Legislators reject plan to simplify state laws

2011-11-17T22:30:00Z Legislators reject plan to simplify state lawsBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
November 17, 2011 10:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | State lawmakers have turned down a plan intended to make the Indiana Code more understandable by using city and county names in the law instead of descriptions based on an area's population.

On Thursday, the Legislature's Census Data Advisory Committee affirmed Tuesday's decision by the Code Revision Commission to update existing population descriptions using 2010 U.S. Census data, rather than eliminate population descriptions altogether.

Legislators use population descriptions to write laws that affect only one city or county, an action that is technically prohibited by the Indiana Constitution, which requires all laws to apply statewide.

For example, Indiana law never identifies Lake County as Lake County; it is always "a county having a population of more than 400,000, but less than 700,000."

That description enables a Lake County-specific law, such as the law setting membership qualifications for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, to pass constitutional muster because the law technically applies to any county meeting the population parameter, even though no other county does.

State lawmakers this summer seemed open to a suggestion by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency that locality names replace population descriptions, but concerns that courts would strike down special laws led to this week's decision to just update the relevant population data.

State Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, was the only lawmaker on both committees who voted to eliminate population descriptions.

"I just believe in the interest of transparency, not only for us as legislators but for the people we serve; they should know what cities and towns we're referring to," VanDenburgh said.

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