings. She said she received pushback from some legislators during her testimony, but members really helped drive the message home. Hall said without emails sent by members and their reinforcement of INFB’s position during Statehouse visits, HB1005 would likely still be active.

Bruce Herr, Wells County Farm Bureau president and a township trustee, spoke with Rep. Matt Lehman and Sen. Travis Holdman during his county’s Statehouse visit. In Wells County, four of the nine townships fell under the population threshold and would have been impacted by HB1005. Herr said he expressed concerns about the potential loss of local representation if HB1005 passed.

According to Herr, Rep. Lehman commented on the amount of public feedback he had received on the bill when they met. Between the two INFB Action Alerts sent to legislators on HB1005, Rep. Lehman received 60 emails from INFB members.

Herr said he understands that people can sometimes become frustrated with politics, but his experience is that legislators will listen to constituents on issues that cause concern.

“It’s real important to be in contact with your legislators and to make sure your opinion is heard,” he said.

Hall said the next move for INFB is to have an internal discussion about what local government services members need and how best to deliver those services to rural Indiana. With a tight farm economy, she noted, it’s important to keep these topics top of mind. The subject will likely be discussed during the INFB policy development process.

“We need to always be thinking about the things that have an impact on a farmer’s bottom line as well as the government services that support our members,” said Hall.