S.B. 528, education topics at update
The 2013 session of the Legislative Breakfast, hosted Saturday morning by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and Harrison County Farm Bureau at the Harrison County Justice Center, was not as tense as past breakfast updates in election years and with hotly-debated topics (last year’s event with right-to-work legislation comes to mind) but it still drew a crowd and provided useful information to constituents and the legislators involved.
Peter J. Schickel, a Farm Bureau member, again moderated the event, held for the 34th consecutive year, with House members Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon and Steve Davisson, R-Salem, and District 47 Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, participating.
Senate Bill 528, concerning the amount of money riverboat gaming communities receive from the state, garnered the most attention.
According to estimates, if the bill is signed into law, Harrison County could lose anywhere between $5 million to $8 million on a yearly basis beginning in 2015.
The bill’s main intent is to help gambling facilities by allowing racinos to have gambling table games rather than just slot machines and to allow riverboats to become land-based casinos as long as they are built on their existing property.
But, it would also reverse a policy the General Assembly approved more than a decade ago that capped the revenues that local communities collect from wagering and admissions taxes and guaranteed they’d never receive less than the amounts they collected in 2002.
Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., began the discussion by saying the bill is not suited for Indiana and will hit hard in Harrison County.
‘We need your help,’ Voelker said.
The bill passed the Senate with bi-partisan support and opposition (32-18). Young voted against it.
Davisson said roadblocks are already being set up in the House to try to stop the bill if Brian Bosma, Speaker of the House, lets it move to the floor.
‘The speaker’s not big on it,’ Davisson said, adding that it will not only hurt Harrison County, but also Orange, and will only help two or three casinos. ‘I feel like there’s probably a good chance to stop it in the House.’
Davisson said he and Rhoads will most likely spearhead a group to stop the bill.
Rhoads said she worries about not only Harrison County, but everyone the county shares its gaming funds with, if such a bill were to become law.
‘If we’re losing too much, what will happen to our sharing attitude?’ Rhoads asked. ‘We’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure as many people as we can see the light on this thing.’
Young said if it’s defeated in the House, there’s a good chance it won’t come back this session.
‘The best situation is no bill whatsoever,’ Young said. ‘We’re fine the way we are; we don’t need the state’s help.’
Later in the meeting, Young relayed to Harrison County Commissioner George Ethridge that the newly hired lobbyist Frost Brown Todd law firm contacted him the day after the board of commissioners hired the Indianapolis-based firm.
Frost Brown Todd are ‘very capable’ to work to protect Harrison County’s gaming funds against S.B. 528 and any other potential legislation, Young said.
Other discussion Saturday morning centered around education programs and funding.
Lanesville resident Gordon Ingle asked about the ‘parent-trigger’ bill, which has been introduced in the past in the House that would empower parents to have more of a say in school reform. It would allow a simple majority of parents of children at a school to ‘trigger’ one of three reform options: close the school and allow students to transfer to better-performing public schools, convert the school into a charter school or give each student’s parents a voucher useable at a private school of their choosing.
Ingle said folks like Pete and Joan Schickel would have no say over Lanesville schools.
‘It’s taxation without representation,’ Ingle said. ‘It makes absolutely no sense … It’s crazy.’
He said the bill makes it seem like the parents of the students own the school.
‘I hope it’s dead forever,’ he said of the bill and efforts to bring it back in Indiana.
Rhoads said sometimes it’s good a bill such as that one comes before the entire House floor for discussion to bring to light certain flaws.
‘It didn’t pass,’ Rhoads said of the proposed bill.
Davisson told the audience, to applause, that the state budgeted $354 million more for education, a 2-percent increase this year and 1-percent next.
Dr. Neyland Clark, superintendent of the South Harrison Community School Corp., then took the opportunity speak.
Clark said the extra funding looks really good on paper but, in reality, it is a different story. He said new money is added in the budget, but it is taken away in other areas and the net increase is only about 1 percent.
Davisson said, compared to other years, it is quite an increase.
‘At least you’re not cutting us,’ Clark said.
Economic development in the county, the removal of elected officials from office and bringing gun manufacturers faced with strict anti-gun laws in other states to Indiana were also discussed.
The event ended with the singing of ‘God Bless America’ led by Lisa Long, Chamber of Commerce president.