It’s halftime! Long sessions are always specially marked by halftime, when everyone takes a breather and takes stock of what bills and issues have survived or are eligible to return later in the process. As you likely know, HB 1002 passed the House and is in the Senate for consideration. Please make sure your senator(s) hear from you about the critical need for a long-term road funding solution THIS session.
Small Cell Tower Regulation
- Senate Bill 213 passed out of the Senate this week by a large margin, however, there is still a clear indication that legislators want improvements made to the current language. House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Chairman Dave Ober is the sponsor on the bill and will control the bill as it moves through his committee.
- We have heard 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 locally elected officials.
- At this time there has been similar language introduced in approximately 20 other state legislatures. National efforts are being made to preempt local government control at the same time the FCC is poised to introduce a national preemption.
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Local Income Tax Bill Clean-up
- House Enrolled Act 1485-2015 was passed two years ago. It was a comprehensive Local Income Tax (LIT) reform bill and it went into effect January 1, 2017. HB 1129 is a local income tax clean-up bill.
- HB 1129 is a general LIT clean-up bill. We requested an amendment to HB 1129 to make some clarifying changes. The amendment was adopted and added to the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee and the bill passed the House by a 75-19 vote.
- The changes we requested in the amendment are to IC 6-3.6-3-2 dealing with the procedures to adopt a LIT ordinance.
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- This week, the House passed their version of the $31 billion state budget almost entirely along party lines.
- The budget is far from its final form, as the Senate will make significant revisions as the bill moves through that chamber. There are several provisions in the budget that could indirectly impact the total dollar amount locals will see from road funding – notably, a $1 cigarette tax increase contained in the budget today that Senate leaders have warned they do not like.
- During budget sessions, the budget is almost always the last bill to pass and the most fiercely debated from beginning to end. Every major piece of legislation becomes a part of budget negotiations, and Aim has already been and will continue to be engaged on items that have road funding implications.
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Search Request Fees
- HB 1523 passed out of the House by a vote of 62-25 due to the efforts of local government supporter Representative Kathy Richardson. There has been statewide media coverage about the bill as it would establish a new fee for lengthy searches required by extensive public records requests.
- HB 1523 will allow a local unit to charge a search fee for a request when services provided exceed 2 hours in length. The fee is capped at the lesser of $20 per hour or the hourly rate at which the employee is paid. This fee is for each additional hour in excess of two hours. This is a necessary change as these rare but excessive request impact productivity of government staff.
- Local officials who work in the Clerk Treasurers or Clerks office have specific duties that must be completed in a timely manner which are often required by state statute. Unreasonable records requests that are often submitted for no reason other than to create a nuisance for the local unit prevent employees from conducting the business of good government. This legislation will help prevent unnecessary requests.
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Various Municipal Matters
- We have now reached the halfway point of session, when the bills that are still alive switch houses. At this time, we can also cross “dead” bills off our tracking list. Fortunately, we are able to remove several bad bills from the list.
- Four of the bills Aim opposed that were either killed or died include bills that would have: 1) allowed county commissions to veto annexations; 2) exempted churches, schools and ag land property owners from paying stormwater user fees; 3) taken away one of the municipal executive’s appointments to redevelopment commissions by giving it to the school board; and 4) required local units to accept bids from bidders who propose to use PVC piping to complete public works projects.
- Thank you to all of Aim’s members who contacted legislators about these bad bills. Your input and engagement made a big difference in the first half!
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Small Cell Tower Bill Passes Senate
SB 213 Support Structures for Wireless Facilities (Hershman, R-Buck Creek)
As was anticipated, SB 213 passed out of the Senate on Monday by a vote of 46-3 and will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration. Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Chairman Dave Ober will serve as the House sponsor and we have already engaged with him to address our primary concerns with the bill as well as understand his intent for the legislation. In addition to our lobbying efforts, Aim has formed a technical working group to identify specific areas in the legislation where we believe there is room for compromise and improvement. Our objective is to meet the intent of the bill, allow the telecommunication providers to meet their service needs and address the principal concerns of municipalities.
The bill will be heard during the third week of committee meetings on March 22 and we believe it will be voted on in committee during the last week of House committee meetings. This provides us a window to address key concerns like structure height, minimum separation distances, aesthetic qualities as well as protecting areas such as residential neighborhoods and downtowns to ensure the negative impacts of the installed equipment is reduced as much as possible.
While we work to improve this legislation we are in communication with many other state leagues across the country who are addressing similar legislation at this time. There is also an increasing likelihood that the FCC will move to pass additional preemptions of local government planning and zoning of these small cell facilities.
We encourage our membership to engage your Representatives at this time to inform them that Aim will be working with the communication service providers to address our concerns and that our goal is to protect property owners who will be impacted by these structures while improving the access of service providers into necessary areas.
