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Legislative Council approves interim committees but concedes number becoming unwieldy

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While Indiana's Legislative Council passed by consent Thursday the resolution creating 18 commissions and interim study committees, leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives voiced concerns over the growing number of summer study committees and unwieldy list of topics to review.

The interim groups will meet during the summer and fall to study a host of issues and make recommendations and propose legislation to the Indiana General Assembly.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, pointed out the high number of study committees that were required by statute. That number, he said, is greater this interim than any he can remember in his 18 years serving on the Legislative Council.

As a result, the vast majority of discretionary topics did not make the cut, Bosma said, not because they were not worthy of study but because the list had become too long.

The Legislative Council is comprised of 12 voting members: six appointed from the Indiana Senate and six from the Indiana House of Representatives.

All the topics requested for further study – whether in a letter, resolution, or by statutory requirement – are complied into a list by the Legislative Services Agency, then the four leaders vote on each topic, Bosma said. Only those that get three votes are assigned to study committees.

After the Legislative Council adjourned, Bosma said the four legislative leaders are committed to exploring a revision of the study committee process that would involve a set of standing interim committees being assigned topics rather than having ad hoc interim study committees.
    
The interim study committees and their assigned topics approved for 2013 by the Legislative Council focusing on legal issues include:

Commission on Courts: Adding a magistrate in the Vanderburgh County Circuit Court.

Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee: prepare legislation that corrects statutes affected by HEA 1006; evaluate the criminal statues in I.C. 7.1 and I.C. 9; study the issue of recidivism; and study and make recommendations concerning advisory sentences, suspended sentences, criminal justice funding and sentencing laws.

Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana: study topics assigned by SEA 125 (vulnerable youth) and SEA 305 (due process for child care providers); and study use of photo identification for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients as well as study if Indiana should seek approval to allow the distribution of SNAP benefits on a bimonthly basis.

Interim Study Committee on Insurance: consumer lawsuit lending; study topics assigned by HEA 1132 (release of liens on mortgaged property) and HEA 1098 (uninsured motorists).

Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said after the Legislative Council meeting that he agreed with Speaker Bosma about the number of interim study committees and topics becoming too great. He said he thinks the envelope is being pushed and that it is becoming difficult to give a full vetting to the issues assigned for further study.

Also, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, announced the General Assembly would convene for a technical corrections day on June 12 with the purpose of overriding Gov. Mike Pence’s veto of House Bill 1546, a tax administration measure.

Of primary concern were provisions in the bill that allowed Jackson and Pulaski counties to impose an additional county adjusted gross income tax (CAGIT) rate to operate and maintain their jails and juvenile detention centers until 2024 and 2021, respectively. HB 1546 legalizes and validates taxes collected at the additional rate in Jackson County after June 30, 2011, and before July 1, 2013, as well as in Pulaski County after the eight years authorized by statute had elapsed and before July 1, 2013.
   
This will be the first time since the statute establishing a technical day was enacted in the mid-1990s that the Legislature will be using it to consider a veto override.

“It’s not our desire to do so, we’re not seeking it,” Bosma said, “but it appeared it was more prudent to consider 1546 only on that day prior to July 1….” Otherwise, he said, an “administrative nightmare” would have happened with the Indiana Department of Revenue having to work its way through tax refunds in Jackson and Pulaski counties for individuals who may or may not live there today.

“If there was an alternative, an administrative alternative, to get us through the interim until next year, that would have been the best solution, but it was clear they had to go through a refund process if we didn’t override on June 12,” Bosma said.  

 

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