News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 8, 2014

Wide range of topics covered at Saturday crackerbarrel

Lawmakers listen to voters, give updates on Statehouse bills

TERRE HAUTE — A wide range of topics — from education and health to food and taxes — were discussed with area state legislators during Saturday’s Crackerbarrel session at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute.

Rep. Bob Heaton (R-Terre Haute), Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute), Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Terre Haute), Sen. Timothy Skinner (D-IN 38th District) and Rep. Kreg Battles (D-Vincennes) talked with a room full of citizens — who braved the snow and cold — about issues for the 2014 legislative session.

One very hotly discussed topic was, once again, the issue of eliminating business personal property tax, a tax levied on business equipment. Some contend it will make Indiana more economically competitive and give smaller, less prosperous counties a chance to compete, but others say it will have damaging impact on counties, including Vigo County. The current bill, which Skinner and other legislators said is now drastically altered since it was introduced, will also pit county against county, opponents say.

House Bill number 1001’s synopsis reads: “Tax exemption for new personal property. Provides that a county income tax council may adopt an ordinance to exempt from property taxation any new business personal property (other than utility personal property) that is located in the county.”

Another issue discussed was House Joint Resolution 3, which would amend the Indiana constitution to say that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in the state. Supporters spoke of the importance of putting it on the ballot for Hoosiers to vote on, but at least two citizens questioned the bill’s legal merits.

The two-hour long session also touched on other topics, including funding for school transportation, an issue Kersey raised; and the propane shortage, an issue raised by Skinner.

Skinner and Battles also talked about the importance of training for the jobs of the future. Battles described House Bill 1213, which sets up a commission to develop a career and technical education diploma for high school students.

He called it “the most powerful education bill we’ve passed in many years,” adding that this act recognizes that Core 40 is a problem and that there is a need to create curricula based on students’ skills.

But there was also a discussion about food.

One attendee, Carolyn Callecod, president of the Wabash Valley League of Women Voters, asked the legislators what is being done to make food healthier for Hoosiers. She asked if there were any measures to mark food that is genetically modified or checking farms’ compliance with regulations.

Legislators said farms are regularly inspected and no bills have passed through regarding genetically modified food. Morrison, however, said a bill that passed will create a program that keeps Hoosier food in Indiana — the Indiana Grown Initiative.

Another attendee, Louise Anderson of the Indiana State Nurses Association, brought two bills to legislators’ attention. One of them, Senate Bill 278, which Anderson was told already passed, “will implement physical exam to school bus driver applicants. It will tie Indiana’s exam requirements to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Registry of Medical Examiners, which requires certification and recertification,” Anderson told the legislators. “We feel this will help make Indiana school children safer.”

Anderson, a public health nurse, also thanked Morrison for a bill that recently passed which addresses a public health issue.

Morrison authored House Bill 1013, requiring veterinarian medical records to be released within five business days in situations when one pet attacks another pet or human.

But the bill that may help fund the renovation of Hulman Center is “barely on life support,” Heaton said.

Heaton’s proposed bill will create a Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) tax. It will allow the collection of sales tax to help fund renovation of the 40-year-old facility. It is one way to keep tax dollars in the Terre Haute area, he said.

Heaton said there may be a chance that it can be included in an amendment to one of the Senate bills. At least the conversation about it has begun, he added.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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