House sets showdown over local government reform

2009-03-09T00:00:00Z House sets showdown over local government reformPatrick Guinane
patrick.guinane@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078
nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | The kid gloves Senate Republicans used to handle Gov. Mitch Daniels' local government reform agenda will come off Tuesday in the Indiana House.

The House Government and Regulatory and Reform Committee has scheduled an 8:30 a.m. hearing that will include "discussion and consideration of the reform proposals as originally introduced."

Translation?

If the reforms can't stand on their own -- without the litany of exemptions, referendum-options and compromises the Senate cut to curry votes -- then House Democrats are likely to leave them behind.

Rep. John Bartlett, the Indianapolis Democrat who chairs the panel that will consider the reforms, was asked if he will squeeze them all into one piece of legislation.

"That would make sense," he said, calling the proposals that came over from the Senate "so convoluted."

In 2007, amid a property tax spike that had homeowners seething, Daniels, a Republican, appointed a bipartisan panel to devise ways to make local government less expensive and more accountable.

The commission, led by former Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard, issued 27 recommendations that include abolishing townships, consolidating school and library districts and structuring county government more like a city. Already, many of the proposals floundered in the GOP-ruled Senate or were watered down, with Lake County earning an exemption from the proposed county government remake.

Rep. Dan Stevenson, D-Highland, wants to see the township elimination effort considered on its own merits.

"If they're all lumped into one bill it makes it very unlikely that it's going to pass because everybody seems to have something in the Kernan-Shepard (report) that they don't like," Stevenson said. "I don't support the entire Kernan-Shepard provisions. I think they're on the right track but some need to be modified."

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