2017 Legislative Session
Aim is united by one common cause – advancing the state by empowering its cities and towns. We’re going to take a longer-term approach to our legislative efforts; this will allow us to get involved earlier in the process and collaborate more on key initiatives that will empower Indiana municipalities.
Our priorities for 2017 involve:
Building and nurturing our communities by enhancing infrastructure, reasonable funding options, and healthy communities, and
Finding ways to make governance work better for the benefit of all Hoosiers.
Aim 2017 Legislative Priorities
Building and nurturing quality places
These are broad-based, multifaceted initiatives. We expect to work toward achieving these goals over a period of years through the passage of legislation, policy changes, administrative directives, and education.
Enhancing municipal infrastructure
Basic transportation infrastructure systems including roads, streets, and public ways are among the core services that municipalities provide. Aim will work toward expanding dedicated long-term revenue sources available to cities and towns in order to properly maintain these systems and meet the future needs of Indiana communities.
Modernizing the funding structure
Many cities and towns are challenged to provide the basic governmental services that their citizens expect. Many of these challenges are due to statutory and constitutional restraints on revenue options, as well as differing levels of wealth from community to community. Aim will examine the limitations and systematic problems with the historic methods of funding local government in Indiana, and then advocate for reforms through systematic advances.
Keeping Hoosiers healthy
Creating and supporting quality places requires a multifaceted approach, and we can’t ignore the extreme challenges our communities face in the areas of opioid addictions, the mental health system, and an overloaded criminal justice system. Aim will partner with other key stakeholders to work to find innovative solutions to these problems.
These initiatives will involve common sense changes that will help local governments operate more efficiently and effectively.
Reducing federal regulatory burdens
Local governments receive more than $225 million annually from federal sources for road infrastructure projects. However, unlike state or locally funded projects, federally funded projects must meet burdensome requirements throughout the planning and construction phases, causing added delays and expenses. Aim will champion legislation that allows the state to exchange the federal money awarded to municipalities with state money. This exchange will enable cities and towns to complete projects quicker, cheaper, and easier.
Improving the timeliness of state revenue distributions
Aim believes that Indiana’s property assessment system needs additional resources. Due to the number of property tax appeal cases, there is a backlog of cases waiting to come before the Indiana Board of Tax Review and the Indiana Tax Court, which prevents municipalities from receiving timely property tax revenue distributions. Aim will advocate for a study committee to examine the IBTR and Tax Court backlog, and the resources necessary to rectify the problem.
Enabling a more equitable distribution of court fees
Municipalities must prosecute at least 50% of ordinance and infraction violations in the Superior Court or Circuit Court in order to receive a share of court fees generated from the violations. But when a violator is allowed to enter a deferral program, this does not qualify as a prosecution. Aim will pursue legislation to change the formula to more equitably distribute court fee revenue without discouraging participation in deferral programs.
Creating an alternative notice requirement for public hearings
Cities and towns are required to publish notice in at least one qualified newspaper before hearings or decisions can be made on a variety of public matters. However, when a newspaper fails to publish a notice in a timely manner, the entire project may be delayed in order to comply with the publication statute. Aim will pursue legislation to provide an alternative way to publish notice in the event a newspaper fails to properly publish an ad.
Increasing the power to acquire blighted properties
Municipal redevelopment commissions are charged with addressing problem areas within the city or town. However, under current law they lack the flexibility to acquire blighted properties that might suddenly come up for sale (after a fire or storm, for example). Aim will pursue legislation to allow commissions to act nimbly in acquiring damaged or blighted properties so that they can be redeveloped and improved.
Making administrative fixes that will result in efficiencies and savings
A local income tax reform bill called HEA 1485 was passed in 2015. In preparing for its January 2017 implementation, Aim has been identifying minor adjustments that need to be made in a “clean-up” bill. We will also support the effort to make adjustments to the legislation that passed in 2016 in SEA 327 that requires cities and towns to scan and submit to the state copies of all contracts above a $50,000 threshold. In addition, we will work toward changing the Department of Local Government Finance’s current policy of denying levy appeals when funding operating balances are above 10%.