Cheatham, Lewis discuss legislation at final Third House
Monday, March 22, 2010 11:00 AM
State Sen. Jim Lewis and Rep. Dave Cheatham said they will vote against a constitutional amendment that would put the so-called 1-2-3 property tax relief into the state constitution. The proposed amendment will be on the ballot in November.
Lewis, D-Charlestown, and Cheatham, D-North Vernon, reviewed bills that were passed by the General Assembly and some that were not at the final Third House session on Saturday.
One of the new laws will allow liquor stores to stay open, and bars and restaurants to serve alcohol, during the hours polling places are open on Election Day. The law will go into effect July 1, so will not be in place during the primary elections in May but will be in effect for the general election in November.
The same law allows bars to stay open until 3 a.m. Monday mornings instead of closing at 12:30 a.m., and will allow Indiana microbreweries to have carry-out sales on Sundays, with a limit of two cases per person.
Lewis said he voted for the bill when it first came up because he thought microbreweries should have the same selling times as wineries, but not when it was up for final passage.
"I didn't agree with Sunday sales til 3 or selling on Election Day," he said.
The property tax measure got on the ballot by being approved by two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly.
Hoosiers' property tax bills already are subject to the limits of 1-2-3, the nickname given to Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax relief. The 1-2-3 law is on the books now, but the amendment would put it in the constitution, where it would be more difficult to change or eliminate.
It's a "big rigmarole" to change the constitution, Lewis said.
The law says a residential property cannot be taxed for more than 1 percent of its assessed value; 2 percent for farmland and other kinds of housing; and 3 percent for all other housing.
Cheatham said at the Third House legislative session review Saturday that he believes 1-2-3 itself is unconstitutional because it treats different kinds of property owners differently. Lewis said 1-2-3 is unfair.
The Legislative Services Agency reported that fewer homeowners benefited from the 1-2-3 tax reform than had been expected because of another property-tax relief law that went into effect at the same time. That law, the supplemental homestead deduction, reduced tax bills by deducting 35 percent from the assessed value before the tax rate was applied. The agency said that next year, 28.6 percent of homeowners will benefit from the 1-2-3 tax caps. Lewis talked about the Legislative Services Agency report at a Third House session in January.
Job creation was "the most important thing we needed to deal with," Cheatham said.
A jobs creation proposal the House inserted into a Senate bill will create up to 40,000 jobs, Cheatham said. Among the provisions are that employers will get a tax credit of 10 percent of the wage of each new job; small businesses for the first time will be able to get help from the state's Economic Development for Growing Economy, or EDGE, program; the Indiana Economic Development Corp. will put its attention first to areas with the highest unemployment; and require businesses that promise jobs in return for state incentives to repay the government if all of the jobs promised are not created, for whatever reason.
"We think some of that money should be returned to the state," Cheatham said. "It's not a free gift ... to make it easier for them to operate."
Also to help businesses, he said, the legislature delayed for one year an increase in the unemployment insurance tax.
Among bills that didn't pass during the recently concluded session were changes in local government, a statewide smoking ban and changes in the public school calendar.
A good defeat, Cheatham said, was a proposal by Daniels to move a tobacco cessation fund into the state's general fund. The suspicion among legislators was that the purpose was to end the program and use the money for something else, he said.
The Third House forum Saturday afternoon, attended by eight people, was the final Third House session sponsored by the legislative affairs committee of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce until the next General Assembly session. The public forums are open to the public, which can hear updates from legislators, ask questions and make comments in an informal setting. Third House usually is every other Saturday morning during legislative sessions.