For those keeping track, week three of the legislative session is in the books! The hundreds bills that are going to be considered during the session have all been filed, which is certainly a relief. The Aim team has identified the bills that will help cities and towns develop the quality of life that will move Indiana forward, as well as those bills that need some work and could be detrimental to the flexibility cities need to do the same.
- HB 1002 will be presented to a joint committee hearing on Wednesday, January 25. Aim will be represented by municipal officials from across the state.
- Local units receive more than $225M per year in federal transportation funding. HB 1002 will provide cost savings of 20% or more on these projects by exchanging federal funds that reduce a great deal of red tape.
- Now is the time to show support for state legislators and put a little skin in the game. Local officials can provide a strong support mechanism as legislative leadership builds support for a meaningful, long-term, funding system for local transportation needs. On Twitter? Use the hashtag #investINroads!
Short Term Rentals
- HB 1133 is a pre-emption bill that prohibits local governments from banning companies like Airbnb and VRBO from operating in their communities, and also sets parameters for how locals may regulate them.
- In its current form, the language is so restrictive that it takes away the ability to meaningfully regulate short term rentals, especially with regard to zoning. Aim testified in opposition to the bill in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee this week.
- Aim will continue engaging in conversations with the bill’s author and other stakeholders to fight for local control over short term rentals.
SBOA Audit Enforcement
- Two identical bills providing increased enforcement action by the SBOA were heard in committee this week and both bills were amended to address municipal concerns.
- The most concerning aspect of the original bills would have required the DLGF to deny an approved budget from an elected body of a municipality. This language was vastly improved by the amendments on both bills.
- There is still work to be done on these bills and we plan to narrow the scope of this new enforcement process as much as possible to provide flexibility for locals to interpret guidelines and laws.
- HB 1121 allows property owners to recover money from the government when their right to a specific use of property is prohibited.
- The bill repeals the government’s tort liability immunity and punitive damage protections.
- And it sets government up for law suits and litigation and would likely divert tax revenue needed for municipal infrastructure and services to payment of legal fees.
Public Works Materials
- HB 1226 sets up a framework that could lead to PVC piping being used almost exclusively in public works projects.
- Although PVC piping may be appropriate in many cases, a higher-quality material is oftentimes a better long-term bargain and matches a municipality’s existing infrastructure.
- This is unnecessary intrusion into local decision-making on projects, and we will work to stop this bill.
The Time is Now to #investINroads
HB 1002 Transportation Infrastructure Funding (Soliday, R-Valparaiso; T. Brown, R-Crawfordsville; Steurewald, R-Avon; Sullivan, R-Evansville)
After a slow week at the General Assembly, lawmakers will return to the Statehouse focused on building support for the long-term road funding plan offered in HB 1002. Testimony will be heard on Wednesday during a joint meeting of the House Ways and Means and Roads and Transportation committees. Aim will be represented by several officials from communities with diverse road funding needs. Urban, rural and rapidly growing municipalities face a variety of challenges that must be addressed.
A key component of HB 1002 will provide local units with increased flexibility and efficiencies by reducing federal regulations and bureaucracy. Language is included in HB 1002 that will create an immediate 100% swap of federal transportation dollars for state transportation dollars. The anticipated savings for local units is as high as 20% and we also anticipate projects will be accomplished at a much quicker pace than currently completed. If your community has participated in a federally funded project we encourage you to reach out to your legislators and share the fiscal advantages and efficiencies that could have been realized without having to meet federal requirements.
There are a variety of ways to show support to legislators who are striving toward a long-term road funding plan. The most supportive way is to increase public visibility through social media, public events and local media. If you Tweet, take a few minutes to send a supporting message on Twitter with the #investINroads. However, an email or phone call would certainly leave it’s mark. Public support from locally elected officials not only helps educate the public, it is greatly appreciated by our state leaders and legislators.
Legislation to Restrict Local Control Over Short Term Rentals
HB 1133 Preemption of Local Bans on Short Term Rentals (Lehman, R-Berne)
The intent of HB 1133 is to pre-empt locals from banning residents from listing their homes for rental on online platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. The bill goes further, however, by restricting how locals may regulate short term rentals through the use of public health and safety ordinances and land use/zoning regulations.
As written, the language is too restrictive and needs to be significantly reworked to give local units the ability to regulate short term rentals in a way that is responsive to the expectations and needs of residents in each city and town.
This bill was heard in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday, January 17, where Aim testified in opposition. The bill was held to give stakeholders an opportunity to work with the bill’s author, Rep. Matt Lehman, on amendments. If HB 1133 continues to move through the legislative process, the language will likely take many different forms throughout the session. Aim will continue to advocate for local control over short term rentals in communities.
Modified SBOA Bills Still Need Improvement
SB 159 State Examiner Findings (Niemeyer, R-Lowell)
HB 1031 State Examiner Findings (Slager, R-Schererville)
The State Board of Accounts is pursuing companion bills (SB 159 and HB 1031) to provide them with additional enforcement capabilities to address an audited unit’s failure to comply with certain guidelines and specific laws. This language was very concerning to us in its initial form, however, there were slightly different amendments offered on each bill during committee meetings this week. The amended version of SB 159 passed out of committee 13-0 and HB 1031 was held for further discussion.
The intent of both bills is as follows. If an SBOA examination report contains a finding that a unit is out of compliance and a subsequent report contains the same finding, the unit is required to file a corrective action plan with the SBOA. Once the plan is filed, the unit has six months to correct the identified issues. If the issues are not corrected within six months, the SBOA shall present a memo to the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee may then choose to take additional action, including prosecution. The primary difference between the two bills following the amendments is that SB 159 no longer requires the Department of Local Government Finance to deny a municipality’s budget. HB 1031 will require the local fiscal body to freeze the portion of the budget that applies to the budget allocated by the public official that has refused to comply with the corrective action.
Concerns remain on both of these bills and we will continue to address the many potential scenarios in which we feel this course of action is inappropriate. The response we have received from Aim membership on this bill has varied from very supportive to strongly oppose. Our efforts at this time will remain focused on improving this bill as much as possible as it moves through the process.
Bill Opens Door for Property Rights Law Suits
HB 1121 Protection of Private Property (Miller, R-Elkhart)
HB 1121 allows a property owner or person with a vested right to a specific use of property to seek compensation from the government through settlement or court proceedings when the person shows that an action taken by government inordinately burdens their right to use the property. It removes the government’s protections of immunity from tort liability for it and its employees under certain circumstances. It also removes the government’s protections against being penalized with punitive damages. When a claim is presented by a property owner, the government is required to make a written settlement offer. If the property owner rejects the offer, they may file a civil action in circuit or superior court.
Bill Defines “Acceptable Piping Material” for Public Works Projects
HB 1226 Piping Materials for Public Works Projects (VanNatter, R-Kokomo)
Under HB 1226, the specifications for public works projects must provide that “all acceptable piping materials may be required for and used in the public works project.” In this bill, “acceptable piping material” is defined in such a way to include PVC piping.
Under this bill, if a bidder uses PVC piping, in most cases they are going to be awarded the contract because PVC piping is the cheapest acceptable piping material and the unit is legally obligated to award the lowest responsible bidder. Although PVC piping may be appropriate depending on the project and the community that is not always the case. For example, ductile iron may be the piping material that matches the municipality’s existing infrastructure, and the project engineers recommend continued used of ductile iron.
Local units should retain the ability to write their specifications to require higher-quality piping materials. The bill has been assigned to the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee. Aim has shared our concerns with the Chairman, and we hope the bill will die without a hearing.
Aim Position: Oppose