House Action Disappointing

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House action disappointing
BY STATE REP. JACK LUTZ • MARCH 20, 2009

With half of the 2009 legislative session under our belt, I’d like to take the time to give you a report on what important bills have been passed through the House. These are also some of the bills that should be carefully watched, as they could have a potentially negative effect on you and your family.

House Bill 1730 is the greatest threat to Hoosier taxpayers this session. The bulk of House Bill 1730 proposes to retract the taxpayer protection laws promised in 2008, leaving you without input on major construction projects in your area. All that would have to happen is that the projects require “green technology” in the plans.

Requiring that technology, which is usually more expensive, excludes voters from having a right to vote on projects in excess of $2 million that would increase property taxes in the surrounding area.

Democrats passed this bill on a party-line vote, 52-48. In doing so, they appear to have lost trust in Hoosiers and their ability to separate and approve projects for the good of their community, opposed to looking out for their own self-interest.

I am optimistic the Republican-controlled Senate will turn this bill around and make sure Hoosiers have a voice in property tax reform the second half of this session.

One piece of legislation that was high on the Republican agenda for this session was House Joint Resolution 11, which contained the property tax caps. The property tax caps in HJR 11 would limit property tax bills to one percent of the property’s assessed value for homesteads, two percent for residential rental property and farmland and three percent for all other property. To become part of the Indiana Constitution, an amendment must be passed by two consecutive, separately elected sessions of the General Assembly and by Hoosier voters in the next general election. Both the House and the Senate passed the property-tax cap resolution last session, each chamber giving the caps bipartisan support.

Unfortunately, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle denied HJR 11 a hearing.

Trying to give taxpayers what we promised just last year, we proposed an amendment to House Joint Resolution 6 that would include the property tax caps. Frustration arose as, once again, Republican efforts were denied.

Probably the most difficult bill on our schedule this session was the budget bill, House Bill 1001. It’s important this bill be fiscally sound and responsible, given the current economic struggle that faces us.
In its current form, House Bill 1001 spends down the state’s reserves, with no direct plan on how to replace that money. In addition, the bill offers a one-year budget plan, which leaves too much unpredictability. Along with these troubles, the bill creates the potential for a full-time legislature, meeting each year to create a budget.

Republicans understand small businesses and their current struggles. To do our part to help Hoosiers, we wanted to prevent any further burdens on small-business owners. However, being in the minority has its downfalls, and we were unable to keep certain bills from passing. Further burdening small business is House Bill 1014, which parallels an already established federal age-discrimination law except that it greatly increases the number of small businesses exposed to lawsuits and hassles. Federal law affects businesses with a minimum of 100 employees, but HB 1014 sets the limit at 50 employees.

Democrat legislators have even decided to burden large businesses with House Bill 1207. This bill would require any restaurant chain in Indiana with at least 20 locations to display the calorie and carbohydrate content of every item on the menu. While this may be a great idea to keep Indiana residents health-conscious, the cost of adding this information has potential to hurt current job holders at these establishments.

To keep the promises we made at the beginning of the session, we must now rely on our Republican colleagues in the Senate. As the session progresses, I look forward to hearing from you and encourage your questions, comments and concerns, as we wrap up the second half of the session. I have high hopes that this 2009 legislative session will end on a positive note.

Rep. Jack Lutz, R-Anderson, represents House District 35. Contact him at h35@in.gov, by calling (800) 382-9841 or by writing him at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, Ind. 46204.

Note: By posting the column on this blog, it should not be considered as an endorsement of any kind by Rep.  Jack Lutz.  It is strictly for informational purposes. Reformatted the body for better visuals.

(Published in Muncie Star Press, Opinion page, March 20, 2009)

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