No new bills were filed at last report for the new legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly which begins shortly after New Year's Day. However, expect that to change. Legislators have until Dec. 13 to indicate that they want to introduce legislation.
Bob Cherry, who works on legislative affairs for Indiana Farm Bureau, and who also represents a portion of Hancock County as a Republican House member, says there are some issues likely to come up in this session that could affect agriculture. However, this is the short session. Budgetary matters will not be addressed in this session. The budget for 2013 and 2014 was passed in the 2013 Indiana General Assembly earlier this year.
One key issue will be the resolution of the soil productivity index controversy that affects values of bare farmland, Cherry says. The Department of Local Government and Finance attempted to introduce new values two years ago that would have raised property taxes immediately beyond the increase caused by the changes in the annual formula that determines value of farmland. The legislature halted those efforts in 2012, with a charge led primarily by Indiana Farm Bureau. Wayne Dillman, a lobbyist for Indiana Farm Bureau at the time, said it was one of those issues where the question is not what did Farm Bureau do for me as a member, but what didn't happen because Farm Bureau stepped forward and opposed the sudden change.
In the 2013 session the DLGF was again prevented from implementing the change. However, this time the legislature instructed the DLGF to work with Purdue University to analyze soil productivity values and see if adjustments should be made, Cherry notes. That report is forthcoming.
"Our goal will be to work with DLGF and the report and hopefully minimize the impact on property values of farmland," Cherry says.