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Indiana Statehouse

The Indiana Statehouse is in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier library leaders and advocates may need to return to the Statehouse after a controversial budget oversight proposal they last month managed to scuttle appears to have a renewed chance at becoming law.

State Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, told a House-Senate conference committee Thursday that he wants to restore House Bill 1343 to give local, elected governing bodies the option of conducting binding review and approval of library spending.

In March, numerous Region library leaders told the Senate Local Government Committee they feared that allowing municipal, township or county councils to exercise budget review over libraries could lead to forced spending cuts, if library tax revenue was taken for use elsewhere.

The Senate ultimately amended the measure to only make libraries with a 10 percent year-over-year budget or tax levy increase, or libraries whose reserves top 150 percent of annual spending, eligible for the review and approval process.

But Leonard said he still believes all libraries should be required to have their budgets approved by elected officials, similar to every other Indiana governmental entity with taxing authority and an appointed board of directors.

"I don't believe appointed bodies are as responsible," Leonard said.

Leonard is circulating a compromise version of his legislation that largely would restore it to the House-approved measure that provoked concern among library leaders.

It's not clear whether the Senate conference committee members — state Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, and state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson — will consent to the reversion, since Leonard's proposal was on the verge of being defeated in the Senate committee until it was revised.

The debate is expected to continue next week as lawmakers work to find identical language that can pass both chambers to advance to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature or veto.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.