INDIANAPOLIS — It's too soon to say how a proposal that would permit Griffith to become its own township will proceed in the Indiana House.
That's the word from state Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City. Mahan is chairman of the Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, to which House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has assigned House Bill 1227 for review.
He said the Griffith legislation is among 21 proposals that the speaker so far has referred to the committee, with potentially a few more coming next week.
Mahan explained Thursday that he typically identifies noncontroversial, or "easy bills," and moves those through the committee before taking up other proposals, such as the Griffith measure, that he knows will stir up controversy or consume considerable time.
"I've got to look into it," Mahan said about the Griffith situation.
"I want to look in to see what all was done, if everything was done in good faith up there, to truly wrap my mind around what is happening.
"If it's a situation that legislatively we do have to do some sort of a fix, I'll certainly be at the table. Whether it's that bill that needs to happen, or by other manners, whatever it is. We'll see. It's too early to tell," Mahan said.
House committees have until Feb. 19 to review proposals, consider and adopt amendments, and decide whether to advance measures to the full House for further action.
The Griffith legislation, sponsored by state Reps. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, and Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, proposes an unprecedented change to the organization of local government in Indiana.
Specifically, the town of Griffith, whose citizens last year voted to secede from Calumet Township, no longer would be required by law to try and join either North or St. John townships, whose leaders so far have rejected Griffith's entreaties.
Instead, Griffith would become a new, independent township, with boundaries contiguous to the town's boundaries, and town officials responsible for providing township services, such as emergency poor relief, in addition to municipal services.
One potential hang-up is that three major Indiana cities — Evansville, Fort Wayne and Muncie — potentially are eligible to hold a township secession referendum, as Griffith did, due to their locations in townships whose assistance tax rates are at least 12 times greater than the statewide average.
If voters in those cities decided to leave their townships, and the proposed Griffith legislation were in effect, it might set off a wave of taxpayers and local leaders demanding the opportunity to quit their townships to form new townships, or possibly revive efforts to outright eliminate township government across the state.
At the same time, Griffith leaders seemingly aren't giving up hope of joining an adjacent township, as the legislation also would allow Griffith to transfer townships any time in 2019, instead of waiting until 2020 as required by current law.