Soliday: Collaboration Creates Best Public Policy

Posted by: Kelly Sweeney  | Tuesday, February 3, 2009 8:00 am

Thank you for your recent editorial regarding Indiana House Bill 1486. As you know, good law is usually created through a process of respectful idea sharing in an environment of openness and candor.

HB1486 was born from a concern that the constraints of the new property tax caps might tempt some governmental entities throughout the state to consider selling capital assets and use the proceeds to meet current operational needs.

The tyranny of the immediate many times influences our decision-making in ways that are not best for the long term. The Porter County Council and the county commissioners previously wrestled with this issue and created a protective resolution that required a unanimous vote of both bodies to spend the principal of the proceeds from the sale of Porter Hospital.

I'd like to be clear: HB1486 memorializes this principle, but goes one step further and requires a majority vote of the people before the principal may be spent.

HB1486 provides for the creation of a community foundation that would be governed by the elected county council members, who could be replaced at the discretion of the voters.

The foundation structure allows greater investment opportunity and greater availability of project matching funds from private foundations than a local government entity is afforded.

The section of HB1486 that seems to have raised the most concern is that restricting use of the annual investment proceeds to five specific areas. The intent was to create checks and balances so the county council could restrict the amount allocated to any one or all entities depending on the worthiness of the advisors' proposals, while the council could not spend on projects the advisors did not consider appropriate.

The advisors were intended to be voluntary experts in the designated fields, appointed by the county commissioners.

The legislative process allows many opportunities for the amendment of introduced bills. Based upon information from a number of sources, I am drafting an amendment that would eliminate the five designated spending areas and advisory groups.

Use of the proceeds would be restricted to projects that are not part of the usual operational budget and would be approved by the county council and commissioners. Additionally, the elected county treasurer will become the administrator of the community foundation. Also worthy of consideration is changing "shall" to "may," which would make the community foundation a tool but not a mandate.

Again, the creation of law is a give-and-take process. I'm grateful for the input of both citizens and government individuals who called and contributed to the creation of better public policy for Indiana.