Archive for June, 2006

Indiana Land Resources Council has been reinstated

The Muncie Star Press is reporting that Gov. Daniels will be “re-populating” the Indiana Land Resources Council sometime in August of this year:

The state will re-establish the Indiana Land Resources Council (ILRC) and take other steps to preserve Indiana’s farm land, including drafting a model zoning ordinance for local governments.

Sarah Simpson, manager of regulatory affairs for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), announced the administration’s plans to save farm land during a recent videoconference broadcast to 25 locations throughout Indiana.

The Governor effectively dissolved the board in January of 2005 by asking for the resignations of its staff and members just before it was to present recommendations on planning policy to Lt. Governor Skillman.

In 1999, the Legislature established the Council (IC 15-7-9) to study and make recommendations on land use and planning issues. After it was dissolved, I introduced legislation to establish a new “Growth and Development Task Force” (HB 1242) to re-establish a working group in this important field. HB 1242 did not pass, but its goals included making several policy recommendations that could be picked up by the ILRC:

(1) Ensuring a process for making development decisions that are predictable, fair, and cost effective.
(2) Establishing ways to direct development toward existing communities and existing infrastructure.
(3) Integrating fiscal, transportation, energy, and environmental policies with land use planning.
(4) Encouraging the preservation of farmland, open space, and critical environmental areas.

I hope the new ILRC looks to an integrated planning approach that not only creates quality development, but also helps keep taxes down by fully utilizing our existing infrastructure.

The initial comments on the goals of the new ILRC are encouraging:

“We have some exciting objectives for the council, (including) state incentives … and providing a model ordinance and land-use tools to local government,” Simpson said. “We have a very aggressive initiative for that council when they are reconvened.”

Indiana needs a land-use strategy because the rapid loss of prime agricultural land to development compromises the future ability to feed the nation; reduces open space, wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge; creates rural-suburban conflicts; and requires the costly extension of roads, sewers and other infrastructure, Simpson said.

I look forward to following the Council’s progress. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about the ILRC or land use policy in general.

5 comments June 21st, 2006

Legislative Council sets Interim Study Committees

The Legislative Council is a joint committee made up of members of both the House and Senate. It serves primarily as a basic administrative committee for the Legislative branch – addressing things like personnel, space utilization, and data processing issues. Another function of the Council is to establish the Interim Study Committees that hold hearings after the Legislature has technically adjourned.

Some of these committees are created by the Legislative Council in response to requests by members or to address pressing policy issues. Other committees have already been established by statute and vary in number from year to year.

Though it is not yet fully up to date for 2006, information on all interim committee membership and schedules can be accessed here.

This week, Legislative Council met to establish a new set of study committees and ask for recommendations from statutory committees. These committees will be meeting throughout the summer and fall this year. The resolution passed by the Council does not appear to be online yet, so I have compiled a list of new topics assigned to the various committees from the printed material that I have:

Interim Committees

Interim Study Committee on Public Health and Safety Matters
-Railroad labor camps
-Coal mine safety
-Smoke detectors and sprinklers in health facilities
-Food handling regulations for tax-exempt organizations

Interim Study Committee on Government Administration and Regulatory Matters
-Impact of privatization of non-health related services performed or administered by state agencies
-Impact of privatization on state employees who have been laid off
-License branch operations and closings
-Eminent domain issues (including the use by small, private utilities)
-Various matters involving non-profit entities

Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice Matters
-Rights of “next of kin” in situations involving criminal activity
-Improvements to Indiana’s background check system
-Coroner qualification issues

Interim Study Committee on Children’s Issues
-Child labor
-Children’s health issues with emphasis on diabetes and obesity

Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Issues
-Alcoholic beverage display requirements
-Clerk licensure and training
-Other various issues that were not resolved during the last session

Statutory Committees

Code Revision Commission
-Using respectful language when referring to people with disabilities in code

Counterterrorism and Security Council
-Security at ports, freight yards, and rail yards

Commission on Courts
-Appelate issues
-Establishment of a dedicated fund for court fees
-Establishment of a court with exclusive jurisdiction over commercial driver’s license cases

Indiana Economic Development Corporation
-Whether to develop incentives to encourage film, television, and new media production

Environmental Quality Service Council
-Indiana’s impact on Lake Michigan water quality and participation in the Great Lakes Protection Fund
-Regional sewer districts

Health Finance Commission
-Cost of delivering health care to diabetics
-Health coverage systems used in other jurisdictions
-Monitor and report on the impact of the privatization of health services performed or administered by state agencies (including the impact on laid off employees)
-Advisability of a certification program for surgical technicians

Health Policy Advisory Committee
-Restraint of trade issues associated with contact lenses
-Advisability of consolidating all the various health-related study committees

Select Joint Commission on Medicaid Oversight
-Medicaid reimbursement rates

Commission on Mental Health
-Social, emotional, and behavioral health screening of children

Natural Resources Study Committee
-Park issues, including development of Rail/Trail corridors

Pension Management Oversight Commission
-Police and fire pensions
-Factors used to compute public employee pensions
-Funding sources for pension relief for municipalities
-Issues related to the 1977 Police and Fire pension and disability fund

Regulatory Flexibility Committee
-Renewable energy development

Sentencing Policy Study Committee
-Impact of sealing and expunging criminal arrest and adjudication records, including the impact on employment and recidivism rates

Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy
-Eligibility for certain military benefits
-Expanding eligibility for the property tax deduction for low-income senior citizens by removing AV criteria
-Child welfare system funding
-Issues pertaining to public transportation and commerce

For the statutory committees, the above list summarizes new issues assigned for sudy. The Interim Study Committee page (assuming it is updated at some point) has a list of all the committees, with reference to their statutory authorization which details their full scope.

