Thursday, February 6, 2014

The legislative halftime report

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Well, it's that time of session again. It's the point where lawmakers hit the halfway point and political talking heads like me offer an assessment of what's good, what's bad and where the jury is still out. So here we go.

SB 176 - Allows for a local referendum in Indianapolis and most of the surrounding doughnut counties on whether to increase taxes 1/10th of 1 percent to expand bus service and increase economic opportunity in the region.

HB 1002 - Provides $400 million in additional money for road projects across Indiana. The bill was amended to add $24 million for locally funded road projects.

HB 1351 - Provides for random drug testing for welfare recipients and tightens the rules for can be purchased with food stamps. If you're on the government dime, we reserve the right to make sure you're not blowing our money on blow.

SB 168 - Would allow limited wine and beer sales at the Indiana State Fair for the first time since 1947. Maybe Sunday sales will be next.

HB 1004 - Expands early childhood education opportunities by allowing low-income families access to vouchers for preschool. A good education is the best ticket out of poverty and the sooner, the better.

Bad

HJR-3 (the marriage amendment) - Although the Indiana House removed the ambiguous second sentence this is still a bad idea. And what makes it even worse, HJR-3 supporters can't take a hint and are going to try and include it back into the amendment once it hits the Senate.

HB 1403 - This would limit apartment inspections by local governments into apartment complexes. I'm not so sure about this one, some mega apartment complexes are just magnets for crime and other problems so if we limit inspections, are we just adding to the problem.

SB 91 - This would eliminate Indiana's participation in Common Core, a set of national education guidelines. Supporters say Indiana will adopt its own standards, but this could complicate things under the No Child Left Behind Law and cost Indiana quite a bit of cash.

Jury Still Out

HB 1001/SB 1 - Repeal of the business personal property tax. The House version would allow counties to opt out of levying the tax. The Senate version would only impact businesses with less than $25,000 in inventory, which is 71 percent of businesses. The problem has been how to replace the revenue for local governments and schools. Both the House and Senate will have to work out a compromise on their respective versions. Don't be surprised if you see a hybrid of the two where counties will get the chance to opt out of the tax for small businesses and the state will pick up the replacement revenue for a defined period but eventually phase out the subsidy.

Of course there are a lot of other bills out there, but these were just some of the highlights that caught my attention. There is ample opportunity between now and the end of session for good ideas to bad, bad ideas to get better and the jury to come back unable to render a verdict. Remember, it's only halftime.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.

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