News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 11, 2014

City Council faces procedural question

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council on Thursday night will be taking up once again a procedural council rule about controversies unrelated to the council’s powers. It will also take up a resolution calling on the state legislature to keep its hands off the Indiana business personal property tax.

All this comes a week after the council heard both sides in a debate stemming from a resolution asking Indiana lawmakers to drop efforts to define, in the Indiana Constitution, marriage as only being between a man and a woman.

Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th, has put forward all three of the resolutions in question. He asked his fellow council members last week to suspend a rule to allow them to vote on the same-sex marriage matter. By a 7 to 1 vote, his colleagues voted down that request stating same-sex marriage was a controversial matter not “germane” to the council’s duties.

Now the council is taking up another resolution to ask the state legislature to preserve the state’s business personal property tax. Mayor Duke Bennett asked the council to pass such a resolution late last year.

Nation, speaking Tuesday, said he drafted the personal property tax resolution following conversations with Bennett, input from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and after learning that mayors from dozens of cities and towns across the state were concerned about loss of business personal property tax revenue.

The Indiana General Assembly has been considering legislation this session that would reduce how much the state collects in business personal property taxes. Bennett and other Indiana mayors have been extremely vocal in opposition, stating they need replacement revenue guaranteed before the tax is reduced or eliminated.

Nation’s resolution, which could be voted on by the entire City Council Thursday night in City Hall, calls on state lawmakers to “reject any and all legislation that would reduce or eliminate Indiana’s Business Personal Property Tax.”

After losing the council vote last week on changing rules to allow a vote on a resolution on same-sex marriage, Nation was told by City Attorney Chou-il Lee that the council can vote on the business personal property tax resolution this week without suspending the council rule. That’s because the revenue generated by the tax is an important part of the city’s budget, Lee said.

Speaking Tuesday night, Nation said he believes both the same-sex marriage resolution and the business personal property tax resolution are germane to council business. Large state employers, such as Eli Lilly believe the same-sex marriage amendment would harm the company’s ability to recruit talent, he said. Also, the city has established a Human Relations Commission with a mission to combat discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation, he noted.

“I believe [both resolutions] are germane to our duties,” Nation said.

To quiet – once and for all – the question of “germaneness,” Nation has proposed another resolution to strike the rule in question from the council’s guidelines. The council could vote on that resolution and also the business personal property tax resolution, at its meeting Thursday, which begins at 6 p.m. in City Hall. The same-sex marriage resolution died last week with the council’s refusal to suspend the “germaneness” rule and so will not come to a vote.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

 

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