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State lawmakers may give counties the option to change park board appointments

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, left, and state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, right, sit side-by-side Thursday while presenting to the Senate Local Government Committee their proposal that would give counties the option of changing their park board membership.

INDIANAPOLIS — County government leaders are likely to get the option of restructuring their park boards by eliminating the two members currently appointed by the circuit court judge.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said it doesn't make sense under separation-of-power principles for the judicial branch to make appointments to an administrative board, and often it doesn't work well in practice, either.

"These judge-appointed board members tend to start operating so unilaterally that the commissioners and council feel like they don't have the authority to do their jobs," Soliday said. "So on issues like eminent domain they start bumping heads."

Under Soliday's House Bill 1018, the 15 Indiana counties, including Porter County, with appointed parks boards, instead of county parks departments, would get the option of maintaining board appointments as they are now, or switching things up.

Counties choosing to change would have to establish a park board with two members appointed by the commissioners, two members appointed by the council, an optional fifth member appointed by any other county elected official besides the commissioners and council, and any advisory members deemed appropriate by the county council.

"It gives a great deal of local control," Soliday said.

On Thursday, the Senate Local Government Committee was so enamored with the House-approved proposal that it voted 8-0 to endorse it — even though the legislation wasn't yet eligible for final committee action.

The panel now is expected to give its official blessing to the measure next week, which will send it to the full Senate for a decision on advancing the legislation to the governor.

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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.