The movement to establish a sustainable funding structure for road maintenance in Indiana has ramped up again. A joint Senate committee will hear HB 1002 and we need municipal officials to reach out to your Senators in support of this comprehensive plan! There are several other important happenings next week. Read this week’s Top 5 and then take a look at the paired down bill tracking list to ensure you’re up to speed on the bills still alive that could impact municipal government!
- A joint committee hearing will take place on 9:00am on Tuesday morning when members of the Senate Tax & Fiscal committee and Homeland Security & Transportation committee will be presented the bill and hear public testimony.
- We do not anticipate an amendment to the current legislation next week but this will serve as an opportunity for local government to share recently released date from Purdue University showing the statewide annual need for local governments is nearly $1 billion.
- Aim will be well-represented in committee. Next week will be a critical time for local officials across the state to show support for the long term, dedicated road funding plan.
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Small Cell Tower Regulation
- Senate Bill 213 will be heard in the House Utilities, Energy & Telecommunications committee next Wednesday, March 15th. Chairman Dave Ober is the sponsor on the bill and he plans to take testimony, then hold the bill for two weeks as we continue to work on negotiated improvements.
- We have received a variety of concerns from legislators with the current language in the bill and will work to address those concerns along with the concerns we have heard from our locally elected officials.
- Negotiations have centered on aesthetics, location of structures, fees, and relocation of equipment in right of ways. There are additional concerns with liability and constituent complaints that will be addressed.
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Quality of Life Health Issues
- Many Hoosiers are struggling with addiction, from opioids to a high rate of smoking. This negatively impacts not only the individuals struggling with their addictions but also the quality of life of the whole community at-large.
- To meaningfully address these problems, it is going to take buy-in from many different stakeholders – legislators, state and local officials, health care professionals, employers, and a whole host of others who provide social services.
- A more intense focus on supporting quality of life initiatives is an important component of the transformation from IACT to Aim. To that end, Aim is supporting the $1 increase in the cigarette tax and a variety of other proposals to start reversing Indiana’s drug epidemic.
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Posting of Roll Call Votes
- House Bill 1622 would require clerk-treasurers to post all council roll call votes to the city or town’s website within 24 hours after the vote is taken. The information must then be maintained on the website for four years.
- Aim is actively engaged with the stakeholders to significantly re-work this bill.
- If the bill continues to move through the process in the second half of session, we are hopeful we can reach an agreement that prevents municipalities from being unduly burdened by this legislation.
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Cost Recoupment for Damaged Road and Street Property
- HB 1422 allows INDOT to recover costs for damages to roadway property after a traffic accident. Aim is seeking an amendment to the bill which would allow locals to have the same cost recovery authority.
- HB 1422 has been assigned to the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee and we hope to see the amendment added when the bill receives a hearing in that committee.
- If passed into law, our suggested language would allow cities and towns to recover replacement costs (versus depreciated costs) and labor costs for damage done to local road and street property following a traffic accident.
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Joint Committees to Hear Road Funding Bill
HB 1002 Transportation Infrastructure Funding (Soliday, R-Valparaiso; T. Brown, R-Crawfordsville; Steurewald, R-Avon; Sullivan, R-Evansville)
Road funding is front and center again as the Senate Tax & Fiscal committee will hold a joint hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation committee Tuesday, March 14, at 9:00am. HB 1002 has been assigned to Tax & Fiscal so only committee members will vote on the bill when it returns for a vote later this month. We anticipate a full day of testimony on the bill and there will likely be greater opposition than we experienced during the House committee hearings. While there has been support from leadership in the Senate for a long term road funding plan, they intend to closely examine the current bill for items that need to be adjusted to achieve all funding priorities.
On Thursday there was an early indication that compromise is already taking place. House Speaker Brian Bosma announced that the House is willing to debate a reduction to the pending cigarette tax increase from $1.00 to $0.60. While the two issues are not directly connected, the cigarette tax increase has been viewed as the best option to replace a shift of revenue collected from the sales tax on gasoline. A reduction to $0.60 would replace approximately $175MM from the General Fund into the State Highway Fund.
There are three weeks of committee hearings left so we anticipate HB 1002 will return to be amended and voted in committee on March 21 or 28. As expected that means the road funding debate will continue to a conference committee where legislative leadership will iron out the details of the plan during the last week of session. Sine Die is scheduled for April 21st so the clock is ticking.
What can local officials do now? We ask our local officials to continue to engage your Senators by sharing fiscal data, examples of need, and public support for the bill. If your Senator serves on the Tax and Fiscal Committee, we strongly encourage you to reach out to him or her with your support. We also ask for your participation in our grass roots media campaign. You can contact Jenna Knepper, Aim’s Grassroot Legislative Advocate at [email protected].
