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Slew of bills keep lawmakers occupied

January 12, 2011
State lawmakers have a full agenda for the 2011 session. The House is considering more than 140 bills in the first half of the session, while the Senate has a load of more than 300 bills on which to work.

Many of the bills will never make it to the various committees, as is often the case, and many won't survive once the committees consider them. But, lawmakers have the job of sorting through the list and bringing those most important forward for consideration.

Some of the bills to be considered include:

•SB 0031 — This bill, if passed, would allow cities and towns, except Indianapolis, to adopt a municipal income tax on individuals who reside within the municipality, regardless of their place of employment. The bill provides that the maximum rate is 1 percent. It requires the revenue to be deposited in the municipality's general fund and allows the municipality to use the revenue for any general fund purpose. The bill also allows counties, towns and cities to adopt a local sales tax applicable to tangible personal property delivered (not by common carrier) within the geographic boundaries of the political subdivision. It also requires the tax to be re-adopted every four years using a ratification ordinance.

"I don't think this bill will pass," said Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown. "We already allow counties to pass local option income taxes. The difficulty with this, if passed, would be a hodge-podge of taxes across the state. And we should keep sales taxes restricted to the state level. If this were to pass, it would drive business to the Internet, where you may not have to pay the sales tax. This would hurt local businesses."

•SB 0108 corrects an old law that makes it a Class B misdemeanor to sell a motor vehicle on Sunday.

•SB 0151 states that if a county chairman does not provide a list of precinct committeemen to the county election board by July 1, they can be fined $50 a day, each day it is late.

•SB 1141 makes it a Class C infraction to ride a bicycle without a helmet if you are younger than 18.

•SB 1100 makes it a felony for a sex offender to enter a library.

•SB 0063 allows for the removal of local elected officials under certain circumstances.

•SB 0003 allows grandparents and great-grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in certain circumstances.

•SB 0061 changes the election day for school board members from the primary election to the general election in the fall.

The list of bills to be considered is long and complex. Many bills are elementary while many are quite important, but all 300 bills must be addressed by the Senate during this session.

"A lot of these bills will not be heard," Young said. "The committee chairmen will decide what moves forward. There's a big difference in the real world and a virtual one. If any bill increases the cost of government, it will probably get little traction. We're a billion dollars short of last year's budget. But that's not as bad as it could be. Over $700 million came into the state from the stimulus money, and a lot of that went to education.

"We've already made massive cuts across the board. Some were more surgical than meat-cleaver cuts. And some make little sense," he continued. "Tourism brings a lot of money into the state, but we cut the money to fund tourism.

"Sometimes, it's just amazing to me. Although I seldom agree with our governor, I do agree with the new prison sentencing policy. It cost somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000 a year to lock up and keep each prisoner. There's a lot of variance in the actual costs. But there has to be a better way to keep track of these people. We need to hire more probation officers, make better use of ankle bracelets and find more economical ways to deal with the problem. If we had the numbers down to where each probation officer could be in charge of only five to 10 cases, they could accomplish so much more.

"The governor seems to be serious about this, and I hope he is. There's not a lot we agree on, but this is an area we can certainly agree on. I have a lot of respect of the office of the governor, but we have a different philosophy. He is the chief administrator of this state, but this is not a private industry."

Young said he doesn't get excited about a bill until it's on a committee's list.

"So many of these bills come up year after year, and go nowhere," he said. "And some are important. I have a bill that I've introduced and I've co-authored several others. I'm a ranking member of the local government committee, and I've had some meetings with the governor's staff to work on changes in local government.

"But just to cut it (local government) is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. If they can point out to me any abuses in local government, then I will support legislation about that. But for the most part, local government employees are hardworking people. It may look good on the governor's resumé to get rid of those like the township trustees and advisory boards, but dollar-wise, it won't amount to much because they don't get paid very much. And besides, if you get rid of them, someone like the county council will have to take on more work because someone has to do it.

"We'll see what happens, but these are very interesting times," Young said.

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