Back to work at the Statehouse


"Property taxes predicted to dominate this legislative session

Indiana lawmakers return to the Statehouse this week for the beginning of the 115th session of the General Assembly. The 50 senators and 100 representatives who make up the part-time Legislature will meet for 30 days and adjourn by March 14.

Property taxes will dominate the session. After the surprising results of the election last November that saw incumbent Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, as well as the Democratic majority of the City County Council, ousted primarily over voter dissatisfaction with property tax hikes, politicians at the state level are responding in earnest.

Along with those presented by Gov. Mitch Daniels and Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis) (see this week’s cover story), dozens of other proposals are floating in the Statehouse and some have already resulted in filed legislation that will be considered over the next few weeks.

Republican Sens. Brent Waltz and R. Michael Young, both of Indianapolis, have filed Senate Joint Resolution 0008, which would abolish property taxes altogether with a constitutional amendment.

Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis) has filed Senate Joint Resolution 0002, which proposes an amendment to the state Constitution to exempt buildings and personal property regularly used for religious worship from property taxation.

Reps. David Cheatham (D-North Vernon) and Bob Bischoff (D-Lawrenceburg) have filed House Joint Resolution 0002, another proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt senior citizens from all property taxes if they are over 65 and have paid property taxes in Indiana for at least 10 years.

More than 25 other pieces of legislation on the subject of property taxes have already been filed. Most, however, will probably die in committee.

But property taxes aren’t the only issue to be debated this session. Marriage is another favorite topic of the General Assembly, and though the measure failed last session, Senate Joint Resolution 0007 will be back as Republicans once again push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman and denying the rights of marriage to unmarried persons.

Support for the measure comes from those who believe same-sex unions will defile or destroy the traditional institution of marriage. For the fourth year in a row, SJR 0007 will be used as a measure against such change.

Republicans aren’t opposed to all changes to marriage, however. Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) has introduced Senate Bill 008, which would give the governor, the lieutenant governor and members of the Indiana General Assembly the power to solemnize marriages, and specifies that they may not accept money for performing the ceremony.

At present, marriages must be performed by a member of the clergy of a religious organization, a judge, a mayor (within the mayor’s county), a clerk or a clerk-treasurer of a city or town (within a county in which the city or town is located) or a clerk of the circuit court.

Like marriage, many lawmakers are also concerned with parenting issues. Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Indianapolis) has already called for an enhanced conscious clause for pharmacists. Drozda wants to make it legal for pharmacists and pharmacies to refuse to dispense medication prescribed by a physician including birth control and other forms of contraception that prevent or end pregnancy if it conflicts with their own personal morality.

Senate Bill 0003 provides that “a pharmacist’s refusal to dispense a drug or medical device may not be the basis for: (1) a claim of damages against the pharmacist or pharmacy; and (2) disciplinary action against the pharmacist. Provides that an employer who knowingly or intentionally takes disciplinary, recriminatory or discriminatory action against a pharmacist who refuses to dispense a drug or medical device commits pharmacy discrimination, a Class A misdemeanor. Makes a second or subsequent offense a Class D felony.”

Senate Bill 3 has been scheduled for the session’s first meeting of the Health and Provider Services committee on Wednesday, Jan. 9 in the Senate Chambers at 9 a.m.

The chair of the committee, Sen. Miller has also asked the General Assembly to reconsider the issue of surrogacy in Indiana. In 2005, Miller drafted a bill that would have prevented unmarried persons from seeking medical help in becoming pregnant. Under her “Unauthorized Reproduction” measure, marriage would be a requirement for anyone seeking to have a child through in vitro fertilization or other non-copulation means. The measure was quietly pulled from the legislative agenda after Miller and other state officials were inundated with opposition.

Miller is now readdressing the topic by urging the legislative council to assign to the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee the evaluation of surrogacy issues.

According to Miller, “Although surrogacy now offers many couples an option to help build the families they so strongly desire, it is important that the issues surrounding surrogacy be thoroughly evaluated to determine if there is a need for modification of the laws and public policy concerning surrogacy.” Expect the committee to get the request, and expect marriage to be a requirement when legislation is drafted.

Legislative 411

The Indiana General Assembly maintains a Web site with all relevant session information, including listings of all legislation, committee meeting times and dates, status of legislation within the passage process and direct links to communicate with legislators:


2008 General Assembly schedule

Jan. 4

Senators may file only two bills per business day beginning this day. (Senate Rule 45(b))

Jan. 14

Latest day session must reconvene. (IC 2-2.1-1-3(b))

Jan. 10

Deadline for filing Senate bills (Senate Rule 45(b)) not later than 4 p.m.

Jan. 10

Deadline for filing House bills (fourth meeting day in Jan.). (House Rule 108.2, not later than 2 p.m.)

Jan. 17

Last day Senate bills may be assigned to Senate committees. (Seven (7) calendar days following the last day for filing Senate bills and resolutions (Senate Rule 46(a))

Jan. 30

Last day for third reading of Senate bills in Senate. (Senate Rule 76(a), subject to Senate Rule 85(b))

Jan. 30

Last day for Senate to receive House bills. (Senate Rule 76(c), subject to Senate Rule 85(b))

Jan. 31

Last day for third reading of House bills in House. (House Rule 147.2 )

Feb. 28

Last day for third reading of Senate bills in House. (House Rule 148.2)

Feb. 27

Last day for third reading of House bills in the Senate. (Senate Rule 76(b))

March 14

Last day for adjournment of both houses. (IC 2-2.1-1-3(b))



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