Aim Position: Oppose
Bill Passes House with Aim Local Income Tax Clean-up
HB 1129 Local Income Tax (Thompson, R-Lizton)
In 2015, House Enrolled Act 1485, a comprehensive local income tax (LIT) reform bill passed into law. It had a delayed effective date of January 1, 2017. HB 1129 is a LIT clean-up bill to make adjustments to the previously passed legislation.
Aim requested that a few tweaks be made in the statute that have concerned us since the passage of the original bill. We worked with Rep. Jeff Thompson and the DLGF to prepare an amendment that addressed these concerns. The amendment was accepted to the bill in the Ways and Means Committee and the bill passed the House by a 75-19 vote.
Our requested changes were to IC 6-3.6-3-2 regarding the procedure to adopt a LIT ordinance or resolution. The current law requires the DLGF to pre-approve the form of our ordinances. The bill removes the pre-approval mandate. In addition, the current law states that ordinances are void if local procedures do not follow DLGF policy requirements. This provision is being removed in the bill. As for notices, under the provisions of the bill, standard notice procedures are to be followed under IC 5-3-1 versus current law that allows the DLGF to set the notice procedures.
Aim Position: Support
Budget Bill Now Moves to the Senate
HB 1001 State biennial budget (Brown, R-Crawfordsville)
The House passed their version of the budget bill on Monday 68-29, almost entirely along party lines.
As HB 1001 stands today, it is a $31 billion two-year budget. Some of the notable provisions include a 4.7% increase for K-12 base per-student funding, a doubling of state funding for the Pre-K pilot program, and dedicated funding to continue Indiana’s fight against the drug crisis. The budget also contains a $1 per pack increase on the cigarette tax, which helps “plug the hole” to the general fund caused by shifting all of the sales tax on gas to road funding (a key component of the House Republican road funding proposal).
As the bill heads over to the Senate, there are already several differences in opinion between the House and Senate on the details, with the cigarette tax increase chief among them. Key Senate leaders have warned that they are not excited about increasing the cigarette tax – or shifting all of the sales tax on gas to roads – so there is a lot to hammer out in the coming weeks.
After the Senate has an opportunity to make their changes, the negotiations between the chambers will heat up in conference committee. Although the major road funding proposal is contained in HB 1002, that issue will undoubtedly be closely tied to budget negotiations on the whole. Other major legislation will also be folded into the negotiations – e.g. the gaming bill, the appointed state superintendent bill, and all education matters generally. Aim will be closely monitoring the budget and very actively engaged on all matters related to road funding.
Search Fee for Records Request Moves to Senate
HB 1523 Search Fee for Public Records Request (Richardson, R-Noblesville)
Most municipalities have experienced that one individual or business entity that has made it their life’s mission to request every document or record ever produced by the municipality. There is some relief in sight that will help protect the valuable time of municipal employees who are being diverted from completing their regularly assigned task to comply with requests that are often made for no reason other than to create an inconvenience. Rep. Kathy Richardson has introduced legislation that will allow a local unit of government to charge an hourly fee which is the lesser of the hourly rate of pay for the employee conducting the search or $20 per hour for most search request that exceed two hours. This is in addition to the current fees a local unit may charge for copies of documents provided to a requester. This legislation will also prevent a local unit from charging a fee when those documents are provided in an electronic format.
Protecting the ability of local officials and their staff to complete their statutorily assigned duties and guidelines is of critical importance. This legislation will help prevent unreasonable request from being presented and will also permit for specific request that benefit one individual or entity to pay a reasonable fee for the services they receive.
Aim Position: Support
Several Anti-Municipal Bills Die in First Half
SB 381; SB 502; HB 1131; HB 1226 Various Municipal Matters
One of the Aim legislative team’s favorite days of the session is when the bills switch houses – we get to remove many dead bills from our tracking list! In the first half of session, there are four in particular we are very pleased to report are dead:
1) SB 381 would have given county commissioners veto authority over all municipal annexations. The Aim team and many Aim members lobbied the members of the Senate Local Government Committee to vote no. When the bill was voted in committee, it failed by a vote of 4-5.
2) SB 502 would have exempted schools, churches and agriculture land property owners from paying stormwater fees. Although the bill was heard in the Senate Utilities Committee, it was not voted and is therefore dead. Aim led a coalition of several groups that testified in opposition.
3) HB 1131 was the bill that would have taken away one of the municipal executive’s appointments to an RDC to give it to a voting school board member. Although the bill passed one committee, it was reassigned to Ways and Means where it died without further consideration.
4) HB 1226 was the bill that would have prevented municipalities from writing their specifications for public works projects in a way that would exclude PVC piping from being used to complete the project. Aim and other stakeholders lobbied the Chairman of the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee not to hear the bill. He agreed and the bill died without a hearing.
Due to various parliamentary procedures, it is sometimes possible to take language from dead bills and insert it into other legislation. Aim will continue keeping our eye out for bad language as we also work to improve the bills we know are still alive. But, thank you again to Aim’s members who contacted legislators and advocated for/against legislation that led to a great first half for Indiana’s cities and towns.