[r79] Local Government Reform Examined (2/14/2011)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Start Date: 2/14/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/14/2011
As I sit in front of my computer each week, I begin to formulate my thoughts as to what to write.  Sometimes words leap on to the page and other times I stare at the screen.  Some call it writers block but that can't be it because I am not a "writer".  Maybe I am sick.  There is a fever going around my house.  It is called, "Bieber Fever".  I was told there is a web site, so I checked it out and I am OK -- I do not have "Bieber Fever" -- not even a mild case.  Over the weekend I took my soon to be 14 year old daughter and her friends to see Justin Bieber (this is who you get the fever from)  movie and for two hours I enjoyed the life story of a 16 year old pop star, phenomenon in a theater packed full of teenage girls screaming continually at the screen.  Why do I tell you this story?  I have discovered that politics isn't the only cause for headaches, as much as I enjoy time with the family.

We have two very busy weeks ahead of us as the third reading deadline rapidly approaches. This is the deadline to have bills passed out of the House to the Senate. This session we have already acted on a solution for our unemployment deficit (HB1450), we passed the charter school bill (HB 1002), we passed a new vote center option for counties to save money (SB32) and today we passed a marriage amendment (HJR 6) to the Senate for consideration.

Local government reform is another issue being debated with a handful of proposed bills being heard in committee.  Presently, the main focus to bring changes to our local government is universally supported. House Bill 1022 would address the issue of nepotism and conflicts of interest.  It would prevent elected officials from employing family members under their direct supervision.  There is protection for those individuals who were already employed by the entity prior to the election of the family member.  The bill would also require a person who is elected to a position that puts them in charge of the department that they work for to resign the non-elected position upon their election. I would also consider allowing the local entities' fiscal body to have some form of binding authority over these budgets. In over 8 hours of testimony, we heard both sides on the issue but ultimately the abuses that we saw around the state proved that changes are very much needed.

In a broader push for reform, House Bill 1469 eliminates township government.  In its present form, I cannot support the legislation because it is too broad.  In District 79, township government is still practical in its functionality.  Every county is different.  In Adams County, we have Amish issues that Allen County does not have.  In Allen County there are issues with representation in an area where Ft. Wayne steers the ship.  With all counties having their own issues to deal with, I think that a "one size fits all solution" is not the answer.  If a township wants to merge with its neighbor or merge with a community that overlaps its boundaries those options are already available.  I also believe that any reform of this level must be decided at the local level by the people of that county.

After hearing the testimony of all these issues last week and with more hearings scheduled for Tuesday this week, I hope we can finalize a common sense approach to local government reform. You can follow the testimony online at www.in.gov/legislative by clicking on the Watch General Assembly button in the upper right hand corner.  I value your opinion and always encourage anyone to send me an email or give me a call to discuss any issue.

I hope all is well and for those who have a bad case of "Bieber Fever", I wish you a speedy recovery.