Aim Position: Support
Small Cell Tower Bill Will Be Heard Next Week
SB 213 Support Structures for Wireless Facilities (Hershman, R-Buck Creek)
Small cellular structures are the newest development in increasing network capacity, primarily in residential neighborhoods and busy downtowns where service demands are rapidly increasing. These also happen to be the locations where constituents are most sensitive to intrusive infrastructure being located near homes and businesses. Similar to large cellular towers, the small cellular structures will play an essential part in improving service in areas with high capacity need. These smaller structures extend service at a shorter radius, so in order to work effectively they must be located in close proximity to one another, as close as 300 feet.
Aim has meet with multiple communication service providers (CSP’s) to negotiate concerns identified by our technical working group. We have identified areas where we can accomplish the intent of the legislation while reducing the negative impacts of the bill.
Our primary objective is protecting the vested rights of property owners in residential neighborhoods and downtown businesses. While we understand these locations are where the technology is most needed, we believe it is possible to create a process where providers can access desired locations while protecting areas where aesthetics are highly coveted.
By removing local units of government from utilizing planning and zoning or right of way ordinances, the CSP’s will have more control in the right of way than the unit of government responsible for maintaining it. We are working to increase our protections for what is sure to become a very crowded right of way. These discussions have also centered on protecting municipalities from expenses related to moving structures in the public right of way when necessary for a public works project.
Negotiations are also underway to assure local units of government will receive an appropriate level of revenue to properly review applications and protect safety and health concerns. Reductions in permit fees will either slow the review process or require tax payer dollars be shifted from other programs.
There are also several technical details we are addressing in regards to notification, proper marking systems, and liability protections for local units of government. There is a great deal of work to be done on this bill over the next three weeks but we are confident legislators will work to address our concerns.
Aim Position: Oppose
Bills to Address Indiana’s Drug Crisis and Smoking Rate Would Lead to Better Quality of Life for Hoosiers
Addiction and all the problems it brings is impacting cities and towns in every corner of the state. There are several proposals Aim is supporting this session to try to help address Indiana’s addiction problem. For example:
1) Increasing the cigarette tax by $1 and dedicating some of the money to smoking cessation programs will lead to lower smoking rates and reduced health care expenses (HB 1001 – the budget bill).
2) Requiring doctors to report to Indiana’s drug monitoring program whether a patient has entered into a pain management contract will help prevent “doctor shopping” by people who are seeking pain pills for illegitimate purposes (SB 151).
3) Limiting the number of opioid painkillers that may be prescribed to a first-time painkiller patient helps prevent patients from developing an opioid addiction in the first place (SB 226).
4) Establishing a program to provide treatment in a residential care facility and home visitation services after their release for pregnant women and new moms who are struggling with an opioid addiction will help these women conquer their addiction and responsibly parent their children (SB 446).
5) Giving local authority to establish needle exchange programs without first obtaining permission from the state will allow locals to respond quicker if disease spread by needle sharing among intravenous drug users becomes a threat in their communities (HB 1438).
There is no easy answer to any of the problems associated with addiction, but there is no doubt that this will take a concerted effort by stakeholders of many types.
Bill Requires Posting of Roll Call Sheets on Municipalities’ Websites
HB 1622 Record of County and Municipality Votes (Speedy, R-Indianapolis; Freeman, R-Indianapolis)
Legislation to require the posting of all council roll call votes to municipalities’ websites has passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate Local Government Committee.
Under HB 1622, clerk-treasurers would be required to post to their city or town’s websites all council roll call votes within 24 hours after the vote. Once posted, the information must be maintained on the website for four years. (Note: this only applies to municipalities with websites; there is not a mandate for municipalities to create websites if they do not already have one).
Based on a great amount of feedback, we understand that 24 hours is an unworkable deadline. We also understand that in many cases, clerk-treasurers contract 100% of their website work out and therefore, would have to pay an outside company for this increased work. These concerns and others have been shared with the bill’s author, sponsors, and the Chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee.
We will work to narrow this legislation in a way that will not negatively impact municipalities who are not prepared to take on this requirement as currently drafted.
Amendment Sought to Allow Cost Recovery Following a Traffic Accident
HB 1422 Department of Transportation Property Matters (Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie)
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) requested that language be inserted into HB 1422 which allows them to recover costs from insurance companies for damages to roadway property after a traffic accident. Example: If a guardrail is damaged after a motor vehicle accident, INDOT would be able to seek recovery for the replacement cost of the guardrail (not a depreciated amount) and the cost of labor to replace or repair the property regardless of whether the labor is INDOT labor or contracted labor. There are also other costs that INDOT can recover such as travel costs to dispatch employees, costs for rerouting traffic, costs for handling and processing the accident, emergency equipment, etc.
Aim believes what is good for INDOT should be good for locals, so we are asking that similar language be inserted into Title 36 to benefit local governments with the same cost recovery needs. We hope to have this language inserted in the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.
Aim Position: Support