Area mayors, commissioners meet with state lawmakers

("Indiana Statehouse" by Shawna Pierson, CC BY 2.0)

INDIANAPOLIS (WOWO): Northeast Indiana officials met with state legislative leaders Monday.

Members of the Mayors and Commissioners Caucus of Northeast Indiana met with Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray and House Speaker-Elect Todd Huston to promote what they’ve identified as four priorities: the expansion of home rule and local control, initiatives that help boost public health and safety funding, increased transportation and bridge funding, and quality-of-life upgrades.

“Advancing the Caucus’ bold agenda at the Statehouse is essential to the growth and success of Northeast Indiana. Mayors and Commissioners in Northeast Indiana are working together with a unified voice to advance the development of policies at the state level. By connecting with state legislative leaders, we can advocate for our collective priorities to support our existing businesses while also attracting new business and talent to our communities,” said Caucus President and Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel.

The Caucus prioritized the following four policies:

  1. Home Rule and Local Control – The Caucus supports the expansion of home rule and local decision authority in the following areas:
  • Tax Increment Financing
  • Business Personal Property Tax
  • Regional Development Authorities
  • 911 Fees
  • Food and Beverage Tax
  • Innkeepers Tax
  • Community Mental Health Center Designation
  1. Public Health and Safety Funding – The Caucus supports initiatives that contribute to the safety, health and welfare of residents.
  • Public safety and criminal initiatives:
    • Support the repeal of mandating level 6 felony offenders to stay in local communities if they are sentenced to jail
    • Support increased funding for criminal justice
    • Equitable level 6 felon reimbursement rate for counties
    • Reimbursement for both felony and misdemeanor defense
    • Support the increase in biennium budget for Recovery Works
  • Initiatives to reduce substance use disorder:
    • Support the increase in approved opioid treatment locations in the state
  • Mental health initiatives:
    • Support allowing counties to designate their own community mental health centers to those that provide services
    • Support authorizing legislation and funding for the development of regional mental health facilities
  1. Transportation and Bridge Funding – The Caucus supports the following initiatives to increase transportation and bridge funding. Initiatives include:
  • Begin and complete an environmental impact study of U.S. 30
  • Restore gasoline tax distribution to the method utilized prior to the 2017 gas tax increases
  • Increase thresholds for the Community Crossings program
  • Relax application restrictions for Community Crossings program
  • Increase the maximum threshold on the Wheel Tax and Surtax
  1. Quality of Place – The Caucus supports:
  • Development of a sustainable financial mechanism for multi-use trails, cycling, pedestrians, walkers, runners, skaters, horse trails, etc.
  • To plan for the future, it is important to count on dedicated resources as a guiding tool
  • Regional approach to build out rural broadband growth in partnership with the State
  • Compounding county and city demand to expand broadband opportunities regionally
  • Build off the success of Regional Cities and Stellar Communities
  • State-provided programs that incentivize private sector investment and public support to retain and attract talent

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