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February 22, 2013
Volume 13
Issue 12
Thanks to Adams, Daviess, DeKalb, Fountain, Hamilton, Hancock, Jay, Kosciusko, Lake, Morgan, Orange, Posey, Steuben, Vermillion, Wabash and Whitley County Farm Bureaus for visiting the Statehouse this week.
There are no visits scheduled next week due to the legislative calendar.      

The 2013 session of the Indiana legislature has nearly reached its half-way point. All bills introduced in the House of Representatives must pass that body by midnight Monday while the Senate’s deadline is midnight Tuesday. Both houses will take the rest of the week off, returning to Indianapolis on March 4. This past week saw the final passage of the Farm Bureau-supported bill addressing soil productivity factors and the introduction of the House’s version of the budget for the 2013-2015 biennium.

SOIL PRODUCTIVITY FIX TO BE FIRST BILL SIGNED BY PENCE  This week, the House unanimously (98-0) passed SB 319, making it the first bill to be forwarded to Gov. Mike Pence for his signature. SB 319 is the bill that requires assessors to use the soil productivity factors in effect in 2011 for the March 2013 assessment of farmland. The bill also directs the Department of Local Government Finance, in conjunction with the Purdue College of Agriculture, to undertake a comprehensive review of soil productivity factors and report its findings to the General Assembly by November of this year. SB 319 was introduced by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) and sponsored in the House by Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston). In all, 16 senators and 90 representatives have signed on as co-authors or co-sponsors of the bill. Gov. Pence has indicated he will sign the bill – which will take effect immediately – into law before March 1.

Immediately after the House approved SB 319, Farm Bureau issued a news release thanking its authors and sponsors and all members of the General Assembly for addressing this issue so expediently. It would be most appropriate for all Farm Bureau members to similarly thank their state senators and state representatives for their support of the bill. The only legislators who did not vote for the bill were Sens. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) and Mike Delph (R-Carmel) and Reps. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) and Rhonda Rhoads (R-Corydon), all of whom were excused from the floor when the vote was taken.

RECORDING OF INDUSTRIAL AND AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS  The Senate is continuing to work on SB 373, the bill introduced by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) that would make it an infraction to videotape (or photograph or otherwise record) and distribute with the intent to harass, defame, annoy or harm an agricultural or industrial operation without the owner’s consent. The bill provides an exemption for reporting suspected violations of laws or rules to proper enforcement authorities within 48 hours. The bill does not provide an exception for an individual who delivers the video recording to the media or posts it on the Internet. The bill will be returned to the Senate’s second-reading calendar on Monday to limit its application to those who make a recording with the intent to defame or harm the owner of the property.

This bill has received a considerable amount of media attention. It has been labeled by animal rights activists as an “ag-gag” bill, and many mainstream media outlets have complained that it will stifle investigative journalism. Farm Bureau believes these concerns are adequately addressed by providing the exception for timely reporting to appropriate law enforcement authorities.

HOUSE READY TO ADOPT BUDGET  The House version of the state’s budget for the 2013-2015 biennium has cleared all the legislative hurdles except final adoption. That will occur on Monday. The budget bill, HB 1001, is authored by Ways & Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) and the committee’s ranking minority member, Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis). It will appropriate about $30 billion over the two years of the biennium including about $2 billion of the state’s reserves for K-12 education and highway and road projects. Significant in the budget proposed by House Republicans is the fact that it does not include the 10% cut in Indiana’s personal income tax first proposed by Gov. Mike Pence when he was candidate Mike Pence during the 2012 election. The proposed budget would accelerate the scheduled phase-out of the state’s inheritance tax to five years.

The House-passed budget will be revisited and revised by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full Senate, and the final version will be negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee during the last couple weeks of the legislative session.

If you have the opportunity to talk to your local legislators, ask them how your local schools will fare under the proposed budget and how much the budget will allocate to your county for local roads.

SENATE COMMITTEE MOVES BILL CREATING SPECIAL RULES FOR EMINENT DOMAIN BY COLLEGES  By a vote of 5-1, the Senate Judiciary Committee this week approved SB 383, a bill introduced by Sen. Doug Eckerty (R-Yorktown) that would require the state’s public colleges and universities to compensate businesses at a higher rate than would otherwise be the case in a condemnation action. The bill was opposed by several of the state’s universities and Farm Bureau. Testifying on behalf of Farm Bureau, Bob Kraft pointed out to the committee that the bill did not include agriculture as a business to be compensated for the loss of business and that there was no rationale for the bill’s premise that property condemned by a state university is somehow deserving of a higher level of compensation than that condemned by INDOT or DNR or some other state agency. Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange), who was the lone vote against the bill in committee, may offer a second-reading amendment to require business lost by agriculture to be considered in determining the fair level of compensation in university condemnations.

SENATE RULES COMMITTEE MOVES MEASURES TO CALL FOR FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION  This week, the Senate Rules Committee considered and forwarded to the full Senate a package of measures that would put Indiana on record as calling for a federal constitutional convention that would be limited to the consideration of the federal government’s powers to tax and regulate commerce under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The author of the measures, Sen. President pro tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) explained, “The rampant growth of the federal government is encroaching not only on states’ rights, but on the rights and freedoms of individual citizens across the country.” The package includes a joint resolution calling for the constitutional convention and a pair of bills addressing the procedural issues of appointing delegates and limiting the authority of those delegates. The U.S. Constitution provides that a convention to propose amendments to the constitution can be called by two-thirds (34) of the states. Any amendments proposed by such a convention must be ratified by three-fourths (38) of the states.

SENATE UTILITIES COMMITTEE MODIFIES ROCKPORT GAS RATES BILL  The Senate Utilities Committee amended SB 510 (Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown) by removing the provisions designed to protect natural gas ratepayers from underwriting the risk that would be assumed by the developers of the proposed synthetic natural gas plant in Rockport. The introduced version of SB 510 would require a “true-up” or cost reconciliation every three years rather than at the end of the 30-year period provided for in the developer’s agreement with the state. As amended by the committee, the bill now requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to reconsider the contract between the state and Leucadia, the Rockport developer, if it is voided in litigation that is currently pending.

PENCE ISSUES PROCLAMATION RECOGNIZING FFA  Gov. Mike Pence welcomed the state’s FFA officers and several FFA members who were serving as legislative pages to the Statehouse on Monday and designated February 16 – 23, 2013, as FFA Week in the state of Indiana, inviting all citizens to duly note the occasion. In his proclamation, Pence noted that FFA promotes citizenship, volunteerism, patriotism and cooperation.




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