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Daniels’ reform plan now may just pass

Gov. Mitch Daniels unveiled his recommendations from the Kernan-Shepard report on Dec. 19 for significant change in local government. While the attempt to morph local government will definitely come with great opposition, Daniels made at least one change from the original report that will give the plan a better chance to be passed as legislation.
The report, created by a property tax reform commission led by former Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, released 27 recommendations to streamline local government.
One such recommendation called for the county auditor, treasurer, recorder, assessor, surveyor, sheriff and coroner to be appointed, not elected, by the new, single-elected county executive.
Daniels, however, changed that notion and recommended to keep the sheriff, auditor and clerk as elected officials. It was a good move, as voters will always want to have a say in the sheriff races. And with the clerk so involved with elections, it makes sense to have the position accountable to voters. The auditor, as the top fiscal officer in the county, should also be elected. The county executive would replace the three-member board of commissioners.
The county executive change is at the top of Daniels’ to do list and, quite possibly, will be the recommendation that draws the most fire, along with the consolidation of school corporations of less than 1,000 students.
The duties of the other county officers, according to Daniels, are mainly administrative and could best be performed by appointed professionals, creating better accountability. I guess Daniels figures if an appointed professional is not getting the job done, it will be easier to replace him or her, compared to an elected official which is next to impossible to force out of office if they are incompetent.
It’s yet to be seen whether opposition will hinder the changes or other factors, such as the state budget, will push the reform plan to the back burner. Most likely, the changes will not be addressed by vote until 2010. But it appears Daniels will try to push the reform through, and he may have made the difficult job easier, if only slightly.