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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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