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Click Public Policy Dispatch - Volume 13, Issue 18 to see as a webpage.

April 5, 2013
Volume 13
Issue 18
There were no visits to the Statehouse this week.
The following Statehouse visit is scheduled for next week:
Wednesday, April 10 – Jefferson County.   

This was another busy week at the Indiana Statehouse as both the Senate and the House began to wind down their committee work in anticipation of the scheduled April 29 adjournment. This week saw an unexpected new development on the agricultural and industrial videotaping bill, the House passage of a bill to protect the voice of rural residents in proposed mergers and the release of the Senate version of the budget for the 2013-2015 biennium.

SPEAKER BOSMA REQUIRES EMERGENCY SURGERY   Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) underwent surgery this week to address severe infection in a knee he had transplanted last summer. He expects to return late next week or early the following week. In his absence, the presiding officer of the House of Representatives will be Speaker pro tem Eric Turner (R-Cicero). Farm Bureau wishes Speaker Bosma all the best for a speedy and complete recovery.

AG VIDEOTAPING BILL RECOMMITTED TO JUDICIARY COMMITTEE   On Monday, the House of Representatives accepted the report of the Agriculture Committee on SB 373 (Sen. Eric Holdman, R-Markle, and, Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy) and in a surprise move recommitted it to the House Judiciary Committee. SB 373 is the bill that will make it illegal to photograph, videotape or otherwise record agricultural or industrial operations with the intent to defame or harm the owner of the property without the consent of the owner. The bill continues to raise some constitutional questions so it was forwarded to the Judiciary Committee. Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald (R-Danville) has been working with Farm Bureau and other interested groups to address these issues. He has scheduled a hearing of the Judiciary Committee for Monday morning. In addition to Chairman Steuerwald, the members of the committee are Republicans Tom Washburne (Evansville), Eric Koch (Bedford), Dan Leonard (Huntington), Peggy Mayfield (Martinsburg), Jud McMillan (Brookville), Wendy McNamara (Mount Vernon), Phyllis Pond (New Haven), Jerry Torr (Carmel) and Democrats Pat Bauer (South Bend), Ed Delaney (Indianapolis), Ryan Dvorak (South Bend) and Vernon Smith (Gary). If you are represented by one of the committee members, please give them a call over the weekend and ask them to support of SB 373 in committee on Monday.

SENATE PRESENTS BIENNIAL BUDGET “MEETING THE REPUBLICAN ROADMAP”   In odd numbered years, the General Assembly sets out the state’s budget for the following two years. The bill number HB 1001 is reserved for the biennial budget. This year HB 1001 started with a new author in the House, Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), who chairs the Ways & Means Committee. In the Senate, Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), veteran chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the Senate version of the budget on April 4. While the Senate version of the budget contains many similarities to the House-passed budget, some significant changes were made. The number one difference is adding the tax cut provision requested by Gov. Mike Pence in his “Roadmap for Indiana’s Future.” The Senate has scaled it down by cutting the state income tax rate from 3.4% to 3.3% in the year 2015 rather than the cut proposed by Gov. Pence that would lower the rate to 3.06%. While the Senate included about one-third of what the governor wanted, he has pledged to continue fighting for the entire cut he proposed on the campaign trail. The comparative difference in dollars is a $150 million tax cut in the Senate version vs. $510 million cut proposed by the governor. In terms of the budget, this plays out as a difference in what is available for a variety of things including K-12 education, state and local road funding, pension obligations and investments in other infrastructure and workforce development. One of the major differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget is the amount of money directed to local road funding. The Senate stab at road funding is about $50 million less than the $250 million proposed by the House. Counties wanting any of the “new” state dollars for local roads must adopt a local option wheel/surtax. The formula for the “new” dollars will provide the most funding if a county has adopted the wheel/surtax at the maximum rate. On the K-12 front, the Senate version of the budget is similar to the House version but the Senate sets aside an additional $50 million for performance awards for teachers whose students excel on standardized tests. There are also differences in how pension and other state debt obligations are handled. Both versions pay cash for new university capital projects. Neither version of the budget expands Medicaid, although they both are looking ahead for potential impacts from implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act. What’s next? More negotiations will happen in the Senate and more negotiations will occur behind the scenes with the House fiscal leaders. The budget is traditionally the last bill to pass the General Assembly – it is their only requirement – but most budget concepts will move closer to completion after the April revenue forecast is released on April 18.

HOUSE PASSES FB-SUPPORTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION BILL   The House has passed SB 343 (Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, and Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville), a bill that will significantly change the process for reorganizing political subdivisions into a single entity. The House amended the bill so that it now mirrors the bill originally introduced as HB 1066 (Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield).  Significant among the provisions of the amended SB 343 is the requirement that in the referendum to approve the reorganization the voters of each of the affected subdivisions must approve the proposal by the predetermined approval threshold. The law specifies that the threshold must be at least 50% of those voting but that it cannot be more than 55%. This separate vote requirement protects the voice of residents of the more rural, less populated subdivisions in a proposed merger and is a Farm Bureau legislative priority. Sen. Head has indicated that he intends to recommend the Senate concur with the House changes to SB 343.

HOUSE RECOMMENDS STUDY OF SINGLE COUNTY EXECUTIVE   The House has passed, by a vote of 71-26, SB 475 (Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, and Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne), a bill that was amended by the House to request that a summer study committee consider the topic of allowing counties to change the executive and legislative structure of county government by placing all executive powers in a single county executive and all legislative and fiscal powers in the county council. As it passed the Senate, SB 475 would have authorized the Allen County commissioners to decide if they wanted the voters of Allen County to approve replacing a three-member board of county commissioners with a single elected county executive. The Allen County Farm Bureau opposed the Senate version of the bill. Indiana Farm Bureau policy endorses and supports the current three-member county commission structure. On Thursday, the Senate voted 38-10 to concur with the House changes to the bill.

SENATE PANEL RECOMMENDS SENDING WINE DISTRIBUTION ISSUE TO STUDY COMMITTEE   The Senate Public Policy Committee took testimony this week on HB 1017 (Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, and Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette) that would have authorized a farm winery to sell up to 5,000 gallons of wine a year directly to liquor stores or restaurants. The bill was presented to the committee by one of its co-sponsors, Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford), because Sen. Alting was chairing the committee. The wineries’ efforts to self-distribute were supported by Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft who explained to the committee that vineyards and wineries are an important part of Indiana’s agricultural community and contribute significantly to the state’s burgeoning agri-tourism industry. The measures were opposed by the state’s commercial distributors who feel they have a necessary role in the distribution process of alcoholic beverages. At the end of the hearing, the committee unanimously agreed to recommend to the legislative leadership that they assign the issue of whether holders of farm winery permits should be entitled to sell wine directly to wine retailers and dealers.
ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE URGES STUDY OF WATER PERMIT SIMPLIFICATION   This week the House Environmental Affairs Committee adopted a resolution, HR 51, authored by Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem), urging the legislature’s leadership to direct the Environmental Quality Service Council to study the topic of establishing single point of contact in state government to submit permit applications for Section 401 Water Quality Certification, state regulated wetlands under IC 13-18-22, and the state's Flood Control Act under IC 14-28. Farm Bureau’s Justin Schneider testified that he was hopeful that such a study would lead to the creation of a structure to relieve the frustrations landowners currently experience in trying to identify which state agency to submit which applications to. He explained that Farm Bureau policy calls for the designation of a single state agency to receive all water permit applications. 

LONG VOWS TO KILL FENCED HUNTING PRESERVE BILL AFTER IT PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE    By a vote of 6-2, the House Natural Resources Committee voted this week to legalize and regulate the operations of the four high-fenced deer hunting preserves that have been operating since 2005. The committee accepted an amendment offered by Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) to SB 487 (Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, and Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston) that would end a seven-year state of confusion regarding the legal status of the hunting preserves. Farm Bureau’s Bob Kraft testified in support of the bill noting that the hunting preserves provide a market for deer raised on Indiana farms.

After lengthy discussion in which many supporters of the bill discussed the positive economic impact of the high-fenced hunting preserves, their importance to the state’s 400 deer farmers and the need to remove the uncertainty that conflicting signals from DNR and a court injunction have placed on the four preserves. Opponents expressed concern that the preserves would increase the likelihood of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Indiana and questioned the ethical propriety of hunting within an enclosed area. The amended bill authorizes the Department of Natural Resources and the State Board of Animal Health to adopt new rules to address the health of the animals on the preserves. 

Late Thursday, The Indianapolis Star reported that Senate President pro tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) promised to kill the measure that would allow the high-fenced hunting preserves to remain in operation.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEES RECEIVE INFORMATION ON RECYCLING   The Senate and House Environment Committees held a joint meeting and received information about various recycling measures in Indiana. Among the topics discussed was that of requiring refundable deposits on beverages sold in recyclable bottles and cans. Although there is no legislative vehicle to enact a deposit law this year, the possibility was proposed by Verallia North America, a glass company with plants in Muncie and Dunkirk. Testimony at the hearing indicated that glass recycling factories in Indiana employ about 1,600 people in the state and that these companies have difficulty finding the discarded glass they need as seed stock for their glass-making process. Farm Bureau’s Wayne Dillman advised the committees that Farm Bureau policy clearly supported a deposit on cans and bottles, which frequently wind up as litter on country roads and in farm fields. The businesses that would be charged with collecting the deposits and the returned containers expressed strong objection to the proposal. These included grocery stores, “big box” retailers and convenience stores.

FEDERAL COURT OVERTURNS INDIANA’S 2011 IMMIGRATION LAW   A federal judge in Indianapolis has permanently blocked the state from enforcing two key provisions of the immigration law passed in 2011. One of those provisions gave local police power to make warrantless arrests and the other would have prevented businesses and others from accepting consular ID cards as a valid form of identification. Judge Sarah Evans Barker also ruled that individual legislators did not have standing to defend that part of the 2011 law that Attorney General Greg Zoeller had decided not to defend because similar language in an Arizona law had been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. A temporary restraining order had kept the law from taking effect until Judge Barker issued her final decision in the case. Attorney General Zoeller has indicated that the state will not appeal this decision. The ruling supports the long-held position of Farm Bureau that immigration and naturalization are federal issues that should be addressed at the federal level.

AGRICULTURAL LABOR – FEDERAL IMMIGRATION REFORM   U.S. agriculture faces a critical shortage of workers every year, as citizens are largely unwilling to engage in these rigorous activities and guestworker programs are unable to respond to the marketplace. This situation makes our farms and ranches less competitive with foreign farmers and less reliable for the American consumer. Securing a reliable and competent workforce for our nation’s farms and ranches is essential to agriculture and the U.S. economy.

Farm Bureau policy on immigration is that only reform through legislation can solve the agricultural worker problem. In seeking a meaningful legislative solution to agriculture’s worker shortage, Farm Bureau believes that comprehensive immigration reform must include a new, uncapped agricultural worker visa program (AWP). The AWP will ensure agriculture’s future legal workforce. It allows both employer and employee choice and flexibility by including two options:

  • “At-will” employees have the freedom to move from employer to employer without any contractual commitment. They would have a visa term of up to 11 months with USDA registered employers and then return home for 30 days. There would be no limit on the number of times a person could obtain the 11-month visa.
  • Contract employees commit to work for an employer for a fixed period and would have a visa term of up to 12 months (renewable indefinitely), and conditioned upon a commitment to return to their home country for at least 30 days over a 3-year period.

FEDERAL TAX REFORM   Here are a few important points on Farm Bureau’s policy concerning federal taxes:

  • While broadening the base and lowering the tax rate is important to any tax reform effort, a lower individual rate may not adequately compensate farmers for lost tax provisions and over time could result in a higher effective tax rate. Farm Bureau recommends that farmers and ranchers be allowed to apply the tax benefits of excess deductions and credits to previous and/or future tax years.
  • Agricultural producers need tax tools to deal with the uncertainties of farming and ranching. Cash accounting combined with the ability to accelerate expenses and defer income gives farmers and ranchers the flexibility to manage their tax burden. Farm Bureau supports the continuation of unrestricted cash accounting for farmers and ranchers who pay taxes as individuals and cautions against reducing the number of corporate farms eligible to use it. Farm Bureau supports maintaining the $500,000 Sec. 179 small business expensing limitation and not reducing the $2 million acquisition limit.
  • Capital gains taxes continue to be a problem for farmers and ranchers because the tax rate that they will pay will almost always be at the higher 20-percent rate because capital gains income will spike in the year that a farmer or rancher sells land. Farm Bureau supports a lower capital gains tax rate for all taxpayers and supports an exclusion for farmland that remains in agriculture or is sold to a family member who continues the family business.



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