INDIANAPOLIS | State lawmakers are expected to study the structure of Indiana county government this summer with an eye toward establishing a single county executive.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence last week signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 475 urging the General Assembly to consider replacing the three-member boards of county commissioners with county presidents.
The new law also calls for a review of whether putting a county's legislative and fiscal authority entirely in control of the county council, as Lake and St. Joseph counties already do, works better than splitting those powers between the council and the commissioners.
The ideas for a single county executive and county councils with full legislative and fiscal authority were the top two recommendations of a 2007 report on local government reform written by former Gov. Joe Kernan and former Chief Justice Randall Shepard.
They've not advanced in the Legislature despite several attempts during the administration of former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The county government study was among 17 new laws Pence signed last week. He's now signed 93 measures approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate into law and vetoed none.
Other major laws signed last week or new laws that were primarily sponsored by Northwest Indiana legislators include:
• Business regulations: Senate Enrolled Act 213 bars local governments from making businesses provide their employees any benefit, employment term, working condition or leave policy more generous than required by federal or state law — such as a higher minimum wage or guaranteed sick pay.
• Bank taxes: House Enrolled Act 1018 reduces over the next four years the financial institutions tax paid on income earned by Indiana banks to 6.5 percent from 8.5 percent. Banks will save $150 million over the next decade under the new law, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and state Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, and Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek.
• Veterans preference: Senate Enrolled Act 564, sponsored by state Sens. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, sets a goal that at least 3 percent of state purchases be made from Hoosier veteran-owned small businesses.
• Driving age: Senate Enrolled Act 538, sponsored by Arnold and state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, requires non-Indiana residents meet the same minimum age requirement as Hoosiers to drive alone in the state: 16 years, 180 days — or about 16.5 years old.
• Drug-free commission: House Enrolled Act 1575 allows the four legislators on the 19-member Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana to vote on commission decisions. The law was sponsored by Randolph and state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary.