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Q&A: DeLaney on township government reform

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This story was published in Capitol Watch, a supplement to Indiana Lawyer daily.

A longtime Indianapolis attorney who's a freshman lawmaker with the Indiana General Assembly is embracing what he calls the most significant local government reform issue expected this session.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, is introducing legislation that would abolish township government throughout the state. The reform follows similar attempts during the 2009 session, and comes on the heels of a 2007 report co-authored by Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard that called for sweeping changes to Indiana's local government setup.

While it hasn't been officially filed yet, DeLaney says his proposal calls for transferring all township functions to county government beginning Jan. 1, 2013. He expects it to be filed by Monday.

He took a few moments during the first week back for the 2010 session to speak with Indiana Lawyer about his legislation.

IL: Why introduce this?

DeLaney: These townships are political clubs without any social importance. They have hundreds of millions of dollars that sits and no one really knows how it's used. We can and should do better.

IL: How would this work?

DeLaney: County officials would take over these fiscal and legislative responsibilities. This would completely eliminate township trustees, instead establishing a single county executive to handle those duties. It specifies how excess funds could be used to provide additional property tax relief and streamline how people get emergency services. An elected advocate position would be created in each Indiana county to operate and oversee these areas. The legislation could also lead to changes in how fire departments are set up, but that's not certain at this point.

IL: Why is this important to introduce now, when Indiana's budget woes keep worsening?

DeLaney: It's important to talk about this anytime, but especially now. Government must function efficiently and use money in the best ways, and in the case of townships we can literally do more for less money.

IL: What does this mean for lawyers and the legal community?

DeLaney: Aside from the fact that the report was co-authored by the top justice, it would have significant impact for those involved in local government operations and bonding law. Not to mention that we're advocates for the poor. ... Lawyers help us all understand what this means and how it's applied. We represent people whose voices might not be heard and who could be impacted by all this, and that's why lawyers should keep watch on this.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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