January 8, 2021
The Big Issues
RESTRICTIONS ON BUDGETING FOR PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES
- SB 42 would prevent local governments from reducing their budgets for police, fire, and public safety services unless there is a revenue shortfall. If there is a revenue shortfall, funding can only be reduced to the extent a unit’s levy was reduced.
- Aim opposes this bill because it hampers local decision-making regarding funding for public safety services, reduces budget flexibility, and hinders the ability to implement efficiencies and cost savings in the provision of vital public safety services.
- SB 42, authored by Senator Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores), was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee on Thursday and was held for amendment and vote at a later meeting. Aim will continue working on this bill with Senator Bohacek and others to avoid the negative unintended consequences that could result if the bill passes in its current form.
COVID-19 CIVIL LIABILITY PROTECTION
- SB 1 would provide civil liability protection to all governmental units, businesses, non-profits, and any other legal entity for lawsuits claiming damages as a result of contracting COVID-19 on the entity’s premises or in the course of their business.
- The bill does not address worker’s compensation or occupational health and safety claims and does not protect entities that are grossly negligent or engage in willful or wanton misconduct.
- SB 1, authored by Senator Mark Messmer (R-Jasper), was heard in the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday and was held for amendment and vote at a later meeting. The House’s version is HB 1002 which will be heard next week. This issue is a top priority for Republican leadership.
- HB 1056 fixes an unintended consequence from a bill last year that required instruments, including mortgages, be witnessed in person by an independent official witness before being able to be legally recorded. Now, lawful notarization will be sufficient.
- This created many issues for everyone who routinely records documents, especially during the pandemic when more business is being done remotely or electronically.
- HB 1056, authored by Representative Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with a vote of 11-0 and will now go to the full House for amendment and vote. This fix is expected to move quickly through the process, and will likely be one of the first bills on the Governor’s desk for signature.
REEVALUATING MVH RESTRICTIONS
- SB 207 would require 40% (instead of 50% under current law) of Motor Vehicle Highway (MVH) funds to be spent on construction, reconstruction, and preservation for communities that have adopted a wheel tax during fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
- During that same period, snow removal activities (including salt and deicing) would be considered “preservation” for communities that have adopted the wheel tax.
- Increasing flexibility for the restricted portion of the MVH funds is a session priority for Aim, especially as communities experience reduced MVH distributions caused by pandemic restrictions and low gas prices. We will work with the bill author, Senator Blake Doriot (R-Syracuse), and other fiscal leaders in an effort to ensure this bill meets the needs of all Indiana communities.
SMALL CELL TOWERS AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS PERMITTING
- HB 1164 further restricts local regulations on small cell towers, including underground utility area ordinances/resolutions, maximum pole height regulations, and pole spacing requirements. It also impacts the regulation of the larger macro cell towers (prohibiting ordinances that restrict maximum height or impose minimum distance requirements).
- In addition, HB 1164 would increase the ability of telecommunications providers (including cable) to access rights-of-way, limit permitting and review for the access, and cap fees and bonding requirements that local governments can charge and require for companies to access a ROW.
- Aim opposes HB 1164 because it greatly reduces the ability of local governments to regulate rights-of-way, review and permit telecommunications infrastructure, and ensure that residential neighborhood ordinances on utility poles are enforceable. Aim will be working with the stakeholders in an effort to find a much better balance between quick deployment of this technology and appropriate local permitting processes.
AN AIM LEGISLATIVE MOMENT
“It’s been a crazy week, nationally. It’s been sad week and frustrating week. A lot of anger. A lot of concern. But all that doesn’t mean that there’s business to be done at the Indiana General Assembly. We’re back as usual, ready to face the hundreds of bills that will have an impact of cities and towns.”
– Matt Greller, Aim CEO
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