« Ind. Law - New lifetime gun permit law featured | Main | Ind. Law - Star editorial urges "obvious solution" for redistricting »

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ind. Deecisions - Retroactive property tax relief to three Indiana University fraternities ruled unconstitutional

Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star writes today on the Indiana Supreme Court's decision last Friday in the case of Alpha Psi Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, Inc. v. Auditor of Monroe County (see last Friday's ILB entry on the decsion here.) Some quotes from the story:

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled the legislature violated the state constitution when it passed a law in 2003 giving retroactive property tax relief to three Indiana University fraternities.

"The Indiana Constitution prohibits special laws which grant privileges to a few people that are not available to others," the court said in the 4-1 decision. "In this case (legislators) exempted three taxpayers, after the fact, from tax deadlines applicable to everyone else."

The legislature did the same thing in this year's session, including in a major property tax relief bill special retroactive tax breaks for a Zionsville youth soccer league and a Butler University fraternity that hadn't filed the proper tax credit forms.

Chief Justice Randall Shepard, in his opinion rejecting the help for the Indiana University fraternities, wrote that "to the drafters of the 1851 Constitution, this was precisely the sort of 'special law' that caused so much consternation, consumed so much time and created so much inequality that it required a constitutional provision to eliminate."

However, Justice Frank Sullivan dissented, saying the court was overstepping its bounds and interfering in the legislative process. He noted that the court had upheld other laws that treat some people differently, including the riverboat gambling law that applied to some counties but not others.

"They passed the Court's muster only because the Court found that unique circumstances rationally justified them," Sullivan wrote. "When the Court operates in this way, it is performing a legislative and not judicial function."

The Indiana Daily Student also has a story on the decision.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 3, 2006 07:35 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions