INDIANAPOLIS — Counties could eliminate their solid waste management districts and leave municipalities in charge of meeting the state's goal to cut household and hazardous waste by half, under legislation approved 6-3 Monday by a Senate committee.
Senate Bill 366, sponsored by state Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, deletes a 1991 state mandate that each county have, or participate in, a solid waste management district. Instead, the environmental education and recycling agencies would be optional.
Under the plan, which now goes to the full Senate, two of the three county commissioners could agree to dissolve an existing district, so long as they devise a plan for wrapping up its legal obligations. No public input or participation is required.
Brown said Fort Wayne recently improved its recycling rate without the assistance of the Allen County Solid Waste Management District, and cities and towns that want to do the same no longer should be tied to the county agency.
"I think we should put more trust in the locals," Brown said. "The districts and programs that have brought value to their community will stay."
That resonated with state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, who last year won approval for a requirement that the Lake County commissioners sign-off on any major decisions by the solid waste management district.
"It's a pilot program that's been there for 25 years," said Niemeyer, who voted in favor of the measure. "I think it's time to let the locals decide which programs they want to keep."
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, said because solid waste management districts have been in place for a quarter century, it should take more than a simple county ordinance to eliminate them. The public deserves to heard, she said, as she voted "no."
Two additional senators, Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, and John Broden, D-South Bend, said Brown is wrong to undo good work being done in other counties just because Fort Wayne has a problem.
"I think this bill is going to have a lot of unintended negative consequences," Stoops said.