The Big Issues
- Crawfordsville Senator Phil Boots’ anti-annexation bill, SB 94, which essentially ended involuntary annexation when it cleared the Senate, was amended in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee earlier this week.
- The highly problematic bill was stripped of its underlying content and now instead urges various annexation-related issues to be sent to an interim study committee. There was little committee support for the Senate-passed language. While the conference committee process is somewhat unpredictable, we are pleased with this positive development.
- HB 1427, a Rep. Dan Leonard bill containing troubling annexation language, will be heard in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee next week. The bill contains language defeated in previous sessions, seeking to void current annexation waivers that are 15 years old or older, as well as voids any current annexation waivers once they reach the 15 year mark.
PROPERTY UTILITY BILLING
- HB 1347, a Rep. Woody Burton bill being carried in the Senate by Sen. Jack Sandlin, will make it more difficult for municipal utilities to pursue unpaid utility bills from rental property owners.
- The bill requires a municipality to provide notice to other lien holders when a sewer bill is 60 days delinquent. If we do not provide that notice within 20 days units cannot place a lien on the rental property. This timeline is unworkable due to the time it takes to complete a full title search.
- Aim has opposed this bill as it takes away local decision making authority and forces other property taxpayers to assume the burden for landlords who do not want to be responsible for their property. Despite our concerns the bill cleared committee on Monday and is currently sitting on the Senate’s second reading calendar, where Aim hopes to make progress via 2nd reading amendments.
- Several amendments have been filed focusing on lien notification language; the most concerning of these would remove the lien notification but would also take away our super priority status. Aim is considering language that insures municipalities can keep rental property owners responsible for their utility bills, modifies the current lien notice process and allows municipalities to gather contact information from property owners regarding any mortgage holders prior to turning on utilities.
- Rep. Ed Clere authored HB 1625, which places extremely onerous requirements on cities and towns regarding the preparation of various fiscal analyses and housing fee reports.
- The bill requires that a community prepare a fiscal analysis if a unit’s proposed ordinance or regulation may directly or indirectly increase or decrease the cost of housing in the municipality. Further, it requires every municipality to annually prepare a housing fee report to be posted on the municipality’s web site and provides that a municipality may not impose any housing related fee that is not: (1) included in the fee report; or (2) posted on the municipality’s web site.
- Sen. Mark Messmer is the Senate sponsor of HB 1625 and has been working with Aim to address our concerns. Sen. Messmer expects the bill to be significantly modified if it advances and current amendment language considered thus far does not appear to have the support of the committee. Aim members with a senator on this committee are encouraged to call them and explain the fiscal challenges and increased bureaucracy that would result under this bill as currently written. For more information about the housing industry in Indiana, read this report from Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
- Rep. Doug Miller of Elkhart authored HB 1266, a bill that seeks to mandate that local stormwater regulations cannot be more stringent than related requirements of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
- As amended, the bill also gives locals only five business days to either approve or deny a stormwater permit – an unbelievably significant decrease from today’s 28 day allowance. If a stop work order is needed on a project that was approved by default, the municipality must give the party an advisory warning. The party will then have 72 hours to cure the violation before a stop work order can be issued and a shutdown can occur.
- HB 1265 is back on the calendar of the Senate Environmental Committee on Monday. We have seen some potential amendment language but we expect even more changes to be made. We believe the amendment will expand the review times beyond the version that passed the out of the House, but it will still require municipalities to update their stormwater ordinances to make them no more stringent than what is in place at the state level.
TAX COURT JURISDICTION
- In December a tax court decision saying stormwater fees are considered taxes resulted in swift legislative follow up in the form of SB 582, authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau and sponsored by Rep. Mike Karickhoff.
- Aim has been communicating with lawmakers that this decision has such far-reaching consequences that it must be overturned. While some lawmakers are hesitant to overturn judicial decisions on principle, failing to set aside this decision and clarify the tax court’s jurisdiction in these matters is necessary to avoid catastrophic consequences.
- The bill is expected to be back on the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee’s calendar on Monday April, 8.
AN AIM LEGISLATIVE MOMENT
“We’ve got about two weeks of committee time left in the House and Senate and two weeks of conference committee after that, where really all the bills are in play and everything can come back. You’re on guard every single minute of the day. With that said, we still have about 20 bills that we are actively engaged on right now.”
– Brian Gould, Aim Government Affairs Director
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