Several bills that will benefit agriculture are moving in the Indiana General Assembly. Senate Bill 111, sponsored by Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg), would delay for another year the implementation of the soil productivity factor when assessing taxes on farmland. A yearlong study by the Department of Local Government Affairs and Purdue University failed to come up with a solution to the issue. Indiana Farm Bureau lobbyist Katrina Hall the bill has cleared the Senate and will move to the House this week, “The Senate has acted very quickly on this bill, and we are hoping the House will do the same.” Hall said the Governor is supportive of the measure and is expected to sign it upon House passage.
Senate Bill 186 puts into state law the importance of agriculture to our state. The bill strengthens and reaffirms Indiana’s vision for and commitment to agriculture. Yet, as Hall explains, there is opposition to the legislation, “Some group think this bill gives agriculture some sort of supernatural protection, but we don’t see it that way.” Hall added the bill simply affirms the state’s vision for agriculture. The measure has been approved by the Senate and will now be taken up by the House
Senate Bill 101 deals with the issue of trespassing on farms. Hall says the measure is designed to protect farm families and their operations, “The bill ends the requirement that a farmer must post a sign in order to get an invasion of your property classified as trespass.” She said posting such signs is often difficult give the size and location of farms today. The measure would also stiffen penalties for those who cause damage to farming operations.
The Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), passed SB 101. A vote could be taken by the Senate this week. The revised measure does NOT include any reference to photographing or videotaping on farms and, thus, is not the Ag Gag bill that some activist groups have claimed.
Amidst complaints and concerns from local officials about revenue losses, different proposals to eliminate portions of the personal property tax moved out of the fiscal committees in each house this past week. Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), exempts taxpayers with $25,000 or less in personal property from property tax. He indicated that 71 percent of personal property taxpayers would be exempted in this bill, which also lowers the corporate gross income tax. Katrina Hall testified in favor of the bill as a starting point for discussions and because the bill includes a blue ribbon commission to study personal property tax and additional ways to eliminate it over time. House Bill 1001, authored by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), passed out of the House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday. HB 1001 provides for a local option by the county income tax council to allow the elimination of new personal property in their county. This bill basically provides a method for automatic abatement to all owners of business personal property and requires no application or approval process. Indiana Farm Bureau supported HB 1001 as a measured first step in providing relief from personal property tax where the tax base is such that shifts would not be significant or where local officials want to create a more attractive tax climate for business development. It is clear that House and Senate leaders will be conferring over a final package that will also meet the goals set out by Gov. Pence in his State of the State address.
Not all the farm and rural related legislation being considered by the legislature is positive for agriculture. Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) introduced legislation in House Bill 1005 that would repeal the fence law. Indiana Farm Bureau policy favors the retention and enforcement of the present fence laws. HB 1005 is scheduled for a second hearing in the House Select Committee on government reduction on Monday, January 28.