ILNews

Chief Justice on panel to study tax assessing, local government

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard will co-chair a commission designed to find long-term solutions to the state's property tax crisis, the governor announced today.

Along with former Gov. Joe Kernan, the chief justice will lead the Commission on Local Government Reform beginning in early August. One of the questions the commission will look at is whether the township form of government should be abolished.

Specifically, questions before the commission will be:

- What local government offices might be eliminated to achieve efficiencies and cost savings for Hoosier taxpayers? Specifically, should township/county property tax assessors be abolished in favor of a uniform process managed by the state?

- What local units of government - including schools and libraries - might be successfully consolidated to reduce overhead and administrative expenses?

- What services or functions of local government might be reduced, eliminated, or provided in new ways to achieve savings for Hoosier taxpayers?

- Is a Constitutional Convention necessary or desirable as a means to achieve significant reforms in the structure and organization of Indiana state government?

In late December, the commission will publish a report with recommendations on how local governments can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations to lower taxpayer costs. Their ideas will be available for the Indiana General Assembly to discuss during its next session beginning in January 2008.

Additional members will be appointed to the commission soon, according to the governor's office. The commission will operate under the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University, which will provide staff support and facilities for the examination.

Daniels has pointed to layers of government as a prime reason for skyrocketing tax rates and said he'd asked Kernan - his predecessor as governor - and Chief Justice Shepard last month about participating in the commission. The chief justice, an Evansville native and former Vanderburgh Superior Court judge, said he's interested in the property tax issues affecting local government.

As a part of the commission, the chief justice will study a reassessment that he laid the groundwork for almost a decade ago. In December 1998, the Indiana Supreme Court found the state's tax assessment system unconstitutional and held that property needed to be assessed under a taxing system incorporating an objective reality. Lawmakers eventually passed and ordered that reassessment for 2002, and now the system is under fire again.

Overall, property taxes are expected to increase an average 24 percent across the state - the jump is much higher in Marion County, where some have doubled or tripled and the average is about 35 percent, while some commercial properties saw no increase.

Daniels and state lawmakers are also discussing the possibility of a special session, but a decision hasn't been made. The governor is ordering a full reassessment in Marion County and freezing tax bills at the 2006 amounts.

Unclear is how that will impact an ongoing legal battle over the central Indiana county's taxes. A group of homeowners filed a class action lawsuit July 10 requesting a reassessment, among other things. Hancock Circuit Judge Richard Culver has set an emergency hearing in the suit for Tuesday morning.
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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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