By Alec Gray
The Statehouse File
A legislative committee on Wednesday passed two bills that could lead to changes in local governments and sent them to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Bill 110 — approved 6-3 by the Senate Local Government Committee — gives counties the option to switch from a three commissioner system to one, if voters choose to do so in a referendum.
The bill's author, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said he decided to include the referendum in the bill because he heard the cry from people who asked him not to force counties to make a change but offer them an option to do so.
"For the last four years that I've been here the human cry had been: Don't force us to do something. Don't mandate that we do something. Give us an option to do it," Holdman said.
But Ron Smith, president of the Indiana Association of County Commissioners, said his group opposes the bill. He told senators it would open the door to abuse because only one person would hold executive power.
"This bill is an attack on county government," Smith said.
He also said the three-commissioner system makes it easier for people to take the position as a part-time job. A single county executive position would likely demand more time, which could lead to fewer candidates seeking the post.
Other opponents said they feared that though the bill offered counties an option, it was actually the first step toward mandatory changes. Others said more diverse ideas come from a group of three leaders.
The committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 170, which aims to eliminate conflict of interest and nepotism in local governments. The bill would generally ban local government employees from serving on the council or board that set their salaries. It would also ban most local officials from hiring their relatives.
Supporters called the bill fair because it allows people to choose whether to keep their jobs or run for office. Supporters said the bill was necessary for every county in the state.
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