Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

May 30, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Putting the brakes on reform

If you thought efforts to consolidate local government had slowed down in the recent legislative session, you would be wrong. The legislators stopped their progress and made consolidation harder.

Senate Enrolled Act 343 requires a consolidation proposal to be separately approved by voters in each jurisdiction, rather than in a single election. Opponents of an unsuccessful 2012 effort to merge local government in Evansville and Vanderburgh County joined Gov. Mike Pence in the bill-signing ceremony this month, celebrating passage of a law that will likely ward off the next effort to deliver services more efficiently in southwest Indiana, in northeast Indiana or anywhere else.

The fact that the Vanderburgh opponents won their fight by a 2-1 margin last year is evidence the legislation was unnecessary. The next consolidation effort will face almost insurmountable odds, regardless of its merit.

Under a provision pushed by the Vanderburgh County Farm Bureau, a merger of city and county government would require county residents living outside of the city to constitute one voting group and county residents within the city another. City residents, who pay both city and county taxes, essentially would be denied a vote as county residents.

Mark Lawrance, senior vice president for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said the process for consolidating township and county government, established in 2006, already was difficult to implement. Since the law went into effect, only three mergers have been approved. He said S.B. 343 was pushed in the last session as a tool for reorganization when, in fact, it will make it more difficult.

An effort to change the structure of county government in Allen County also was blocked in the last session. Senate Bill 475, made specific to Allen County after objections were raised by county officials statewide, would have allowed the county commissioners to adopt an ordinance to change the executive and legislative structure of county government, with approval of a majority of voters. It would have created a single county executive and a seven-member council with legislative duties.

The House voted to send the issue to a summer study committee.

“I think it’s totally unnecessary to study this further,” Lawrance said. “This issue has been studied time and again. We think what the legislature is almost saying is, we want county government the way we have it right now — we don’t want counties to have the option to try another way of organizing.”

The new law is a disappointing hurdle to local government reorganization. Since the Kernan-Shepherd local government reorganization recommendations were released in 2007, the state has made small but encouraging steps toward changing a government framework designed for the 19th century. Changing the rules to discourage an honest effort to eliminate duplication and improve efficiency is a step backward.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Sandra Stotsky STOTSKY: The next step redux in education standards Writing at National Review Online, Rick Hess and Mike McShane of the American Enterprise Institute make the complaint that critics of Common Core have not come up with the next steps to "repeal and replace" for states that want to restore academic in

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • WILLIAMS: Get out on the highway My son's truck is in the shop and my friend, Jan, was in the hospital so I had her truck in order to be able to go feed her cats while John used my car to go to work. Jan and I both purchased vehicles before we retired that we hoped would be the last

    April 24, 2014

  • THEIR VIEW: Indiana needs open primary elections Indiana's primary election system is dysfunctional. What the state really needs is an open primary system. This month, the Lake County election board argued about the procedures for recruiting high school students as poll workers for the May 6 primar

    April 23, 2014

  • KITCHELL: Tax bills show what smoke & mirrors don't There's a price to be paid for the decline in what we call civic engagement -- and local property taxpayers are paying that price. In case you haven't received your 2014 Cass County property tax statement yet, be prepared for a bit of sticker shock w

    April 23, 2014

  • MARCUS: Illinois brings joy to Indiana From the email this week, I sensed a profound need by Hoosiers to find joy in the problems of Illinois. Our neighbors to the west are fighting their way through a mess of their own making. They have forced themselves to raise taxes and cut services t

    April 22, 2014

  • THEIR VIEW: Let voters weigh option of easing daily commute There was a time in this country when workers typically lived less than an hour's walk from their jobs. A time when a "commuter" was simply a traveler taking advantage of a reduced railway fare on his way to the big city. A time when the American sub

    April 22, 2014

  • VILLAGE IDIOT: Wait a minute here — what did I just sign? When Dr. Sam said, "You've got the prostate of a 16-year-old," it was hard to keep from beaming. This must be how a woman feels when a complete stranger tells her she has a beautiful baby. Well, maybe not quite. Still, it was hard not to feel proud o

    April 22, 2014

  • LYONS: How we devalued the 'R' word At the risk of angering somebody like MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, I sometimes used to joke that I only look white. Actually, I'm Irish. Meaning basically that I wasn't raised to think the man in the big house had all the answers, nor deserved all t

    April 21, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards. That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation

    April 21, 2014

  • THEIR VIEW: Careful look at tax structure needed Indiana legislators this year created a "blue-ribbon commission" to study the state's taxes on businesses this summer. We hope the commission will listen to Larry DeBoer, a Purdue professor who might understand Indiana's tax structure better than any

    April 20, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.