The Right to Work legislation was a key issue this session, but it wasn't and isn't the only issue that Legislators need to address. Yet until the Right to Work legislation was resolved, the other bills stacked up in a holding pattern, much like airplanes stacked up on runway waiting for clearance from the tower for the first plane to be granted permission to take off.
Two of these bills involve agriculture. And while they don't get much play, which means you won't hear about them on the evening news, they still have important implications for rural Hoosiers. Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. and its legislative specialists, including Bob Kraft, are keeping a sharp eye on these bills.
Here are two that the legislature needs to address this session, Kraft observes.
The first involves regional sewer districts. As noted in magazine coverage late last year, Indiana's sewer district laws are antiquated, and as they were being enforced, appeared to be limiting rights of certain Hoosiers, especially Amish citizens who chose not to hook up to the sewer even when the law apparently forced them to do so. Lawsuits developed. Several County Farm Bureaus took up the cause, and asked Indiana Farm Bureau to make sure the legislature addressed the situation.
There were actually two bills, HB 1225 and HB1117 that dealt with various aspects of the sewer district law. Comments in committee were both for and against. Justin Schneider, an Indiana Farm Bureau attorney, now represents Indiana Farm Bureau on a sub-committee formed to consider combining the two bills into one. This bill is before the House Environmental Affairs Committee.
The second subject involved farm drainage, forever a debatable issue in Indiana. This particular bill stems directly from a case where a judge in Marshall County overturned 150 years of practice and experience dealing with drainage assessments for repair of tile. The bill would affect the power of drainage boards, and was brought to the legislature on behalf of county surveyors by Dick Dodge, R-Pleasant Lake.
The court ruled not all property in a natural drainage way, or watershed, needs to be assessed for drainage improvements. These assessments are generally added to your property tax bill for the land affected by the drainage improvement. Instead, the judge decreed only property that actually adjoins the drains need be assessed.
The bill, if allowed to move, would make it clear all property owners in a drainage-shed have a responsibility to support drainage infra-structure, Kraft explains.