Policy Push: member involvement crucial to INFB’s success so far

This year’s legislative session has passed its halfway point. Members have been crucial in INFB’s efforts at the Statehouse so far and will continue to be vital as session continues.

House Bill 1650, which would have eliminated township advisory boards, was defeated on the House floor by a vote of 18-75. According to Katrina Hall, INFB’s director of public policy, members spoke with their legislators leading up to the vote about the need for those boards as an oversight mechanism for the township trustee.

INFB members also participated in an Action Alert before the vote, and nearly 1,300 individual emails were sent to legislators on the topic.

Hall said there has also been positive movement for Senate Bill 535, which will address extraterritorial jurisdiction. That bill passed its third reading in the Senate by a vote of 39-8.

According to Hall, an additional push from INFB’s membership is needed on broadband legislation. Politicians at the local, state and national level are all pushing for substantial and strategic investment in rural Indiana, such as the $100 million Gov. Eric Holcomb has dedicated for broadband implementation.  Hall said while policymakers and telecommunications companies go back and forth, our members are held back by low-speed or nonexistent broadband options.  

Recently, Jim Miller, DeKalb County Farm Bureau vice president, had an opportunity to meet with Holcomb about broadband. Before the meeting, Miller spoke with his internet provider to do some research and prepare his remarks.

“Our provider is out of Ohio, and I talked with him earlier in the day and he gave me some information that I passed on,” Miller said. “The governor seemed to be very receptive to it.”

Not everyone has a chance to take their story directly to the governor, but preparation and sharing of personal experiences is essential to keeping the need for rural broadband on the mind of legislators. 

Another issue that will require increased member involvement is currently contained in Senate Bill 624. The bill provides a state income tax fix that would hold Indiana farmers harmless for changes in the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The federal law repealed how trade-ins and like-kind exchanges are treated for personal property. Without a fix, anyone who traded equipment would be able to make adjustments for federal tax purposes but not state income taxes. The fix would adjust income tax calculations following a like-kind exchange so it is not counted in state adjusted gross income that is taxable.

Without the fix, when a farmer trades in equipment, the trade-in-value would be regarded as taxable income. Tom Murphy, Porter County Farm Bureau member, had a chance to discuss this bill with legislators during his Statehouse visit.

Before Murphy met with legislators, he had a conversation with his accountant to see what the impact on his farm would be if the tax code is not aligned. Murphy said without a fix, if a farmer has to trade equipment, “It’s going to be a bigger burden on them.”