1 comment June 15th, 2006

Emerald ash borer hits St. Joseph County

Back in December, I wrote about the emerging emerald ash borer infestation in Indiana, and how almost 10 million ash trees in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio had already been destroyed by the insects.

Unfortunately, the South Bend Tribune is reporting that ash borers have now shown up in St. Joseph County:

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced at a news conference Monday that the insects have been found in Granger… the preliminary estimate is the insects have been at that site for three to five years.

If you have ash trees in your area that you would like to save, make sure your neighbors are aware of the potential options for treating trees that are still healthy. The image below is linked to an aerial map of the one-mile zone around the latest infestation in Granger:

ash borer map

The Tribune article describes how preventative treatment can be an option for some trees:

Jodie Ellis, exotic insects education coordinator for Purdue University, said there is a chance that if an infestation is caught early, treatment with insecticides that contain imidacloprid can stop the damage.

“But if it (a tree) is already infested heavily, it probably will not survive,” she said.

It’s also up to homeowners to decide if they want to take their chances with a healthy ash tree, use insecticides to protect it or cut it down. Protecting a tree with insecticides can cost from about $50 to $200 a year.

To help stop the spread of this insect, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio have created a joint website to disseminate more information about the threat at: www.emeraldashborer.info.

Additional information is available below:

Indiana DNR Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Purdue Entomology Extension Inormation
National Invasive Species Council
The Global Invasive Species Initiative

3 comments June 13th, 2006

Environmental Crimes Task Force - Third Meeting

On April 27, 2006, the Environmental Crimes Task Force conducted its third meeting. The Task Force was created to re-draft Indiana’s current environmental crimes statute (IC 13-30-6-1), which simply creates a D felony for any knowing, intentional, or reckless violation of any Indiana environmental law.

As I mentioned in my discussion on the Task Force’s first meeting last year:

The concern is that the statute is so overly broad that it could be found unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine, the rule of lenity, and the fair notice requirement of due process.

In 2002, the Indiana Supreme Court in Healthscript, Inc. v. State (770 N.E.2d 810) found a Medicaid fraud statute unconstitutional on similar grounds. In fact, the environmental crimes statute would probably be considered even more broad and vague than the Medicaid statute that was overturned in Healthscript.

In fact, Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Commissioner Tom Easterly has now reported that those very issues have been raised by the defense in the Department’s two most recent attempts to prosecute environmental crimes.

The Task Force’s second meeting last year was mainly occupied with a review of Indiana criminal law for members who were not familiar with it, and a comprehensive look at other states’ environmental crimes statutes. You can read more about that meeting here.

Our third meeting was another opportunity for the Task Force to narrow down our options and take a more specific direction.

The issue of prosecutorial authority came up again at this meeting. Currently, elected prosecutors have primary jurisdiction to prosecute all criminal offenses. In some instances, other offices can provide assistance – such as Secretary of State help with securities fraud cases, and Attorney General assistance with Medicaid fraud.

Although there were some suggestions to give primary prosecutorial authority on environmental cases to some statewide office, in the end the Task Force seemed to agree that local prosecutors should retain their existing authority. We may end up recommending that attorneys or investigators from IDEM should be allowed to be deputized by local prosecutors that request their assistance in cases.

The Task Force also came to a consensus that the environmental crimes portion of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/Tit. XII) could serve as a decent model for our work. It is drafted as a modern criminal statue – spelling out the elements of specific crimes, and differentiating between levels of intent.

However, Illinois only focuses on hazardous waste issues. We have found that most state statutes in this area are fairly limited in scope – usually addressing only one or two types of possible environmental crimes. This is probably because these statutes are usually drafted in response to some particularly outrageous incident, involving one type of crime (like toxic waste dumping).

Since we are looking at creating our statute from scratch, Indiana has the opportunity to create one of the most modern and comprehensive environmental crimes statutes in the country. Task Force member Sue Shadley suggested enumerating specific crimes in categories that correspond to existing Indiana environmental law, such as air, water, solid waste, etc. Commissioner easterly suggested possibly including a separate category for drinking water to correspond with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

My focus thus far has been in trying to make sure our statute adheres to the elements of Indiana criminal law. Unlike other states, Indiana does not have any “negligent” crimes – only those that are knowing, intentional, or reckless.

It is important that we structure the statute to conform with existing criminal law – both to encourage prosecutors to make use of the statute, and to create a clear framework for the public to understand.

The Task Force’s next meeting is scheduled for June 22, 2006. At that time we will hear feedback from Illinois officials on how they feel about enforcement of their statute. We will also begin applying the basic framework of the Illinois statute to Indiana code, and adopt more specific elements of environmental crimes.

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or input on the Task Force’s progress.

Add comment June 9th, 2006

Back from a little break

Over the last few weeks, I took a short break from updating the website, but I am ready to get back to more regular postings.

One of the things I enjoy doing once session has adjourned is visiting schools to talk to classes about state government. A particularly impressive class of 4th graders at St. Monica’s School in Mishawaka has even gone so far as to create their own detailed constitution.

st. monicas 4th grade

They were a great group with many questions, and their constitution is quite a detailed document. You can read the St. Monica’s 4th Grade Constitution here.

Another fun event recently was the annual Achievement Forum Roast in South Bend. I had the (mis)fortune of being subjected to a roasting by my own father, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one on the menu – even former Governor Joe Kernan got his share that night.

achievement forum roast

Angie and I are also in the process of buying a new house, and we are both excited to move in toward the end on the month.

Official business does continue during the summer months, however, and the Environmental Crimes Task Force has already held its first meeting of the interim. I will be posting an update on the progress made at that meeting sometime this week.

In the meantime, please continue to let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Add comment June 6th, 2006


Calendar

June 2006
S M T W T F S
« May   Jul »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Posts by Month

Posts by Category