INDIANAPOLIS | A Statehouse hearing on legislation that could enable Griffith to leave Calumet Township and join another township was postponed due to Tuesday's region snowstorm.
House Bill 1585, sponsored by state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, was set for public testimony and review Wednesday afternoon by the Senate Local Government Committee. Late Tuesday night, that hearing was canceled by the committee chairman, state Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, due to the snow in Northwest Indiana.
"I actually recommended to the committee chairman that we wait so everyone can have their say," Slager said. "We didn't want a situation where folks couldn't come from Lake County."
The Senate committee will now likely take up the House-approved proposal on March 13.
Slager said the delay gives him and other supporters of the legislation more time to explain to senators the unique financial situation of Griffith relative to Calumet Township, which spends more on poor relief per capita than any other township in Indiana.
He said Griffith property owners pay approximately $1.7 million a year in taxes for township poor relief but only get between $10,000 and $15,000 back from the township, which also includes parts of Gary, Lake Station and unincorporated Lake County.
Opponents of the legislation, including state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, also plan to use the extra time to talk with senators about the unique challenges Calumet Township faces, especially as constitutional property tax caps limit its revenues.
"In the Senate, policy trumps politics and to set up a system where a community or a township is able to secede, I think that is a policy that the Senate is reluctant to embrace," Rogers said. "What we're trying to do is arrive at the best solution."
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, would allow Griffith to hold a referendum on whether to leave Calumet Township if 30 percent of town voters sign a referendum petition.
Two-thirds of referendum voters then would have to support quitting Calumet Township to permit the separation.