To compare last year's legislative session to a marathon and this year's session to a sprint would be an accurate assessment, not that we are entering our fourth week and have accomplished so much in such a short period of time.
House Joint Resolution 1(HJR1), the legislation to permanently cap property taxes, cleared its final legislative hurdle this week when it passed the Senate by a vote of 35-15. HJR1 first passed the House by a vote of 75-23, sending the legislation to the Senate. Now, voters will decide in November whether or not to add permanent property tax reform to the constitution.
If voters choose to support HJR1, homeowner's property tax will be capped at one percent of assessed value, agricultural and rental properties at two percent of assessed value and business properties at three percent of assessed value.
I encourage all voters to get involved in this issue, if they aren't already. Educate yourself on how the caps will affect your property taxes before you go to the polls in November.
House Bill 1004 is another bill that came before the House last week and also pertains to property taxes. The bill, in its current form, complements the current property tax caps by providing that property tax bills would not increase more than the rate of inflation.
If a taxpayer's bill increases by more than rate of inflation, the excess bill amount would be returned to the taxpayer in the form of a credit. The credits granted to property taxpayers under HB 1004 are expected to total $59.3 million in 2011, $73.9 million in 2012 and $74.8 million in 2013.
HB 1004 would also change the farmland base rate calculation from a six-year "rolling" average of farmland values to an "Olympic" average-which drops the lowest and highest value-beginning in 2011. This bill would not result in a lower per acre base rate in 2011, but it is expected to lower the base rate from $1,690 to $1,600 in 2012 and from $1,650 to $1,520 in 2013.
HB 1004 passed out of the House by a vote of 82-13 and will head to the Senate for further discussion.
Tax bills of any kind can be annoying to deal with, but when they aren't mailed to you on time it can become aggravating. House Bill 1059 would ensure that you receive your tax bill on time each year, in order to prevent any additional financial havoc. The bill would also help schools and local government from borrowing dollars.
The bill is eligible for second reading this week in the House.
Believe it or not, the issue of taxes is only one of several hot button issues this session. In an attempt to make government more transparent, House Bill 1001 was drafted to address ethics reform.
Currently, lobbyists are required to report any gift given to a legislator with a value of $100 or more. House Bill 1001 would reduce that amount to $50 and also require state legislators to wait one year after leaving office before registering as a lobbyist.
Lobbyists have recently been given a bad reputation concerning their role in the legislative process. As a legislator, working within a part-time legislature, lobbyists can be very helpful especially during a short session. They provide legislators with accurate and reputable information we may not have the time or the resources to obtain ourselves.
I supported this bill because I knew it was the right thing to do, however, I did not like the references to campaign fundraising language within this bill.
I am looking forward to further discussion in the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure this week. The bill is for ethics reform-not campaign reform. If additional rules and regulations are needed to address campaign fundraising, I think a separate bill to address the issue is in order.
If at any time you have questions or concerns about legislation that is going through the legislature, please contact me. I always enjoy speaking with constituents to get a better understanding of any concerns you may have. Please e-mail me at H53@in.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-382-9841.
I would also like to encourage you to fill out my legislative survey, which will give me a better idea of how to effectively serve you. You can find my survey online at http://www.in.gov/h53/ under 2010 Survey.